It is dry season in Trinidad. We have city water come to the house in the middle of the night but not during the day. This is common so most people have large tanks to collect water. The tanks are hooked in to the house's plumbing system so you can have running water all day but it's June, the end of dry season. We have gone over a week without city water and the tank has very little water in it. We've been taking sponge baths for weeks trying to conserve water. It's abut 90 degrees every day. I am a week overdue to give birth to Calypso. My greatest fantasy is to stand under a shower and let the water run all over me for about an hour.
The doctor tells me it is time to schedule a cesarean because I am so far overdue and not showing signs of ever going into labor this century. Since I had Diana by c-section already he does not believe it is safe to induce me. Since we know it will not be an emergency surgery I beg the doctor to arrange an epidural rather than general anesthesia so I can be awake for the birth even though this is not how it is done in Trinidad. He agrees to this. I am grateful.
My mother-in-law has come from the States to stay with us and help take care of Diana while I am in the hospital and to help after the baby and I come home. The morning arrives and Mr. Lime and I drive to the hospital. The doctor has also been accommodating enough to permit Mr. Lime into the operating theater, which is simply unheard of in Trinidad. He is taken to dress and I am taken to be prepped for surgery. One sweet nurse is assigned to sit with me until I am taken into surgery. Finally, that moment arrives and my doctor who is just barely over 5 feet tall peers over me to greet me and ask how I am feeling. I am tempted to ask him if he will need a box to stand on so he can reach my belly but I stop myself realizing it is he who wields the scalpel.
I am introduced to the anesthesiologist who then administers the epidural. The two doctors leave for a few moments to wait for the drugs to take effect, then return to test its efficacy. They poke my belly with needles. Some I can feel, others I cannot. The doctors look disturbed. They administer more drugs and we wait again. They come back with the needles. I can still feel needles. They look a bit grave and tell me they want to knock me out now because if they proceed with the surgery I will feel it. I politely but firmly refuse. They are fairly incredulous and suggest I reconsider. I am unrelenting so Mr. Lime is ushered in and everyone is in place to commence.
My doctor makes the first incision which I notice I can feel. It's not painful but it is fairly unnerving to have your skin feel like there is a zipper in it. I know I am not supposed to be able to feel this and my eyes go wide. Mr. Lime leans over, "You felt that?"
The doctor leans over, "You felt that?"
"Mrs. Lime, I'd like you to consider taking the general anesthesia now. This is only going to get worse for you."
"Nope. Just cut. It's more important to me to be lucid than to be pain free."
"Are you quite certain?"
Surgery proceeds but seems to be taking a long time, much longer than when Diana was born, and to put it mildly it is fairly painful. I inquire, "So, uh....how much longer do we have, doc?"
"Well, there seems to be a problem."
"What sort of problem?"
"I can't find the head."
"Whaddya mean? There aren't a lot of places it could go."
"Well, yes but every time I try to get a grip on it, it just spins around. (He makes a motion like trying to open a Vaseline covered doorknob.) I think I will need some help here."
The power goes out for a few moments. Outages are common in Trinidad. All the machinery and lights die for a moment or two until the hospital's generator kicks in. Believe it or not I find it somewhat comical that it should go out while I am enduring a surgery I can feel and the doctor can't find the baby's head.
The doctor nods to the anesthesiologist and says he needs his help. Mr. Lime tells me later that my doctor grabbed a big metal hook and reached inside my belly to get a hold of the baby at the moment the anesthesiologist reached down from my head to shove on the top of my belly. If you've ever had the wind knocked out of you by a punch or a fall, take that sensation and multiply it by 10. However, this is the moment when Calypso's head enters the world.
Mr. Lime announces the baby has dark hair and olive skin like me. The next words that come from my mouth I am going to chalk up to being overcome by the sensations both emotional and physical of that moment. Please remember that my first child is a fair skinned redhead. I will also remind you that I find racism an ugly trait and I cannot abide those who use racial epithets in my presence. I find them vile. So, dear readers, when I tell you that in the middle of surgery after being informed of the resemblance my soon to be born child had to me, I cried out in a room full of people of African and East Indian descent, "Ooooh, we got a darkie!" it was in no way intended as an insult to those who were so wonderfully attending to me at the time (and I do mean that. In spite of the technical glitches I felt very well attended to.). It was glee that there may be a human on the earth who actually resembles me with good reason. Most regrettably, I was rendered less than eloquent by the circumstances.
A moment later Calypso's cries fill the room as she is being cleaned off. I see her, touch her, kiss her forehead. The doctors inform me I need to take some oxygen because I have been through quite a bit and it is showing. The mask is placed over my nose and mouth and I take big whiffs as directed....until I feel myself becoming sleepy and I begin to fight them to remove the mask. The mask is removed and my doctor peers over at me and says, "You have seen the baby and you know she is well. I believe it is time for you to take the drugs so I can finish my job properly." He has a slightly stern tone which I have not heard him use before. I acquiesce.
I awake a short time later still in the surgery before they take me to my own room. Mr. Lime is in my room and when I am fully awake he tells me this was quite a strange experience. When I had Diana he felt like he was on a Star Trek set with all the shiny technology. Here they cauterized me with what looked like BBQ tongs hooked up to a car battery.
"Pffft, what do I care as long at the BBQ tongs were boiled first?"
"Well, the anesthesiologist was wearing open toed sandals! How can that be sterile?"
"He wasn't operating with his feet was he?"
A nurse brings in our daughter and asks if I am ready to hold her and try to nurse her. I am wide awake now.
"Well, congratulations, Mummy. Yuh have a real Trini daughter here!"
And so it was 16 years ago this month that Calypso entered the world.