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11/14/2004

Put. That. Back.

Yesterday's childbirth class saw us shifting our focus. Our discussions of validation — "I can't do it." "I can see how hard you're working, honey...but the baby wants to do it." — and comfort measures — cold packs, massage, groaning like the hydraulics on a 1936 International Harvester — seem to have ended. This time we went high-tech: we talked about pain relief and C-sections.

The first thing the educator did was pass around a sheet with a pain scale on it, one that encompassed every attitude from -10 ("wants no medication whatever, even for a C-section") to +10 ("wants to feel absolutely nothing, wants anesthesia before labor begins"). The educator instructed us to find ourselves on the scale. Since the sheet sternly admonished us that +10 was "an impossible extreme," I settled for a +9 ("scared of pain, dependence on staff for pain relief"). But then I admit that my circumstances are unusual; unlike most women about to be presented with a newborn, if I feel pain it means something's bad wrong. Damn skippy, I'm scared.

We talked about different medications we might be offered. I entertained myself by making anagrams. (Stadol: Sad lot. Tad S.O.L. Do last. Demerol: Led more. Med role. Sorry, what were you saying?) The educator showed us a helpful poster of a large and bulbous woman being administered an epidural. The woman was squatting calmly, balanced on her tiptoes, holding on to nothing, quite a feat when there's a long needle about to be introduced into your spinal column, for which you must remain...perfectly...still. I was keen to learn exactly which narcotic had been administered, because I want some before my upcoming audition for Cirque du Soleil.

And then we talked about C-sections. Another helpful poster made its appearance on the easel: Reasons for Performing a C-Section. Fetal distress. Placental Problems. Wack-Ass Presentation. Good-Christ-Almighty-No-Way-Is-That-Head-Gonna-Fit-Through-That-Pelvis.

The educator gave us a bare moment to absorb this information, then whipped us into a participatory frenzy by wheeling in a gurney and setting up a role-playing exercise. One of the men was selected to be the expectant mother, while the rest of us were given various jobs around the operating room — surgeon, scrub nurse, pediatrician, anesthesiologist, etc. I wanted to man the placenta bucket so that I might sneak in a good old-fashioned ass kicking while everyone else was cooing, stitching, or fitting the newborn with a fetching chapeau, but instead I was appointed pediatric nurse, and immediately took to menacing everyone nearby with the bulb syringe.

She walked us through what happens in a C-section. Do you know? I do, now. Here is a brief outline:

  1. Prep: shaving, scrubbing, draping, IV, anesthesia, etc. Draping includes erecting a barrier of cloth between the mother's chin and her abdomen to serve as a sort of sneeze guard. I am of the opinion that they should use one made of Plexiglass like at a salad bar, for easy viewing.
  2. Incisions: cuts made through whatever happens to be making it inconvenient to lift a baby out.
  3. Retraction: pulling the edges of the incisions wide to form a large enough opening for...
  4. Grabbing: seizing the slippery prize and wrenching it MacDuff-style into an ice-cold operating room.
  5. Whisking: hurrying the newly delivered baby out of the operating room away from the mother. Yes, away from the mother, who does not get to touch or feed the baby until...well, sometime later.
  6. Inspecting: checking to make sure the mother's uterus is still in good shape. Do you know how they do this? They pull it out of the abdominal cavity. Oh, sure, it's still connected (by God knows what mechanism, though I hope mine has a security device on it to discourage theft), but they pull it out to play with it. This is the single most upsetting thing I've heard since the class began, and makes me reconsider my desire for a clear splatter shield. In fact, I may ask for a blindfold, just to be sure I don't see Scottie Pippen, M.D., twirling my ute as if he were a Harlem Globetrotter, preparing to move outside the key for an easy 3. Dude! Put. It. Back!
  7. Closing: the mother is stitched up, swabbed down, and wheeled, still high as a kite, out of the OR. I assume she's still high as a kite, because the educator didn't have us role-play the part where the mother is shrieking for more opiates, now. I may have to practice that part at home just in case.
And that is how you get a baby via C-section.

I asked with some trepidation whether I'd be able to breastfeed right away, and the educator looked shocked. "You'll just have had major abdominal surgery!" (Oh, silly me, I thought that part where they pull out your uterus for show-and-tell was just a motherfucking trifle.) I am disappointed that I won't get to do this, because babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes can have low blood sugar, and it's thought to beneficial to put them to the breast right away. Sorry, Batman, you'll have to make do with a Big Gulp and a bendy straw. Sprite or Cherry Coke?

The only part of this whole affair that didn't freak me out was the part where the educator warned us in the "operating room" not to touch anything: "You're all sterile!"

Please. We prefer "subfertile."

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