We went out for breakfast to a restaurant on Kloof Street in town, and Ron said that we could have almost done the breakfast thing on Monday, since Arnold’s is so close to Cape Town Medi-Clinic.
Sunday was a spring day, the kind of Cape Town day where you cannot very well decide whether to keep the sweater on and off. The setting though was perfect, breakfast with a view of Table Mountain. I had two very nice Cappuccinos, along with a breakfast of egg and sausage while Ron treated himself to a savoury croissant with brie and peppadew (a small very sweet red pepper that is used often as a piquant condiment here in South Africa). After breakfast we went on to the V&A Waterfront where we just strolled around the harbour, and then browsed at the bookshop. I wondered briefly whether I will ever be able to leisurely shop for books again, Ron suggested that I start buying kiddies books. I thought it would be hard to buy a book now for a child we haven’t met yet.
The afternoon we spent at home, Ron read the Sunday paper while I tried to complete my knitting of baby’s jacket, in white and blue. No pinks for this baby even if it is a girl. At the end of the day I washed my hair and went to bed, even on this momentous night, my last night with baby in the tummy, I slept reasonably well. By morning the hole on my side of the bed was its usual size and shape, and we crawled (baby and I) out of bed for our morning walk. It is quite surreal to know that this is it… And the next time we hit the promenade we will have baby with us in the carrier or the buggy.
Ron bought the newspaper for the day, to save for baby. It is a family tradition he learned from his late father I think.
Baby will wonder in later year about the strange news in his birthday paper, the most sensational stuff is usually some or other corrupt politician. Under the spotlight at this time is our Health Minister, famous for her revolutionary ideas in the treatment of HIV AIDS (the use of beetroot, garlic and African potatoes instead of the anti retrovirals- for which she earned her nickname Dr. Beetroot). This time she is accused of Alcoholism and kleptomania to add to her other many virtues.
I prepared myself a hearty breakfast of oats and yoghurt, since god knows when I will be eating again. After my shower I insisted on taking a pose in front of Ron’s camera for my official preggie belly pictures. I went for the beach look and luckily the sun obliged.
In the preparation area I see a middle aged woman sitting in wheelchair, looked like she was also waiting for some surgical procedure.
Ron shows up in a green hospital scrub, boy I must admit he looked good in the outfit, I wanted to take his picture, but never got around to it.
Someone comes into the room and asks: “which of you is having the baby?” the older woman smiles and says: “not me, I had my time”.
A grey-haired surgeon peers over my head; he looks familiar, with kindly brown eyes and Middle Eastern features. I would have guessed him to be of Greek origin.
He introduces himself as the anaesthetist, the guy who is going to help me experience the delivery without feeling the pain. At some other point my Gynaecologist arrives, and introduces me to his wife Lynn who will assist him. I knew she was a doctor, but I never thought she took part in surgeries! There was also the Paediatrician, a man with clean and innocent looking features, and a soft voice. Babies must love that I think to myself. The last person I remember from the crowd, is a heavy-set nurse with round glasses, she is the recovery nurse she says.
Later Ron would say that there were at least seven other people hovering in the background and attending to different parts of the process.
My friend Britt who has two daughters, both born by c-section, described the procedure to me at length and I also read about it. But watching a movie or hearing a second hand account is never the same as the actual experience.
According to the literature I read: A long needle is inserted into the spine and kept there to administer medication that will numb the uterus and lower body within ten minutes, enabling the obstetrician to make the incision of the c-section, take baby out, clean out the whole uterus and close it up with very little discomfort to the mother.
I am only supposed to feel a sensation of tugging to the skin, and rummaging through the innards.
Only some of this went as I expected. My hospital bed was brought alongside the operating table, and I was helped to move to the operating surface. The recovery nurse must have been the one who hooked me up to the drip and the various beeping and bleeping instruments, she keeps me facing her and looking into her eyes while the anaesthetist jabs the long needle into my back. Ron is watching him do this, it seems to me that he tries several times before he finally gets what he wanted. I do have some sensation, very much like a needle jab.
The anaesthetist explains to me that I am going to feel heat in my legs, and he is right. heat flashes run down my legs, very strange. At the same time I think I get a catheter inserted, which I do not feel, much. Obstetrician and anaesthetist start pouring many types of liquids over my lower body and legs while asking me whether this or that feels cold, testing my sensation of the area I assume, and doing something else as well in the meantime, who knows what.
My surgery gown is yanked up over a bar mounted above the operating table at a level near my chest, this is the screen that I read about in medical literature, to prevent me from peeking while my insides are poked, I think to myself.
Many more questions from the doctor and the anaesthetists, yes I do still have some sensation, but I am not quite sure what they are doing. To me it still feels like pouring drops of water. Another sensation follows; the anaesthetist asks whether I felt him pinching me, I did, but he said he pinched quite hard, what I felt was not exactly painful.
Ten minutes must have passed already, the obstetrician and his wife are right in position and I hear something. Ron asks whether I feel ‘unzipped’ it sounds and feels like somebody ripping two pieces of cloth apart at the seams, but it is not really painful. I have no idea what is happening, the next thing I feel is tugging, and it does hurt, it is like somebody pulling at my outer skin quite hard. I start to feel faint and the beeps of the instruments take a threatening dimension in my head. This must be my heart monitor I register in panic, I am going to pass out. The anaesthetist hovers above me, are you okay, he says, I am giving you some oxygen. A small clear mask is pulled over my nose and I breathe, the faintness and nausea are kept at bay. I hear Ron’s voice saying something, but the action has suddenly moved away from me. They show me a little grease-covered infant over the screen, definitely a boy as I felt all along. The sight of him takes the edge off my panic for a second, but I am still struggling at the brink of consciousness. The bleeps are going erratically fast then slow again, people around me are moving at a frantic pace, and I have no clue whether this is normal, or the prelude to disaster.
The next thing I hear is the soft voice of the paediatrician, as he hands me a bundle wrapped in a towel, a small face peers at me under a white hat. “Here is your Son” the man says, and I feel like I am in some kind of a dream. The clock in the theatre shows around 15:20.
This must have been happening while my doctor and his wife were still putting me together, but I do not remember any more pain.
The experience I relate here is part recollection and part reconstruction from the excellent pictures Ron took. Knowing that he was there was a great comfort to me, and I do appreciate how strong he is.
Pain would come in later, but it was only a minor detail. The focus was now on Robert, getting to look at him, learning to nurse him in my incapacitated state, and trying to get to grips with a whole new reality. I have become a mother to this tiny little infant. At around seven or eight in the evening I decided to ask for something to eat, I was not hungry, but I thought the last time I ate was twelve hours ago, and the food I though would keep me occupied for some time and take my mind of the nagging pains. When it came dinner turned out to be a slim slice of bland fish, with two teaspoons of rice and some type of non-descript salad I can hardly remember. Three days in this place and I will starve to death, I thought to myself.
I do not remember a lot about this first night, but I know I drank a lot of water. I must have asked for two jugs of water during the night.
Hardly any sleep with people coming in and out every so often, checking the drip, the catheter bag, blood pressure and temperature.
At regular intervals I kept hearing this beep, and every time it happened my feeling-less leg would stiffen. It took me some time to realize that I had been put on automatic blood pressure monitoring. Every hour or so the monitor would start up and tighten the blood pressure cuff around my ankle. The nurses came in at regular intervals to check the measures, and at some point woke me up to ask whether I am okay (no joking).
Throughout the night they brought Robert to me from the nursery at least twice, pain medication kept me drowsy, and the sensation slowly started to return gradually to my legs. I remember at some point concentrating very hard and looking at the legs to make them move. Early in the next morning though I was able to pull my knee up and extend the leg again.