I have a personal belief that a new mother has a 365-day window to write thank you notes, return phone calls, send Christmas packages (don't ask), and post the story of their child's birth. I'm squeaking by on this one...
I don't know how it happened, except to say I do know how it happened: I never wrote this down because I was handed a wee baby girl and she was amazing and beautiful and also a little bit of a handful and the hours turned into days and the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months until I found myself here, thinking about the way 365 days can go by so quick without ever writing about the day that wee baby girl was born.
We got to the hospital in the early morning of March 3rd. Early like it's-still-DARK-outside-early. The c-section was scheduled for 8am, but they had us arrive two hours early for all the preliminary poking, ultrasounding, more poking, and forms signing. Chip took pictures of a lot of this stuff - looking back on the pics, it cracks me up to see things like "here's Whimsy standing at the reception desk" and "here's Whimsy walking to the bathroom holding the back of her hospital gown shut". We spent most of those two hours in the triage area. Chip's least favorite moment? When one of the triage nurses was trying to get an IV started on me and sort of missed several times - and then hit something of a GUSHER vein because there was a huge puddle of my blood just pooling there on the floor. I believe Chip turned a nice shade of green. In those two hours we also listened to Bean's heartbeat a lot. After they got the monitor hooked up and working, I just lay there for a while, listening to Bean's WOW-WOW-WOW-WOW-WOW-WOW heartbeat. I got quiet then, listening to this mystery baby, hoping she was doing okay - knowing that I'd be meeting her so soon. And with Chip squeezing my hand, our doctor came by one last time and told us we'd be heading to the delivery room. It was time.
I remember walking most of the way, but the details in my head are fuzzy. I don't know what the hallway looked like, or how long it took to get there - but the next thing I knew, I was standing inside an operating room wearing green and yellow striped socks. Chip had been taken to another area to get ready. There were doctors everywhere wearing blue scrubs. I was helped up onto a table and told that they'd be giving me a spinal block, but I'd need to bend forward, trying to curve my spine as much as possible. I've had epidurals before, for cortisone shots in my lower back. I'm not a huge fan of the epidural. Truthfully, it sort of freaks me out with the BIG needle and the way they are jamming that thing between your vertebrae. My worst fear? Having a surgeon cut into me when I can still feel it. I wonder if my state of mind had something to do with what happened next. They told me that after the spinal block was done, they'd lay me down on the table really quick, because it can take affect very quickly and they didn't want me to, you know, FALL OFF THE TABLE OR ANYTHING. So, they did the spinal block and then I was laid down on the table - arms stretched out to the sides and fastened down on splints. It was then that Chip was brought into the room, and oh, I was so glad to see him - all gussied up in scrubs and a mask and a very jaunty hat. The nurse brought Chip up to where he could sit by me, up by my head, and they put a blue curtain up between my face and the rest of my body, where the doctors would be doing the actual work. Do you want us to keep it open before the baby is born? A resounding NO from both of us.
It's at this point that I remember the anesthesiologist explain that they'd be checking to make sure the spinal block was effective, that if I could feel anything I should let him know. From my perspective, of course, it seemed perfectly normal. Chip's point of view was more along the lines of -- here's my wife, spread eagle on a table in the middle of an operating room, NO CLOTHES ON, with some dude poking her with a small metal stick asking DO YOU FEEL THAT? And the thing is, I could feel it. I wondered if I was just drugged up and imagining it, and told him so. Yes, I can sort of feel that. Is that normal? Poke, poke, poke. Yes, yes, yes, I can feel that. So then, he does this quick cutting motion across my lower abdomen and it royally FREAKED ME OUT because DUDE, WORST NIGHTMARE, RIGHT? So I go YES I CAN CERTAINLY FEEL THAT! And so the doctor looks at all the other doctors with an Oh Crap look and says "Um, we're going to have to do the spinal again. It didn't take."
So we then lather, rinse, repeat: undrape, uncurtain, unbind my arms, sit me up. Bend me over, do the spinal all over again. This time: TOTALLY EFFECTIVE. I know, because there was no feeling whatsoever with all the poking.
I remember watching Chip's face when I was laying there - arms spread wide, my body turned just slightly to the side, my head dipped just below my ankles. That was a weird feeling. I had these little odd thoughts like, "Wow, I didn't know I'd be laying here with my ankles up in the air - when you see these things on TV it looks like they're laying flat." Chip's face was my constant. As my body rocked from side to side, as I listened to the doctors, I watched his eyes, I asked him again and again if he had the camera - if he was going to take a picture of our little girl.
And then there was pressure. I lot of pressure. I felt like a piano was sitting on my chest, and I looked at Chip, "She's here." We looked through the little window in the curtain and there she was, purply-pink and covered in goo.
The moments now are even more of a blur - tears, and smiles, and congratulations from our doc. And Bean's crying, the sound of her crying in that cold surgery room. I told Chip to go, to follow Alice, I'd be okay. I listened to him talk to her, listened to him say things like, "Wow, little girl, that doesn't look like it feels so nice, but I'm sure it's good for you." (Turns out the nurse was putting the vaseline goo on her eyes - I know from the video that Chip was very dedicated about filming. My favorite moments were when the camera was dangling around by his middle and ankles and you can sort of see things moving and the sound of the other camera he was also toting around. What a guy.) It seemed like they were away from me forever, my body continuing to be rocked and moved slightly from the sewing up job. Every once in a while I could catch a glimpse of Chip moving, of Alice's tiny body. And then they were back with me, Alice in Chip's arms, her small perfect face up next to mine.
When the surgery was over, I was moved down to our room, the morphine taking affect and putting me in a drowsy happy fog. Those next hours went by in more dreamy haze - and the firsts were clicking by and collecting in my hands: the first time I held Alice, the first time I kissed her face, the first time I fed her, Alice's first bath, Grammy Dawn holding Alice, watching the nurse change Alice's first diaper.
Every few hours Chip would look at me and the clock and say, "Can you believe it's only been X hours?" It was the longest day of our lives - lasting into the wee hours of the morning when I simply didn't sleep.
Writing this a year later is so hard, because everything I felt then is now brought to you through the filter of my experiences since. I can say that I felt both ways on everything. I was overwhelmed. I was at peace. I was brilliantly happy. I was crying every few minutes. I felt totally incapable. I felt like I could do anything. I felt blessed beyond reason. I felt like I should crawl under a rock. I felt wonderful. Everything hurt. I wanted to go home. I couldn't imagine leaving the hospital. And now? I realize I was feeling those first feelings of motherhood. It is an imperfect state, but also so totally singular that you know this is how it's supposed to be. There is nothing missing inside of you. You are enough. You will be enough. You will figure it out.
And somehow, some way, we did figure it out. Because we're here, nearly a year later. And I'd do it all again in a WOW-WOW-WOW heartbeat.