The arrival The-Child-Who-Would-Become-Known-As-The-Mouse was imminent. The Wife was in the OR being ‘prepped’ for the C-section. I was waiting. Had been waiting. Continued waiting. Then the nurse led me back to the OR and the waiting ceased.
Now let me digress a moment (as if I haven’t already. I usually have a point in my digression. I call them rabbit-trails. It may meander some, even double back on itself a few times, but eventually, ala Elmer Fudd, I do find dat wascally wabbit. Also, ala Fudd, I sometimes end up with a explosion-blackened face, but I found dat wabbit… where was I… oh, yes…). Operating rooms are nothing like what we see on television or in the movies. First and foremost, they simply are rooms. They have four walls, a ceiling and doors. The doors are usually a little larger than the average and are sometimes double-doors, but still recognizable as doors. What truly distinguishes operating rooms is two things: inhabitants and equipment.
The inhabitants of an operating room are a unique group. I am intimately familiar with some of this because of the number of nurses in my family. In my family there are three basic professions: Nurse/Medical, Teacher/Education, Contractor/Construction/HVAC. The Teachers were recently out numbered, but we will prevail. These highly trained professionals undergo rigorous and detailed training on how to deal with and help heal the body under extreme stress. They receive intense training on extremely complicated devices that help them to monitor a patient’s condition and progress. They hold in their literal and metaphorical hands the very essence of life. They also wear masks. You can only see their eyes. They are like ninjas, but in soft aqua/blue tones. A little scary, but apparently the color choice is meant to calm people.
The most overwhelming facet of a typical OR is the number of machines packed into the room. They all have lights and dials and buttons and readouts and wires. Oh, the wires. The wires lead everywhere. To the walls, the floors, the ceiling, to the other machines, and, eventually, to the patient (in this case The Wife). They whirr and buzz and beep and click. Softly. Just on the threshold of audible sound. Kind of annoying, really. And the sheer intensity at which the blue/aqua ninjas of the room stare at these machines is overwhelming. It is astounding how little ‘attention’ is focused on the actual patient, at least by the inhabitants of the OR. The machines pay attention to the patient. The OR staff pays attention to the machines.
And this brings us to one of the reasons I had been waiting outside the OR for so long. The machines said my wife was ready for the operation. The reason for the epidural procedure is pain management. Notice I did not say pain relief. Pain management. The epidural is a long needle inserted into the cavity between the spinal cord and the spinal column approximately mid -back (I know I could be a lot more specific and I am probably wrong about some of the exact things, but hey, I teach Theatre. I was thrilled to have passed high school chemistry with a C and have never had a biology class. Deal with it). That needle delivers pain medication directly into the spinal cavity. This pain medication does not stop the pain. It merely makes it manageable for the patient to endure, hence the term pain management. They administered the epidural to my wife. The machines said go ahead. Fortunately the nurse-anesthetist asked The Wife (as the initial incision was being made) if she could feel anything. The Wife replied in the affirmative. A very FIRM Affirmative. There might have even been an expletive involved. And if you know The Wife, you know that this is a rarity. So they stopped and performed what is called a spinal block.
The difference between an epidural and a spinal block is the difference between being asleep and being in a coma. With an epidural, you still feel. You feel pressure, uncomfortable sensations, etcetera, but it is manageable. With a spinal block you feel nothing. From the point it is administered below you feel nothing. Nada, butkis, zero. The Wife says it took a long time before she could really feel anything in her legs. More on that later.
So, they had started the incision for the C-section and finally were able to bring me in to partake of the ‘birth experience’. I come into the operating room. The Wife is strapped (literally) to the operating table, with a sheet blocking her view of the actual operation area (I assume because it would be a little freaky to watch yourself being cut open. Probably an 8 or above on the cool meter, but possibly unnerving to many people). They put me up by The Wife’s head so I can talk to her and continue to ‘be supportive’ during the ‘birth experience’. I honestly don’t remember much of what was said initially between me and The Wife. Please imagine it was sweet and funny and touching. That’s what I do. The Wife doesn’t talk about that part of it. What we both do talk about is the actual moment of our daughter’s birth. Because that is when Life changed.