Sitting in the doctors office and I’m staring around the room. The smell is familiar but the air is different. There’s no one in my stomach this time and no baby carrier beside me. All the posters show pregnant belly’s and baby size charts. There’s equipment on the table that’s inevitably going to be used to pull all 20 of the staples in my stomach out.
The nurse asks what everyone asks- “when will she be able to go home from the NICU?” And I’m so sick of this question I could scream. But I don’t. I list off all the things that she’s beaten so far and how healthy she is and wrap it up by explaining she just needs to fully bottle feed to get discharged. This still doesn’t answer her question- so the nurse, like everyone else continues to hold eye contact until I give them a number. A number I would die to have but don’t. I can only ballpark what the doctors say “hopefully just another week”, I manage a smile but it’s fake and it hurts- inside I’m crying because “today” is not my answer and another seven days feels like forever.
It’s not just that I can only see her on other people’s schedules and it’s not the amount of pain that’s still making everything feel almost impossible. It’s knowing that night will come and I’ll go home and she’ll stay there and I’ll miss more and more moments with her and the emptiness that leaves keeps me awake at night.
Women don’t talk about c-sections often, they are in fact stigmatized as “the easy way out”… nothing could be further than the truth. They are scary and they are raw and the lights are so bright they make your heart beat right out of your chest. You lay on a metal bed, built like a cross with a blue cloth barrier below your head so you can not only not feel your body you can’t see it either. They use the word “pressure” in a manner in which the word itself seems harmless but the fear of what that “pressure” really is still scares the shit out of you. And believe me when I say, you may be medically numb but mentally you are fully aware your organs are being pulled out and put aside and once that baby appears in their absence there is no numbing agent to control what you’re feeling “pressure” or not. Your mind is racing, you’re excitement is kept at bay when all the worries and fears and pushing and pulling are mashed into an indescribable mess of soft voices cheering you on, your partners eyes fighting to keep yours on theirs and you wait and you wait, knowing there should be a cry a scream an anything- but you hear nothing. The voices stay soft but get faster, nurses start using first names to call one another over to the heated bassinet by your head that you struggle but can’t quite see. So you panic and the pressure continues to fight for your attention but you’ve lost all interest in your own body and are concerned with only hers. Cry baby, let the nurses raise their voices and say “there you go” as they swaddle her in blankets. Anything. Something…. nothing.
Then the faintest cry is heard and even as voices raise and metal tools clink onto metal tables and you’re aware your organs have returned to your body you wait for the next. All the while the man you love doesn’t look away. Not once. Even when you beg for him to go to her he stays holding your hand like he found it amongst a crowd in the dark, and he comforts you, in that way only true love can. The doors open and they wheel in the incubator. The story begins…