Love's Labor Won

by Sascha Fink

They’re going to put an oxygen mask on you. It’s just a precaution, honey. It’ll put more oxygen into your blood. Make your blood more efficient. Make it work better



What blood I have left you mean. The mask fits snug over the bottom half of my face. There is a light breeze across my nose. I can smell the plastic. The oxygen mask is new. I saw a nurse pull it out of the bag and attach the mask to a machine. The mask smells orange. I don’t know why, but the plastic mask smells orange. Not like an orange you eat. Like the color orange. I’ve been in surgery a few times. The mask always smells orange. But the oxygen mask isn’t quite enough, is it doctor.


Can you hear me?

Doctor? tor…tor…tor…tor…

The edge of my field of vision is wavy and blurs slightly. The blur eases its way toward the center of my vision. Husband’s face is blurred even though he is very close. I feel him stroking my hair as the doctor does his work. I can feel his breath on my face as he talks to me. I can’t hear him. I think I’m passing out from blood loss. It’s happening just like it does in the movies. Imagine that.

Yes. A+. She’s already type and cross-matched.

That’s the circulation nurse on the phone. I know that. I like watching medical TV shows. I think one was on last night, wasn’t it? She’s not sterile so she doesn’t touch me or the baby. Is the baby here? Is this the one that died? No. It’s not here, so it hasn’t died yet. She’s not bloody. She shouldn’t get blood on the phone. Someone will have to clean it off if she does get blood on the phone, but she’s not the nurse that is helping the doctor. The nurse on the phone is there to touch things the doctor can’t touch because he’s sterile. Blood is life. I’ll take a helping of both, please, if it isn’t too much trouble.

That nurse is moving slow. All the people in the room are moving slow. Maybe they aren’t. Maybe I’m moving slow.

Is the OR scrubbed down yet?

Yes, Dr. A… Should we pack up?

No. …not yet…may be able…still…under control. Just making sure.

My head is heavy. My brain is heavy. When I turn it to the right, it is so heavy I feel like I have a motion ocean inside my skull. My brain is sloshing. How can it slosh if I don’t have that much blood left?

If I tilt my head to the right, I can see the machines the doctor touches. They are full of blood. My blood? Of course it’s my blood. Who else’s blood would it be? I’m the only one here. Well, it could be the baby’s blood, but I don’t think she’s here yet. If I tilt my head forward I can see the doctor. He reaches for instruments. He has blood all the way up his arms. I lay my head back down. There is blood on the ceiling, I think. Maybe the blood is on the lamp above me and not really on the ceiling.I don’t have my glasses, so I can’t see too well. Where are my glasses? How did the blood get up there? Someone is talking to me but it’s like I’m trying to hear words through the sound that’s made when you hold a seashell up to your ear. It wooshes, and I can only hear the explosive syllables. It’s all that breaks through the white noise.

Sloshing and wooshing.

Can…whoosh…be…whoosh dow…

Go ah… and….p….

It’s dark again. But just for a moment, or maybe a long time. I can’t tell. The world lightens back up as though someone lit a candle and held it up close to me so I could see what is going on. I turn my head to the right again. The nurses aren’t interested in me anymore. The circulation nurse still doesn’t have blood on her. That’s good. She hasn’t touched anything she shouldn’t have touched. A nurse is bent down over a small bed with a big lamp over it. No blood on the lamp. She has a stethoscope. She has it that the baby? Every few seconds the nurse shakes her head “no.” It’s dark again.

Pushing hard on my stomach. It wakes me up but it doesn’t hurt. Kneading me like dough.

I moan, I think. I should scream but I don’t think I do. The nurses always say: “You’re going to feel a little pressure, but it won’t hurt.” Pressure is the nice way of saying it’s going to hurt. But this pressure doesn’t hurt. The doctor is pressing down, not the nurse. That’s probably why it doesn’t hurt. It’s not the nurse doing it.

…epidural will wearing off soon…tell me if it hurts…

It still doesn’t hurt.

From my hips to my toes, my skin is numb. But I’m tingling as though my legs had been asleep, and I woke them up by moving even though I still can’t move. Hand in mine. Husband. Kiss.

I think I’m back. I’m thirsty.

Go ahead. You can have something to drink now.

I need to see her face before they leave. Strange.

We have to get to the NICU, no time.

Don’t leave until I see her face. She is wrapped in a blanket like a burrito. The nurse turns her body. I can see her face. Now she’s real. Now she’s alive. Now she’s gone.

Will she live. The one before didn’t. Too small. This one is small, too. My head is still foggy but it’s clear enough to know this isn’t the one that died.

The next 24 hours are critical

They say this in every medical TV show and movie I’ve ever seen. I guess 24 is a magic number. What happens at 25? What happens at 23?

The doctor sits down next to me. I’m in a wheel chair. I’m still not so awake. They tried to stand me up but I fell back down.

She might have some serious problems.

She might have gross motor problems or Cerebral Palsy.

So I build a wheelchair ramp to my house.

She might be blind.

So I learn Braille.

She might be deaf.

So I learn to sign.

She took a breath. For someone so small, that’s extraordinary. We’re helping her breathe right now, but she took that first breath by herself.



Last Updated: 4/8/13