“He’s not breathing right now, but they’re working on him,” Ben told me in the most reassuring manner. I, on the other hand, immediately began to panic. I hadn’t even seen him yet. My instinct was to leap off the table and rush to my baby, but my legs were numb and my stomach was ripped apart from the c-section. They rushed the baby out of the room, leaving Ben and I to ponder the worst questions a parent can face.
I was practically hysterical when they wheeled me into the operating room for an emergency c-section. I was sobbing uncontrollably. The IV technician tried to jokingly reassure me. She advised how my next birth would be easy by comparison- simply schedule a routine c-section. Her jokes fell on deaf ears. Throughout the surgery, I begged for Ben to talk to me, about anything, just to keep me from falling apart.
Ben was torn. After watching me struggle through the birth, he felt obligated to stay with me and determine if I was ok. But our son was in trouble. There was no choice. I looked at him and said “go with the baby. Find out what’s going on.”
He came back sometime later. Was it five minutes? Was it twenty? I had no idea. When he returned, he said our boy was breathing, but he wasn’t out of the woods yet. They needed to transport him to another hospital so he could be evaluated by specialists. I would not be transported with him.
I felt as if someone had punched me in the stomach, even though I could not feel my stomach because of the anesthesia. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t process for a few seconds, and then my whole body, at least the parts that were not numb, began heaving from the sobs. My baby was in trouble and I was not going to be by his side. What if the worst happened, and I was not there?
Ben left to go check on our son, and I was wheeled away to a recovery room. Awhile later he returned. I was going to be allowed to see our son before he was rushed to the other hospital, but only for a moment.
Up until this point, Ben had been almost stoically calm, but now I watched as he wept into his hands. Through his tears he said “I just want to be a family.” It was the most heartbreaking sentence my ears had ever heard. I did my best impersonation of a buck up, “we’re going to get through this” routine.
We had not decided on a name prior to our son’s birth. It was almost comical how difficult it was for us to agree on a name. But in that dimly lit recovery room, Ben was insistent that our son had to have a name before he travelled. He was also insistent that I had to see him before we could name him.
A team of doctors and transporters wheeled his incubator into my room. He had a ventilator taped to his mouth. He wore a small hat, and Ben lifted it so I could see he had a full head of slightly reddish blond hair. I held his hand briefly, we named him, and then he was gone.
We settled on Liam. It had family significance for both of us, and it just sounded like the name of a strapping, Irish lad. I hoped that strong name would act as a talisman and protect him from harm, until I could see him again.