Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"Baby Sally Here!"

So, here I am again, one week later, all cozied up in my bed in the living room, blogging. Here's the big difference:
Sally on the outside!
Sally's snuggled in on her favorite spot, all balled up right in the middle of my chest.  After we nurse, I put her on my shoulder to burp her, and she usually falls asleep.  As she does, though, she squirms her way over to the middle and settles herself into her spot.  I can't even begin to express how happy this little ritual makes me. 

I'd hoped to get some sleep on Tuesday night before the surgery, but nerves, reflux, and frequent trips to the bathroom conspired to keep me up until the wee hours.  At the rather wee hour of 3:30 my alarm went off and Sally's birthday began in earnest.  Sean, Umma and I left the house at 4:30; Baba stayed home with a sleeping Walter.  It was a quiet ride to the hospital, lit by the full, blue moon.

A little girl like Sally comes once in a blue moon.
We arrived at 5:30 and immediately started getting ready for the c-section. Item #1 on my birth plan came up before we could even get the birth plan unpacked.  My nurse insisted on trying to place the IV and was unsuccessful, with lots of painful pushing the needle around before she gave up.  I did my best to keep it together while also communicating that I really, really didn't want another painful, poorly placed IV for this c-section. The charge nurse came in and put me at ease right away.  She explained that they could call up someone from anesthesia or a paramedic if needed, but that they'd certainly place the IV in the inner forearm, right where it was and gave me such trouble when Walter was born.  She asked me to let her give it another try in a spot that would be good for breast feeding and recovery; I did, and she got it in easily on the first try.  My whole body flooded with relief (and IV fluids.)  

Sally was hard to find on the monitor at first, but then her heartbeat came through as strong as ever, and during the many pre-op visits that morning I loved listening to her moving around so vigorously, and enjoying feeling her movements in my womb one last time. After she was born I allowed myself a little sadness about the loss of that feeling--there's nothing quite like it. 

Everyone agreed that my plan of having Sean with me for the first part of the surgery and then having Umma come in when Sean left the OR with Sally was a very good plan indeed, so both of them got gowned up and ready to go. 

The blue scrubs were especially cute on blue-eyed Umma
Before I knew it I was being wheeled down the hall to the OR.  I was alone--they brought Sean in after the spinal block and other pre-op preparations were done.  At first I was worried about that, because he'd held my hand and helped me through the epidural with Walter. But the OR was full of really warm, wonderful women--nurses and anesthesiologists--who immediately put me at ease and literally surrounded me with comfort and encouragement. I rested my head on one of the nurse's shoulders and she hugged me during the whole spinal block procedure, calmly narrating everything that happened and patting my arm affectionately.  I think the spinal block took two tries to get right, but I felt so calm and cared for I barely registered the delay.  It reminded me of day two after Walter was born, how in the middle of everything falling apart Dr. Y. comforted me while I cried and gave me a kiss on my forehead.  There is something about women caring for women in these moments that is precious indeed. 

Dr. M. is not a woman, but he is my dear doc and I was glad indeed to see him in the OR.  He and his team worked very well together and you could tell that they were all engaged and really present, even though it's a routine procedure. It was very different than the feeling in the room when Walter was born.  When that surgery was over, the doc started gossiping with the nurses about office politics.  I'd also made the anesthesiologist hold my hand when Sean left with Walter, so he wasn't monitoring my blood pressure as well as he should have been (which lead to the big blood pressure drop, vomiting, and other complications.) This time the anesthesiologist was on top of my blood pressure the whole time, giving me medicine to raise my blood pressure every time I started feeling a little nauseous.  It was good she was ready and able to do that, because my blood pressure dipped a lot throughout the surgery.  With her proactive help, I was able to get through the whole thing without throwing up (recovery was a different story ... lots of throwing up that first day and night.  But that was, relatively, fine.)

I'd had no idea how different a spinal block is from an epidural.  I couldn't feel anything at all, not even the pain-free tugging and pushing I clearly felt throughout Walter's c-section. I couldn't move my lower body at all, either. Our anesthesiologist narrated the surgery and gave kind and caring encouragement throughout, while Sean held my hand and occasionally peeked at Dr. M.'s progress.  Our anesthesiologist took some rather graphic pictures of the surgery which I've kind of looked at but not very closely.

"Now you'll feel a big tug," she said, and I did feel that one, the tug that brought Sally out into the air right at 8 am.  The second that the air hit her she started to scream.  It was wonderful.  It took a little time and intervention from the pediatrician to get Walter to cry.  Everyone was very impressed with how quickly Sally started crying. Lots of joyful crying and laughing and words of welcome filled the room.  The anesthesiologist confirmed that we did, indeed, have a little girl, which I needed to hear because I wasn't completely convinced until that moment. "I can't tell you for sure until she's measured," she said, "But I think she's quite petite."

That was my impression, too, when Dr. M. held Sally up for me to see.  A very little baby, very angry, looking very very much like me when I was a little, angry baby.  I was relieved to hear her weight-- 7 lbs, 5 oz--which is small but not too small at all.  She's not a very long baby, either ... only 18 inches tall.  And she loves being all scrunched up into a ball, which makes her seem even smaller.  The "Sally Bug" nickname fits very well indeed.  

So angry!
Sally passed her first tests and exams with flying colors at the warming station in the OR.  When the pediatrician was done with the initial assessment, they wrapped her up and handed her to Sean who put her right next to me for our first snuggle.  She was still crying like a champ, and blowing little amniotic fluid bubbles.  I kissed and kissed her head and as Sean and I snuggled her she started to calm down, which surprised me.  Sally continues to respond very well to being comforted--we've only had to break out one of the "5 S's" from happiest baby on the block ("Shhhhhhh.")

Snuggle bug, right from the start
Sean followed Sally to the nursery where they got her a little more cleaned up, poked her heel, got her footprints, etc. Umma came in and held my hand while Dr. M. put me back together. Baba, having had breakfast with Walter and dropped him off at daycare, arrived at the hospital during the surgery and joined Sean in the nursery.   He told me later that Sean was completely focused on Sally--it was like there was no one else in the room, no one else in the world.  Clear symptoms of a dad in love.

Far from office gossip, Dr. M. was giving instructions and narrating his work throughout the surgery, totally focused.  I heard him describe the stitch he was using, and the nurse say quietly, admiringly, "Beautiful." Always a nice thing to overhear.  Everyone involved in the surgery was very pleased and relieved. Very quickly I found myself being wheeled back to my room, settled back in and given my sweet Sally to nurse.  

Nursing Sally for the first time

I don't remember how that first nursing went, honestly. It's a blur ... I think we had some trouble with her tongue pushing my nipple away, but when she latched she latched surprisingly well, and I knew I wouldn't have the same nipple damage I had after my first attempts to nurse Walter. We got lots of great visits from the lactation consultant (another benefit of the planned c-section and being in the hospital during the week rather than over the weekend.)  She admired Sally's perfect latch and my calm approach when faced with getting-started problems.  She helped me remember how to do a football hold, which is shockingly easy to do with a petite baby and it felt great to have some options for varying her position.  

I am pretty good at being calm during nursing, and even keeping perspective when things aren't going well.  But it's also something I worry about a lot, because it's hard not to jump from whatever the current problem is to the possibility that I won't be able to nurse or will have to stop nursing early, and even though I know that's not the end of the world, it's a possibility that makes me sad.  There have been a number of those worrisome moments with Sally; great latch notwithstanding, it's been hard and it continues to be hard. Sally is jaundiced and the bilirubin makes her very, very sleepy.  When she wakes up (or when we wake her up) to nurse she is usually very tired, very hungry, and very angry. Once we get started, it's great, but getting started is a real struggle.

But there's already been a lot to celebrate, too.  My milk came in with very little fanfare on the evening of the second day, which is very early for a c-section (my milk came in on day 4 with Walter.)  I seem to have more than enough for her but not so much that I'm particularly engorged.  I have to pump a very little bit at times to get soft enough for her to latch, and we've used eyedroppers of expressed breast milk to encourage Sally and give her hope when she's having trouble and frustrated. No need to supplement with formula--her weight loss has been significant, but not enough to make anyone worried. Today her poop is yellow and seedy, which means she's getting good, high fat hindmilk.  So many things going well ... I am still worried, but feeling good about our chances.

We stayed at the hospital for three days; we could have chosen to stay for a fourth, but we were ready to go home. Low points included a bad choice on my part regarding pain medication (I chose not to take it when I should have ... and then remembered how important it is to stay ahead of the pain rather than treat it "as needed.")  There was also an almost hilariously bad personality mismatch with one of our nurses ... I say "almost" because it made those seven hours pretty awful for me and Sally, but even while it was happening it was kind of funny.  She was very high strung, very anxious, with non-stop unhelpful 2am talking and prone to making kind of dramatic disparaging statements regarding the temperament of our precious newborn daughter in response to trivial setbacks.  Sean does a pretty great impression of this.    

Highlights include all of our other nurses, who were absolutely wonderful, especially a nurse who had a very similar birth experience as I had with Walter.  She understood both my worries and my joy coming into Sally's birth, and she seemed to really love Sally, too, putting extra time and effort into getting good pictures of her and taking her to the nursery so I could get a nap and then Sean and I could have a romantic dinner together. 

The bug's first photo shoot, with photos by very patient nurse

The greatest highlight of all, by far, was Walter's visit on Thursday afternoon. He's always happy to be with Umma and Baba, but he was starting to get a little desperate for Mama and Dada.  "Mama car!" he said, weeping, when he saw my car on Thursday morning and no Mama to drive it.  We talked to him on the phone, including a call to him at day care shortly after Sally was born.  He was so excited and happy on the phone: "Love you, Mama! Love you, Dada! Love you, Baby Sally!!!" We'd originally planned to wait until day 3 for his visit, thinking I might not be well enough before then, but by Thursday afternoon the catheter and the IV were out and I was looking and feeling pretty good.  And Sean and I were both feeling very anxious and desperate to see Walter, too.

We got some good advice from the lactation consultant about Walter's visit: when we knew they were close to the hospital, we took Sally to the nursery. That way, Walter got to see and visit with Mama and Dada without the new baby, first. Walter was happy to see us, but immediately asked for baby Sally.  Walter and Baba went with Sean to get Sally from the nursery. Walter was nervous and excited.

Walter sees his sister for the first time.
Back at the room, we took some family pictures. Sally started to cry and want to nurse, and since getting her going on nursing is kind of a production, things got a little frantic for a short time.  Walter was overjoyed to meet his sister.  He likes to whisper "Baby Sally Baby Sally" and tell her secrets in what sounds like parseltongue.  We watched him trying to figure out the best way to interact with her physically. He errs on the side of gentle caution (but occasionally needs reminding to hug with less force, stroke her ears with one finger and not pinch, etc.) He sat with me on the hospital bed and was very gentle with me, too.  

While restrained and careful, Walter also radiated joy and giddy energy.  He danced and sang around the room, occasionally very cheerfully calling out for more crackers (Daddy shared his Cheez-Its.) He clapped and beamed at us.  Sean helped him to hold Sally in his lap and it was amazing to watch him process the moment: feeling so happy and excited, and at the same time nervous and wanting desperately to do it right.
"I can't believe I'm holding my sister!"
Walter presented Sally with a birthday card from his day care classroom (complete with classmate handprints.)  He also gave her a little monkey Umma helped him pick out.  Sally gave Walter a Curious George doll, which he was delighted with at first, but then he turned introspective.  After a minute of careful thought he offered to give the George doll to Sally.  He was quite relieved when we explained that George really was a gift for him.  Then he offered Sally some of his Cheese-Its, and was confused (but also a little relieved) when we explained that she couldn't have any.

We decided to end the visit while everyone was still happy (and before Walter could somehow trigger a code blue by pressing all the buttons in the room.)  It was short but it was amazing.  I wish I could better articulate what it felt like to have my whole family together that way.  It was something like this:

Totally geeking out
We're so proud of Walter.  He's navigating this huge transition with a great deal of joy, patience and a positive outlook. It's clearly wearing him out--he's exhausted at the end of the day.  But he manages all the same to bring the best of himself to all these new situations.  And the best of Walter is astoundingly loving and good.  

Tonight Walter was so tired he just kept self-destructing.  He threw his plate of food on the floor, then helped clean it up, then said "I'm sorry" so sadly we felt like maybe we should be apologizing to him. He just seemed borderline miserable all night. But he also sang his new "Baby Sally" song and included her name with great joy in his "God bless" prayer list. After dinner I held Walter in my lap for the first time in months, wrapped my arms around him and cried and cried.  He was not alarmed by this at all, just snuggled in, stroked my arm, and watched The Muppets. 

Lots of feelings these days.  But we are weathering them together. 

The rest of our hospital stay was pretty uneventful: my healing and progress started strong and continued to be good throughout.  The vomiting and nausea was annoying but wore off with the anesthetic. The catheter gave me flashbacks and worries but it wasn't in very long at all. The IV was perfectly placed and gone very quickly, too.  I was up and walking just a few hours after the surgery.  I got my appetite back and heartily enjoyed any and all food that came my way, although the hospital's definition of "burrito" was pretty amusing:

This is NOT a burrito
I left the hospital looking about five months pregnant (I estimate that's about 2 months less pregnant than I looked on the day we took Walter home.)  And I felt ... good.  Like walking down the hall and out to the car was probably not going to kill me. Sally cried getting into her carseat for the first time and then fell asleep, and then woke up and regarded us and her situation calmly and with interest. 

 Umma and Baba took Walter and Hank out for a walk so that we could get settled in.  When they got back from their walk we all greeted each other with great joy. Hank the Dog was as happy and relieved as I've ever seen him, and gave me very loving, gentle licks on my arm, clearly communicating the dog equivalent of "Thank God you're alright.  You had me worried."

"Another baby for me to fret over.  I think I love her."
Umma and Baba headed home on Monday, taking Hank with them for the week.  Sean is home with me and Sally this week. Baba will be back next week when Sean returns to work. Then Sally and I will head down to Crick for a week with Umma and Baba and then ... a few weeks of just me and Sally (and Hank) together during the day. I think I'll be in great shape and ready for the challenge by then. I feel almost well enough, but not quite, to manage it now.  My feet are still super swollen and I'm feeling more abdominal pain as I ween myself of the narcotics  But I'm getting there. Tonight I changed her diaper for the first time and it only took 4 tries to get it right (to be fair, a certain baby kept peeing as soon as I got the new diaper on.) 

This post has taken me all day to write, which means I didn't sleep while the baby slept, so I'd better try to do that, now.  It was a good day.  One blog post, lots of poopy diapers (take that, jaundice!), a visit from members of the congregation, a shower for Mama, a bath for Sally, lots of nursing, lots of snuggling.  

Welcome to the family, Sally Bug! As Walter says, "Baby Sally here!" And we are glad, indeed.

Proud Mama, beautiful children
Bonus photo to blow your mind:

Look at the picture on the screen and witness a quantum singularity in the space time continuum.


Stepmomof3 said...

Love this with all my heart. A devoted reader of your blog and an equally adoring friend, I want to thank you for each detail. I can't have my own baby as you know and instead of feeling my usual ache while reading this, I felt such JOY because it is YOU, my Annie. I so badly want to visit. I will keep you updated. I love you so. And Sally, welcome to the world. Marvelous things await you.

Anonymous said...

Adorable children and prayers of thanksgiving for a safe entry into the world for Sally and a much better experience this time for Mama.