On the eve of her first birthday I am filled with excitement. She will have no idea that it is her birthday, despite my valiant efforts today describing the events of last year, of tomorrow, and the various renditions of "tomorrows your birthday birthday birthday birthday." She seems taken by the singing, but its certain she has no idea the meaning.
My heart and mind go back to the happenings of last year. My daughter was a breech baby and I didn't want to try the external version - a horrific attempt on the part of the doctor to turn the baby from the outside, by manipulating my stomach. No thank you. I signed up for a c-section because, while my lamaze instructor, Nurse Fenima, indicated the recovery would be long and horribly painful - she had never actually had one and all the ladies I knew who had, disagreed with her. Nurse Fenima told my class of her own labor as, "quick and over before she knew it." While I'd heard that story from a few other moms, logic told me a breech delivery would be neither quick nor over before I knew it. C-section it was.
My husband and I visited the ob/gyn on February 7 for my weekly checkup. We'd thought quite seriously about the external version and told her that we'd decided to schedule a c-section. Together we decided on February 19 as the date. She asked to see me on February 16 for a final check up and if the baby hadn't turned by then, we'd move on with the c-section on the following Monday. It was surreal to walk in and determine the date of your child's birth. I remember driving home after the appointment thinking, "February 19 is a good birthday." We called our family, gave them the details, and then looked at each other like, "holy shit - she's really coming!"
I had a great pregnancy. From start to finish, I had no major complaints. I didn't actually know I was pregnant until my ninth week, didn't see the doctor until week eleven, and by the time I did see her I was quite shocked because my assumption was that I'd just missed my period and expected to hear I was barely pregnant - 3 weeks or so. I remember hearing the heartbeat that first time and looking up from the table saying, "no no that's not right, you can't hear a heartbeat this early." She said, "I'm estimating you're 11 or 12 weeks along." I nearly fell off the table. Learning of a pregnancy at the end of the first trimester makes for a very quick pregnancy, and thankfully, it was a lot of fun. I have no pregnancy horror stories. I actually worked up until the day before I had her - I was very large, but that comes with the territory. I'd planned to work until the sixteenth, but because we had the doctor appointment I decided to take my maternity leave on the fifteenth. It was very bizarre walking out of the building that day.
Before I was a mommy, I was a high school teacher. Leaving the classroom that day was unusual because I hadn't thought of or expected my nerves to kick in, and they did almost as soon as I opened the door heading for my car. It was as if my heart just knew. I became giddy with excitement and eager to get home. When I got out of my car in the garage, I found my husband standing at the door to the house. His hands were on top of his head, which has proven to be a sign of sheer emotion one way or another. I could barely get in the house, the hallway is very narrow, and he was walking backwards in front of me talking at lightening speed.
"The hospital called!!!!!!" He continued, "The nurse asked to talk to you and I told them that you were at work and they said that is what they thought, but that we missed our appointment for the c-section this morning so then they called us here, and left a voicemail, we'll have to check it, but they didn't get us, so they called the doc and asked where you might be and the nurse there said, 'well I imagine she's at work.' And the nurses at the hospital said that is what they thought. So they rescheduled us for tomorrow. We're having the baby tomorrow! When she told me that they rescheduled it all I could say was, 'no shit?' and thankfully she laughed. But we have to be at the hospital at 8:30 a.m. we can't be late. She had a lot of other directions for you, so you should call her back. But we're having the baby tomorrow!"
His energy was overwhelming, and I needed a chair. We hugged, then I sat and called the nurse. Indeed, the doctor told us one thing and then scheduled something else completely and didn't communicate that to us. After the list of what not to do before having a c-section, I hung up the phone and said, "Let's go to Portillo's." Apparently, I wouldn't eat again for 36 hours or some nonsense about a liquid diet after the surgery.
The nerves that kicked in earlier, ramped up at this point and I got pretty nervous. I was thrilled to be hours from meeting my sweet bird, but nervous as hell about the c-section. I trust my doctor completely, so I felt some security in that. All the drugs, the removal of organs, the stitches. It was more than I could imagine.
The Portillo's was delicious. We went home and didn't sleep. We arrived at the hospital at 8:20, we pulled up at the valet stand and I said to my husband, "Can you grab the bag and pillow?" He looked at me like I was speaking another language.
"I'll just come back down and get it once we're settled." He disagreed. I reached for the luggage and pillows and he fought back. We had a fight. The morning of our daughters arrival he picked a fight with me about bringing our shit into the hospital that, mind you, we'd be staying at for the next four days. We were bound to need our things and with the car in valet it'd be a pain in the ass to have to get them later. On the elevator up to the labor and delivery wing I lost it, crying hysterically. How dare he? How dare he pick that moment, that very moment to disagree with me. Through sobs I said to him, "I am about to give birth to our first child, I am more overwhelmed than you will ever know, and you have to choose now to pick a fight about the luggage that I know we are going to need!" I was IRATE. I don't know that I've ever actually felt that irate before or since, but it was unpleasant. We stood outside the wing, waiting to be let in, he just looked at me as I cried and finally he apologized. It seemed like the longest wait, but when she arrived two minutes later, I'm certain I looked like any other first time, freaked out, crying mom.
From there, it truly was a breeze. Went to the room, checked in, parents arrived, pictures were starting, doc came and apologized for the mess up, gave it one last check, and then we were in surgery. Surgery took minutes. I went in first, there were three people in the room: two nurses and the man with the drugs, the anesthesiologist. They got me situated, sat me up, and in went the spinal block. Seconds later, I couldn't feel my toes, then I felt a small tingling in my pubic area and I inquired, "What's that?" A nurse replied, "We're shaving you, hunny." Within moments I could not feel anything below my breast line. My husband was escorted in, a very large blue sheet went up, and in walked the doc. The room was freakishly cold, and I shivered so much I'm certain I was blue. When I looked to the left, my husband's face was right there. When I looked to the right, the drug guy was standing right there. When I looked up, I could look into his glasses and see, vaguely, what was happening on the other side of the blue sheet. When I said, "I am very very cold, I can't stop shaking." He said, "I can fix that." Then he said to my husband, "Ok Dad, they are bringing her out, look over the sheet right now!" My husband stood up, looked over the sheet, and was in awe.
I said, "What's happening? What do you see? Can you see her?" And he could. "She's perfect, babe. She's perfect." Over and over we've said it again and again. I could only hear her crying softly, and then he sat down next to me and we smiled and cried. Seconds later we heard a very loud smacking sound, like a paddle thwat thwat thwatting the top of a lake. She had some liquid in her lungs and the nurses had to smack her chest - this got her going. She started crying very loudly, like in the movies. Finally, a nurse brought her up by my head and I saw her tiny, red face. She had so much hair, we couldn't believe it. Daddy went with his new baby girl to the nursery and I headed out of the O.R.
This all took 38 minutes. I was in the recovery room, being hooked up to a new set of I.V.'s before 40 minutes had passed from exiting my room on my way to surgery. It was insanely quick. I was floored. Again there were a lot of drugs, I started a morphine drip, and it made me a bit sick to my stomach. Drugs fixed that. I was hot, then cold, then hot, then cold. Before I had much time to "recover" my husband was back, telling me all about her first bath. How she screamed and kicked her tiny legs. He said they would get her swaddled up and bring her to me as soon as they could. This "soon as they could" was not speedy. The nurse sitting with me actually called the nursery to find out what was holding her up. Moments after that call, she arrived, bundled, and finally in my arms.
Today I am elated because in that instant one year ago, my life was forever altered. Happiness has a whole new meaning, and she is a silly, silly goose.