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You'll feel like you're falling, but you're not

There's a lot I don't remember from the day Charlie was born. Part of that is because of the pain, which left me foggy a lot of the time; part of it is because I let myself drop out, knowing I could count on Paul. Here is what I do remember:

As we waited in ER triage, I first sat quietly in a single chair, then slumped across two, then lay full-out across three or four. I debated whether sliding silently to the floor would finally convince the nurses this was serious, but then decided that the floor was too filthy even for me. And I am not fastidious.

I knew I was in trouble when I started to hate a baby. A couple arrived with their sleeping newborn, who needed phototherapy for jaundice. Because it was the weekend, their doctor had sent them to the ER. "If that baby gets seen before I do," I thought, "I am gonna be pissed." I rehearsed a little snit just in case.

When the nurse finally called my name, I struggled into the office and sat in a chair. "Severe abdominal pain," I told her. "Any other medical problems?" she asked. "30 weeks pregnant, placenta previa, gestational diabetes," I recited. "You should have gone to labor and delivery!" she said, in a more accusing tone than I really cared to hear. That's when I lost it: I burst into tears. Sobbing immoderately with snot glazing my face, I choked out, "We've been waiting...for an hour! Why didn't...anyone...tell us?" A wheelchair was produced with indecent haste, probably to speed me away before I upset the other patients. I cried the whole way up to L&D, when I wasn't vomiting into another sweater. (By now I had an entire wardrobe of vomit-christened attire.)

The room in L&D — which I would occupy for the next 48 hours, when I wasn't having a babyectomy — was sunny and peaceful. I couldn't wait to change into a gown and get in bed. I wasn't surprised when the fetal activity monitor showed that the baby was frisky and fine, and I knew I'd been having no contractions. "I'm not in labor," I told anyone and everyone, but I knew they had to check.

I lay on my side and tried whimpering to see if that would help distract me from the pain. It didn't, but it was kind of fun, so I kept it up for a while, trying to sound as much like a puppy as possible.

Time passed. It was dark outside. The doctor came in and told me bluntly, "We have to take the baby out." I asked her if there was time for steroid shots before delivery. She was definite as she told me no. "Okay," I said. She wouldn't be doing it if it weren't absolutely necessary. 29-weekers usually do fine. "Okay," I said again.

While I was being prepped for surgery, I fumbled with my cell phone, trying to send a message to Tertia. My hands were clumsy so I handed the phone to Paul, who finished the note and sent it.

I remember the kindness of the anesthesiology nurse, the one closest to my head during the C-section. As I was to be moved from one gurney to another, he told me, "You'll feel like you're falling, but you're not."

I was grateful for the banter of the several people circulating around the operating room. I was happier knowing they were relaxed than if they'd been tense and quiet. I knew my situation was serious, but I don't think I felt it was grave.

I heard the baby cry, a pissed-off squawl that had some vigor to it. "APGAR 9 and 9," someone said, and I thought, Thank God, thank God, the God I don't believe in.

During the entire surgery, Paul sat beside me and stroked my head. He could only see what was happening if he stood. When my uterus was being removed so that everyone could admire it, he reported, "They're doing what you blogged about." "AGGH," I think I said.

Very briefly, I was shown the baby — I saw him for no more than three seconds before he was taken to the NICU. Paul followed, my incision was closed, and I wouldn't see the baby again for more than 24 hours.

And that is what I remember.