The Resuscitation Room is as bright as a 7/11. It makes you realize: Hell will not be dark; it will be overlit.
A cheery nurse puts my little squirming bundle on a high table in the blazing mad light, attached to some more monitors. She pulls out a chair for me and says, “Sit here,” and I say no thanks, I’d rather stand, and she says, “I want you to sit, in case you drop on me,” and I say quite confidently not to worry, that I’m not that sort of guy, and she says, “Yes, they all say that,” but she lets me stand anyway.
Two doctors give the baby another once over. His blood oxygen is still a little low, but he’s not getting extra oxygen from a mask any more. There is a nurse sitting at a table having a loud conversation on the telephone that my first nurse seems very interested in. The conversation is not about my baby or even, it appears, any medical subject. My nurse keeps calling over, “Don’t tell her that,” or “That’s not what happened,” and making faces at the other one. You’d think that this distracted demeanour would annoy me, but in fact it reassures me, because it means that nobody is particularly worried or treating this as a dire emergency.
Slowly, baby Hugo’s blood oxygen levels come back up. All on his own. And not only is he not blue, he is tomato red, so red I fear he is about to explode. The nurses reassure me: Red is good. It means good circulation. Everything seems dangerous to me now.
Now Hugo and I have been away from his sliced-up mother for almost an hour, and I imagine she is somewhat eager to hear some news. The nurses wrap up the red bean again and we make a procession towards the recovery room where the dazed and exhausted lady awaits. A nurse is there to unwrap the bean and place him on her breast.
I’ll tell you the definition of relief: It’s seeing his tiny mouth clamp onto that ripe red nipple and suck away with fury. He is sucking as if trained by Mr. Darwin himself. This is the first moment of my realization that I have been in a state of emergency grimness for the last two hours, in combat mode, and that it is over, the bullets have stopped flying, and he is going to be okay.
You can feel relief in the hovering nurses, who are still quickly listening to his heartbeat with a stethoscope every few minutes. They are grabbing and manipulating my partner’s breast with some firmness, to get it more squarely into the boy’s mouth. She hasn’t slept for 36 hours, has been in pain for most of that time, and has just undergone major abdominal surgery with a local anesthetic, and she is smiling a smile so genuine I wonder if I have ever really seen her smile before. The little red demon is mouthing O’s like a goldfish, his eyes tightly shut: he will suck anything that comes within a half-inch of that maw. My lady has tried to tie her hair up but it hasn’t worked; it’s coming loose all over her face and naked shoulders, and she looks stunningly beautiful.
Image courtesy of Raphael Goetter.