I remember there was graffiti in the hospital room but not which gang it was from. It’s been 4 years now and my memory is appropriately iffy. I know this for sure: If you have the opportunity to deliver a child outside of downtown Brooklyn, embrace it like a kitten. We figured since it was close to our house and doctors are all certified and stuff, hospitals are pretty much all the same. What we didn’t know was you almost never see any doctors.
Our obstetrician only appeared for 5 minutes every couple of hours, as he seemed to be rushing around to different patients in between obligatory visits to his synagogue. When the labor situation became untenable – by which I mean we all agreed there was no way Silas’ gigantic head was fitting through his small, boy-hipped mother – he performed the c-section. The rest of the time, Lindsay was attended to by nurses who acted like they would rather be on fire than give her another pillow.
We were in a hurry to get it done because her water already broke, meaning the barrier between our baby and the mountains of flesh-eating bacteria floating around the hospital was gone. The elevator was predictably filled with people who appeared to have late stage tuberculosis, or some other illness that made them cough uncontrollably in confined spaces with total disregard for hypochondriacs or unprotected fetuses.
Exiting the elevator, I expected the surgical ward to be pretty nice; it wasn’t. If you’ve ever opened a random door at an airport or shopping mall and gotten a glimpse of the sparse, flourescently lit areas where they store wheelchairs and dirty catering carts with half eaten fruit plates on them, you get the idea. It was clean – I think – despite feeling like an abandoned 1970’s elementary school. It wasn’t the type of place you want to welcome a perfect new human being who’s poised to forever shackle your freedom in ways you can’t help but enjoy (65% of the time.)
They made me put on a lunch lady costume so I could be present in the operating room. They hung a curtain so I couldn’t see anything except my wife’s head and the anesthesiologist who was inappropriately friendly and casual. He was wearing a tie-dye shirt under his lab coat and had on orange Crocs. I thought maybe he’d been up all night playing conga drums and drinking Chianti with Mathew McConaughey and Mario Batali. He was the drug geek in his fraternity whose dad pulled some strings to get him into medical school.
I stood awkwardly behind the curtain with the anesthesiologist and what appeared to be my wife’s disembodied floating head. He was in the zone; prepping all his drugs, chillaxin’, and trying to have a rad rap session with me like we were playing gin rummy. I don’t know if it was his way of getting me to relax or whether he was just a mouth-breathing idiot, but I suspect the latter. Lindsay locked eyes with me; she looked scared. I peeked over the curtain, saw what was going on, had a mild stroke, and told her everything was fine.
She was supposed to be numb from the waist down, but apparently, making that happen isn’t really a science. The anesthesiologist asked her over and over if she could feel anything, to which she continually responded with a confused “yes” like she was getting an eye exam. He gave her another drug, asked again, and received the same answer. Meanwhile, I could see her eyes start floating. This happened two more times until finally the anesthesiologist looked over the curtain at the doctor and they both had a nice chuckle.
“What are you laughing at?” I asked.
“Well, I just gave her a synthetic that’s three times more powerful than morphine, so technically she shouldn’t be feeling anything at all,” he responded with a jolly your-wife-be-trippin’ tone.
I was confused by his attitude and the ineffectiveness of the drugs when I replied, “Well, she said she can still feel it, so do you think maybe you could give her something else?”
His eyes lit up. “Yea, sure, why not.”
I panicked. “Wait, did you just take my advice?”
“Eh, I was going to top her off anyway.” He said, like a diner waitress referring to a half-full cup of coffee.
He removed another vial, twisted off the top with an annoying flare, and fed it into her IV. He looked at me and asked,
“You know what that was?”
“Umm, no,” I answered, wondering quietly why he was speaking about my pregnant wife as if she wasn’t there.
“Ketamine. It’s a cat tranquilizer. They call it special k on the streets.”
Wow, and a lesson in street talk. Super. I thought I was getting all I needed from watching The Wire. Thank you very much Dr. Feelgood. Holy Christ, are we going to get together after this and snort some oxycodone with Nurse Jackie?
How is a cat tranquilizer gonna help after you’ve already given her something three times more powerful than morphine? I have cats, and they fall asleep while petting them.
Before all the Ketamine had completely entered my wife’s system, the procedure was already over. The doctor held up Silas so we could have a quick look, then whisked him away to the nursery. I sat with Lindsay in the recovery room until she eventually started purring and fell asleep. I snuck out to see my little man, Silas.