Vertigo: the feeling of being on a never-ending, spinning tea cup ride, as if the world has gone topsy-turvy and is spiraling off its axis.
Things shift and flicker, things swim and bob, things sink in a giant whirlpool of dizzying proportions. Nothing is right; everything is wrong. And it feels as if Newton’s laws have high-tailed it out of town.
I experienced vertigo this past weekend on two different occasions and on two very different levels. Both hit without warning, though, and both knocked me to my knees.
Everything was normal — until suddenly it wasn’t.
The first scenario: me sitting up in bed on a sunny Saturday morning, the boys calling my name — only to be slammed sideways by a hard punch from gravity-turned-testy thanks to some little stones called otoliths that decided the ear canal was not to their liking.
I was miserable and debilitated, but my own dizzy issues soon took a backseat…
…to the second scenario: Boop sitting in bed on a Monday afternoon, the contractions calling her second child’s name — only to be slammed sideways with a hard punch from a gravid uterus-turned-testy thanks to a little fella called Beau who decided the birth canal was not to his liking.
Things dropped by dangerous degrees and with dizzying speed. One minute we were all sitting in Labor & Delivery, predicting birth time and weight, the next we were upside down and riding wave after wave of rapid-fire, disjointed images tossed up and spinning like Polaroids in a cyclone.
The following is what I recall, and not necessarily in proper order — because there was no order; there was only pandemonium:
I remember a disembodied nurse’s hand, inserted to the wrist and churning, trying its best to eliminate the final swollen sliver of impeding cervix.
And fetal monitor ticker tape scattered across the L&D floor like shorn snakeskin, registering a gradual and then sharp decline in the baby’s heartrate.
And a tidal swell of green-bodied scrubs, dozens it seemed, filling the birthroom.
And at some point there were doctors paged in twos and threes, names flickering and hanging in the air like disjangled chords.
And the memory of a syringe in a gloved hand holding a glittering vial to stop contractions and hopefully restore a healthy fetal heartrate.
I see our GiGi with a handheld iPhone image of a horrified sister’s face — one who has seen just how quickly the thin veil between life and death can part — holding her cheeks in knuckled slices as she facetimes from 800 miles away.
And the round circumference of a fetal vacuum extractor, positioned on a tiny, dark, tufted crown.
I hear countdowns echoing through time and space, and in the layered slices between I hear the grunts and screams and brittle, gasping breaths of a mama working without benefit of contractions to help push her little guy out.
And then the tugging, hard and intense, from a blood-spattered obstetrician with a Big One on the line. But time and again the vacuum pops loose and the bystanders groan. And each time that it does, the tiny sliver of a crown slides back into warmth and imminent danger.
And a close-up of Boop’s crumpled up, scared-to-death face.
A scared to face death, face.
This was all wrong. This was all so horribly, horribly wrong.
Poor Boop was helpless. And poor Beau was helpless. They gave it their all, but it wasn’t enough. And I can’t say the medical staff and their years of wisdom and training were enough either.
Because the last clearly-visible shot I see was of a gurney rolling away toward the operating room, surrounded by dozens of women in scrubs and followed closely by Bradley in some new, paper scrubs of his own.
Turns out, he wouldn’t need them. When things took an even darker turn and the downward spiral steepened, he wasn’t allowed in the OR after all.
The last thing Boop heard as they put a mask on her face was, “Don’t let the dad in,” and “As soon as she’s under, I’m cutting. Let me know.”
Yes, things corkscrewed out of control in ever-tightening coils, but all was not lost. Newton’s Laws had not quite high-tailed it out of Dodge. His third law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. And for us, that reaction was prayer. And as the darkness spun faster, our prayers– quicker and lighter — lifted and pulled, tighter and tauter than the darkest force in that helpless whirlpool here below.
Yes, we prayed: me from the “Authorized Personnel Only” line in the hallway on the way to the OR; and Bradley from that closed OR door where he watched through a five-inch gap between window and curtain. And from that five-inch gap, he saw them slice a twelve-inch gap into the rock of her belly and pull Beau from darkness to light.
But the fight wasn’t over yet — because when Beau came out, he came out limp and white… and as close to lifeless as it’s possible for a newborn to be. We found out later, his Apgar score was a 1. The highest and healthiest is a 10.
But we had prayed and were praying still.
And while Boop was helpless, and baby Beau was helpless, and even the docs in all their wisdom and experience were seemingly helpless to the carnage of a world where the rules have run amok, God was not.
Because after what felt like an eternity of Bradley praying from the doorway and GiGi and I praying in the hallway, we finally heard baby Beau cry. And in those cries — those stubby, angry, newborn baby squalls — we heard God’s tender mercies.
Yes, this week all went cattywampus on me and mine, leaving us vulnerable and vehemently out of control.
Now my tiny little bout with vertigo was nothing in the grand scheme of things, but Bethany and Beau’s birth plan skidding sideways was another thing entirely.
Thankfully, all of it, from the smallest of otoliths to the biggest of life events, is all in His capable control. Praise Him from Whom all blessings flow.