If my daughter could speak English, this is what I’d say to her:
Listen here, baby lady, I need some feedback.
For the past month I’ve catered to your every need. I’ve fed you. I’ve turned myself into a human dairy farm for you. I’ve rocked you to sleep. I’ve cleaned poop out of your belly button. I’ve comforted you when you were scared. I’ve filed your fingernails. I’ve clothed you. I’ve bathed you. I’ve danced with you and I’ve read to you. I’ve changed my entire life to accommodate you. Never, ever again will I show my stomach in public because of you.
Could you at least smile for me?
She’s a month old.
As I’m typing this (at 5am while pumping), she’s actually a month and a day.
We survived! The three of us survived. The baby is thriving, the marriage is in tact, and the dog hasn’t run away.
It’s been, by far, the most challenging month of my life. But it’s starting to feel normal… ish. We’re getting out of the house, we’re visiting friends – hell, yesterday we even had dinner at a restaurant.
We’ve been through explosive diapers; (seemingly) never-ending crying spells; 3am, 4am, 5am feedings; baths; walks in the rain.
We’ve made it through the most painful part of c-section recovery.
Allan and I have laughed at her, marveled at her, wondered about her. We’ve worked as a team, sometimes me picking up more slack, sometimes him. And we’ve had make out sessions reminiscent of high school.
I’m falling in love with her, and I’m falling more in love with him.
Life is starting to get rhythm. White people rhythm, for sure. It’s a little herky-jerky, but we’re getting there. Slowly but surely, we’re getting there.
I get it now.
I used to hear about new mothers who weren’t even able to shower during the day, and I’d think: Why? Why can’t you get a shower? Does your child not nap?
But I get it because, two days last week, I found myself covered in baby vomit, breast milk and tears, unable to move from the couch to clean myself off.
The tears were mine, by the way – not Charlotte’s.
Charlotte has great days. Days when she naps in places other than my arms, days when she’s bright-eyed and alert while awake, days when I can be productive around the house and feel human.
And she has in-between days. Days when she’s fussy in the morning or evening, but still takes a good nap or two.
Charlotte also has bad days, where for at least half of the day she’s inconsolable. She’s fed, she’s changed, she’s held, she’s put-down, she’s stimulated, she’s unstimulated, etc… and nothing – NOTHING – soothes her.
Those are the days when I’m likely to be covered in vomit. Those are the days when I can’t get off of the couch for fear of interrupting a 10-minute stretch of peace. Those are the days when I’m in my pajamas until well after noon, unable to pump, to eat, to drink, to pee. Those are the days I cry and wonder if life will ever feel normal again. Those are the days when I get it – when I understand what those new mothers were talking about, when I’m jealous that my husband is sitting behind a desk while I’ve got a wailing babe in my arms.
But her face, her face is the sweetest I’ve ever seen with its almond-shaped eyes, tiny little mouth and her daddy’s nose. She locks eyes with mine and all is forgiven. I cannot resist her.
I don’t know if I’d be able to get through this crazy time without my unbelievably supportive friends. I can’t begin to put into words how grateful I am for the generosity and kindness shown to my little family. From the visits to the gifts to the dinners, I’ve been overwhelmed by all the love.
I have a beautiful, healthy baby. Let’s just acknowledge that I’m aware that I have a beautiful, healthy baby.
I am lucky.
Bringing her into the world was one of the most traumatic things I’ve ever gone through. A few days ago, while she was napping, Allan and I sat close in our darkened living room and talked about what we both experienced and felt, and how frightening and difficult it was for both of us.
On Sunday, June 23, I was admitted to the hospital. A Foley catheter was inserted to start the dilation process. Except it didn’t go as intended. The baby hadn’t dropped, so getting the Foley into my cervix was entirely more complicated, time-consuming and painful than it should have been.
Starting labor with a Foley should be quick and painless – and once it was inserted, there was no pain at all – but the insertion process was awful. A nurse held one leg, my husband held the other, while the doctor rammed his hands and instruments inside of me, trying to reach my too-high cervix.
It was incredibly painful and embarrassing. I tried so hard not to cry from the pain and humiliation, and to be honest, I don’t remember if I was able to hold the tears back.
Ironically, when the doctor arrived and saw that my IV was already inserted, he told me that the hardest part of my experience was over. It would be smooth sailing from that point forward.
At 6am on June 24 the nurses woke me up, allowed me to grab one last quick shower, and then started the pitocin drip.
A few hours later, the doctor came into break my water and really get things moving. His words, not mine.
Except, like with the Foley, he couldn’t reach my cervix. The humiliating, painful process of bending my knees back to my chin began once again, and this time, he gave up. Decided to come back in an hour.
Sixty minutes later, the doctor was back with his giant knitting needle (what the device to break water looks like) and this painful visit, he was successful. My water was broken.
I was on pitocin and my baby was on her own – no bag of water to protect her. I was told I’d be holding her by dinnertime. I was terrified. Each procedure was scarier than the next, and I felt like I never fully recovered before taking the next step.
Family trickled in, Allan remained patient, I got supportive text messages from girlfriends, and nothing else happened.
The doctors’ shifts changed, and in came the doctor who would, in fact, eventually deliver my baby.
She was disheartened by what she saw: multiple hours of pitocin, broken water, no dilation, no progress. Each internal exam – which happened pretty regularly at this point – was extremely painful and embarrassing. My new doctor apologized for “trying to tickle my ears” – that’s how far it felt like she was reaching. My cervix was still too high.
Finally, the contractions were coming with regularity. A new catheter was inserted to measure the intensity of the contractions. It was low. They bumped the pitocin. The contractions started to come with even more regularity – about 90 seconds apart – and were getting more and more intense.
I waited as long as I could, then decided to get the epidural. The pain became too much. I knew going into it that I was going to have one – I wasn’t going to deal with an induction and the more-intense contractions without pain relief.
The anesthesiologist came and he didn’t even introduce himself. I remember that. He stood behind me the whole time, never even looked me in the eye and said hello. I was uncomfortable immediately.
My incredible L&D nurse stood in front of me and let me rub her fingers as the needle went into my spine, then the catheter went into my spine, then when I heard and felt the pop of the needle going into the space in my spinal column.
It scared the shit out of me. Once it was finished – about three minutes total – I shook uncontrollably and tears ran down my face.
I thought the worst was over. I felt no pain, the contractions were strong and regular, and I had finally dilated another centimeter.
When my doctor checked me at 11pm (finally, no pain thanks to the epidural), she told me I’d be pushing my baby out in the morning.
The rule of thumb is that once you’ve dilated to four centimeters, you tend to dilate another centimeter every hour until you reach 10.
At around Midnight, I called for the nurse because I could feel the contractions on my right side. Every sixty seconds, I was writhing in pain. The nurse messed with some buttons, and the pain faded.
Allan, in his exhaustion, has no memory of this. He slept straight through it, even though they turned on every light in the room.
At 4:30am, my doctor came in for another check. Nothing. No progress what-so-ever. In fact, my contractions became weaker and less frequent. Despite being on the highest level of pitocin, my labor was actually stopping.
Allan and I had a decision to make. We could stop the pitocin for an hour, give my body a break and start it back up in the hopes that some sort of switch would be flipped. Or we could elect to have a c-section.
We really, really didn’t know what to do. At this point, we’d been in the hospital for two nights and were exhausted. I was physically and mentally exhausted, and I hadn’t even reached the pushing stage. I couldn’t imagine potentially going through another 12 hours of labor, then potentially hours of pushing.
At the same time, what if I chose to have a c-section and something happened while I was on the operating table?
My doctor told me that I had no bad options. That either way I’d get my baby.
The nurses were incredible. They were candid and honest and supportive, and they told me that if they were in my shoes, they’d go for the c-section. They couldn’t imagine that my body would all-of-a-sudden start to respond to the pitocin and allow me to deliver vaginally.
Yes, the recovery process from a c-section is tough, they said, but sometimes all the tearing from a vaginal delivery could be just as bad.
Allan and I talked and talked and talked and finally opted for the c-section.
Within 30 minutes, my parents were there to see me off, and I was being wheeled into the operating room.
I have to hand it to the staff: when I got into the frigid room, all of the women (yes, they were all women) were cheering for me and clapping and telling me that it was my baby’s birthday.
June 25. Charlotte was coming.
Remember how the epidural ran out? That meant that I needed to have a spinal block. Yes, it would hurt the nurses told me. At least they were honest.
I don’t remember, but it took at least two – and maybe three – tries to get everything working right. I physically squeezed the nurse so hard, it’s a wonder she didn’t try to run away from me. Instead, she took my squeezing and my sobbing while the needle was being inserted, and told me that I was doing such a good job.
There’s a special place in heaven for nurses. I believe this.
With the spinal block good to go, I was placed on the table lethal-injection-style, and Allan was brought in in his scrubs and surgical mask. Before Allan even sat on the stool next to me, the doctor began cutting, and tugging, and pulling through layers of skin, muscle and tissue.
For Allan, this was the hardest part. He could see my head and my arms jerked around, and he knew my body was being cut open, and it was too much for him. He says now that he doesn’t understand why they allow fathers back there, he doesn’t understand how any man could watch the woman he loves go through something like that.
Me, though, I don’t remember the jerking movements. I just remember feeling physically lighter when they removed the baby, and I remember the nurses yelling for me to look to the left – Charlotte was being held up high for me to see before being whisked – along with Allan – into a different room.
Here’s where things get hazy for me. A nurse with beautiful eye makeup told me that I was being put to sleep, would be going to sleep, to relax and sleep. Then I had dry-heaves – how many or for how long, I have no idea.
And then smelling salts were being snapped open beneath my nose.
Then I woke up in a completely different room with a beyond-sweet nurse who fed me ice chips.
As I think about typing this next part, tears are in my eyes. The sweet nurse – truly, she was just incredibly lovely – started massaging my uterus through my skin. Pressing and massaging while I screamed and screamed. There were people around me in other beds only separated by curtains, and I didn’t care. I screamed.
Every 10 minutes, that sweetheart of a nurse put on gloves and pressed on my body, and every 10 minutes I screamed from the pain and begged her to stop.
I don’t know how long he was there, but for a while Allan was standing by my head, holding back tears, listening to me scream.
My uterus had to be massaged because, after the baby was delivered, I started to bleed and they couldn’t get the bleeding to stop. I lost a liter of blood – not enough for a transfusion, but enough to need those awful massages and extra care.
I don’t know how long I was in that room, but a nurse brought Charlotte down from the nursery for me to see. Her fingers were perfectly folded together, as if she was deep in thought. I don’t remember looking at her face, but I stared and stared at her fingers.
Finally, I was given Charlotte and able to hold her high on my chest as we were wheeled through hallways and into my recovery room where our family was waiting for us.
I knew labor and delivery weren’t going to be a walk in the park. I was having a baby, for goodness sake. Childbirth isn’t easy.
But I didn’t expect the experience I had. It seemed like every turn, every step brought with it unexpected, painful challenges.
It was very, very traumatic. I cry if I think about it, I cry if I talk about it. At some point, I’ll be able to joke about the whole thing, but not yet. Probably not for a long time.
But I’m here. I’m here and I’m healing and I’m healthy. And my baby, my beautiful, squishy, squirmy baby, is here and healthy. And I’m so, so grateful.