(this is essentially ramona’s birth story, but because her birth was so crazy, there’s a lot going into it. this is part six of ten, & all are tagged “birth story,” in order to help you the reader navigate from one part of the story to the next.)
they wheeled me into the OR & rolled me on to the operating table. jared & the anesthesiologist helped me sit up & i was allowed to lean on jared’s shoulder while they did the spinal block. i was in so much pain at that point from the headache, & i was so muddled by the magnesium that i barely remember a thing. i remember that the drugs took effect right away & a nurse had to lift my legs back on to the table. i was not strapped down above the waist at all. i remember just feeling a lot of pressure & pulling while they cut me open & moved everything around trying to get a handle on the baby. i remember i threw up at some point in there, & jared tried to catch it but i still wound up with puke down the side of my face & in my hair. & then we heard a baby crying. A LOT. & then some gloved hands held a screaming baby over the top of the drape. i remember there were blood splatters on the drape but all i could really focus on was the baby–a girl that we named ramona. both jared & i were laughing & crying. a nurse grabbed jared & whisked him over to where baby was being assessed & i was left alone while they stitched me back up. this seemed to take a really long time, during which point i threw up again. a nurse wiped my face down with a washcloth. i started shaking uncontrollably. jared says i was crying too, but i don’t remember this. i just could not control the shaking. a nurse showed me the baby again before they took her to the NICU. she was wearing a pink & blue striped hat & they let me kiss her head.
after this, i pretty much remember nothing until well into the next day. i guess i was wheeled back my labor & delivery room for a few hours of recovery. i was put back on the mag. i couldn’t stop shaking, though i don’t really remember being cold. i don’t remember if jared was there or if he was with the baby. stefanie was there & she rubbed my feet. at some point i was transferred to the mother/baby unit. jared stayed with me on the fold-out. i remember literally nothing about the next morning or afternoon. i know i was still catheterized & therefore not allowed to get up. i was on oxygen. i basically couldn’t move because my incision site was pure agony. i had shaken off most of the effects of the spinal & was able to wiggle my legs. they started me on percocet to control the incision pain. i was still on a lot of other meds too. i wasn’t allowed to eat or drink until i reported being able to fart. who says having a baby isn’t glamorous, huh? i kept dozing off.
jared rushed back to lawrence to pack himself a bag so he could stay in the hospital with me for as long as possible. no one could tell me when i might be released. they said that they released the average cesarean patient after three or four nights, depending on her pain level, but i was not the average cesarean patient due to my pre-eclampsia. they wanted to make sure my blood pressure was being reasonably controlled before they let me leave. because i wasn’t allowed out of bed, i wasn’t allowed to visit the baby. maybe they would have taken me up in my hospital bed if i’d made a big enough stink, but i was so out of it, it didn’t really occur to me to ask. jared visited her though & came back down with a ton of photos & videos of her laying in her little isolette. she had mask on her head with an elephant trunk-looking tube on her nose (this was called CPAP). she had all kinds of wires sticking out of her. NICU called down to my room to tell me they wanted to thread a central line into her belly button to give her medicine & be able to draw blood as needed without sticking her foot over & over.
a lactation consultant showed up at some point while i was alone in my room, about fifteen hours after the birth. she had a fancy electric pump with her & i felt simultaneously excited that they hadn’t forgotten about me & that maybe i could start doing something for ramona even though i was stuck in bed, & also terrified that the moment of truth was here. i would discover whether or not i was able to start making milk for my baby. you just hear SO MANY stories about women who grapple with milk supply issues & end up giving up on breastfeeding or supplementing pretty liberally with formula–& these are women who had vaginal deliveries with full-term infants ready to go to the breast! i knew i was working against a lot of complications, between the late pregnancy bed rest, the prematurity, the cesarean, the medications & the fact that i was sick, & the fact that any milk i produced would have to be expressed because ramona is too tiny to have a developed sucking reflex or the skills to take food by mouth.
the lactation consultant just dove right in & was all, “take down your gown & massage your breasts!” then she manhandled them a bit herself & immediately produced a few drops of colostrum via hand expression. she was like, “this is great! you are ready to go! & you have perfect breasts for breastfeeding! when your little baby is ready, she’s going to love these things!” i didn’t ask for clarification about what makes a breast “perfect” for breastfeeding. i just kind of reveled in being able to do SOMETHING baby-related right, since apparently i totally suck at being pregnant without having a toxic reaction.
she got me hooked up to the machine & there i sat for fifteen minutes watching little drops of liquid gold collect in the teeny syringe. i managed to produce 1.75ml that first time & the lactation consultant was all, “wow! you could feed twins with production like this!” that really cheered me up a lot. she told me to pump for fifteen minutes every three hours, even during the night, in order to establish supply. i was happy to give it a whirl because i wanted to feel like i was doing SOMETHING to help care for ramona. & i know so many breastfeeding advocates talk about how it’s especially crucial for premature babies to get all the colostrum they can because it is basically like medicine to them. there are so many nutrients & antibodies that they really need because they shouldn’t be outside of the womb yet.