It’s been just over two weeks since you showed up and I’m not sure if that’s an eternity or an instant. In a way it feels like there was never a world without you, while on the other hand, sometimes you’ll let out a squawk from your lounge pillow and I’m like HOLY SHIT THERE IS A BABY HERE.
Your birth day changed my life. (It was probably pretty monumental for you too.) Since you were breech, there was no choice but to have a c-section. My original goal was to have a natural birth, not because I enjoy hemp and growing out my leg hair and suffering unnecessarily, but because it seemed the fastest way to return to “normal” after birth. Women talked about walking around an hour after their drug-free vaginal birth, so of course I wanted that too so I could waddle over to the trainer as quickly as possible. When we learned that you were breech at 30 weeks, I figured you’d surely flip over, no big deal. By 36 weeks, I was sure you wouldn’t and was devastated. My birth plan did not involve a spinal, surgery, a huge scar slicing across my lower midsection, and spending the first days of your life in pain and recovering. It took weeks to come to term with having a c-section and accepting that the only birth plan that mattered was having you arrive safe and healthy.
By the time the big day rolled around, I was at least grateful for the certainty of a scheduled delivery. I’m a control freak so knowing exactly what day and time pregnancy would expire was a relief. I also didn’t have to go past my due date, or labor for hours only to require an emergency c-section. (These are mantras I repeated dozens of times while trying to accept the impending surgery.) It’s still a little disappointing that I never got to poke your father in the middle of the night to say, “It’s time! My water broke!” but instead I poked your father in the middle of the night a thousand times in the weeks before to announce that I was hungry/cramping/miserable.
The man is a saint; please go easy on him.
In lieu of getting the whole ‘rush to the hospital in labor’ movie moment, we set our alarm early in the morning on the 12th, got ready (I even did my hair for you), packed our things, and drove to the hospital to meet you. It all felt surreal. Like, let’s just head out and go get A BABY.
My nerves kicked in when I put on the hospital gown. I was exhausted from many sleepless nights (nobody tells you that sound sleep becomes impossible in the third trimester), starving from the pre-surgery mandatory fast, and terrified of having people cut into my abdomen while I was awake. The two hours before they came to get me for surgery took roughly six weeks to pass. Your father looked like an ashy, clammy mess for about five minutes as we waited and then went back to being my rock. Meanwhile I cried from anxiety and hunger and fell into a fitful sleep.
Then it was time. We were wheeled to the surgical area and escorted into the OR, where I climbed onto the operating table. Your dad went to a waiting room while I was prepped and given the spinal. Then I was strapped to the table and waited for the spinal to kick in and the party to start. Everybody was so friendly and busy – clearly they’d done this a time or fifty – while I laid there under the lights like a terrified beached sea creature.
After maybe 20 minutes, your father was brought into the OR and shuffled over in his extra large surgical scrubs to sit by my head and hold my hand. I felt the doctors moving my abdomen around a lot and whispered to your father that I was scared. I assumed I’d feel the surgeon cut into me, even if the pain was blocked, and thought it would be 10-15 agonizing minutes of rooting around in my body to extract a baby. As soon as the words left my mouth, a baby started crying and the doctor said, “Dad, get your camera!”
That was it. It took less than two minutes from the time Josh came into the OR for you to come out. All that quick, lurching movement that I thought was more surgical prep was actually the delivery. It wasn’t painful; it felt more like I had a very strong windshield wiper going off in my stomach for a few beats. And then came your cries, which were the most incredible sounds I’ve ever heard.
I cried instantly. The nurse brought you around to my head and I smushed my face into you as much as possible to feel your damp, warm skin and perfect body. We both cried. That’s how we met.
They took you away to clean you up and check you over and your father went with you. Since my insides were outside, I stayed put and listened longingly to your squawks. It seemed to take forever for the nurses to do their thing with you and eventually I pushed the surgical drape aside so I could at least see you across the room. Then they brought you back and set you on my chest so we could bond with skin-to-skin contact and it was heaven. Never mind that the lower half of my body was actively being sewn together; they could have been harvesting my organs for the black market and I wouldn’t have noticed nor cared. You wiggled around on my chest (sort of like a blind, hairless cat, if we’re honest here) and I cried and tried to learn every detail of your tiny body.
Once I was packaged up and glued shut, the doctors wheeled us back to the recovery room. I clutched you to my chest like the best souvenir ever and smiled glowingly at everyone we passed. (Let us note here that the spinal was still going strong and I felt physically great.) Once we got to the recovery room, the nurse showed me how to start breastfeeding and then we were off and running. We had a baby. Josh and I were officially parents.
The following days in the hospital were not easy. Once the spinal wore off, I realized what it feels like to have abdominal surgery. (Would not recommend.) I chugged gallons of fluid in hopes of flushing out my system, which was great when I had a catheter but less great when they took that away and I had to get myself to the bathroom. The pain would be manageable until the second it wasn’t, and then it hit me like a freight train. When I stood up to walk around, blood would come rushing out like a murder scene. The first poop post-surgery/pain drugs was an approximation of the horribly painful natural childbirth experience I’d originally wanted. It was difficult to be uncomfortable, raw, and exposed in front of so many people but I quickly stopped caring. It was hard enough to just get through the first days; I couldn’t be bothered to cover my naked body or not openly discuss constipation with everybody that dropped by. Childbirth has a way of leveling you completely and crashing through every barrier you thought you had.
The bright spot was you. Dear god, how I loved to sit in that hospital bed and stare at you. Even when the night passed with less than two hours of uninterrupted sleep, I was overjoyed to gaze at you in the dark and watch you come into focus as the dawn broke. Your every blink and hand movement were magic and I was so in love. Your father climbed into bed with us on those mornings and I didn’t even care about the pain or the recovery process. Our family felt perfect and you made me so happy.
Two weeks later, you still do. I still love the moments of watching you wiggle around and make funny faces. Your father and I still steal as many quiet hours together with you as we can. Things are a little harder now that we have weeks of missed sleep stacking up and there are times when you are inconsolable. It breaks our hearts when you cry and we can’t find the reason to fix it. But that’s part of you growing and adapting to life in the world, and so we keep learning and loving you more each day.
My body is healing and moving forward as well, although not nearly as fast as I’d have liked. It’s hard to remember that I was pregnant for 9 months and then had major surgery, and that both come with physical consequences that will take time to pass. I was hoping I’d be one of those rare women who bounced back instantly after birth. Instead I have stretch marks, swelling and scar tissue around my incision, and a belly that still looks a bit pregnant. I stand in front of the mirror poking at my stomach and getting upset multiple times a day until your father tells me to stop, be patient, give it time.
I’ll try. It’s hard. There have been so many changes.
But you are worth it all. You are wonderful, even when you scream and vomit milk down my shirt. You smell amazing, which is remarkable considering that you crap yourself multiple times a day and bathe once a week. You bring us so much joy and where we were once so busy and focused on our lives, now we sit around focused on you and marvel at our good fortune. You upended our lives and stole all our time and made us such a happy family. Thank you for showing up.