Kiley Dorton - August 15, 2013
She didn’t make a sound. Neither did any of the doctors in the room. All were silent.
The moment lasted all of three seconds. An eternity, in three seconds. A lifetime, in three seconds. The entire world held its breath.
I was grasping my wife’s cold, shaking hands. She couldn’t see over the blue divider. I could.
Minutes prior to that moment, I was comforting my wife with my words but my eyes were locked on what was happening over the divider. I could see the doctors gripping and twisting and pulling. I could see the incision spread apart and stretch as the doctor blindly maneuvered her fingers inside my wife’s body. I could see everything, and I had no idea what was happening.
Then my wife made a noise that she wasn’t supposed to. It wasn’t much, but it was enough. The room abruptly stopped as if someone had pressed pause. It was so sudden…my stomach dropped. The doctor asked her why she made that noise.
“I can feel that,” she responded calmly, with a tremor in her voice that only I could detect.
“No you can’t,” the doctor replied, as if asking a question and answering it at the same time.
“Yes, I can.”
From there, the doctor did not respond. Instead, she turned into something else. Some kind of machine. She barely got the words out to her team that they needed to “do this, and do it now.”
What she understood, that my wife and I could not, was that the epidural had fallen out of my wife’s spine. The pain was on its way. And there was little time.
They pulled. She winced. They twisted. She twisted. And then it happened.
I looked down at my wife, and realized she was looking directly at my eyes. She was seeing what I was seeing, through me. She was literally feeling the pain of being cut open, with people moving their hands inside her, pulling a large thing out of a very small opening in her skin. She was feeling that. And yet, when I looked down into her eyes, I saw no pain. I saw no fear.
I saw resolve.
She was prepared, at that moment, to do anything for the life of our half-born child. Anything. And I saw it in her eyes. I have never seen such courage in a person. I doubt I ever will again.
That was the first unforgettable moment in that five-minute span. The second happened almost immediately after.
The doctors were working quickly, but I could tell it was not easy. There was some sort of struggle, arranging the baby in just the right way so that she could somehow squeeze out of this tiny opening.
And then, without warning, the doctor just pulled her head out. Instantly she plunged her hands back into the incision, and maneuvered the shoulders out. Then the arms. Then the legs.
It happened so fast, my brain wasn’t working. I didn’t know what to do. Tell my wife? Not say anything? Listen for something? Yes…that’s right, listen for something. I was supposed to listen for a cry, or a cough, a noise of any kind. But it was missing. Nothing was happening.
It was silent.
Three seconds. They pulled the baby out and onto a small table. Three seconds. My wife’s eyes rolled back in her head. Three seconds, the doctor tapped the baby as the rest of the room dared not move a muscle—dared not blink or breathe or…
And then a whimper. A cough. And a good, solid wail of a cry. It was the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard. I looked down at my wife who was now barely holding on to consciousness. My eyes met hers and I told her this without speaking:
You did it. We have a daughter. Rest now. I love you.
She was rushed to some kind of emergency operation for recovery. I was rushed to a place where they give your new baby a bath and put her in your arms and tell you that you’re a dad.
But I already knew. I knew the instant I heard the noise. I knew then, and I’ll never forget it.
I am the proud husband of a strong, courageous wife. I am the blessed father of a fragile, perfect daughter who will follow in her footsteps. And that, for me, is unforgettable.