Impossible Decisions and Miraculous Incisions

I want to write about my wife’s labor and delivery. The problem is that a man, even a well meaning one, discussing the carrying, laboring, and delivering of children is like asking the sun to describe darkness or a Kardashian to explain string theory. But I want to try because this beginning, like most, has taught me much.

Eight months ago, Taryn (my wife) and I found out that she was pregnant with spontaneous twins. This phenomenon has a 1/83,000 chance. As the sonographer discovered the second heartbeat we laughed. As the weeks went on we laughed less. One night after putting our 18-month-old son to bed, I lay prostrate on our kitchen floor, silent, and staring at the ceiling. Taryn walked in the room and asked if I was ok. I was in such shock that I got all existential like a new-agey-burner who had just hit The Playa for the first time. I replied “I feel as though I was asleep and now am awake.”

Over the next eight months the reality of having 3 children under 3-years-old grew. As did Taryn. She’s an amazing baby incubator. Both of my wife’s pregnancies have gone as well as can be expected – until the end. As the weight of baby inside of her peaks, her body responds with increased blood pressure and a decrease in the number of platelets in her blood. These symptoms, in both pregnancies, have prompted doctors to recommend medicinally inducing Taryn.

Some quick backstory – Taryn works in a hospital. Her mom and grandmother were nurses. She’s down with modern medicine and its role in ensuring a healthy baby(ies) and a healthy momma. However, even with twins, she desperately wanted to avoid a C-section. She called it an irrational fear. Seems rational to me. Who wants to be awake while they cut open your stomach and take out what’s in there? So the goal all along was to bring these two smallies into the world the ol’ fashioned way.

On a foggy September 2nd we went to the hospital so that our doctor could monitor Taryn’s blood pressure and platelets. The results were not good. It was time to induce. But in order to induce her and to attempt a vaginal birth both babies would need to be “head down.” Every time I say “head down” I recall the scene in Ace Ventura when Jim Carey emerges from the Rhino. I told you men shouldn’t talk about birth.

The ultrasound technician arrived. She began to scan. Baby A was head down. He had been all pregnancy. Now to find baby B. If head down it was time to induce and Taryn would avoid the C-section and have the birth she wanted. Not head down? Welp, time to “take the pig to slaughter” as Taryn so sweetly referred to the procedure.

“Baby B is transverse,” the sonographer said.

“Which means…?”

The sonographer, the nurse, and multiple OBGYNs explained that Baby B’s position did not require a C-section and that a vaginal birth was still “reasonable.” However, if Taryn were to attempt a vaginal birth and Baby B did not flip Ace-Ventura-style, it was possible that she would have Baby A vaginally and then an emergency C-section for Baby B.  A message to all doctors: if a patient is in a hospital, and something is high risk, like BRINGING TWO NEW HUMAN LIVES INTO EXISTANCE AT ONE TIME, please do not give your patient a choice.

The choice felt debilitating to Taryn and I. We could chose induction and attempt her rightfully preferred delivery but risk stress to Baby B and recovery from two operators. Or choose to face her fears and bare all of the complications of a major operation while being less mentally present and available to her newborn children. The medical staff told us it was our choice. This decision felt impossible.

Many decisions feel impossible. We all have them. Should I leave the job I that pays decently to start a small business based around my passions? Which pre-school should I enroll my daughter in? Should I stay in this miserable marriage for the kids? Should I attend the church with crappy music or crappy doughnuts? Should we do fertility treatments or adopt? Should I leave the bustling city for cheaper housing? Should I hire for experience or potential? To answer these questions, we collect all of the information we can and pressure ourselves to find the correct answer. Then after making a decision, we pull out the scorecard to evaluate whether the decision made was correct based on the outcome. This scorecard is the birthplace of regret.

But often times there is not a wrong or right answer to these questions. Often times decisions have two (or more) equally good answers. In the hospital that day, we felt like we did.

In her Ted Talk, Philosopher Ruth Chang says

In any easy choice, one alternative is better than the other. In a hard choice, one alternative is better in some ways, the other alternative is better in other ways, and neither is better than the other overall.”

So what do we do? Flip a coin? That seems more stressful. She goes on,

“When we choose between options that are on a par, we can do something really rather remarkable. We can put our very selves behind an option. Here’s where I stand. Here’s who I am…You might say that we become the authors of our own lives.”

Ruth is saying that rather than sweating or regretting the correctness of our decision, we should make it, own it, and live our life boldly with all of the pros and cons of the decision we made. With this in mind, we don’t have to feel the weight of making the correct choice, we get to feel the freedom of becoming the people we want to be.

Sometime before the sunset on September 2nd, Taryn decided to have a C-section. They scheduled it for 10am the next day.

Then she had a panic attack.

She had hardly closed her eyes before doctors came in at sunrise to explain the procedure. Another panic attack. She wasn’t exactly at peace with her decision.

At 8:30am, for the first time in a long time, it was just she and I in the room. The brave mother of my children looked at me, her face was pale and covered in sweet tears. She said “I don’t want to have a C-section, but I do want to enjoy the birth of these kiddos. Help me.” We squeezed each other on that hospital bed (as best as we could given the 16lbs of baby between us) and cried. We were scared. Unsure of what we had chosen. But it was time for us to become our decision.

I turned on upbeat music. Timberlake I think. She did her makeup. We joked about one of our nurses lisps and how our anesthesiologist was definitely a cross dresser. I started skipping around the room singing about the arrival of Baby A and Baby B – our precious Eve and Ezra. She was still scared. But this was now our story. Her body would carry the scars of this decision. Our children would arrive into an operating room full of surgeons and the sounds of the John Coltrane Pandora station.

And arrive they did. Ezra, gentle and almost forgetting to make a sound. Eve, wrapped in her own cord, grabbed the room’s attention with her ferocious screams.

That day we became a family of five. And my wife became the kind of person that faces her fears so that others can know life. And I, if possible, became more grateful for to be her partner.

Jarrod

2 Comments on "Impossible Decisions and Miraculous Incisions"

  1. Debbie Nicholson says:

    Jarrod & Taryn – This story brought us both to tears. We are just 6 months behind you with twins and are nervous as well. We love hearing your journey and hope for the best with ours. Thank you and hope the whole family is doing well. -Debbie & Chris

  2. Crystal Kitten says:

    Been there. We chose c-section with Josiah as well. 11 pounds later… I was very happy with my decision. I just kept reminding myself that c-sections save lives and there’s a reason they’re suggested as an option. We will never know what could have happened, but we know we brought a healthy child into the world and, besides having to hold my organs with my hands while I walked because it felt like they were falling out for two weeks, it wasn’t all that bad.