ramona balogna: week one

ramona is only fifteen days old as i sit here to write this, but the first week of her life is already a blur. i was still in the hospital for half of it, recovering from surgery & having my blood pressure monitored. i was at home on percocet for the rest of it (to help control incision pain). i didn’t think much of it at first, but in retrospect, those percocets were something else. i told jared that i am feeling much more awake & clear-headed now that i’ve switched to naproxen (which i used to take for arthritis pain–it’s basically just extra-powerful tylenol). he replied, “yeah, there’s a reason why no one does naproxen recreationally.”

first of all, allow me to say that it kind of blows my mind that anyone would ever intentionally have a cesarean. obviously i have read a lot about pregnancy & childbirth, even before i was pregnant, because it’s an interest of mine. but i read a lot about it while i was pregnant too. i even made the mistake of reading several books critiquing the increasing medicalization of pregnancy after i had been diagnosed with pre-eclampsia (but before i wound up in the hospital). these books go on & on about the “epidemic” levels of unnecessary cesarean & the hot trend of women choosing to plan their cesareans in order to have more control over their schedules, or even to facilitate a certain astrological sign for their babies. before i had ramona, i was like, “damn, that’s crazy. who would do that?” now that i have first-hand experience with the surgery…seriously, who would do that?!

obviously i have not had the experience of a vaginal birth to compare it to–maybe it also takes weeks to recover from that & maybe it causes persistent excruciating agony. i mean, i don’t want to scare anyone. sometimes cesareans are necessary & unavoidable–like in my case. & obviously i am alive & i’m sure i’ll eventually make a full recovery. it’s not like it was an unbearable experience. but i’d never had surgery before & was pretty unprepared for how it might feel to recover from having someone cut open your abdomen & pull out an entire human being. it was a few days before i could stand up. it was a few more days before i could stand up straight. fifteen days later, i still have lingering pain & am taking naproxen every eight hours. i still have to walk slowly & not try to lift or carry anything too heavy. because of the painkillers, my doctor recommends that i avoid driving, & i’m supposed to wait another four weeks before i start taking baths & going to the pool. i have to gently wash the incision site every day & pat it thoroughly dry & apply antibiotic ointment. it’s healing well & the doctor says she doubts it will scar much, but it’s some crazy shit, that’s for sure.

but thank god for those percocets. they really took the edge off the stress of having a baby in the NICU. ramona was only four days old when i was released from the hospital & we had to start the daily grind of loading up the car & driving to kansas city every day to see her. after i was first diagnosed with pre-eclampsia/pregnancy-induced hypertension, about a month before i landed in the hospital, i of course panicked to a certain degree & sought out stories of other women with pregnancy-induced hypertension who had managed to get to term & deliver nice healthy babies that didn’t end up in the NICU. it was tough because any time you have a pregnancy complication, all anyone wants to tell you about is their cousin’s neighbor’s hairdresser, who had that exact same problem & delivered at 32 weeks & the baby is doing great now but it was in the hospital for two months, etc etc. i finally put my foot down & said, “i know my chances of getting to term are not great considering that this diagnosis is being handed down at only like 28 weeks, but i am not ready to think about having a premature baby yet. i don’t want to hear stories like this.”

two days old & on CPAP--exactly what i did not want to imagine while i was pregnant.
two days old & on CPAP–exactly what i did not want to imagine while i was pregnant.

as a result, i was completely unprepared for everything that happened. & the drug fog made it so i didn’t really have to deal with it right away. jared observed that my personality was completely different. i was simultaneously totally laid-back & also incredibly assertive.

& for those first few days that i was home, ramona was under the jaundice lights, so it only made sense for us to be at the hospital for two feedings, tops, since we couldn’t really hold her much or interact with her. she couldn’t even look at us. that gave me a chance to try to pull my life back together at home–pay some bills, empty my desk drawers of pregnancy-related paperwork & binders & replace it all with baby-related binders & paperwork, do laundry (or put it in a hamper & get jared to do it), etc. so the full reality of the fact that i had had a baby, & she was in the hospital, & she was going to be in the hospital until further notice, was kind of on a delay.

a little kangaroo care between rounds under the jaundice lights. six days old.
a little kangaroo care between rounds under the jaundice lights. six days old.

ramona came off the jaundice lights when she was a week old, & we were allowed to hold her for more than an hour a day. she still had a nasal cannula in to help assist with her breathing, but they were gradually turning down the power on that & encouraging her to breathe on her own. she liked to pull the cannula out & stick it in her mouth. she was one week old when she started cuing too–opening her mouth wide & jamming her fingers into her mouth during feeds (she is being fed through a tube wound down her throat still–she doesn’t have the stamina for mouth-only feedings yet). & her week birthday was only our third day as non-hospital visitors to the NICU, so we were still learning the ropes.

one week old! done with the jaundice lights!
one week old! done with the jaundice lights!
one-week birthday snuggles with mama.
one-week birthday snuggles with mama.
one-week birthday kangaroo care with daddy.
one-week birthday kangaroo care with daddy.

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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