Baby Hab.’s Birth Day
March 15, 2012 § 12 Comments
She’s nearly a month old now, which means it’s time to write the story of her birth. (Just for the record, I have a new running list on my phone titled “Blog Ideas”–it’s amazing what interesting topics pop into a nursing mom’s head during the 3 a.m. feeding.) Today is a rare moment for a weekday. Robert is home for Spring Break; Melanie is sleeping on his chest while he reads movie reviews on The AV Club. I have a few minutes before our growing girl will start to demand more food. What a treat, then, for you all that I have decided to shake the dust off the ol’ blog to share with you our darling’s birth story.
It all began on Thursday, February 16th…
I slept restlessly the night before, knowing that I would be induced in the morning unless I went into labor on my own. I knew I needed to sleep on my last night as a childless woman…but the fear of my water breaking all over the recliner kept me from achieving restorative sleep. Melanie kicked and squirmed inside my abdomen all night long. I willed her to drop into my pelvic bowl.
My alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. so that I could get moving. I had showered the night before, so all I needed to do was throw on some clean “hospital appropriate” clothing (read: yoga pants and a comfy top). Robert woke up and hopped in the shower while I triple-checked our bags to be sure we had everything we’d need. After taking care of all four animals, Robert loaded our bags and his super-pregnant wife into the car. We ate at Waffle House where we met a waitress whose daughter was delivered in August by my same obstetrician. Her daughter had a heart defect, so she was delivered by Cesarean-section; I was reassured by this encounter.
By 6 a.m., we were heading to the hospital. Almost immediately after arriving, I was instructed to undress, put on a hospital gown, and pee in a cup. I obeyed cheerfully…and then the nurse brought out the IV, and my brave resolve began to crumble. Once the needle was placed in my left wrist, Robert worked hard to distract and entertain me.
He practiced taking pictures with our brand spanking new Canon Rebel, and I played the willing (albeit captive) model. My labor and delivery room was humongous! It rivaled some of the nicer hotels I’ve stayed in; however, this room had a specific intended use, and recovery was not part of that intention. We were in this room for only a few hours.
By 8:30 a.m., my obstetrician, who had already come by to check my progress (none), ordered an ultrasound to help her determine the size of the baby. After she left, the nurse smiled at me and said, “She wants to make a plan for delivery. If the baby is too big, then she’ll want to go into surgery.” I must have lost all of my color. “How big is ‘too big’?” Robert asked her. The nurse didn’t want to guess and be wrong, but she knew we were worried. “Typically, Dr. C doesn’t like to take chances with babies that measure around 9 pounds.” As they wheeled me down to radiology, Robert and I chanted mantras like, “Don’t be 9 pounds, Mel” and “think long and small, Mel.” I tried not to cry at the thought of surgery.
At 9:30 a.m., the radiology technician announced that our little girl wasn’t so little. “I’d estimate somewhere around 9 pounds 10 ounces, with a margin of error of a pound and a half.” My heart dropped. I stopped focusing on reality in some ways. “Do you think you could verify that she’s still a girl?” I asked him. (What was I so concerned about her sex for? I was facing surgery! Ah, the warped concerns of the newly stunned.) The technician, obviously used to this, humored me and reassured us that we were in fact having a girl, despite it being fairly difficult to see all of her features–she was so much larger than the last time I’d seen her on an ultrasound!
By 11 a.m., my obstetrician returned and told me solemnly that we had some options. “You haven’t dilated. Your cervix hasn’t begun to efface. The baby’s head is low, but she has not descended into the pelvic bowl.” It took everything in me not to begin to cry–why wasn’t my body going into labor? “Here’s what we can do,” my obstetrician interrupted my critical reflection. “We can induce labor, let you labor for several hours, and then possibly still have to deliver via C-section because she is so large. We can send you home and wait a few more days, but not past Monday, to see if you go into labor on your own. Or, and this is the safest option, we can have this baby in a couple of hours via C-section.”
I must have looked completely wall-eyed. Dr. C spoke gently to me and said, “Cesarean is not my first or favored option. I would not recommend it if I believed we could avoid it. But I am concerned about the size of the baby, her health, and your health.” Robert and I had already discussed the possibility of the C-section while we awaited the results of the ultrasound, so it took us little effort to agree to the surgery. My obstetrician moved extremely quickly out of the room, and she called her partner at the practice to schedule the surgery.
By 12:30 p.m., I was meeting the anesthesiologist. By some incredible stroke of cosmic luck, it turned out that he was the same anesthesiologist who worked with my orthopedist on my back surgery in 2008. He remembered me, my case, and (most importantly) my back. I showed him my scar, and he reassured me that the scar tissue from that surgery would not have any effect on the efficacy of the spinal that he would administer pre-surgery. I felt even more confident–my medical team could not have been any better.
As we waited for the go-ahead call, Melanie began to protest the medically-imposed pre-op fast. We listened to her strong heartbeat on the monitor, every once in a while laughing when we heard a loud static-like sound on the machine. The first time we heard it, Robert looked alarmed. I laughed and said, “Mel doesn’t like the monitors. That sound is her kicking it.” The longer we were on our fast, the more Melanie squirmed and kicked. “She’s hungry,” I explained to the nurse who took my stats and looked skeptically at the monitor.
At 1:00 p.m., Robert was instructed to put on his OR garb (a rather dashing blue gown, mask, and hairnet), and I was escorted on foot into the OR. My heart pounded, I gasped and nearly started to cry (it was seeing the bassinet in the OR that really did me in), and I began to shake. Big time. My labor and delivery nurse held onto my elbows, keeping me in a hunched-over position, once I was seated on the table. “Do you want to know or be distracted?” she asked me. “I want to know,” I replied, feeling vaguely out-of-body. So, she narrated the spinal procedure. “He’s rubbing your back with iodine. He’s applying the numbing agent. Now he’s preparing the first stick. Lots and lots of pressure.” I stared into her eyes the entire time–I don’t think I blinked. There were only a few moments where the spinal was particularly uncomfortable. “It feels like an elephant is sitting on my hips,” I groaned. The anesthesiologist and nurse laughed good-naturedly. “That’s good,” they said in unison. A few times, I was instructed to hunch over my belly even more–my obstetrician even pressed on my shoulders to help me get into position better. And then, all of a sudden, the nurse gripped my elbows; I focused on her face again. “Amanda, when I tell you to, we’re going to have you move very very quickly into a lying down position. This will cause the medicine to spread faster.” I whimpered at the idea. “I haven’t moved quickly in a long time…” I muttered. They laughed again. “Don’t worry about that,” my nurse said with a smile. “We’re going to help you.”
Before I knew it, the anesthesiologist called “Okay, now!” and I had three people pushing and pulling me into a supine position. By the time my head hit the table, I had no feeling from the chest down. They asked me how I felt–I replied, “Exposed….” More kind-hearted laughter. But I wasn’t trying to be funny, not really. I was naked from the breasts down, my legs felt like they were splayed open (I would find out later that they weren’t), and my arms were strapped out wide in a T-shape. A curtain went up. I was vaguely aware of being cold and desperately missing my husband. In an instant, I heard his voice. “Daddy’s here!” one of the nurses chirped. I’m sure we said hello to each other, but I don’t remember. What I do remember is the anesthesiologist instructing Robert to take a picture of the clock and to get his camera ready. “Do you want to watch?” he asked my husband. I thought he’d say no. Robert said, “Can I? Yeah!” And then he stood up so he could see over the curtain. The anesthesiologist narrated the procedure, describing to Robert what he was seeing. I stared at the blue screen. “Okay, Dad, get your camera ready. She’ll be out in ninety seconds!”
I thought I was hallucinating. Surely they hadn’t even cut me open yet? But then, the anesthesiologist was narrating, “they’re breaking the waters…that’s the uterus…lots of pressure, Amanda…and there she is!” (I sneezed when they pulled her out.)
And then I heard it.
I sobbed. I laughed and sobbed. I thanked Robert and laughed and sobbed. “Is she okay?” She was more than okay. She was perfect.
At 1:20 p.m., we welcomed our beautiful girl into this great big world.
The rest of the story is a whirlwind. I was taken to a recovery area, given a slug of morphine and some antibiotics, but more than anything I desperately missed my husband and baby. I felt so alone without them, so isolated. (I later learned that Robert felt the same way while we were separated.) Before I knew it, Robert was allowed to come back and join me. And shortly after that, they brought Melanie back. “She was really fussy,” the nursery nurse explained. “I think she’s hungry. Would you like to try to breastfeed her?” If I could have moved, I would have done a happy dance. “I knew she was hungry!” I announced to anyone who would listen. “Yes, let’s see if she’ll hook on!”
My little girl was so hungry. She ate for half an hour, making the sweetest gulping sounds and massaging my breast with her teeny little hands. I couldn’t stop thanking Robert for this miracle. After she ate, they took her back to the nursery with Robert for her first bath. And I was wheeled to my real room in the Mother and Baby ward. Our room was a bit smaller than the labor and delivery room, but it suited us perfectly.
Every day I spend with her is the best day, even the days that follow pretty rough nights. Even the rough days themselves. Seeing her, holding her, kissing on her…it makes everything worth it.
We were discharged a day early because I was healing so well. We got back to our home on Saturday, February 18th and were greeted by my immediate family, Robert’s immediate family, and my sweet cousin who I adore. We felt so much love and happiness from everyone. Melanie is a lucky girl.
And we are two lucky parents.