Well, it has taken me long enough to compose this post, but I think I have finally gotten it all down in a way that I like. Let me start by saying that if, given the choice, this is not the birth plan I would have chosen. I wanted our child to turn, to be able to have a natural childbirth with limited or no medical interventions and to be able to hold her to my chest as soon as she came from my body into the world. I have tried to spare no gory details and write it down as truthfully and plainly as I could. It has taken me months to get over the trauma of this birth, and I can only hope that any children I have in the future will come to us in a much less traumatic way. So that being said, here is my bumpy-hiccuppy journey into motherhood.
On the morning of March 27, 2014, instead of sleeping in like a normal person about to go into a planned birth, Ken & I woke up at 8am to spend our last few hours as a family of 2. We took a last pregnancy photo in the baby’s nursery, finished washing some clothes, checked on arrangements for someone to take care of our dog & cuddled up on the couch to watch a few episodes of How I Met Your Mother to take my mind off of the impending surgery.
At 10am, we headed over to Virginia Baptist Hospital to get checked in for our 12pm surgery. Lots of paperwork, an uncomfortable hospital gown and an awkward shaving experience later, I was in the hospital bed and eagerly awaiting our appointment. The nurses came in to place my IV and I was completely unprepared for this part. I’ve had IVs before, but never in my hand. Damn, those suckers hurt. Honestly, it was probably the most painful part of the whole process… until things went wrong. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We were supposed to head into surgery about 30 minutes after they placed my IV. The anaesthesiologist had already been to see me, we had discussed how prone I am to panic attacks and he had decided to make sure to have some Versaid on hand to give me before the Spinal. A Spinal is like an epidural in that it is placed the same way, you lean forward into the face of a nurse who is holding you steady and you are told to breathe and remain completely still while some guy slowly sticks a huge needle in your back between your vertebrae. Then he will inject you with a time-release drug that will *very* quickly numb you from about the bottom of your rib cage all the way down. The anaesthesiologist brings the needle in to show you, and explains that it is only this long so that he can guide it in properly, but that only a few inches of it actually goes into your back. While that may sound comforting, seeing the needle in all it terrifying glory is just that: terrifying.
So now, we wait. Our doctor comes in to tell us things are running a little behind schedule and our 12pm surgery slot comes and goes. My father and grandmother come in to see us since we have not gone back yet. Turns out my father was so excited that they got to the hospital about 10:45 that morning. Little did we all know what a long day it would be.
1pm. 2pm. 3pm. Nothing. Still waiting, still have that awful IV in my arm, still unable to eat or drink. At this point I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink since 10pm the night before and I am starving, thirsty and just a little cranky. Depriving a pregnant woman of food is just cruel and unusual punishment, especially when she is this close to a very momentous life event. Ken has gone out to speak to our friends who have come to the hospital thinking that the baby would have come during our scheduled slot and that we would be out of recovery and checked into our room by now. I am happy to know that so many people want to meet our little bundle, but I am feeling pretty guilty that they are all waiting around for me to finish having our child.
4:45pm comes and we are informed that an unplanned hysterectomy took longer than expected and that we are next on the list. All of this waiting and then, BAM, everything started happening at once. Ken gets sent off to change into his scrubs; he won’t be able to come into the surgery suite until after I have had my spinal and am laid on the table, but just knowing that he will be allowed to be there with me is comforting.
I get wheeled in and they have me sit on the edge of the bed and take the nurse’s shoulders. If I hadn’t been so scared I was shaking, I probably would have been upset that I hadn’t brushed my teeth in hours and had no-water-or-food-for-almost-24-hours breath. But the nurse was very sweet and kept trying to distract me from my horror. Two doses of Versaid and 1 pretty massive panic attack later, and I am very quickly tossed back on the bed and arranged like a rag doll. Ken comes in, sits down beside me and we are off to the races.
Having a C-Section is very akin to feeling like someone has tied a string around your uterus and is yanking it back and forth like a marionette. Ken kept laughing at me as I made faces. Not pained faces, just what-the-crap-this-feels-weird faces. It didn’t take very long before we heard one of the doctor’s say that they found the cause of the baby being unable to turn in the womb. Her cord had wrapped around her neck until it was too short to allow her much movement at all, and there was a knot in it. I couldn’t help but feel very lucky that I hadn’t let them talk me into trying an external version and that I had trusted my instincts that our baby knew what he or she needed. The doctors and nurses were very careful not to use pronouns until we were able to see the baby, as we didn’t yet know the sex. A big, big tug later and I heard the most beautiful sound I have ever heard: a sweet little wail that meant that everything was just fine in baby-world. They picked the baby up and brought it around to my husband and I. We looked at our little one through our tears and they started to take the baby away. There was only one little problem, I had been so busy looking at the peanut’s face that I didn’t bother to check the sex. “Wait, what is it? I didn’t look!” and then my husband said the two words that would fill my heart to overflowing, “It’s a girl!” The nurses asked what her name was, Ken looked to me and I said the name that was on my heart. It was one of two that we had tossed around and I just knew it was hers: Fiona Ainsley.
As they took her to bathe and get checked out, the doctor turned over my surgery to the resident who was there to observe. Now, I wasn’t asked beforehand if the resident could participate, only observe, and so the closure took longer than anticipated. I was alone in the operating room, dozing lightly, and then the tugging sensation became a pricking sensation, like little needles. No, not like little needles, an actual little needle. Wait, I could feel it? This wasn’t supposed to happen. Without thinking what I was doing, I started to sit up. The nurse and the anaesthesiologist took my shoulders and pressed me back down and I asked them if I was supposed to be able to feel it, really feel it? The doctor took a tool of some sort and ran it across my foot and my reflexes took over and I shook my leg. The guy with the drugs looks at the doctor and hands over some syringes of Lidocain. So after all of that, I got a topical anaesthetic to finish off my C-Section. Closure finished, they nurses wheel me out and back to a recovery room.
It’s been so long since I’ve seen my husband and baby… baby girl, it’s still hard to remember at this point that I’m a mommy!… that I’m starting to get anxious. I just want to hold her against my chest and feed her. I want that bonding, I need that time with her that mothers who have a vaginal delivery get. This is time I will never get back with her and she is experiencing things I will never know, because I could not witness them. After about an hour, I get transferred to my real room, and Ken carries Fiona in to see me. She is all swaddled up, so I immediately take off the blanket, pull my dressing gown down and cradle her to my chest. My sweet little girl. I check and recheck her toes, her fingers, her beautiful slate grey eyes and all of that red hair! I pull up my breast and start trying to guide her to latch. As I do, a helpful nurse comes in and shoves her hand in between us to grip my breast and rub it on Fiona’s lips. I know now that it’s a way to tempt a baby into suckling, but at the time I just wanted the strange hands off my breasts. Fiona latched like a little champ and she got the most important bit of nourishment that I could give her: colostrum.
While I was feeding Fiona, another nurse comes in and apologizes to me for what’s about to come. Before I have a chance to ask, she starts massaging my abdomen. “Massaging” is a delicate term for it; what really happens is that they push and push and push, rolling like a Swedish rolling pin down your belly (you know? The one that’s just been cut open and stitched up?) to make sure that blood is flowing well and that everything that needs to come out has come out.
However, despite my being able to recall it so clearly now, at the time I was so happy to have Fiona in my arms that the pain just receded and I simply absorbed it. Nothing could take away the warm, happy glow that being a mother has given me. And though I haven’t showered, have flop-sweated, panic-attacked and my stomach has practically gnawed on itself at this point, I feel beautiful and powerful and more content than I have ever felt in my life.
People start to visit us now. My father and grandmother come in and there are tears all around as they hold their new grand/great-granddaughter. The day was also my father’s birthday, so he had a double portion of happiness and it was contagious. Being good family and friends, everyone exclaimed that she was the most beautiful baby they had ever seen, and her hair was the talk of the town!
Around 9:30pm, everyone but Ken had gone home and our little family settled down to get to know one another. Fiona was in her little crib-thing and I was sleepy, but I just couldn’t stand for her to be so far away from me. I knew I would get in trouble with the nurses, but I made her a little pillow fort and fell asleep with her in my arms. I had always known that I wanted to co-sleep & it was a perfect fit. Not for the nurses, but for us. Some time later, the nurse came to help me go to the bathroom for the first time. Man, that was some trip to the potty. I thought I had lost my shame before that moment, but it truly was just then that it happened. The nurse had her hand in my crotch, checking my giant pad-like diaper for clots of rate of bleeding and then she squirts warms water all over. Afterward, she blots me dry and gives me instructions for how I am to go to the bathroom for the next 8 weeks while I am still bleeding. I replace the pad on my incision and the one between my legs, and I waddle back to bed. It’s only been a few hours, but I already feel much stronger and I’m allowed to have lots of water and Knox Chicken Broth.
That Broth was the best thing I had ever tasted: warm and salty and so good to my very empty stomach. Rotating between beef and chicken broth, I get through the night. Fiona eats several times and sleeps like a champ and Ken sleeps through everything. I can’t help but look at him and smile. My precious husband who has given me a new purpose for my existence. I pick up Fiona and slide back into bed to cradle her against my chest. I have never known such love… and no amount of pain med mishaps, mesh undies, discomfort or pain could ever dampen what I felt in those first few hours as a mom. It remains to this day one of my most treasured memories of her life & I look forward to every new memory we make together.
Fiona is now a healthy, active 14 month old: officially a toddler. We are expecting our second child in December (a total surprise!) and I am trying not to take any moment with her for granted. I am utterly content with my life at this very moment, and I thank my lucky stars that Ken & Fiona found me and kept me, because I can tell you with all certainty that without them I would be lost.