Monday, September 14, 2009

Coming Down to Earth

"I went skydiving," I panted to my husband as he carefully navigated the icy roads toward the hospital.

"Keep reminding me," I told him, doubled over in my seat from the waves of jarring contractions. "I jumped out of a plane at 13,500 feet, okay? I can do this!" "You can totally do this, just keep breathing," he said, holding my hand, glancing nervously in my direction.

"I packed barf bags," I half-smiled, opening the glove compartment to expose my stash of plastic bags. I unzipped the puffy black maternity parka that I was wearing, suddenly feeling warm even though I could see my breath in the chill of the car.

"I'll take care of you," he said, his dark eyes reassuring.

I closed my eyes and remembered the plane ride.

"I'm not feeling so great," I yelled to my curly blond haired instructor over the roar of the plane's engine.

"Sit down on the floor," he hollered back. I slid from the bench I was perched on down to the floor of the rickety plane. Some skydiving regular took off his sneaker and offered it to me as a barf basin. "No, I'm good," I lied. My eyes were glued to the 5 foot wide square hole in the floor of the plane just a few feet away from me.

"You didn't just jump out of a plane, honey, you did a BACK FLIP out of the plane," my husband whispered to me as he helped me sit up straight to wait for an epidural. "This is cake." I nodded as sweat poured down my forehead and back, soaking my cotton hospital gown.

I took baby steps towards the massive hole in the back of the plane's floor with my hippie instructor, Rob, strapped to my back. Men and women dressed in colorful jumpsuits with packed parachutes on their backs looked like rag dolls as they flew out of the plane ahead of me. "Here we go!" Rob hollered as I crossed my arms over my chest as he had instructed.

"This might feel a little strange." said the mustachioed anesthesiologist. I closed my eyes and waited for the needle to penetrate my spine.

We back flipped out into the sky. I felt fierce cool wind hitting my face. And then a hand tapped me on the forehead. "Open your eyes!" yelled the skydiving photographer who was face to face with me, soaring through the air. I opened my eyes and saw wind and white clouds zipping by me, and the photographer grinning. "Awesome, right?! Grab my hand," he hollered. Through the force of the wind, I struggled to reach out for his hand with mine. Once we connected, he spun me around like a corkscrew and then let go. I was spinning like a top above the earth.

"It feels better," I told the nurse. "I feel like I'm at a Pink Floyd concert, it's amazing. I feel F-I-N-E, fine!" I whispered to my mom on the phone, while my husband slept curled up in a recliner next to me.

When the spinning stopped, I thrust my right fist out ahead of me, like Superman. I flexed my biceps up, then down, gave a salute, smiled at the photographer as my skin flapped in the wind, outlining my cheek bones. I was euphoric, weightless, soaring through the sky. Little did I know that I was falling.

"I feel nothing, absolutely nothing," I told the young blond nurse after she explained that I was having contractions every minute. "Okay, you're going to start pushing soon," the doctor said from her perch at the end of my bed. "You can do this," my husband whispered in my ear. "You jumped out of a plane!"

Rob, the shaggy-haired hippie instructor strapped to my back, interrupted my poses and grabbed my right hand and placed it on my hip. "Pull the cord!" he hollered.

"It's around his neck," I heard the doctor tell the nurse in a hushed tone. Monitors started beeping. Sweat started dripping. "The baby is not in the right position," the doctor told me. "We're going to try to turn it around."

I yanked the cord and felt a powerful force launch me high into the sky like a rocket. I soared through sky, yelling, "Woohoo!" I heard my parachute open overhead and then felt an abrupt stop. I was suspended in the air. For the first time since I had jumped out of the plane, I noticed the ground below.

"Her blood pressure is dropping," the nurse said, checking the monitor next to my bed. I watched her furrow her brow as she looked at the readings. Without warning, she fastened an oxygen mask over my nose and mouth. I sucked in smokey clouds of air and my eyes grew as big as saucers, searching for my husband's face.

"Am I still here?!" I screamed, suddenly feeling very alone. "Yes," Rob hollered back, chuckling. ""You're still here! We're floating." Our red, yellow, purple, green and blue parachute was up over our heads like a gigantic kite in the sky.

I did not recognize any of the faces in front of me, but they all seemed to be mouthing the word, "Push, push, push, push, push."

"I feel like I'm slipping," I yelled to Rob in a panic. "Here, I'm going to tighten your harness," he assured me. "Look over there, see the ocean? Isn't that beautiful?"

I finally saw something familiar, my husband's face, full of love and fear in his eyes that he could not mask with a smile.

"Forceps or a c-section," the doctor said. "First, we'll try to spin the baby around."

My body was no longer my own. Four doctors, a few nurses, residents and god knows who the other spectators were poked, prodded and watched like I was a 4th grade science experiment. I watched all of them from a place high above my bed. I felt nothing but the awful dead weight of my body from the drugs. My legs felt as heavy as tree trunks when they asked me to help lift them into the air. My mind raced and I tried to think about flying.

I was weightless, drifting through the brilliant blue sky, laughing. "Feels like a dream," I shouted.

The forceps looked like a medieval torture device. They were gigantic metal fireplace tongs, running the length of my arms. They were all I could see down at the bottom of my bed.

"I'm going to . . ." I gagged before I could finish my sentence and the nurse turned me on my side and shoved a plastic basin under my mouth. "That happens sometimes when the baby is coming down," she informed me.

The monitor went wild. "The baby's heart rate is dropping," the nurse reported in a contained panic. "We need to do this quickly," the doctor with the metal salad tongs instructed the team. I wanted to just drift away. The doctor flipped the baby with the forceps as everyone in the room chanted, "Push, push, push, push, push, push! Her voice rising, the doctor yelled, "Here comes the baby! . . . ohhhh.....look..... it's a . . . boy!" another doctor gushed. "He's little, but he has chubby cheeks," someone else chimed in.

I felt nothing. I saw nothing. I heard nothing. I waited for the cry. I waited for the cry. I squeezed my husband's hand and waited for the cry. The deafening silence overwhelmed the room, pained my heart. I saw doctors, nurses, residents, hurrying around.

I waited. And waited. And waited. "No, this must be a nightmare," I told myself. And, at last, a cry. A cry? A cry! A cry full of life, spirit, will.

"You did it!" Rob yelled as we pulled off a picture perfect landing. My feet were wobbly as we touched down on the ground."That was the most amazing thing I ever did!" I yelled as I high-fived my instructor.

"That was the most terrifying thing I ever did," I sobbed to my husband, as he wrapped his strong arms around me. "Amazing, but absolutely terrifying." The doctor walked carefully over to my bedside carrying a tiny, perfectly-wrapped gift. With my tired arms open wide and my husband by my side, I celebrated the journey. And the view, right then and there on earth . . well, there was nothing in the universe more exquisite.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't jumped out of a plane, but you sure make me feel as if I have! (I have given birth five times though, so, I hear you loud and clear there!) I love the emotion in this story. Good job.