June 2nd, 2014.
I wake up early, around 5am in the morning. I’m 38 weeks and a few days pregnant, and my first thought is that that’s it, I’m finally soooo pregnant that pregnancy-induced urinary incontinence, which I’ve heard afflicts some pregnant women, has now hit me.
Good gravy. Seriously? Arrgh. Seriously.
I head to the bathroom, slightly mortified at what I believe to be loss of bladder control. My husband is asleep and thus no one would need to be the wiser, so I’m quiet.
And then it dawns on me that even though I have a scheduled c-section four days away…my water broke.
Hoooooly shit. My water broke.
Honey, It’s Time
Total adrenaline hits. I wake up my husband. We are both looking at each other a bit like, “Uh…what do we do, now?” I’m texting my sister, because she’s had a kid and I’m trying to figure out if this is for real.
It is for realllllz.
Since I’d thought I would have a scheduled c-section, I’d thought I’d have a few more days to do things like finish packing the hospital bag, finish typing up the birth plan. My husband begins throwing things into the bag; I pull towels from the bathroom to sit on at my desk while I’m hurriedly finishing the typing on the birth plan and printing it out. We call the hospital and let them know that we are coming in.
Hitting the Brakes
At the hospital, everyone who passes us as we walk in gives us a huge, knowing smile. One person even says, “Congratulations.” Everyone knows that no woman walks into the hospital that early in the morning and that heavily pregnant, unless it’s basically go-time.
Of course, after we check in, there are long periods of sitting in an exam room, waiting. Since I need to have a c-section, surgeons and anesthesiologists who happen to be on duty need to be consulted, review my medical history, and on and on. I’m crossing my fingers that they aren’t going to make me wait until the afternoon; the anticipation is biting.
The nurse puts a baby monitor around my belly. A few minutes later she asks, “Did you feel that contraction?”
“That was a contraction?” I said, surprised. I’d felt this wiggly sensation off and on for a few weeks; it was painless and I had always assumed it was just the baby moving.
She shows me the dips up and down on the monitor. I am completely comfortable, just curious, and perhaps even a little antsy to know what’s happening next so that we can get this show on the road.
The nurse shares that she, too, had had a c-section when her baby was breech. “I totally understand,” she says when I share that I fear needles.
I think to myself that I love a nurse who is also afraid of needles.
Changing to the Fast Lane
It is nearly ten o’ clock. The surgeon and anesthesiologist come in. They introduce themselves and say that they’ve consulted and that they’ll be able to start the c-section in about an hour.
For all of my antsy desires to get things moving along, suddenly this is moving way, WAY too fast–my brain is trying to compute. Surgery, c-section, baby born, me, in less than an hour, what the fuck?
They start setting up the IV. Someone else is going through the disclaimers. I notice that I start breathing heavily. My veins keep collapsing because I’m starting to really, really freak out; they finally get the IV in on the third try. A nurse suggests that I put on headphones and cue up some relaxing music. I do exactly that and focus on trying to breathe.
The truth is this: I had a fear that I would be that one person, that one person in the statistic who dies from a c-section or who has a baby die from a c-section. I’m trying very, very hard not to allow that fear to completely overwhelm me.
When it’s finally time for my husband to go off and get into scrubs and for me to be wheeled into the actual operating room, I notice that I’m having an even harder time processing everything. It just seems surreal. When they finally wheel me into the operating room, I look around half expecting that this room is just a way station en route to the actual room, but no, this is the room.
When they administer the spinal, the nurse who is standing in front of me to brace me so I don’t fall forward says, “You can lay your head on my shoulder, if you want.” I immediately do.
Thinking about the tenderness of that moment still brings tears to my eyes.
The spinal begins to take effect. I have Devi Prayer cued up and I’m listening to it and breathing, breathing. I realize that I can feel my body swaying a bit down below and have a brief moment of panic. I hadn’t realized that I would feel my body swaying from side to side or anything else.
The same nurse who told me she had had a c-section and feared needles leans over me and reassures me that the spinal has taken effect. When I panic further, she looks me in the eyes and says, firmly but with such kindness, such knowing of what’s to come: “You have got to breathe; it’s the best thing for you and for your baby.”
I trust her. In the next few moments, the most marvelous, sweet, relaxing feeling creeps over my entire body. I have not felt this relaxed in months (years? EVER in my life?). My husband is there. He pets my head and I am listening to Devi Prayer and I can hear him and the anesthesiologist, who keeps poking in to share that I am doing great; I am doing great; I am doing great; everything is going exactly smoothly; I am doing great.
As promised, I feel no pain and no discomfort (again, seriously–I feel really, really awake yet relaxed and it’s amazing; it is definitely a positive c-section experience ). Minutes later, we hear her crying for the first time: our daughter. She is shrieking and loud. Now that I’m an experienced diaper changer, I know that that’s the same cry that means, “I am COLD! I am COLD! Cover me up! I am COLD!” Andy and I are both crying. They are checking her to make sure everything is okay.
And then a warm little baby is tucked against my chest.
Anika Jane Rado. Nine pounds, six ounces. 21.5 inches. Blue eyes. A beautiful full head of hair.
She immediately stops crying and stays snuggled against me. I am suddenly very awake, no longer out of it, amazed by all of these sensations.
It is all perfect. It is everything. It is completely and totally right.
I had thought I would only have that feeling if I’d had a natural birth. Turns out, I had exactly the birth experience that everyone needed. She is completely happy tucked against me. She stays warm on my chest for the next several hours; we get to our room and keep the lights down low and our voices soft, wanting her transition into the world to be as calm as possible.
All of these weeks later, I’m in total mama-mode. The feeling of attending to this little baby feels almost primal. I want to memorize every moment. I’m acutely aware that there will be a place in time, somewhere in the months to come, when I will look back and she will no longer be a newborn. I don’t want a single day to go by where I’m unaware of that, taking it for granted, longing for her to be an older baby, and then realize that I completely missed the fascinating world that she’s in, right here, and right now.
Welcome to the world, Kid Courage. Thank you in advance for being my incredible, life-changing teacher.