Not How It Was Supposed to Happen: Our Story of an Emergency C-Section

On the monitor appears a few ripples of static. It reminds me of an air traffic controller's monitor with no planes appearing in view. She moves the ultrasound wand around some more. We are all squinting at the screen.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

I knew something was not right when my son Mason came running into the bedroom.

"Up, Daddy, up. Time to get up," he says. I roll over and squint at my alarm clock. 7:05 a.m.. I roll back and notice Nicole is not lying next to me. "Where's Mommy?" I ask him.

"Mommy's not feeling well," he says.

I walk into the living room, where Nicole is lying on the couch. "I'm not feeling that good," she says. "I might need to call Kaiser."

She says she feels a "tightness" around her abdomen.

"Do you think it's time?" I say.

She nods, wincing. "Mm-hmm, she says.

It is a Thursday morning, and my wife is 39 weeks and two days pregnant.


It is less than an hour later, and we are in a Labor and Delivery room. Nicole is lying on her side on a bed and her water has broken. The contractions are coming on stronger now.

I get myself settled in. Cameras are ready. Batteries are charged. It all seems to be unfolding like the last time around, when our son Mason was born. Same hospital. Same time of day. Even the layout of the room seems so familiar.

And then a doctor arrives. She is friendly, but business-like. Nicole starts asking for pain medication. The hospital staff all seem to be moving so slowly. "I'm going to check you," the doctor says. She pulls on gloves.

The doctor places a hand up my wife's hospital gown. "You're at eight centimeters," she says. She moves her hand under the dressing gown as Nicole writhes around on the bed. She frowns, moves her hand more. "I'm having trouble... all I feel is something squishy. I need to do an ultrasound."

An ultrasound machine appears, and the doctor is rubbing the probe around my wife's abdomen.

On the monitor appears a few ripples of static. It reminds me of an air traffic controller's monitor with no planes appearing in view. She moves the ultrasound wand around some more. We are all squinting at the screen.

Finally, she speaks. "He's breech," she says. "I'm sorry."

She pauses for a moment to let the words sink in.

"I know this isn't what you were expecting or hoping for, but we're going to have to do a c-section," she says. "Things are going to start happening very quickly now." Hospital staff start arriving in the room. "We're going to take Nicole over to the OR and we'll give her a spinal. We'll need 15 minutes so Dad, you're going to have to wait here."

Someone hands me a hospital gown to pull over my clothing. "We'll come back and get you."

"It is all going to be alright," she says. "You're going to have a baby very soon."

A couple of large men dressed in blue arrive. They wheel Nicole's bed out of the room, followed by the doctors and nurses who close the door behind them.

And then I am alone. I tug the gowns over my clothes. I look at the clock, then at my phone.

I send a few quick texts to family members. "Baby is breech. N going in to c-section asap. Nicole is OK."

It's then that I think of my friend Chris. Six months earlier, Chris and his wife, Sarah were expecting their second child, a boy. Asher. Their older boy, Dean, was 3 at the time, around the same age as my son.

Sarah was eight days past her due date when they finally went in to the hospital. Labor was long and difficult. At some point during the night following the eighth day past her due date, they checked for the baby's pulse and couldn't locate it. They search frantically and in vain.

There was no pulse. There was nothing they can do.

The baby was born vaginally a few hours later, Sarah pushing the limp fetus's body out through a combination of sheer grit and determination.

Chris and Sarah are good people and did nothing to deserve this. It wasn't supposed to happen.

In the empty and abandoned delivery room, the minutes feel like hours. I lose track of the time -- have they forgotten about me?

Then the door opens and a nurse appears. "We're ready for you now," she says.

We rush down the hall to the OR. Nicole is lying on her back, a blue vertical screen erected so Nicole and I cannot see beyond a few inches in front of her face.

A doctor who appears to be in charge introduces herself. "I know this isn't what you expected, but we are going to have a fantastic birth experience anyway," she says. I feel as if I've just been through a car accident and I've been told the good news is I get a new car.

They direct me to a low stool by my wife's side. Nicole smiles. "I can't feel a thing," she says.

I draw her in close and our faces are inches apart. And then it is as if we are alone, just the two of us. The sound of the doctors shouting seems to fade away. I am looking into her eyes, the same eyes I looked into on our first date. The same eyes I looked into on our wedding day.

I take out my phone. "I didn't know what to do in the other room so I just started looking through these photos of Mason," I say. "It was comforting." She nods her head in agreement.

I flip through the pictures on my phone. Nicole's body is being tugged from the other side of the screen.

The nurse next to us narrates. "OK, Mom and Dad they're pulling him out. I see a foot. I see a leg coming out."

Nicole is smiling, but tears are now streaming down her cheeks. There is disappointment and hurt in her eyes. "It's going to be alright," I say. "He's going to be here soon." This isn't how it was supposed to happen.

"Now his tooshie is out," the nurse says. "His tooshie is definitely out. They're pulling the rest out."

I hear a faint cry. "OK, his head is out now."

The unmistakable cry of a newborn pierces the din of the operating room. Someone says, "Is your older son a redhead?"

"What? Why? No," I say.

"Because it looks like this one is."

I peek over the screen. There is blood splattered everywhere, as gory as a B movie.

In the middle of it all there is a baby, wriggling and wailing and covered in the stuff.

He is healthy. He is crying.

A moment later, we are on the far side of the room, a nurse cleaning him. He is crying and I am soothing him.

I snap a picture with my phone and carry it around to Nicole. "He's healthy, he's beautiful," I say. She smiles and wipes away a tear.

As I write this, four weeks have passed since that day, and Tobey is doing fine. Mom is recovering, feeling less sore with each passing day.

The manner of his birth was unexpected, but he arrived healthy. And that's really all that matters.

John Corcoran is an attorney and former Clinton White House Writer. When he isn't writing about his kids, he writes about business networking and social skills for his site, He has a free, 52+ page ebook you can download, How to Increase Your Income in Today by Building Relationships with Influencers, Even if you Hate Networking