Walking into an operating theatre is never an easy thing to do. Yes, it is much calmer and more peaceful to do this than to crash through the doors in a panic, but it is still hard to do. To walk into that brightly lit room, to be introduced to people with job titles that seem alien. To allow your eyes to travel over the machines and the beeps and the faces behind the masks. The huge lights over the table. The board with your name on it. The letters and numbers that scream a foreign language to the patient. To be a patient.
Once upon a time I was a woman having a baby. I was not ‘high risk’. I was not a problem, as far as I could see. I was just a woman having a baby. And then I became a patient. A woman who was having a baby that needed intervention. A woman unable to deliver her baby by herself. A woman who needed a team to inject her, fill her with drugs and slice her open. But still a woman.
The team inside that operating theatre went to very great lengths to look me in the eye and to speak to me with respect and kindness. Everything was explained to me at every step of the way. The team inside that operating theatre knew that the pregnancy had not been an easy one; they knew that the baby inside might need some special attention. They could see that I was scared.
I was asked to sit on the edge of the table with my feet on a stool while the canula in my hand was hooked up to a drip. Unfortunately the one that had been inserted the previous night wasn’t working so another was inserted in the other hand. Before the drip was connected some blood was taken by the Anthony Nolan nurse and then I was hooked up to the heart rate and blood pressure machines. And then the spinal.
Sitting with my feet resting on a higher chair and slumping forward so that my spine was curved. A large, clear plastic sticky sheet over my back. A scratch on my spine. A whoosh of cold. I was helped to lie back on the table and told to wait a moment for the anaesthetic to take effect.
It’s a strange feeling as your legs and lower body turn numb. It’s not unpleasant, but it’s not empowering either. All of a sudden you are at the mercy of strangers.
The catheter was inserted and then the anaesthetist set to work checking that my body was responding correctly to the medication. Satisfied that all was working as it should, the surgeon was told that she could begin.
As the knife went to skin, Ghostwriterdaddy appeared by my side.
And then the pulling.
The quiet, calm voices.
The research teams hovering, waiting to take their prizes.
The machines beeping.
My breath, caught in my chest, unable to escape until
The feet are out
Or was it the head? I’m not entirely sure now.
Shall we lower the screen? Your baby is about to be born!
And there she was.
Emerging from my body, lifted high to small cheers and huge smiles.
Perfect. Tiny. Alive. Crying. No, screaming!
What an amazing sight- my baby taking her first breath! To be one of the first people in the whole world to see this person arrive earthside! The honour of seeing her lifted from my body! The absolute privilege of watching the surgeon lift her little body from mine, and to see her eyes open, her mouth open. To see her body before it is cleaned. Before she is weighed. Before anyone else touches her.
Elsie was taken with her daddy to be weighed and checked and somebody handed me some tissues because I realised I was sobbing. I realised I had just witnessed something so incredible and the relief that she was here and crying and we survived…
They brought her back with the news that she was tiny, but not that small after all. And she was well. She was healthy. It was going to be ok.
Elsie sat in her father’s arms as they stitched me up; I was moved onto a bed and then she was handed to me as we were wheeled to recovery. And in recovery I was finally given water to drink and a moment to take in what had happened.
Then the midwives helped to move the wires from my chest to my back. They unwrapped my baby and placed her gently on my chest. Our skin touched. My baby and I. Skin to skin. A perfect first cuddle with my Elsie Rose, and the only way to end this story.