Content note: birth, pregnancy. If you’re not in the place, take care of yourself and skip this one.
In the end, the birth was noteworthy simply for its ordinariness. I attended my last uneventful prenatal appointments, packed my bag, and rode the elevator to the third floor of the hospital on the morning of my scheduled c-section. Even getting my IV in was drama-free, as despite my twisty, valve-covered, rolling veins, the nurse got it in on the first try.
The only slight hiccup was that after weeks of perfectly fine weather, the region had gotten blanketed in a coating of snowy, icy last-bit-of winter precipitation the day before I was scheduled to be at the hospital at 5:30 in the morning. After a little bit of debate, Arthur and I opted to check into a hotel across the street from the hospital, even though we only live about twenty minutes away from where I was set to deliver. There’s one stretch of road that tends to get really ugly, and neither of us wanted to be rushing or worried that morning. It turned out to be a good thought, as the roads were slippery and my mother-in-law told us later that E had woken up three times in the night. As it was, we got a good night’s sleep and an easy start to the day.
I walked into the OR on the early side to get my spinal started. The scrub tech had the Beatles playing on the sound system, so I sat on the table hunched over listening to “Yellow Submarine” as I felt the sting of the local, then some pressure. It took two tries to get the spinal in, but before I knew it, I felt the familiar tingling as my legs started to go numb. Quickly, the staff had me on the table, the drape in place, and were bringing Arthur into the OR to start.
Despite knowing the anesthesiologist and knowing that spinals are typically pretty effective, I’m terrifically paranoid that the block won’t work and I’ll feel everything. This was no exception. “Don’t do anything until I’m numb,” I said.
“Can you feel this?” asked the scrub tech.
“I felt some pressure.”
“Trust me, if you’d felt anything real, you’d be swearing at me by now. I just pinched you with an instrument very hard.”
“Oh,” I said. I was having a weird feeling, an almost overpowering thirst combined with nausea. I almost asked someone to get me something to drink, even though I knew I couldn’t have anything. All of a sudden, the anesthesiologist told me to take a deep breath, there was going to be a lot of pressure. I felt the hard push, heard my OB call “wait, wait!” Then my OB instructed the staff to drop the drape a bit.
And there she was.
Tinier than I’d expected, with a cap of downy, dark hair, taking her first halting breath.
They took her over to the warmer, and then I heard her first outraged wails at being born into this cold, bright world. Arthur went over to see her, and within moments, the staff brought her to me. Arthur held her as I stared at her beautiful, tiny face. “It’s a good thing you didn’t try to labor,” my OB remarked. “The cord was wrapped around her neck three times. I think you would probably have ended up in a c-section no matter what.” That was what the “wait, wait” had been about: getting the cord unwrapped safely. My OB finished closing me up, the anesthesiologist put in a TAP block (to block the nerves in my abdomen to prevent incisional pain), and before I knew it, I was in recovery.
Arthur placed the baby on my chest. So very, very normal and every day for a birth, but so new to me. I couldn’t hold E until five days after she was born. This felt like the most extraordinary of miracles as I stared down at the sleepy baby.
We named her M (like this actress, though we picked out the name long before the actress was in the news) and gave her middle name after my late brother (the female version of this first name). E came that afternoon with my mother-in-law and stared down at her new sister. “Keep, keep,” she told us as she patted the baby, staring into the bassinette.
There was no NICU stay. No incubator. No restrictions on when we could hold her or touch her or kiss her. No daily wondering if this would be “the day” we got the call that something had happened. M came home with me and we placed her in the cradle that Arthur’s great-grandfather made for Arthur’s birth. M latched on immediately and I’ve been able to nurse her.
We are all doing well. The block after this c-section made a great deal of difference, and I didn’t need much help with pain. Not being on various forms of bed rest for 18.5 weeks prior to delivery has helped me get moving faster and heal better.
It was, truly, everything I hoped for when we saw the second line in July. I don’t know how it happened, but I am grateful. Beyond grateful.
Born March 14, 2017 at 8:10 am. 7lbs, 9oz and 20.5 inches long.