Memory and anesthesia

February 4, 2009

It’s funny, the things you remember, the things you can and can’t remember without hurting.  There are times when I don’t even have to close my eyes, and I’m back there, back on the hospital bed, back when things were still possible, when there was still a chance for a happy ending.  Some of these memories are hard to bear – part of me wants to go back, to put my hand on my belly and tell Teddy I love him, one more time.  And part of me wants to run far away, to lock these memories up and hide them away until I’m strong enough to look at them without hurting quite so much.

But there are clips of those hospital memories that aren’t sad, aren’t terrible.  I remember my anesthesiologist, for example, very fondly.  Not for the reasons new mothers usually remember their anesthesiologists fondly, I think.  I hadn’t really wanted an epidural, and while N might tell you that I’m lying, the pain of the contractions wasn’t unbearable.  It was looking more and more likely to me, however, that we were heading for a c-section, and once they decided to monitor my contractions and the baby’s heartbeat internally (they were sticking things inside of me and that hurt more than the contractions) the epidural seemed like a pretty good idea.

Enter my anesthesiologist.  I don’t remember her name, and her face is a blur.  I remember that her hair was curly and that some of it was gray – an attractive, dark, carbon-like gray.  The drugs she gave me were marvelously effective, right from the beginning, and when we did have to go into the surgery room for the cesarean, she seemed to know exactly how much to give me, and got it so right that the doctor performing the cesarean commented on how calm and uncomplaining I was.  I wouldn’t have complained anyway; I was terrified, and I come from a long line of grin-and-bear-it types, but I had no reason to complain at that point.  Those pain meds really worked. She was also very good at explaining what I would feel (or not feel) and why.

It wasn’t just her skills with her chosen medium that impressed me, though.  She kindly allowed both N and my mother into the surgery room, and during the c-section she sat by my head telling me stories about how, when she had her c-section, she kept trying to tell her anesthesiologist what to do.  I think one of the reasons this was so comforting, one of the reasons I remember it so well and find comfort in going back to that part of my memories, is that by telling me these stories she included me in her mom’s club, recognized me as a mom and not just as a woman who might not get to mother her child or as a medical problem.  She shared a part of herself with me and made me laugh.  I may be the only woman in history to have laughed while undergoing a c-section and scared to death that her baby wouldn’t make it.

I can’t remember her name, but I’m so grateful to her for that.  Some day I’d like to find her and tell her.



  1. I remember laughing during labour. Quite a few times I said “this wasn’t i the birth plan”, laughing. Turns out, apart from a vaginal birth, I didn’t really get anything from my birth plan. Grief and shock can do funny things to us. My family found the midwife who delivered Hope crying in the cafe a few hours later. I was so touched to hear that. She didn’t know what she was in for when she came to work that day.

  2. How wonderful that you were supported by someone so caring – even moreso from an unexpected person.

    Did you have a chaplain at the hospital? Perhaps he/she can help you to find the ani, or to forward the letter to her. (The chaplain who helped us has been our go to person for several things)

  3. I can’t remember the name of anyone from the hospital either…not the wonderful nurses or the annoying residents…like you, so much is a blur, with certain parts standing out in perfect clarity.

  4. That’s beautiful, Erica. I have a thing for anesthesiologists. I loved both of them with both of my births. Dr. Andrews, and Shelley something… What I would give to be able to go back to one of those moments where anything ahead was possible…

    • It seems like a good job, taking away pain. I wonder if you have to have some experience with pain to do it really well.

  5. That was beautiful, Erica.

    I remember my anaesthesiolist too. He rubbed my head and called me sweetheart.

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