“What if I have to pee?” he asked me, unfamiliar with what his parallel existence under general anesthesia might look like.
“Hm, maybe they’ll put a catheter in,” I mumbled, gazing out the car window at the drizzling morning.
“WHAT! Ew - NO!!” he shouted, literally shuttering at the thought. Yes. He shouted that. He didn’t “exclaim” it, or “blurt” it. It was a shout, filled with stress, anger, and a skosh of indignity.
Now, let’s stop right here to note my husband is not a shouter. He’s not an exclaimer, or even a blurter. He’s non-emotive; cool as a cucumber. I’ve only seen him shout two times, once over a decade ago when the Indiana Colts didn’t make the play offs and another time that was less-memorable as merely the “Second Time My Husband Shouted” but I know it was at a football game. But I digress...
My matter-of-factedness melted away, as I realized the topic of the use of a catheter was not matter-of-fact at all, for my husband, but was in fact, a matter-of-heart (and penis); one which clearly made my entirely-always-under-control husband.... less so.
“Well, I’m not entirely sure,” I tried to reassure him. “Let’s just make sure we ask the doctor.”
I won’t go into the chain of events that resulted in us checking in for hand surgery that day, but let’s suffice it to say that they did not take place in the billiard hall with the candlestick, although my husband might wish to claim otherwise. Ultimately he need a large piece of glass removed from the fleshy part of his palm, near the base of his thumb. While the events were traumatic for him, righting his left hand to it’s previous, non-mutilated state seemed to be slowly becoming more traumatic for him. And my doula sense was tingling.
He didn’t know it, but I used an easy “grounding” technique from my seat at the foot of his bed, to get help him manage the an IV insertion. History showed Husband and Needles would simply never find common ground, but I believed with the right support they could agree to disagree. That morning, they did.
After pre-op, the gregarious surgeon came in to make sure we didn’t have anymore questions. I waited for Dear Husband to express his catheter concerns, but he maintained his steely demeanor, letting the doctor know that this was as “No Big Deal” for him as it was for the surgeon (oh the lies we try to tell!!).
“Did you want to ask him about some of the concerns you had in the car...?” I said, using my best Columbo voice. You remember Columbo? The play-dumb-so-they’ll-give-away-everything investigator played by Peter Falk? I channel him here and there, when I’m wearing my doula hat.
“Oh um, yeah,” he said, taking a deep breath. “Am I going to be catheterized?”
The surgeon snapped his head around, and locked pupils with me, eyebrows hovering over his head. He pointed at my husband, while keeping his eyes on me.
“Is he serious?” he asked me. “Is he... is he talking about in his penis??” He burst into laughter and assured my husband that no such thing would be happening. Most people just hold it in naturally, he told him, chuckling.
The nurse, being fabulously nurse-like said “But if you peed it would be no big deal; totally normal.”
The surgeon: “It would be really weird.”
My husband laughed.
The surgeon did not have a bedside manner that I particularly cared for, but him and my husband had rapport from their previous appointments and my husband trusted him 100%. That was what was important, and I knew at the sound of my husband’s laughter that he was comfortable, and at peace for his wheeled journey into the O.R.
My experience and training as a doula kicks in all the time, outside of my job as a doula, and the thing is, when I realized it’s kicked in, I realize I am being my Best Self. In talking through the “maybes”, fears and concerns before his surgery, in offering my husband a grounding touch during a particularly stressful event, in lifting him up to have his concerns heard and put to rest, I was supporting him as the Best Wife I knew how to be on the day I doulaed my husband.