Aaaaahhhhh! Inga moaned. “PUSH!” The nurse kept saying. “I AM! ” Inga said crying. “I can’t do this anymore.” she sobbed. Exhausted, tears, sweat and saliva all mixing and flowing down her face. Shannon dabbed her forehead with a cool wet cloth. “You’re doing great” She said now wiping the rest of Inga’s strained brow, cheeks and neck. “Hang in there honey.” She said looking up at me. Her look said “not okay” and I’m sure so did mine. Inga had already been pushing for hours and was nearing complete exhaustion after almost 21 hours in labor. I was exhausted myself, I could only imagine how she felt.
I was still on crutches having broken my femur about 6 months prior just as Inga was entering her second trimester. Unbelievably bad timing and a very bad break. I had shattered my thigh bone into 5 pieces while riding my bike home from work. The surgeon thought I must have been hit by a car, but it had been just bad luck my wheels slipping sideways while my feet were clipped in. The spiral fracture ran all the way into my hip socket. I hadn’t walked without crutches since. I knew pain. I had hardly slept, seeing sunrise for what seemed like months only catching a few hours of rest usually around dawn.
“Aaaahhhh.” Inga moaned again. The doctor walked in. She was fifty something about 6 feet with short gray hair.” “How are we doing?” She asked the room warmly. “Shitty!” Inga blurted out crying. Never one to mince words she added laying back on the pillow “This sucks!” “Okay.” the doctor said calmly, “let’s have a look.” She stepped forward towards Inga’s open knees as the nurse stepped back. “Hmmmm. ” She said as she leaned down examining Inga with a gloved hand. “She’s still only 3 maybe 4 centimeters.” “This baby isn’t going to come out vaginally.” “What?” I asked now really concerned. “What do you mean?!” “Her pelvis is just too narrow. There’s not enough room and this is not a small child.” She continued. ” We’re going to have to do a C-section.” “The baby’s beginning to show signs of stress too.” She said pointing to the baby heart monitor. It’s pulse has gone up.” “Don’t worry, this isn’t uncommon, but the child needs to come out soon.” I looked at Inga and then Shannon. Both faces showed fear and disappointment. “Okay, let’s do it.’ I said leaning over my crutch to kiss Inga’s forehead. “Don’t worry honey. you’re going to be fine.” Inga’s eyes welled up with tears. “I’m sorry.” she said the tears running down her cheeks. ” Oh my God sweetheart.” I said holding her face. “You are wonderful. You did Nothing wrong. ” Her sad hazel eyes settled looking into mine. I knew she trusted me in moments like this.
We’d had some pretty intense ones in the last 5 years and we’d been on many adventures together. A 2 month trip to Alaska, up the Al-Can highway in a 25 year old Volkswagen Westfalia with only 700 dollars between us as we crossed into Canada. We’d driven over 10,000 miles on that one through mosquito infested pine barrels, torrential rain storms, bears, and strange humans. A 500 mile bike tour in Idaho camping under the stars every night in the middle of it had been a spontaneous inspiration from Inga when the bus broke down stranding us in Idaho Falls for a week. Perhaps most tellingly was on another trip where we’d been separated from our trekking group by a sudden blizzard among the snowy peaks of Nepal. We had hunkered down overnight in a gap-walled shack, snow blowing in the cracks between boards all night. I’d broken trail the next morning in snow drifts as deep as 5 feet for hours and then navigated us to rendezvous with our trekking group nearly a week later. Never really lovers we were game traveling companions. She was my best friend and she knew I would look out for her.
“Okay.” She said her face relaxing. I pet her wet hair back. “Alright, prep the O. R.” the doctor said turning to the nurse. “We’ll have that baby out in 20 minutes.” She said smiling at Inga. “I’m going to give you another epidural.” Inga brightened noticeably. The last epidural had her sitting up talking with family about 6 hours into labor. “Oh Good.” Shannon said grabbing Inga’s hand. “It will be over soon honey and you’ll get to see your baby.” Tears now ran again for both women. Shannon had a child of her own, so knew something about labor even though hers had been far easier. Sarah had arrived after only 6 hours and been delivered naturally. This was an epic marathon by comparison.
Shannon was Inga’s best friend and had been our neighbor back on 28th street here in Santa Monica. That was only blocks away from Santa Monica hospital where we were. We both loved Shannon, her Mom, Sharon and sister Shawn. All 3 lived in a 2 bedroom apartment for awhile next to our own single bedroom place. Their presence had turned the urban complex into a home for Inga when she’d first moved in 6 years before. I’d joined Inga a year later and now we were all very close.
“Okay, we’re ready.” The nurse said returning. “You’ll have to wait in the waiting room the nurse said addressing Shannon. “Of course.” Shannon said kissing Inga on the cheek. “I’ll see you soon.” She said walking out the door. The nurse had walked around Inga unplugging things and securing others for the move. Another nurse came in and assisted in the process. In a few minutes we were in the O.R. I had been given a gown, booties, hat and mask all in the same blue paper material. Inga lay on the operating table. She had been moved from the bed she’d spent the last 21.5 hours on struggling to give birth to our first child.
I was secretly terrified. I knew I shouldn’t be a father. I thought my gender confusion would ultimately make me unfit. “How could I be a father when I wanted to be a woman?” Inga had said we would address that after I’d given her a child. She had cried telling me it was her deepest wish. My dream of becoming a woman seemed impossible anyway so I had agreed. At least someone’s life would be fulfilled. We had also agreed to not know the gender of the child. I felt strongly we should wait and see. I didn’t want the whole process to be without that traditional mystery. Sometimes I thought, science invaded places it shouldn’t. We knew we would love it either way, so what did it matter?
I held Inga’s hand and looked in her eyes as they set up a small curtain barrier just below her breasts above her distended naked belly and legs. She smiled at me, her eyes filled with love, trust and fear. I squeezed a little harder and smiled back as the nurse swabbed yellow betadyne all over the surgical area just below Inga’s bikini line. “How are you feeling?” The doctor asked now wearing her own mask and gown. “All numb?”
Inga nodded. The nurse had injected the epidural before we had left the delivery room.”Good. ” said the doctor walking to the other side of the curtain. “Let’s get a look at this baby.” I looked down again into Inga’s eyes smiling my reassurance. From her vantage point she couldn’t see or feel as the doctor first drew and then cut a line across the lower part of Inga’s belly. Blood seeped along the cut following the scalpel. The nurse deftly mopped it up handing the doctor an instrument to pull the incision open wider. The doctor cut again, this time her hand inside my wife’s abdomen. Inga suddenly began shivering like she was very cold. ” She’s shivering. ” I said slightly alarmed now looking up at the doctor. “That’s normal.” The doctor said her voice muffled by the mask. “Just one more minute she added. She seemed to be rummaging around in Inga’s abdomen like she was searching a duffle bag. I looked down at Inga again her eyes wide clearly gripped with fear. I smiled again, and squeezed her hand tighter but had to look back over the drape now as the doctor seemed to have something she was lifting out of my wife. It clearly had some weight. The first thing I saw was a bloody arm, long and slender, then a large bloody head, the other shoulder, gangly frog-like legs and then there it was. It seemed impossibly huge! “It’s a boy!” The doctor announced as she hoisted my son into the world for the first time. He was covered in gore and still hadn’t taken his first breath. I held mine anxiously as the nurse suctioned his mouth with a small bulb-syringe. “Waa.” he croaked quietly. “He’s beautiful.” I said looking down at my child struck suddenly with awe at this impossible event. I looked over at Inga still shivering but now crying as the nurse brought the cleaned up boy around for her to see for the very first time. “Oh my God!!” She cried now as we both sobbed looking at him together. “Travis” she said. “Travis.” I said looking back at her. “Our boy.”