It might seem strange to be typing up my 2-year-old's birth story just days before her baby brother is due to arrive. On my walk this morning, however, I thought about this waiting game. This time of being full term, hoping that every cramp is a sure sign of labor. I thought of how miserable it feels to even go for a slow walk (the pressure on my hips, pelvis, and back is insane right now). But I'm working on gratitude, and realized what a miracle it is to be experiencing this at all!
You see, with Pippa, I knew I would be having a C-Section. The kid was breech for pretty much the last 1/3 of my pregnancy, and nothing I tried would change that. I'm not being hyperbolic when I say that I tried almost every suggestion that a Google search yielded to get baby to "flip." I laid upside down hanging off the couch. I crawled around the living room. I purchased a hypnosis track on iTunes to flip breech babies. I tried the ice cube and the music and the flashlight tricks. But Pippa stayed put.
I got really sad for awhile when my doctor gently suggested that it was time to schedule a C-section, assuring me we could always cancel it if baby decided to flip. I read through the internet horror stories of long, painful recoveries. I put away the borrowed Hypnobirthing book, filled with disappointment that I wouldn't get to try a natural birth. But most of all, the sadness I was feeling came from the fact that my baby wouldn't have a proper birth story.
Each year on our birthdays, after the cake has been demolished and the presents unwrapped, my mom will clear her throat and tell the story, our story, that always begins the same way. "10 years ago today..." "18 years ago today..." "27 years ago today..." I get to hear about how it was the Sunday a week past my due date, how my parents went to church, made a roast, watched football, and then when it was clear my mom was in labor, how they sat in the hospital parking lot until after midnight (to save money of course). I get to hear about how I made my mother pass out, how long the labor was, how I got kicked out of the nursery for crying so much. We kids always pretend to be annoyed, rolling our eyes and exchanging looks with the sisters. But deep down we each love it. It's our story. It's how we entered the world.
I was really sad that Pippa wouldn't get an exciting "how I knew I was in labor" story. But after much prayer and introspection, I knew that it was most important for her to arrive safely - not dramatically. I realized that it was still a story her story, of how she entered the world.
It was the first Sunday in June, and my parents had just arrived in Minnesota. That's one advantage of a planned C-Section - you know exactly when to invite family into town, when the baptism will be, and how much time you have left to wash and fold little onesies.
that's Pippa's head poking out! the joys of a breech baby...
I had worked up until the Friday before, the last day of exams, the last day of the school year. I excused myself from coaching in the state track meet, and had coached my last club volleyball game a month prior. There was no time to nest, no time to think about everything was about to change. A true blessing in retrospect, not to have time to come up with things to worry about.
My parents generously offered to take us out for a "last supper" of sorts, and I chose an authentic local Mexican restaurant: Boca Chica in West Saint Paul, MN. I wasn't allowed to eat after midnight, as I was having abdominal surgery the next day, so I knew I had to make my last meal a good one. I remember feeling content, excited, clueless. Oddly, the one thing that kept running through my head was, 'I'm never going to just sit and watch Netflix again! There will always be another little life I'm responsible for, so there probably won't be time for that...' (Wrong. There is a lot of time to watch Netflix when you're breastfeeding. And babies sleep...a lot.)
packed and ready to leave for the hospital
The next morning we woke up early. The C-Section was schedule for noon on June 3rd, 2013 (incidentally Pippa's due date), but we had to arrive early to check in and get prepped for surgery. I remember being famished, and grumpy at my parents and Justin as they ate their breakfasts.
I was in a great mood the whole time at the hospital, focusing on anything but the fact that I was about to have a giant needle inserted into my spine, and my abdomen cut open. If I acted brave, I would feel brave. If I acted relaxed, I wouldn't be nervous. I tried to focus on the fact that we would soon be meeting our baby girl, but that seemed so surreal - like nothing I could dream up - so I focused on the How I Met Your Mother rerun playing in the hospital room. Oddly enough, the nurses told me that according to the machines I was hooked up to, I was experiencing contractions! To me, they just felt like mild menstrual cramps, and I hadn't thought much about them. Now I wonder if I would have gone into labor that day, or if that was just the start...
Naturally, they were running a bit behind, so we waited and joked to keep our minds off our nerves. When they finally led me into the sterile room where the surgery would take place, I felt a mixture of relief and terror...especially when they asked Justin to leave so he could put on the super attractive cap and robe, and I could get the anesthesia. I would categorize that moment as more uncomfortable than painful, but needles have never bothered me. The hard part was trying to hunch over my huge baby bump so they could insert the needle in my spine. I couldn't believe how nonchalantly the nurses were chatting about their weekends on this most transformative day of my life. I remember getting frustrated when they asked if the anesthesia had worked yet. I knew from getting stitches at a young age that topical anesthesia did not work on me, so I was terrified I would
everything was numb, only to feel them slice through my skin. I was so afraid to say that yes it worked, and no I couldn't feel anything.
Once Justin came into the room, and I heard the familiar voice of my OB, I relaxed, and prayed the surgery would go smoothly and quickly. The very worst part of the C-Section itself for me was the nausea. I was trapped in a spread-eagle position, and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and try to throw up. (For some reason I was afraid to tell the doctor or nurse standing by my head...I didn't want them to think I was a wimp). When I whispered to Justin how miserable I felt, he helped me speak up, and I was mercifully given medication to counteract the nausea. There was the odd sensation of a baby being forcefully (and I mean really forcefully) removed from my body, some pushing and pulling and pressure, but no pain. And then there was the most beautiful sound in the world - my baby's cry. It was 1:09 p.m. Philippa Florence had arrived!
I watched from the table as they cleaned her, weighed her, and measured her - too excited to care that I was being stitched back up. I was astounded by how much dark hair she had. I know I shed a few tears as I watched my husband become a father, holding our baby girl, and bringing her close to my face so I could say hi and meet her, too.
It felt like forever before they closed me up and we were ready to be wheeled back upstairs to our hospital room where my parents were waiting. All I wanted to do was sit up and hold my baby girl! I thank God every day that our hospital in Minnesota was so willing to make a C-Section birth as natural as possible for us. Even though it felt like forever, they really were so quick about getting us back into our corner suite, and getting skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible. Within that first hour they even helped me try breastfeeding for the first time - an awkward and painful experience if we're being honest.
The next few days were a blur of medications, nurses scurrying in and out of our hospital room, talk of colostrum and football holds, photographs, firsts, and lack of sleep. The lack of sleep was my own fault, not Pippa's. She was a good sleeper from the day she was born. I was the one who wanted to stay up all night holding her. By the second night, though, I was more than willing to let the nurses whisk her off to the nursery so I could get some shut-eye. There were the "complications"...she was slightly jaundiced, not gaining as much weight as we wanted, and had a case of froggy legs - hip displaysia from being breech. But overall she was here, she was ours, she was healthy. All in all, we were kept in the hospital for 4 nights - the maximum our insurance would allow, so by that Friday morning, I was more than ready to take Philippa home to our one bedroom apartment about 4 blocks from the hospital.
So that's Pippa's birth story. There is no dramatic water breaking, contractions, or arriving at the hospital only to be sent home. It was as planned a birth as it could be. It almost felt too easy - but I'm grateful for that in every way. It wasn't the story I had imagined and dreamed of, but I love it. It's her story. It's our story.