They brought me into the O.R. alone. My husband was somewhere else, getting his little outfit on. The anesthesiologist comes in to numb me. I’m having another contraction while he has me sit on the edge of the operating table and lean over. He keeps yelling at me to hold still and calling me “Jennifer” instead of “Jenn,” which is not okay with me. He is not interested in waiting a minute until the contraction is over. He finally does his damn job and goes away. Shortly afterwards, I start to feel numb from just below my boobs, all the way to my toes.
At this point, I had an I.V. of fluids or something in my right arm. I have no idea when that happened. But I was still wearing my shirt. It took three people to figure out how to get it off of me, and get a hospital gown on, without removing the I.V. They ended up letting my shirt hang on the I.V. line by a sleeve. That is probably not sterile. They have me lie down on the table with my arms out like Jesus. They put an oxygen tube in my nose and a heart monitor or something on my left arm. Then they strap my arms down. Yeah. “Oh, don’t worry,” they tell me. “It’s just to keep you safe.” They hang up a sheet in between the numb zone and the not-numb zone.
The next thing I know, there are about ten people in the room. I don’t know who any of them are, because they all have masks on, but I know that none of them are my husband. They start talking about what they’re doing and telling each other what to do, and I’m a little surprised that I understand most of it. I thought it would all be in fancy medical jargon. When one of them starts washing my stomach (I’m basing this on what people were saying; I can’t see or feel anything below my fifth ribs), I tell them not to start until my husband gets there. They assure me that they’re just getting ready, and he’ll be there any minute.
He shows up a few minutes later, and they walk him around the table and put him in a chair next to my head. He looks really pale, and not just because of the fluorescent lighting. Apparently, they have started without him, and since the table is set up so that my feet point towards the door, he was treated to quite a view when he arrived. He leans in and whispers, “I saw gore. I saw your insides!”
The C-section itself was boring. It took them forever to get all my organs out of the way. For some reason, I imagined it being: cut the skin, cut the uterus, pull out the baby, done. But I guess there’s other crap inside me that had to be maneuvered around. Stuff my husband saw. Poor thing. I wasn’t nervous or freaked out at all, since I hadn’t seen what he saw, and also I believe I was on morphine. I knew what was going on down there, but it was an abstract concept to me. They shifted my body this way and that. I could feel my shoulders dragging across the table. I turned to my husband. “I just got hungry; I think they must have poked my stomach!” He didn’t think that was funny at all.
I expected my son to make a big entrance. I figured they’d pull him out and shout, “It’s a boy!” Then he’d cry and all the nurses would applaud. That didn’t happen, either. A couple people mumbled something like, “Okay, got it? Yup, and, he’s out.” That’s it. “Did they just…?” I asked my husband. He looked really overwhelmed. “I don’t know.” Then, somewhere in the far corner of the room, some lady starts squealing, “Would you look at those eyelashes!” My husband has really long lashes, but I kind of doubt she’s talking about him. “Is he out?” I shout. They tell me yes. Um, thanks for the update. “Is he okay? Is he breathing? Can we see him?” I should not have to ask these things! They say he’s fine, and they’re just cleaning him up and checking his vitals. He’s still not crying. I ask again if he’s breathing, and they assure me he is. I ask why he’s not crying, and they tell me some babies don’t. In fact, he didn’t cry until at least a couple weeks after he was born. The most noise he would make is a little “Eh, eh, eh” to complain about diaper changes and boredom.
They finally brought him over and held him near our face for a minute. He was gorgeous. I hadn’t realized it, but throughout my whole pregnancy, I never once tried to picture what he might look like. It would have been a waste of time, anyway. He was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. We kissed him and cried and they took him back to finish cleaning him. When they had to take him to the nursery to do more thorough medical things like shots and stuff, I sent my husband with him. Did you know they do this? They will whisk your baby away when he’s three minutes old. You have to decide in advance whether you want your partner to stay with you or go with the baby. I don’t know why anyone would choose to let their kid go to his first doctor’s appointment alone, but I guess some people do.
I was in the O.R. for another twenty minutes or so, while they put the puzzle that was my abdomen back together. Once I was whole again, they took down the divider sheet and two nurses went to work cleaning the blood and whatever else off of me. They were really rough, jerking me all around the table, but I couldn’t feel it, of course. At one point, I looked down and saw my knee just below my chin. Just so you know, when my nerves are working, I am not that flexible.
This is the point where my story gets really typical: once we were all together again in the recovery room, we took pictures, called people, Facebooked and marveled at how this tiny human was our responsibility. Then, we moved to the regular room where we stayed for the next three days. I’ll just give you the highlights of gifts received and lessons learned.
Gifts we got:
- The boy was born the day before the Superbowl, and a friend brought his famous chicken wings, because “nobody should watch the Superbowl without wings.” I actually cried; that’s how wonky my hormones were. Everyone laughed at me.
- A couple I know sent me one of those Edible Arrangements- the baskets of fruit that are cut up arranged to look like flowers. This was great, because I had tons of visitors, and it felt weird to “entertain” without having anything to offer my guests.
- Another family brought me a plastic bin full of candy bars. Like, twenty full-size candy bars. If you’ve ever taken Percocet, you know how much I appreciated that. And the bin came in very handy after I emptied it, too.
- My aunt brought me Naked Bee lotion, which smells amazing. The hospital air was really dry, and I was very itchy, so that was one of my favorite gifts.
Some things we learned:
- The fold-out chair they give your partner to sleep in is awful. Bring your Boppy for feeding the baby, and at night, he can use it as a pillow. Also, they will let him sleep there, but they will not feed him.
- Some (not all, maybe not even most) of the nurses you encounter will be really pushy. It is your choice what to feed yourself and your baby, whether or not to use a pacifier, and how warm you should keep your room. That bitch is not the boss of you. Have your partner take her out in the hall and let her have it, and she will back off.
- Apparently, if your husband changes diapers, he’s a superhero. Every time a nurse would try to change a diaper, and my husband stopped her, the whole hospital stopped for a minute. The needle scratched across the record, someone dropped a glass, and five people audibly gasped. We thought this was weird, but I guess it’s a thing.
- The staff does not care about your modesty. They will hang your catheter bag on the side of your bed, in full view of your guests. Remember to have someone throw the blanket over it. They will also walk into your room and ask you (loudly) “Have you passed gas yet?” in front of visitors. It is super important to them that you fart. I don’t know why.
- They will not stay on top of your pain meds. In addition to being in charge of this new human who needs to eat every ten seconds, you have to set an alarm on your phone to ask for your medicine every four hours. And you have to ask early; they take ten or fifteen minutes to show up once you ring the bell, then you ask for the medicine and they have to go get it, and that takes another 20-30 minutes.
- It is not silly to want to wash your face and put on a little makeup after delivery. My husband gave me so much crap for that, but an hour or two later, someone took a picture of the three of us- the First Family Portrait, and to this day, an 11 by 13” print of it hangs in my son’s bedroom. I would be really annoyed if I looked like crap in that picture and had to see it every day. So there.
- The most important lesson is that kids don’t give a shit about your plans. They will ruin them at every turn, and it starts before they’re even born.