Two nights ago, I had a stressful dream. I was out in a park with my entire family, plus a lot of other people, and it was very windy. Because dreams are always very logical, the reason I was in this windy park was because I was prepping to go into surgery. I had all of this paperwork that I needed to have in order before my surgery, and it kept blowing away in the wind. No one could tell me what I needed to do — whether I needed to eat, when I should go to the hospital — but everyone wanted to tell me their opinions on the subject. I was incredibly stressed out.
One need be neither Jung nor Freud to figure out where that dream came from.
I suspect that I dredged up that particular twist (surgery rather than childbirth) because I’d recently had a conversation with a friend of mine about surgery. She’d planned on a vaginal birth and had undergone many hours of labor before it was discovered that the baby was breech, leading to an unplanned caesarean section. She had been trying to describe how it felt, how cold and shaky she was going in to the c-section, because of the shock of the news and all of the adrenaline, fatigue, etc.
I immediately knew what she meant. Last year (which is the euphemism I use for the miscarriage, because no one likes the m-word, even though it was actually in 2011), lying there in the emergency room, I really believed that I was going to be able to go home before long. I believed that the hemorrhaging would stop and that my blood pressure would rebound. Part of me, I suppose, knew that surgery was a possibility — but between the denial that had led me to delay going into the hospital in the first place, and the vague reassurances of the rotating cast of nurses and doctors I’d seen through the night, the idea had just faded away into the Land of the Theoretical. And then, suddenly, I was headed into the operating room, being informed I’d have a breathing tube thanks to half a candy bar, being told to hand over my wedding ring and glasses to my husband.
I was so cold, so scared. I remember thinking about dying (they don’t tell you to remove all metal from your body because they don’t like accessories). I am pretty sure I prayed; I probably tried to bargain with God, but I don’t remember what I promised. As they wheeled me into the room with the blinding lights and moved me from the stretcher to the table, I was shaking from head to foot so hard that I’m pretty sure I was coming off the table. And sure, part of it was sheer fear of the unknown; I’d never had any sort of surgery more serious than a wisdom tooth extraction. But a lot of it, I think, was being hit with the unexpected — the unimaginable — while already drowning in exhaustion and pain.
I’m within days or weeks of giving birth, and I don’t feel scared about that at all — I really don’t. (At least not on a conscious level.) I’m not planning on a surgical birth, but I know it could happen. These things do, sometimes. And if you asked me, I’d tell you that I’m at peace with that possibility, that I’ll be okay with it — and that’s true, on a philosophical level. Ultimately, whatever needs to happen for a healthy baby is fine, and I’m not going to beat myself up if I can’t deliver naturally, or if I can’t breastfeed, etc. etc. etc. But I’d be lying if I said that the thought didn’t scare me, on a much less rational level. I reckon it’s something in the same ballpark as PTSD — not that I’m trying to compare an emergency D&C to being in a war zone, of course, but I bet it’s a similar sort of thing. Heck, the bright light at my dentist’s office gave me the heeby-jeebies. I’ve read enough books with wounded-warrior archetypes to recognize that sort of thing when I experience it.
Any book or website about this whole birth thing will tell you that it’s best to be mentally prepared for a lot of different possibilities. The part of my brain that thinks has paid attention to this advice and has rehearsed for the possibility of a lot of things I’m not expecting. I’m not sure if the part of my brain that feels can really get that memo ahead of time.
No matter what, though, I think I can probably rest easy knowing that I’m not likely to be getting prepped for surgery on a windy playground. 🙂
[Ed. note: I was going to put a thumbnail of some OR lights in this post, just to add a little visual pizzazz — but I kid you not, when I ran the Google Image Search, it gave me a stomachache. Good grief. It’s been sixteen months. You’d think I could get over it already.]