Wednesday, April 30, 2008

D-Day, part 3: A welcome arrival

[This is a continuation of two earlier posts, "D-Day" parts 1 and 2.]

I will always be thankful for the amazing nurses and nurse-anesthetists who were present during the birth of my son. At each step, someone was telling me what was going on and what I would (or wouldn't) be feeling. My arms were extended out next to me and secured so they wouldn't stray into the surgical area. My epidural was kicked-up so that I wouldn't feel anything at all (at one point, I remember asking, "there's something *more* numb than the dead walrus I already feel like?!"). The surgical team stopped all activity for a few minutes for what the hospital calls a "time-out" -- I was asked to state my name and the reason for my presence in the OR -- so that everyone in the room could be assured that I and they understood a C-section was about to take place. My doctor walked in, and I heard the nurse-anesthetist at my head say, "It's 2:01 p.m. -- first incision just took place." My husband was led in shortly thereafter. He sat at my head and talked to me to distract me from my anxiety (and his own, I think), from my nausea (which didn't work) and from the thought of what was going on, on the other side of the screen across my body. And in an incredibly short amount of time, I heard my doctor saying, "This baby's got a lot of hair -- almost out!" And then someone was saying, "2:09 p.m. -- it's a boy!" And it's at that point that my memories are watery and blurry, because both of us were crying, overwhelmed at the knowledge of our son.

My husband was allowed to walk over to the side of the OR and watch our newborn son as he was cleaned, measured, weighed and checked. I was still in surgery, so I couldn't see him at that point. I remember using all of my remaining energy to keep from crying out in discomfort -- being flat on my back and jacked up on medication made me tremble painfully, and I was absolutely out of energy by then. I just tried to keep my body from shaking as much as I could, answering the doctor's questions with one-syllable answers. Eventually a nurse brought the baby over to me and laid him across my chest so that I could see him. I remember a tiny, pink face peeking out at me from a bundle of blankets, and my husband's gleaming smile, and then I asked them to take the baby off me, since I was worried my trembling would shake him right onto the floor. My husband held him for a few minutes so we could both admire him, and then the baby was taken away to the nursery for more observation. We'd previously agreed that we wanted the baby to have one of us with him all the time, so my husband went with him to the nursery while I was stitched up and wheeled to recovery, where my epidural was removed. (I remember thinking, "Damn, I was liking that. I don't get to keep that for a while?")

We had a lot of family members at the hospital, waiting for the baby to arrive. While my husband went to tell them the good news, I rested in recovery -- I had to stay there for two hours. I asked for an hour to rest, and then my family members came in two by two to say hello and congratulate me. Seeing them was so special, and yet I was still so tired that I couldn't visit as much as I wanted to. When I was finally wheeled up to my actual room in the maternity ward, I was beat. A nurse brought the baby in and we took a shot at breastfeeding for the first time. It was hard to do, between my trembling, tired arms, the baby's sleepiness and both of our inexperience, but hey -- you've got to start somewhere. By the end of the ordeal, though, I was in tears of exhaustion again. I had planned to feed the baby for the first time right after delivery -- and I'd planned on keeping the baby in the room with me for the duration of our hospital stay, an arrangement called "rooming-in." But my fatigue was too much for me, and I had to ask the nurses to take the baby back to the nursery for a while so that I could get some sleep.

That was Saturday night. Sunday and Monday passed in a flurry of visitors, activity, and smiles. Though still behind the ball in terms of getting enough sleep, my husband and I were so happy that we kept the baby with us as much as we could so that he could be there when people came by. Within 12 hours of the delivery, I was up and walking around, since the nurses told me that my recovery would be speedier if I kept moving. In truth, the incision was hardly painful at all -- just sore and tender. I was amazed that after abdominal surgery, I could feel so little pain. Within another day, I quit taking the pain medication, since it irritated my stomach, and just relied on good old ibuprofen to manage the discomfort.

And through it all, there was the baby. Tinier (oh, so much tinier) than I ever thought he'd be at 6 pounds 12 ounces, he was blinky and pink and lovely. He had peach-fuzzy little ears and shoulders that I noticed immediately, and the weight of him in my arms tugged somehow on my heart. To say that I fell in love with him is to say that the Grand Canyon is a crack in the ground. Just being able to touch his perfect skin and kiss his cheek or head sent me into silent paroxysms of delight. (Still does.)

Yet love doesn't make everything easy. :) The first night home from the hospital was, shall we say, *rough*. The baby decided at this point to transition from the sleepy little bundle we knew in the hospital to a hungry and quite vocal participant in the family decibel level. I don't even remember much about that first night except for the fact that it seemed I was feeding him all the time, and therefore not sleeping at all. At one point my husband was able to hold and soothe the baby for about two hours and blessedly, thankfully, I slept.

That's pretty much how the first three or four weeks went -- sleepless, bleary-eyed, delighted, exhausted, desperate joy. We sleep more now, but the delight is still there, though there are some mornings when I could definitely use some concealer and be better-looking for it. I have never missed sleep less -- or, as we've told some friends, we have never been so happy to be so tired.

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