Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Forming a Family of Four, Part II

(when I posted last, I was majorly regretting the c-section decision, too late).

I'd chosen the c-section this time, but was filled with fears that I would bleed out, that I'd have some sort of awful reaction to the anesthesia, that something would be wrong with Will and I'd gone through all this for nothing. Or that the spinal would slip, rendering me paralyzed for life (Does that even happen?). As they were wheeling me down the hallway into the OR, I started shaking with fear and cold. I DID NOT want to do this anymore, I decided, but I'd made my bed and now I had to lie in it. Literally. And I just wanted it to be over and Will to be out, and well. To meet this little baby we'd been waiting for.

The OR was larger, whiter and less bright then I remembered it being with Maggie, and felt much more institutional and clinical. Here people were actually just going about their jobs and spared much less of a thought for Paul and me (the nurses were much more comforting when I had Maggie, I am sure because it was an emergency and I was flat out fucking terrified.). I remember the two doctors putting these weird little caps over part of the light that would illuminate me, and a conversation my doctor was having with someone about his Iphone and about leaning Polish swear words, which I wish I could have participated in (my grandmother has refused to teach us any).

Paul was allowed into the room just as surgery started, and informed me he'd spoken to Maggie who told him "I am at lunch with Grandjan and Papa!" Guess he'd had the same urge I did, to connect with our loved ones in the outside world and let them know where we were. Nothing is weirder than attempting small talk with your husband while two doctors cut through your stomach muscles to deliver your second child, let me tell you, and have never once found it harder to think of anything to talk about.

Last time, he was my rock. I will never forget staring into his blue eyes as they did the surgery, willing myself to only focus on them, and then his crumpling into tears when we heard Maggie's first, glorious cry. There was so much behind those tears—the years of heartbreaking infertility, the nine months of pregnancy and the terrifying hours just before when we feared she wouldn’t survive.

This time was different. I was afraid for myself, but not afraid for Will. They'd had me on a monitor from the time I came in to the time they wheeled me into the operating room, so I knew his heartbeat was strong and steady. Sooner than I thought possible, the nurse anesthetist told me "You're going to feel some pushing now as they get the baby out" and boy did I —it’s the strangest feeling because while you can’t feel pain or movement, you do feel a ton of pushing on your belly and the very empty sense of something Big being removed. Sort of like when your stomach drops when you go over the top of a rollercoaster, but bigger, and more.

And then. The nurse anesthetist, without really asking, positioned a MIRROR right THERE so we could see Will's tiny, thin, side-lying blue body being removed from THE GAPING and BLOODY HOLE in my ACTUAL STOMACH. OMG OMG. And GAH. I wish I hadn’t seen it. I am quite a wussy and bad with blood and goo, especially my own blood and goo. Every ache or pain I've had in the incision these last weeks, I'd flash onto that image. GAH. And my stomach was iodine swabbed, making it look even more horrifying. I suppose I am glad to have somewhat seen him be born but was politely trying to avert my eyes elsewhere, subtly.

But then, we heard it — that wonderful cry, followed quickly by a series of quite pissed off cries. When we heard the first one, I smiled at Paul. "There he is. That's our baby." We both agreed it sounded much different than Maggie's had. And a few minutes later, smiling again, "And apparently he shares his sister's temper." He was pissed right off by this whole birth business, and had no qualms about letting everybody know

And then, something delightful, which I didn’t get to do with Maggie and was one of the best moments of my whole life. The nurse came over with this wrapped little bundle and handed him to Paul, who greeted him, and then she instructed him to lay the baby's head on my shoulder. Unexpectedly, I was able to snuggle against his sweet little head, kiss his face and tell him I am his mom. Feeling that tiny newborn head on my shoulder, the rougher knit of the stocking cap and his warm, warm skin on mine was amazing – I felt my heart fill with that profound love you never lose.

He opened up his tiny round dark eyes and stared at me and we stayed like that for a long time, him making little snuffly newborn noises and me filled with joy to finally look upon this little face. My doctor asked us who he looked like, and I paused a second before replying "kind of like Maggie. But really like himself." I really remember feeling nothing but happiness and gratitude and transcendent joy, to finally have my baby with me. It seemed like he knew me right away, and I him. I even glanced at the still-blood-smeared head under the stocking cap, because I thought I saw hair. And I had — he has a ton of soft, dark brown hair. His dark-haired parents were surprisingly mystified by that, since the baby we had already had no hair to speak of until she was two and what she first had was blond, although it's since darkened to a nice light brown. We were both like "wait, is that HAIR?"

Another wonderful aspect of this birth was that the hospital has instituted a bonding nurse who assists with surgical births where everything is normal and helps get bonding and breastfeeding established. In practical terms, this meant that when he was finally taken away after surgery, he went to the recovery room to wait for me with Paul instead of off to a sterile bright nursery bed all alone.

When they wheeled me in, I saw through a swirl of nausea Paul, back in his regular clothes already, snuggling and holding our little boy. Much of those immediate moments are a blur because as soon as they moved the bed out of the OR I was overcome by a horrible wave of nausea, and then panic from trying to hold down the nausea. But I do remember that as soon as they got me settled, as soon as I could, the lovely nurse brought him over and I could hold him. She unwrapped him and put him on the breast right away, and it was remarkable to see this tiny stocking-capped newborn look me in the eyes, work his way over to my breast and start licking and suckling immediately. It was amazing, and unfortunately cut short because of another nausea wave, but she wrapped him back up and placed him on my chest so he could hear my heartbeat, and we laid like that for a long time.

(next--Maggie meets her brother).


Lisa said...

Amy, I sit here in tears, riveted by your story. It has brought back a flood of memories and emotions as I recall the births of my two sons (both by c-section), and how different the experiences were.

Your words paint a clear picture in my head of your son's birth that intermingles with my own memories. Congratulations on your new family of four, and thank you for sharing your story!

abernier said...

I can't believe you had to see your own self cut open without anyone asking if this was even something you desired! I love your description of trying politely to avert your eyes, "subtly"! How gracious of you to even try to be polite at this moment! I'm so glad you got to snuggle with the baby so soon. Congratulations!

apt said...

Thanks for sharing this. Having never had a c-section, this makes the process very real. I think our culture looks at surgery as being quick, clean, inpersonal... And to hear someone's story "from the front" makes it so very real. I've never consider a mom watching her own c-section. Wow.
Good for you for capturing the sensations, the fear, the pride, and the love.
Congratulations over and over.
Can't wait for the next part.