That Monday morning at 6:30 AM, we duly checked in at the little hospital room that was to be our family's home for the next three days. We met the doula, and started getting set up. I have only the vaguest memory of what that entailed, but I seem to recall that it involved several different sets of people coming to the room and introducing themselves.
Someone suggested that Renaissance Woman might want to take a relaxing bath in the special bathtub that opened on the side. It took FOREVER to fill, and then while she was in it, oh! oh! the anesthesiologist said it was time to start! Apparently the anesthesiologist is supreme in these things; everyone else sits around and waits for him (or her, I suppose, but not in this case) and when he says "go" they all jump up and go. So we had to go! go! go! right then! Even though RW was in the bathtub and it only opened on the side and it was full! So we had to wait for it to drain before she could get out! but we had to go! right then!
Someone tossed a set of scrubs at me and ordered me to put them on, since I wouldn't be allowed in the O.R. otherwise. I struggled into the scrubs while everyone hustled RW out of the wicked side-opening tub. Everything was happening so fast because of the clock ticking on the god-like anesthesiologist. I'd barely pulled the shirt on before the bevy of nurses was shoving RW out the door, down the hall, to the O.R. "Wait!" I called, but they didn't wait. I tried to pull the pants on over my shoes, but they wouldn't go. I had to take the shoes off, take off my leggings, pull the scrubs on, put my shoes on, tie them back up.
I raced out the door, pulling my mask over my face. Everyone was gone. I have a terrible sense of direction; even though we'd toured it the previous night, I had only the vaguest idea of where the O.R. was. I careened blindly down the hall, peering up and down until I found Sally the Midwife, scrubbing up outside a door that I could only assume led to the O.R.
"Hi," I panted.
"Do you want a really good vegetable scrubber?" she asked, with no preamble.
I'd always appreciated Sally's straighforwardness, but this was a little odd even for me. As soon as she asked, though, I envisioned our sink, with the ratty old scrubber we used for pots and vegetables alike. Who was I to turn down this offer? The baby would certainly need clean carrots. "Um, sure," I said.
"Here." She popped the brush she'd been scrubbing in with into the shirt pocket of my scrubs. "The hospital people just throw these out, and they make great vegetable scrubbers."
"Cool. Um, thanks!" Wow, I thought: we get a baby, and a vegetable brush in the deal!
Sally swept me into the OR, where I stood next to RW and held her hand for the thirty seconds or so it took the obstetrician to cut her open. As the anesthesiologist hummed along to "Greensleeves" and Sally yanked our smart, stubborn baby out by her little blue foot, a warm wet spot bloomed over my heart.
They rushed the baby to a little table and I moved over with them, feeling a little faint from re-breathing the air in the paper mask. RW had been having scary dreams about hospitals and had insisted that I keep the baby in my sight at all times. Everything was very loud and clanky, and all I could do was stare at the screaming blond baby with the perfect head. "Ours," I tried thinking, but it didn't seem right yet.
The doula was still next to RW. "She wants to know how the baby is!" she called over the din of the machines.
"She's blond!" I blurted.
"She says, talk to the baby!" the doula yelled.
"Um, hi," I said to the baby. I'd been looking forward to being the first one to talk to the baby, to welcoming her to the world. But now that she was here, I was completely empty of words. What could I say to this brand-new person that wouldn't be completely dopey? "It's good to see you," I said lamely. She didn't stop screaming.
The scurrying horde of masked people finished encasing the baby in blankets, and popped her into my arms, where she continued to scream.
"What's that?" one of them asked, pointing accusingly at the wet spot on my shirt.
"It's, uh, a vegetable brush."
She plucked it from my pocket. "We have to keep the baby dry," she chided. "It would be very dangerous for her to get a chill."
"Oh. Right. Sure. Sorry." My new scrubber! I wanted to cry out. Give it back! It's for the baby's carrots! But somehow it didn't seem like the best idea to say anything.
The baby was still crying, moving her head back and forth and making little pursey movements with her mouth. I carried her back to the operating table, where RW was still getting stitched up. RW gazed adoringly at her. I started to feel faint and passed the baby to the doula so I could crouch down, pull my mask up over my fogged glasses and breathe for a minute. Then I stood up and she passed the baby back to me. A couple minutes later I crouched down and handed the baby to her again.
We stood and crouched and passed the baby and breathed until RW was all sewn up. Then we followed her in a little procession down the hall, RW lying in state, me carrying the swaddled baby like infant royalty. I sat down with her while the bevy bustled around RW in her hospital bed. She was quiet now, focusing on something, watching, listening. "Ours," I tried thinking again. This time it sounded better.
There didn't seem to be anything useful to say to such a new person, so I tried singing. "When morning comes to Morgantown," I started shakily.
Sally the Midwife appeared, checking up on us. "Oh! Hi!" I stopped, self-conscious. "Go on," she waved at me. "Keep singing."
"The merchants roll their awnings down," I sang, as Sally and the doula negoitated with the bevy of nurses about letting RW nurse before they did a million more things. "The milk trucks make their morning rounds, in Morning Morgantown."
I finished the song. The baby nursed. A milllion visitors came and went. Flowers came and we filled the bassinet with them; the baby stayed in the bed with us. We looked and looked and looked at her, and talked to her, and sang to her. Someone came and showed us how to change a diaper; someone came and showed us how to give the baby a bath.
It got dark, and light, and dark again. Someone came and told me to change out of the scrubs; they were only for hospital staff. I changed back into my T-shirt.
The warm wet spot had long dried, anyway. But I still felt it, right over my heart.
I feel it still today.