“Push on my belly.”
It seemed like such a simple request from my wife. Once I complied with it, I’d never seen her in so much pain, and I had previously witnessed her giving birth to our two children.
After a little more pushing and prodding, it was clear something needed to be done. Was all the pain and nausea simply symptoms of her first trimester of pregnancy? Could it be something more serious, like appendicitis? A doctor needed to access the situation.
We hopped in the car and drove 20 bumpy and agonizing minutes to the hospital. We arrived, checked in, and were sent to triage.
After receiving a CT scan, it was time to sit … and wait. There was not much else to do while the doctors checked the results. Over the course of the next few hours, we flipped through several TV channels and finally landed on the movie Fight Club. It had been well over a decade since I’d last seen this movie. I’d passed it up while flipping through channels many times before, but for some reason that night I was drawn to it. I clearly remember one scene where Brad Pitt’s character (Tyler Durdin) holds a gun to the back of a guy’s head and threatens to shoot him. After a few minutes, Tyler lets the man go. He then goes on to talk about the new appreciation that the man will have for his life:
“Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel’s life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted.”
This struck me as a deranged but somewhat understandable comment.
Answers and more worries
Three hours later, the answer was clear. My wife had appendicitis. An appendectomy is a relatively simple procedure (at least that is what I was told) but everything becomes a little more complicated when your wife is 14 weeks pregnant. And things become a lot more complicated when the part of the body where the surgery will be taking place is essentially right next to an unborn child. As scary and dangerous as the possibilities were, the surgery was necessary. An untreated and ruptured appendix would certainly mean the loss of a baby and potentially terrible consequences for my wife as well.
At 1 in the morning, she was wheeled away for surgery.
She returned to the room at 4 a.m. She was not doing well coming off the anesthesia. My wife began alternating between thinking she was the doctor and giving orders to the nurses about her care, dropping F-bombs about the entire situation, and vomiting into a bucket next to her in the hospital bed. Finally, things calmed down. Off to sleep she and I went.
After a few hours of sleep, the next day was quickly upon us. It was time to see what type of stress the surgery had put on the baby and check the baby’s heartbeat. Our doctor that morning was someone that had our complete trust. Just a year earlier he’d delivered our second child and once someone delivers your baby, there is a lifelong bond you carry with that person. Our doctor arrived in the room wheeling in a Doppler machine. He pressed the microphone to my wife’s belly, no sounds were heard.
“Don’t panic, don’t panic,” was all I could say to myself, over and over.
I gauged our obstetrician’s behavior to help me know how to react. He was calm, so I stayed calm. Maybe there was something wrong with the machine. In came the ultrasound machine. After a minute of fumbling around to get it set up, we could see the baby.
The baby was not moving and no heartbeat could be seen or heard. Panic began.
Waiting on a sign of life
So many thoughts raced around in my head. “Calm down, be strong for your wife,” I told myself. “Stay calm, stay calm.”
Again, I looked at the doctor to help measure my own reaction, this time I could see the fear and sadness in his eyes. I gripped my wife’s hand even tighter. What happened next was the saddest moment of my life. The doctor removed his hands from the machine, looked into our tired eyes.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m so, so sorry.”
There was nothing left to do but cry.
While this was going on, another doctor, a close friend of my wife’s, ran to grab a different type of ultrasound probe. They decided to try a different probe, hoping for different results. Through the tears in our eyes and pain in our hearts, we barely even paid attention to what she was doing.
Then, suddenly, the ultrasound showed MOVEMENT!
Wonderful, beautiful movement!
Our little baby was fine and kicking away. I have never felt a greater range of emotions than I felt that morning. From the deepest darkest place I didn’t even know existed to a mountaintop high feeling of pure joy. Amazing! Unbelievable! Miraculous!
We continued to cry, but now it was for different reasons. Once the doctor left the room, we spent a great deal of time trying to come to grips with all that had happened in the last 24 hours. One thing that kept flashing back in my mind was the scene from the movie Fight Club we’d watched the night before.
Tyler Durden made a good point. Never in my life have I appreciated the joy that is watching a baby move inside my wife’s belly quite like I experienced that morning. And even though it was a stale bagel with a plastic tub of peanut butter smeared on it, Tyler got it right … my breakfast tasted better than any meal I have ever tasted.