They allow me into the very bright, very busy OR – a room packed with masked people and machine, all making noises, and I see poor PL’s head poking out from under a vertical sheet. The sheet is set up so she can’t see that they are opening up her belly, pulling out a pile of her intestines and stacking them up on top of her so that they can get to the baby. I do not look over this sheet either.
I sit next to her head and hold her hand, and she is crying and saying, “Ow it hurts,” and the nurses are saying, “Are you sure it hurts? Because you are totally anaesthetized,” and she is saying, “Yes, it hurts, no, it’s just that I can feel all the pulling, I don’t know, I don’t know what I feel,” and the nurses say, “Do you want more pain killer?” and she says, “Yes yes,” and the nurses say, “Well, we can’t give you any more, because you are doped to the max.”
My spectacles are fogging up because of this stupid surgical mask, and the doctors are telling me to crimp the strip over the nose, which I am trying, but I am still seeing everything through a mist.
And in that moment they hand a pinky-purply-red baby over the sheet, he is trailing a long white cord, and the doctors say, “Look,” and I say, “Oh, is that ours?”
They put him on a scale and they say “Hey Dad, come over here.” They hand me a pair of scissors and say, “Cut here.” And I say “Me, really? I don’t really think I…” and they say, “Come on, right here. Cut.” So I take the scissors and I cut the cord, two snips, and someone takes a picture. They take a look at him and he seems okay, although he isn’t crying at all and his eyes are tightly shut, and they clean him off and wrap him in a tight little cocoon, so only his red face is visible, and they hand him to me. During this time PL is still immobilized and having her intestines put back inside her, so she can’t see him, and she’s saying, “Is everything okay? What’s going on?” So I kneel down and hold the cocoon up to her so she can see him, and she starts to cry.
And then one of the nurses says, “Hold on. I don’t like that colour at all.” And she takes him from me, very quickly. And they put him on a table with an oxygen mask on him.
“What’s going on?” calls PL.
“He’s gone a little blue,” says someone. “His blood oxygen is low.”
“What’s happening?” says PL.
But no one is paying attention to her now.
Image courtesy of Ben McLeod.