Normally, for most, having a baby is one of the best moments of your life, but as always when it comes to anything medically concerned, there is no normal or best with me. I’m healthy per se, but half of the time I’m a medical anomaly. If it can go wrong with me, it will.
This anomalistic predisposition is how I ended up lying on a table, seven weeks before my due date, gaping open, feeling pressure on my chest that I think are my innards (thanks to Kate’s full description of the procedure that I could never forget), with so many IV strands going into me that I’m beginning to take on a very Pinocchion appearance while the doctors put this humpty dumpty back together again. I’m numb physically, paralyzed is a better word, and now mentally, being robbed of my baby whom they whisked away, the husband in tote, after I saw him for three seconds. I’m utterly alone, unable to yield any answers except a half-distracted “all is well” from the crew putting me back together. Best not to bother them, so I try to still my mind although all I want to do is jump up and run off the table. I’m trapped in this useless body and it seems to take five times longer to put me back together than to take me apart. I know the one thing that will calm me but they won’t let me see him or even touch him yet. My womb has been robbed and more importantly I’ve been robbed of a normal joyful birth all my friends talk about, the pain and joy you see in the movies. I’ve been robbed of that strangely significant experience where the mucky, naked, screaming baby’s flesh touches yours and life is supposed to take on a new meaning.I’m being moved and I mindlessly look back at the operating table as they fold up the sheets and I see what looks like a prop straight out of a horror movie; I lie to myself it’s all iodine. I dismiss my absurd imagination with the thought that I will see my baby now; nope, instead I’m sentenced to two hours of recovery where I’m supposed to sleep. As my body slowly tingles back to life, I reflect on it all: the overstretching of ligaments that allowed my kneecaps to pop of out socket, inflamed carpal tunnel forcing me to wear braces, the swelling—oh the swelling—and the skyrocketing blood pressure that put me in a hazy fog as if I had a perpetual fever. Severe preeclampsia. Besides the illness and eight days in the hospital, more complications arose, but only after twelve hours of Pitocin induced contractions without any epidurals or meds, the magnesium drip that made me sweaty and nauseated, the pressure on my unyielding stubborn body constantly aggravating me from the inside, and there are no words to describe the pain of repeatedly trying to force dilation. Then of course, the doctor informs me of the acrobatic maneuvers necessary to get the four and half pound baby where he is supposed to be. So C-section it is, and I’m left alone in recovery.
Oh the Swelling!
Oh the Swelling!
I will not sleep so the nurse brings me a phone, and I finally get some answers from my husband. The baby is great, doing well for a preemie, and beautiful, which really translates later to needing oxygen, in an incubator, and will stay in the hospital for three weeks, but this neither of us are told until later. I hang up the phone with a pang of jealousy. He saw our son, touched him. The shameful jealousy continues as I’m returned to my room. My pleas and demands to see my son are ignored, referred to the head nurse, then doctor, and then are rejected on the grounds that I cannot leave my bed nor can he be taken out of his incubator. I cannot go to him nor him to me. I send the husband home and try to sleep, but despite the exhaustion I can’t. I feel like an empty shell, physically and emotionally. My stomach is still swollen like he is in there but it feels wholly devoid of his life. I’m frightened he feels the same.
Twenty-four more hours shoot by where I put on a brave face and accept flowers, congratulations, and friends and family showing me pictures, recounting how cute he is. The visits are much appreciated and help in distracting me. I’m loved and proud of what I’ve made it through, but each description of my baby sparks envy in me. I try to recall the three seconds I saw him where I asininely said he was bigger than I thought, then recanted it once he was bundled up, but even that moment got enveloped in the fog of preeclampsia and is fading from my memory. I’m left alone for the evening, feeling depression creeping on and an overwhelming exhaustion. I haven’t slept for almost three days, and even the periods of rest were interrupted by my constant companions: the blood pressure cuff, that went off every hour, and the lab taking and testing my blood every six hours. So when the nurse rolls in around nine pm, I figure it’s for another battery of tests or to check the pumps that help my legs circulate. I’m not amused. She comes around the partition with a rolling hospital bassinet, in it a small bundle. She explains something about being able to sneak him in to see me since the construction is forcing them to move the nursery tonight and adds something about both of us needing it; I don’t hear what she says exactly, just the sense of her words. All I have interest in is the little bundle that my eyes want to devour. She hands him to me. There his is. He is tiny, beautiful, gurgling that newborn noise, his huge eyes wide open taking everything in. I talk to him, trying not to cry because it will obscure my view of him and I’m told I only have seconds because she must put him back on the oxygen and keep him warm. As soon as he hears my voice, his eyes lock on mine in recognition and don’t leave, and life feels complicatedly complete. They take him away but an overwhelming happiness sparks inside of me. The emptiness of my stomach gives way to my overflowing heart, and my silly insecure jealousy begins to wane. I replay the image of him looking me over and over again to etch it into my memory forever not letting the fog overtake it. I finally fall asleep with the picturesque, Hollywoodized, anomalistic, best mommy moment replaying in my dreams.