My alarm goes off at an ungodly hour. With a nursing baby, all sleep is precious. It seems asinine to willingly wake up before the sun.
I gently wake Captain, then quietly walk out to the kitchen to get the coffee brewing for him. None for me, though. Not today.
I return to the bedroom, pull on my yoga pants and change into a relatively clean shirt. I’m not winning any awards for best-dressed patient.
My cousin arrives to take care of the 3 older kids for an undetermined amount of hours. We settle the baby in her car seat while relaying the basic information; feed them, let them watch tv, Cabin Girl needs to be ready for school and out the door by 8:30. Nothing complicated. Keep it easy for everyone.
It’s time to go, and I’m not ready. But, I have to be.
Captain, the baby, and I get into the car. The sun is taking its time making an appearance. It is still bitingly cold and dark.
We make some small talk during the drive; how I’m grateful my surgery is first thing, what I packed for the baby to make Captain’s alone time with her easier, wondering if the kids have woke up yet to discover us gone. Mostly, though, we are silent.
Captain reaches for my hand, knowing, if not understanding, that my heart and brain are enduring a whirlwind of emotions. His hand is warm and strong, like he always is. Those are two of the reasons why I love him.
It is too early for valet parking, so we find a spot and pick our way through the dimly lit parking lot. The wind blows fierce and bitterly cold, like the pang of uncertainty that keeps surfacing whenever I actually think about what I am heading towards.
I get checked in and the nurse is blunt, not yet awake enough for the long day ahead of her. She warms slightly when she notices Captain holding our baby, and she gives me a small, understanding smile.
We find a place to sit in a waiting room of anxious patients and their soon-to-be caregivers. I take the baby in my arms and lose myself in her smiles and wondering eyes until a different nurse comes through the double doors and calls my name.
I put on a smile and give the baby back to Captain, then I stand and follow the nurse. My steps are confident. Eager, even. No need to share the terror gripping my heart with anyone.
Through minutes that feel like hours, I am undressed, cleaned, poked, and prodded to the surgical prep nurse’s satisfaction. I answer what seem like the million and one questions I have already answered dozens of times before.
Captain brings the baby to me to nurse one more time. They are a good distraction.
My Doctor comes to make sure I’m all set, cooing as he always does over the baby, and reassuring me that it will be quick and easy. I smile and nod, but, when the anesthesiologist comes in to discuss what is going to happen to me, I can feel the tears prick my eyes.
I have been through similar surgeries before, I’m not too worried, I hear myself say. If he knew I was lying, would he have proceeded?
The nurse returns, and it’s time. Swift kisses are exchanged with Captain and the baby, and I am pushed down a corridor full of masked faces bustling about their morning and through another set of double doors into a room as cold as a refrigerator.
The anesthesiologist directs me onto the operating table and proceeds to put ekg stickers on my head, chest, and ribcage. I remind myself to breathe…
…and then I wake up.
I am warm, and groggy, and there is an obnoxious beeping near my head.
I close my eyes and drift in a fog for seconds that feel like days.
A recovery nurse comes to my bedside and asks gentle questions. Questions which I forget instantly, but I answer, and the answers are good enough that I am moved to another recovery area where Captain and the baby could come sit with me.
Captain smiles. He tells me that the Doctor said everything went perfectly.
Even through the fog of drugs, my heartache is acute.
It went perfectly.
I am sterile.
I will never bear children again.
And, though I wish to cry, I smile.
This was the best choice for our family.
I have five reasons not to have another baby. One is the man I love; He does not want more children. The other 4 reasons are the beautiful children we already have; They deserve me in a quality I could not offer if we were to have another baby.
There are other reasons, yes, but these are the ones that matter the most.
I don’t regret having the surgery.
But I have not yet come to terms with cutting the ties of the most defining part of my life.
Maybe… maybe I never will.