The operating room felt like walking into a refrigerator. It was filled with unfamiliar faces, nurses and doctors prepping their spaces.
I was told to stand and step away from the wheel chair. I teetered over to the operating table, scared to walk at a normal stride. Before I could do anything, one of the women in scrubs pulled me to the side.
“Good evening, Mrs. Schmitzer, how are you?” she asked, peering at me over dark-rimmed glasses. She had a clipboard in hand and a smile on her face.
“I’m doing pretty well,” I forced a smile to break through my nerves. “I’m scared, but of course, excited.”
“I’m sure,” she said quickly. “I’m a representative from the NICU. I just wanted to discuss a few things with you. Is that alright?”
“Great. So, we don’t have the results back from your COVID test. From what I understand, it was done pretty recently. It’s standard that each baby would have about four NICU nurses present during the birth to check on your twins immediately. Unfortunately, because we don’t have your test results back yet, the nurses and neonatologist will not be standing in this room.”
“Okay,” I said slowly.
“Therefore, when the doctor pulls the babies, I will be passing them outside the door of the operating room to the nurses on stand-by. They will be examined and, if everything looks normal, we’ll pass them back in here for you to meet them.”
“I see,” I frowned. “And if things aren’t normal?”
“We’ll take them immediately to the NICU. Do you understand?”
Quite frankly, I was speechless. I didn’t like the sound of this at all. I had a plan. I was promised that the boys would be given to me for skin-to-skin. I was promised the chance to immediately attempt breastfeeding. I didn’t have COVID. I had made sure to quarantine for months so everything would go smoothly, according to plan.
“So, there is a chance I won’t be able to see them?” I confirmed.
“Perhaps,” she said. “We’ll do what we can to make sure that doesn’t happen. I’m sorry.”
While this news was sinking in, I was then pulled from that conversation to the next. This was about the spinal tap and what was expected of me as it was administered.
Onto the operating table I went. My gown was opened in the back. I shivered from the frigid air of the room and from the idea that I’d have giant needles entering my backside.
(Unfortunately, I’d done a little too much research about epidurals and gone down an internet rabbit hole. I’d read articles about women becoming paralyzed, so I pretty much spent this time, and the time in recovery, praying that my legs would work after this. I’m so dramatic.)
I sat on the edge of the table while one of the nurses stood in front of me. She had me place my hands on her shoulders and they made me curve my back.
“More,” they said. “Curve your back even more if you can, Mrs. Schmitzer.”
I’ve got two babies in here, people, I thought. There is only so much curving forward I can do.
I felt two pinches of the needles that would numb my back before they injected the spinal tap.
When it was over, all at once my body started tingling. I would describe it almost as the feeling you get when your legs fall asleep.
Then, the nurse I was leaning on and a few others began quickly laying me down onto the table, laying my arms out to my side.
At this point, my doctor had entered the room and I could hear Bob Marley beginning to play. He came over and laid a hand on mine.
“How are we doing, mama?” he said energetically.
“Uhm, pretty good,” I smiled weakly.
The warm, tingling sensation spread and I began studying my surroundings. There were big metal lights above me and nurses running around like crazy. The curtain partition that shielded me from viewing the operation was hung. I felt taping around my stomach. One nurse began cleaning and disinfecting my incision sight.
And all I could think about was how much I hated this. I knew women did this all the time. I knew some preferred this method. But I’d never been operated on. I felt like this surgery was impersonal. I felt like I was here for a standard operation and not because I was becoming a mom. I didn’t like the idea of being cut into. I was panicking.
Now, this next part is something I laugh at now because I think back to how I was so on edge about this whole thing and how dramatic I was being.
My doctor began pushing on my stomach, I’m sure to check the location of the babies. However, I thought he was starting the procedure.
“Oh my gosh!” I yelled at him. “I can feel that, I can feel you touching me. Please don’t cut yet, I can feel that!”
“Mrs. Schmitzer,” he laughed. “I’m not starting yet, not until we know you’re completely numb, which should be in a few more minutes.”
“Oh, sorry,” I said, sheepishly.
It was a few more minutes before the operation began and, finally, Jimmy was brought in to sit at my head.
“I’m really glad you’re here,” I said. I told him what the NICU representative had told me. Jimmy kissed my forehead and held my hand. He said things would be okay and that everything would work out.
We smiled at each other and did our best to avoid even looking in the direction of the curtain. We talked about the boys. We talked about what they might look like and how big they’d be.
And then the doctor smiled in our direction and said, “Alright. Let’s do this!”