ramona & her mother, part seven

(this is essentially ramona’s birth story, but because her birth was so crazy, there’s a lot going into it. this is part seven of ten, & all are tagged “birth story,” in order to help you the reader navigate from one part of the story to the next.)

jared turned up again, all packed & ready to stay with me for the next several days. we put stefanie on the job of feeding charlotte, since she lives right across the street from us (an unexpected but incredibly helpful aspect of hiring her as our doula!). at 11:30pm, i was taken off the mag. i convinced the nurse to give me a fioricet to stave off another headache. i stuck with my pumping schedule & walked jared through the procedure. he wound up being incredibly helpful. he was right there next to me every time i pumped, helping to turn the machine on (hard to do when each hand is occupied holding a pump to a breast), giving me sips of water, cuing up videos of ramona for me to watch on my laptop, etc. because i still had the catheter in, i still wasn’t allowed to get up on my own, so he took the pump parts apart after every use & washed them, & then put them together for me again when it was time to pump later. he also helped me stay on top of my pumping log. the lactation consultant recommended it, but i probably wouldn’t have done it without jared there to encourage me. i thought what every new mom thinks: i don’t need to write it down, i’ll remember. but i’m glad jared was on my case to write it down because of course i couldn’t remember everything, & i was happy i had a record a few days later when i wanted to see how my output had changed from pump to pump. jared is also the one who figured out that if you make a seal around the breast shield with your hands & blow, you can blow an extra few drops down into the syringe. this matters more for when you are just starting to pump & your output is literally tenths of a milliliter. this little trick helped boost us from no output at all to .5ml several times, & that really helped keep my spirits up. even though i know it’s normal for a mom to only get a few drops during a 15-minute pumping session when she is just starting, it’s still a little discouraging. thanks to jared, i didn’t have to experience that quite as often. maybe we contaminated that milk with our gross mouth germs, but ramona is still alive & kicking several days later, so i guess it worked out okay.

i finally felt strong enough to go upstairs & see her after my 2am pump session. the doctor was dubious because i was still on oxygen, but i guess he realized that it’s uncool to keep a new mom away from her baby for more than 24 hours, so he let me go as long as i stayed on the oxygen tank & was in a wheelchair. as if i could have walked anyway. it took me literally like twenty minutes just to transition from the bed to the wheelchair. i could barely move due to incision pain.

but all was forgotten the minute i laid eyes on that little baby. her face was obscured by the CPAP hood, but she was wiggling around in her isolette, opening & closing her hands, kicking her legs. she cried when the nurse changed her diaper. even though she was making sad noises, i just couldn’t get over how precious they were & how good it felt to hear the little baby that i only knew as the bumpy creature that lived in my body. they were about to do a feed, which involved dripping formula into her belly though a very slim tube wound down her throat. they hadn’t started her on colostrum yet because they were still making sure she tolerated food okay before they wasted any of the good stuff. they offered to let me hold her during the feed, but i demurred because i was still really weak & shaky. just being wheeled upstairs had almost made me fall asleep; i didn’t trust myself to hold a baby yet, & i was still in so much pain, i knew i wouldn’t be able to do it for long & they said they prefer for holds to last at least half an hour. when i declined, they said they usually prefer for moms to get the first hold, so they would just wait until i was ready. i was like, “no way! there’s nothing wrong with jared, i am happy to relinquish ownership of the first hold to him.” they asked if he wanted a swaddle hold or skin to skin. i told him that babies love skin to skin, especially preemie babies. he seemed to feel embarrassed about being shirtless in front of the nurses but he was game. i stuck around while they situated ramona on his chest (she was not yet being clothed because of temperature regulation issues & all the various tubes & monitors–they had her under heat in nothing but a diaper & sometimes a hat) & snapped a quick photo & then went back to my room & fell asleep.

my first visit with ramona.
my first visit with ramona.
ramona's first hold! kangaroo care.
ramona’s first hold! kangaroo care.

the next day was sunday. everything is kind of a blur. i don’t remember too many details. i was up every three hours to pump & jared usually got up with me because i was still catheterized & couldn’t get up on my own to put together the pump. i know the doctors were still concerned about my oxygen saturation levels, which were hovering at around 90% (according to the machine, which is of course fallible). i was allowed to start eating & drinking freely. at some point, they removed the catheter. i hoped they would take out my heplock too, because trust me, having an IV in your hand for a week straight is no party. but they wouldn’t, lest my condition deteriorate & i need IV fluids or medication suddenly. we visited ramona again some time in the morning or early afternoon & i was able to hold her for the first time!

mama's first hold! i chose a swaddle hold so i could see her little face.
mama’s first hold! i chose a swaddle hold so i could see her little face.

she was still on CPAP, but they had reduced the flow a little. we were just enchanted with her. we couldn’t stop gushing over how cute she was & how adorable all of her activities were, whether she was yawning or wiggling her legs or pooping the second her diaper was removed. yeah, we magically transformed into parents the second she was born. it’s crazy how that happens. suddenly poop is cute. no one can explain it.

she had slimmed down from her birth weight of four pounds, eleven ounces, to four pounds, six ounces, but holding her for an hour was still murder on my incision. i was walking a bit by this point (i had to after they removed the catheter because i had to get myself to the bathroom), but it was still slow going. meaning i generally did not actually lift my feet. i told jared that if a grizzly bear suddenly entered the room, i would not be able to run away from it. he was like, “um, if a grizzly bear suddenly comes strolling into your hospital room, running away from it is probably the least of your concerns.”

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

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