Scars of the Soul

My son is almost six. He’s terribly excited about his birthday, and although I wonder where my baby has gone – I also look forward to the adventures to come. But with his birthday also come the flashbacks. And this is something I suffer alone, in silence.

My son was born before birth trauma was a “thing.” But even with the recent advocacy for women’s rights in childbirth I still feel guilty somehow that the day my son was born was simultaneously the best and worst day of my life.

Six years. Isn’t that long enough for the wound to heal? I go to yoga class. It’s core day. We do plank, and side plank, and locust. My scar burns. All that is left is a thin white line, but six years later it still burns. And six years later, the scars on my soul, although healed, still burn.

The day comes back to me in snapshots. My water breaks, my husband rushes home from work. We speed to the hospital. Today is the day we get to meet our son.

The doctor comes. She does a vaginal exam. “You’re having a boy,” she says. “I can feel his butt.”

Breech. How can my son be breech? “C-section,” the doctor declares. “Get her ready.”

I’m alone in the hospital, my first time admitted there since my own birth. My husband is on the phone, working out some details he had to leave undone at work. A flock of nurses descends on me. One of them puts in an IV. Another shaves me, naked in a room of bustle. Another is asking me questions, filling out forms, expecting me to focus.

I’m in the OR. They’ve taken my husband away to get dressed. The anesthesiologist is getting ready to stick a needle into my spine. I’m shaking so bad a nurse has to grab onto me and hold me still. My body goes numb.

My husband comes in. The screen goes up. I feel weird pressure and tugging. “It’s a boy!” the doctor says.

The screen is in front of my face. I can’t see. There are spots on the screen. I try to scrape them off with my fingernail. It’s my own blood spattered there.

I hear crying. “I want to see my baby, please,” I ask.

“Well, what are you planning on doing this weekend?” the doctor says to the nurse.

“I think I’ll go to the lake,” she says.

“I want to see my baby,” I say.

“The weather should be good for that,” says the doctor.

A nurse brings over a baby. He’s all wrapped up, all I can see is his face. She lets me kiss him on the forehead. The nurse, my husband, and the baby leave. I’m alone again.

I scrape on the screen with my fingernail again. The spots bother me. Why are they there right in front of my face?

The doctor is happy with the surgery. “You did great,” she says. “I’ll be back to check on you tomorrow.”

Recovery is on the other side of the hospital. The nurses don’t want to have to take me there. No one else is using the OR, I can just stay and recover there.

The screen comes down. They slide me off the table onto a bed. I’m still alone. Nurses bustle around, carrying away trays and buckets of blood. Maybe that’s the placenta. I’m glad blood doesn’t make me queasy. So much of it.

Finally they take me to my room. They bring me this baby – my baby, I suppose. I finally get to count his fingers and toes after everyone else in the family has gotten the chance to do it. I lay him on my chest and hold him tight. I don’t want to let go. He IS mine.

The next day the nurse comes by to take out my catheter. “Stick your butt off the edge of the bed,” she says.

“Close the door,” I tell her.

“It won’t take that long,” she says.

“At least close the curtain,” I insist.

“It doesn’t matter,” she lies. “Your room is at the end of the hall.” It was really smack in the middle of the hall. People kept walking by.

I consent so that I can be rid of her.

Finally we leave. I’ve never been so glad to leave.

Six years ago this was. I’ve been to a dark place and I’ve clawed my way out. But I’ll never set foot in that hospital again. I’ll continue to feel a wave of nausea whenever I hear of anyone having a c-section. And if I hear anyone else say, “All that matters is that you had a healthy baby,” I’ll slap them.

No I won’t. But I’ll feel like it.

You can’t see my scar. There’s no way you’ll ever catch me in a bikini, and even then you probably couldn’t see it. But it’s still there.

And so are the scars in my soul.

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