I don't get to experience natural childbirth. There was a spell in my life where I felt somehow less for that fact. But I am totally over that now. I feel incredibly blessed just to have babies - and their entrance into this world is sanctifying and transcendent even in an operating room. Ever since I had Caroline I've been wanting to write down some of the details of her birth - mostly for future reference. I got pretty anxious in the weeks leading up to her birth because there were so many things about having a c-section that I just couldn't remember. And the uncertainty was unsettling. So, more than anything, this post is to remind myself what I'm in for if we're fortunate enough to be able to do this again. These are the the physical details. I have some thoughts written up about some of the more emotional/spiritual details, too.
* My mom slept over the night before I was scheduled to have my c-section. I was so, so thankful to have her and to know that my kids would be in such loving, caring hands while we were in the hospital. Our house felt so peaceful and quiet that night and early the next morning when we woke up and headed to the hospital.
* We were supposed to check in at 5:30 am - I set my alarm for 4:30 so I could shower and get ready. For several weeks leading up to the delivery I had felt so anxious and nervous about the c-section, I had hardly been able to feel the excitement of meeting the baby. But when I woke up Wednesday morning, I felt excited and calm. And relieved that the pregnancy would be over soon - I had some really uncomfortable side effects with this pregnancy - varicose veins, more aches and pains, more fatigue. I was still able to carry on with my regular life (laid a flagstone path in the backyard a few weeks before I delivered, mowed the lawn a week before, etc.) but everything was laborious. And I felt I was always teetering on the edge of very-grouchyness - often toppling over.
* We went to the hospital just as it was getting light. I felt sooooo thankful to have Nate with me. He was just as strong and steady and loving as could be.
* After we checked in, I changed into a hospital gown and my nurse asked me a hundred questions, put an IV in, monitored the baby for a bit. Then Nate and I just waited for them to come get us and take us to the operating room. I think it was a little after 7:00 when they came and got us. We walked down the hall to the operating room (that was different from my other two c-sections where I'd been wheeled into the operating room on a gurney).
* We had requested for Brian Hall (my dear friend, Anne's, brother) to do the anesthesia for the c-section. He was so kind to switch call with someone so he could be there. And my goodness, I think I love him a little bit after being in his care during my delivery. He was just incredibly attentive and kind and adept. Just by looking at my face, he could tell what I was experiencing and he kept me comfortable the whole time - with drugs and gentle reassurance. It was kind of funny 'cause I've always known Brian to be kind of a jokester, even a little prickly sometimes, so to see this different side of him was sweet. At first I felt kind of shy about my friend's big brother seeing me in such a *ahem* vulnerable situation, but I got over that pretty quickly and was just so thankful for his good care. I didn't feel any pain when he stuck the needle in my back to give me the epidural. I got numb really quickly. And I didn't have any discomfort during the surgery. The only thing that was uncomfortable was about half way through the operation, I started to feel a lot of pressure in my head -- almost like i was under water. Everything got fuzzy and I couldn't hear clearly. Brian looked at me and said, "you're feeling a lot of pressure, aren't you? Kind of like you're under water?" I couldn't believe it! "We're gonna take care of that...just hang in there..." And he did. He was super perceptive. So good. And about an hour after the surgery, while I was still in recovery, he came into our room with a jar of honey from his bees - first jar of the season!
* Dr. Binette did the surgery and holy moly - I could not believe how fast it went. I was in and out of the operating room in 30 minutes. No exaggeration. The worst part of it was when I could hear coarse snipping sounds and knew they were cutting through my flesh and muscle (and fat!) to get to the baby. Just kind of unsettling to think about. But I felt pretty calm throughout.
* The moment when they lifted little Caroline up over that blue sheet was just as amazing as it was with my other two. Surreal. I loved her so big from moment one. I will write more about it when I share the personal/spiritual details of the birth experience.
* Nate was sweet and supportive. He's so bright-eyed and friendly; he acquainted himself with every nurse and tech and helper in the OR. And he was curious like a little boy about every step of the process. At one point, after the baby was out, he had to step away. I think he was getting a little overwhelmed by what they were doing to my body (taking my uterus out and cleaning and massaging it before they put me all back together). Once Caroline was out, he spent most of the rest of the time with her.
* They brought her over to me right after she came out so I could take a good look at her, but I didn't get to hold her 'til I was in recovery. That was probably only about 15 minutes after she was born tho -- they were so fast stitching me up and taking me back to my room.
* Once we were back in our room I just held my sweet girl skin to skin for hours. I just kept telling Nate how happy I was, how good I felt, how pleased I was with how things had gone. I was euphoric. I didn't feel much pain in the hospital - but it is so, so hard to get up and take those first post-surgery steps. My body just felt like I'd been to war. And (sorry if this is TMI), but I did get some really awful gas pain the day after surgery. Oh my...the pain meds pretty much paralyze your bowels and I was in so much pain. I could hardly move - every position hurt -- that was hard. I just laid in bed and cried and cried. But my sweet nurse Mary brought me a heating pad and propped my knees up and that helped.
* The recovery room I was in for a few hours after birth was really nice and clean and bright. But the post-op recovery wing they moved me to later that afternoon was kind of a sad place to be. It just felt dingy and super cramped. I hated being there. Thankfully, we had some very sweet visitors to cheer us up:
My mom, grandma and the kids came shortly after Caroline was born. I was soooo happy to see them! That was such a joyful time.
My dad stopped by a few times (he works in the hospital where Caroline was born)
My brother works at the hospital, too -- so he stopped by a couple times we well. Once by himself and once with my sister in law, Ashley. I loved seeing them. Felt so loved to have company.
Nate's mom and Iris (her husband's mother) stopped by on Thursday and Cindy stayed to help us get checked out of the hospital and get home.
Melissa and a few of her kids stopped by with a sweet bouquet of flowers. Her little Dean was just nuts about Caroline. So cute to see how much he adored her.
Auntie B and Uncle Dean stopped by with a big, beautiful basket of fruit and nuts and the best post-partom food you could hope for!
Hope I'm not forgetting anyone! Every visitor meant so much to us!
* We had Caroline Wednesday morning and we left the hospital Thursday evening. I wanted to get home soooo badly!! The first few days at home were hard physically...really hard. I was just really, really sore. Nighttime was the hardest - I couldn't get comfortable to sleep, it was super hard to change positions or get up to get the baby. It was about 10 days, maybe even 2 weeks before I could really sleep in my bed comfortably without propping pillows all around myself. I spent a lot of time in a recliner in our bedroom those first several nights. But during the day I felt pretty good - The Monday after I had the baby I went out with my mom to do a few errands. She helped me with everything - so I just kind of went along for the ride, but I got out and felt pretty good. We went to a dr appt for Caroline, to Fred Meyer to get a few onesies, and to Henry's school to show the baby to his class (just very quickly and from a safe distance :) I had helped in Henry's class every week of the school year while I was pregnant and those kids were so darling about my growing belly. They offered suggestions for her name, had sooo many questions about how I was feeling and when she would come out. I just had to take her in and show them the end of the process! They were so, so excited when I walked into the classroom - gasps and squeals and jumping up and down. I am so glad I did that).
I was totally exhausted when we got home. And sore that night and the next day. It was hard to know when I was overdoing it because I would usually feel fine while I was doing whatever I was doing, but the next day I would pay for it.
* On maybe day 7 or 8 post-partom a friend brought in dinner and as we were talking casually, he mentioned that their whole family had been infected with head lice and were really struggling to get rid of it...!!!! I tried to keep my cool, but I was pretty much disgusted and freaked out that we might get it.
Nate and the kids were gone and when he left I totally sanitized every inch of my house where he'd been - disinfectant wipes aplenty. And then I vacuumed (a big post-partom no-no) where he'd walked just in case a louse had jumped off of him. The whole time I was thinking, "I shouldn't be doing this...I shouldn't be doing this" and I was sore afterwards. But head lice? you've got to take precautionary measures!
* I spoke in church 2 weeks after I had the baby. That was kind of insane. I didn't stay the whole 3 hours - I just spoke and bailed.
* One month after I had her, I hosted a houseful of company for a week. Everyone got the stomach flu and barfed and had diarrhea for 3 days. That was hard, but I was feeling pretty good. (I know no one cares about these things. And I'm not boasting about what I did, I'm just making these notes to refer back to when I'm wondering how long recovery took).
* By week 5 I had started going walking again -- slower and shorter than normal, but I was feeling good enough to exercise moderately.
* It took about 8-10 weeks before I could run without pain. And by run I mean barely jog. And my incision was pretty tender and sore for 10 weeks.
* About 5 or 6 weeks after I had the baby I had a big meltdown to Nate in bed one morning. I just sobbed about how ugly I felt, how hard everything was, how much I hurt...
I felt really crappy and desperate. That's when I decided to start going walking again. Walking helped me feel a lot better.
* Nursing has been a challenge (as usual). We're treating Caroline for thrush for the second time. I've been sore pretty much the whole time, but not unbearably. We've had a few other complications that have caused some pain that i can't really mention on a blog...it's a hard time these first months after a baby. Everything hurts. And you don't sleep. And life sort of careens out of control for a while. And you wonder if things will ever normalize. But they do. We're starting to get back to equilibrium around here. For about the last week Caroline has been sleeping through the night (a 7 hour stretch). I'm feeling stronger and am pretty much pain free. She is getting into a bit of a routine...and we're all getting used to our new normal.