Well, she’s here. Thankfully, blissfully, finally here. And if her entrance into this world is any indication, she’s gonna be trouble.
If there is one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s that best-laid plans are simply that, and that there are no guarantees.
Like a baby remaining head-down at 41 weeks and 2 days gestation. Apparently, in my grand naivety, I thought we had this one in the bag.
I woke up Wednesday morning early, sad to have to say goodbye to my sister and niece who, after a nearly 3-week stay had to travel back to BC to fulfill a previously-made commitment. Seems naivety runs in my family, as my sister was sure that this child would have made her entrance by then. Ensconced in panic that our labour/childcare support plans A, B and C was walking out the door, we hastily implemented plan D, and Chris’ mom was on a train to Toronto within the hour. My sister joked that more than sex, spicy food or acupuncture, her stepping on a plane would surely be our successful method of labour induction. She wasn’t far off.
That afternoon, as Chris and Bee headed to the train station to pick up my mother-in-law, I went to my scheduled midwife appointment. We joked about some of the non-traditional induction methods we might think of implementing as Tracy, my midwife, felt my belly. Abruptly, the joking stopped and Tracy looked at me more seriously than she had throughout this or my previous pregnancy with her.
‘She’s transverse again.’
Oh, good Christ on the cross, I thought, this child is so grounded when she’s born.
After much palpating, consultation and discussion with all of the midwives in the clinic, Tracy sent me home for a vigorous walk with Chris. She would be back at my place in a couple of hours, and we would map out next steps then.
So off we go, in the pouring, cold rain, to try to walk this baby back into head-down position. We had already discussed the possible courses of action and outcomes, so really, the time we were given was pretty much just to come to peace with what lay ahead. At that point, only one thing was pretty certain – this was not going to be the birth we had expected.
Sure enough, Tracy’s visit revealed no new information, and we headed to the hospital for a consultation with an OB. The only time I had ever been in this particular hospital was to register for each of my births, and though I can see the place from my bedroom window, I certainly never expected that one day I would be looking out the window of the hospital back at my house.
In triage we met the on-call OB, a warm, straightforward doctor originally from Africa, who went over the options that Tracy had alluded to. Really, this whole part was a ruse, designed to make me and Chris feel as though we actually had options. We didn’t. Well, we did. We could choose to wait for or implement a couple of risky things that would most likely end in an emergency c-section, or we could plan for a c-section now, and at least enjoy the benefits of controlling as many of the circumstances as possible. It didn’t take long for us to let them know our ‘choice.’
The next 4 hours were completely surreal. Even though I was now well on my way to delivering via c-section, I had a really hard time realizing that it was me that would have to actually go through it. As the IV was set up and inserted, as we walked the hallways with the drip, waiting to be summoned to the OR, as Chris was taken away to be gloved, gowned and masked and as I was prepped for and administered a spinal block, I had this weird sensation that this was just all part of some third-person narrative, and that this was not actually happening to me.
The morphine helped. Stupidly, I thought it was the oxygen going up my nose that was making me kind of giddy, and I remember remarking that it was obvious why people liked going to oxygen bars. I believe it was the anesthesiologist that said, ‘Oh, they don’t get what you’re getting at the oxygen bar!’
So Chris came in, the surgery began, and so did the puking. I’m a puker. It actually had a pretty good distraction factor, and I don’t really recall much sensation of the surgery because of it. Or maybe that was the morphine.
At any rate, our baby was born healthy and purple at 1:37 am, the news of which I believe I reacted to by barfing. She had a good rubbing by my midwives, and then was able to enjoy skin-to-skin contact with Chris, which I think was really wonderful for him, and helped him recover from looking over the sheet just a little too early and peering into a pool of my blood with a purple leg sticking out.
The next couple of hours, also blurry, due to the rush of hormones, and well, morphine, but I do remember a few things about being in recovery. I remember ice chips, and I remember the baby practically crawling up my chest to latch herself onto my boob, and I remember Chris holding the little blue trough over the baby’s head so that I could puke without disturbing her first meal.
The hospital stay was not as bad as I had anticipated a hospital stay being, and improved greatly once a private room became available after the first night. The nurses were attentive, and for the most part very warm and considerate of both the fact that I was a midwife’s client and the fact that I intended to make informed decisions, but I still managed to piss a few of them off. Like after the decision not to allow them to bathe the baby after 8 hours on the outside, and the decision to not allow them to repeat the jaundice blood test after the first, administered with the PKU, did not yield enough blood to get results. You poke my baby 3 times already and leave a bruise on her heel and you are not my friend. You’re not coming back for more.
I also pissed off a night nurse who didn’t like my latch. She woke us up in the middle of the night to check temp/blood pressure for the millionth time, and at that point the baby was pretty much asleep on the boob, after having nursed for a good half hour previously. She was slipping off already, and the nurse was concerned that she was too high up on the nipple. I insisted that she was ok, that I was in no pain, and that this was just fine for a baby that had just been nursing lying down for a while. The nurse clucked at me and left, and Chris made a joke that she was going to sic a lactation consultant on us. I balked, but sure enough, at 8 am the next morning, there was a knock on the door and in walked Lori, the lactation consultant. I happened to be nursing at that point, and her visit was a very short one, especially when I told her that I had just weaned my firstborn 5 months prior.
Rest assured that although I viewed this as a minor, humourous annoyance, I am impressed and happy that so much effort is made to ensure breastfeeding success. I’m just not used to someone second-guessing my mad breastfeeding skillz.
Anyway, I was released on Saturday, early by hospital standards, and again I was thankful that I had my midwives as both advocates for my release and as dedicated caregivers responsible for overseeing my recovery at home.
Home, ahh. It’s better to be here for sure (hospital food really is as bad as everyone says it is, although Bee loved the copious amounts of jello I always saved for her), but the realities of recovering from abdominal surgery are slightly more vivid than they were in the hospital. Apparently I’m healing very well, and Tracy took my staples out today, but I’m a bit overwhelmed by the long road to full recovery. No steps until next week if I can help it, and no picking up Bee for 6 weeks. The pain is manageable, peaking at night or when I sneeze (holy fuck, sneezing hurts), and I’ll milk this for as long as I (or Chris) can manage.
And the baby? Holy mother of sweetness, she is worth any discomfort, any discarded birth plan, any sneeze trauma and any perma-paunch that comes my way. I forgot how tiny, how alien, how fascinating, how miraculous new babies are. As for the bond that I always thought could only come from the anticipation and hormonal rush of early labour; from feeling my body extract my child in an intense choreography of pleasure and pain; from that new baby being placed immediately on my chest; from introducing Bee to her baby sister in the warm, welcoming comfort of the bed that she had also been born in – well, I was wrong about that. I didn’t have any of those things this time, but the result is there. The result is the same, and it is powerful. She is my baby. She was born to me. And she is love.