Candice and I have decided to each tell our own side of the delivery moment, because we probably remember very different things from the theatre. As I write this, I haven’t read her story yet (and vice versa).
May 21…I’d been in training for a few days. Too many stories of dads passed out on the theatre floor, and I didn’t want to join them, so I figured I’d inure myself against any surprises by watching videos of Caesarian sections being performed. There are several on Youtube, and plenty at medical sites. Some clinically monotone, some more dramatic. And sure enough, the first time around was…surprising. After a few, I could pretty much sing along with the various parts of the procedure, and figured I was good to go. Candice, for her part, adamantly refused any spoilers
Just as well I’d been researching, because we went from “a few weeks to go” to “so…where is your bag, exactly?” in the space of one doctor’s visit. We’d had a warning signs – calcification of the placenta – but we were pushing towards a slightly accelerated delivery date without too much concern. But the sight of the cord around one of the babies’ necks settled it – today was The Day. Candice was scheduled for the first available slot: presumably the doc was more concerned about the infants than he let on. He had a hell of a day coming up – we overheard him on the phone to his assistant (we think), saying she should expect to work through until midnight. Something crazy like a dozen ops on his schedule for that day. I’m glad we were first, not last
Luckily we HAD had the foresight to have Candice’s bag packed and in the car for the last few visits, just in case. The only glitch was that we’d both driven to the hospital, so Candice’s car was also admitted for a few days.
But without much fuss Candice was whisked up to Maternity, relatives were phoned, and forms were filled in. Mostly illegibly, by me – I think Candice got to correct them later. As hoped, we had a single room, which was nice – Candice was wearing her Brave Face but it was a little ragged around the edges. Combination of concern about the boys, and terror at the impending operation, I think.
The buildup was all clockwork – the gurney was wheeled elevator-wards, up one floor to the theatres, and Candice was parked in a holding bay while I got changed. We met Dr Greef, the paediatrician, en route (I think). While Candice waited, things got complicated, because I had cameras and phones and wallets and stuff. Dads get changed into scrubs in the doctors’ changing room, where there are lockers but no locks. So my clothes got to sit on a bench while valuables were crammed into the top pocket of the scrubs (once I’d figured out it was there).
Candice’s mom was there in time to see us go up to theatre, but my parents weren’t. I got a glimpse of my mother dashing past the theatre doors to the waiting area, but being in scrubs meant I couldn’t go out and say hello.
We chilled in the waiting bay for about half an hour – the same bay I waited in before my wisdom teeth op last year. I passed out before the op that time, so I was looking forward to seeing what was around the corner. We met Dr Barrow’s assistant (whose name escapes me, but she was very nice), and in time were wheeled around the corner, down a hall, and in through double doors to the theatre. Game, as they say, on.
Candice was understandably nervous, but I was mostly just curious. It was exciting to see the incubator standing ready in one corner of the room with its little piles of baby linen. Candice was transferred to the operating table, and had to endure the giant needle inserted into the back of her hand – that looked very painful, and she bore it very well. I think that was the part of the process which disturbed me the most, to be honest.
Next up was the spinal block – Candice was bent forward and the anaesthetist inserted the needle for the local, then shoved about a foot (ok, I exaggerate, but it was long) of needle into her spine for the injection. Weird: watching spinal fluid drip from the end of the initial needle before the spinal is attached. Candice said she could feel it dripping cold down her back. Sounds gruesome, but it was interesting rather than gross.
I tried to distract her with a running commentary of the people in the room. Unsuccessfully, I’m sure. When the doctor stepped up to the table, Candice was nervous (like most women are) because she still had feeling in her legs – she couldn’t see him perform the pain test by twisting folds of skin between the business end of forceps (or whatever they are), but I could, and I winced in sympathy. At this point, Candice was already covered with sheets and plastic covers to catch fluids, and daubed with sterilising gunk. So without further ado the doctor just got stuck straight in. That surprised me…I don’t know what I expected, but I didn’t expect him to just grab a scalpel and dive right in. Ah well.
I couldn’t see much over the sheet separating us from the sterile area, but I did get some great photos of Dylan emerging into the world. He came out easily, but Alexander had turned to be breech, and had to be dragged out backwards. He came out, as the doctor noted, “a little flat” – he was put on oxygen immediately and seemed to be breathing normally and moving happily in no time. The paediatrician, having wrapped them up, took over as photographer and snapped a bunch of pictures of me with the babies, then Candice somewhat awkwardly balancing them while still protrate and paralysed from the belly down. I was vaguely aware of grinning like an idiot at this stage, and I’m glad the photos are more flattering than I expected them to be.
While the doctor finished up suturing (I did get to see the afterbirth delivered, and the uterus prolasped (sp? term?) for stitching), I escorted the babies, in their incubator, to the neonatal ICU. Paused en route for the grandparents to take photos, then they were straight into ICU to be piped and tubed and wired, but neither needed immediate intervention, which was reassuring.
That done, it was back to the changing room to recover my clothes, then down to maternity to visit Candice, who was handling the whole thing amazingly well.
I don’t remember most of the rest of the afternoon at all. It all passed in a blur. But I remember the nurses wheeling Candice up to visit the boys for the first time in ICU – HOURS after delivery, at which point she was very tearful about not seeing them. I’ll finish my account of the day with a moment I’ll remember for ever: Candice properly meeting Alexander (“grey hat”) for the first time since the birth: