Friday, February 27, 2009


Tonight I held Lila in my arms, rocking her because she was cranky. We had retreated to her room, drawn the blinds, and rocked. It works like a charm on her. She was wearing only a diaper, resulting from the fact that she spit up all over the outfit she was wearing and peed all over the outfit before that. As I sat there with her and she calmed, the quiet left me to my thoughts, a rarity when you’re the mother of three small children. She was lying on my chest and I noticed how she’s grown since she was born, when she was a tiny newborn that fit so neatly inside my tummy. Seeing her in only her diaper further reminded me of her newborn stage, which inevitably leads me to think about her birth—hands down my proudest accomplishment.

When I was pregnant with Mason, I had romanticized notions about childbirth. Sure, I expected it to be hard. I figured it would be painful, even excruciating. But in the end, I envisioned myself holding a little bundle of joy, sweaty from the effort, but smiling all the same.

This is not how it went down. At all.

Mason was born a purple, floppy baby. He didn’t move, he didn’t cry, he didn’t even breathe. People rushed in faster than you could imagine, working to force air into his tiny body. And as soon as they did, he was whisked away. My first meeting with him was not the picturesque, triumphant scene I had envisioned. He was 14 hours old, I was still on IV medications, and he was in the NICU. Understandably, you have to be super clean to go into the NICU, so you wash your hands outside and go into another area to don a sterile gown before you are granted entry. As I was pushing my hands into the gown I heard him—he was screaming—and I knew, just knew that was my baby crying like that. The nurse wouldn't let me pick him up. She said it would agitate him more. My IV battery died within five minutes of arrival, and the mean nurse sent me back to my room for charging. She was so brutally mean, I was scared to go back. When I finally did, later that evening, Mason was still screaming and there was a new nurse. She suggested I pick him up, and I happily obliged. He immediately stopped crying and for all intents didn't cry again during his NICU stay.

I was ready to go before he was, and I had to leave the hospital without him. This could be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Again, I had the vision of wheeling out to the door with my baby, and the nurse giving us well wishes and bidding us farewell. Instead, Rey and I walked out alone. My pillow was tucked under my arm and I trailed a little behind Rey. A nurse saw me in the parking lot and she knew my story after taking one look at me, experience I guess. She said, “You have to leave your baby here, don’t you.” I nodded and broke down, then and there. She hugged me. I cried more. It was such an act of kindness and understanding—I will never forget it.

When Mason was five days old, we brought him home. And eventually the memories of the experience faded, dulled a little, but the pain will always be tucked away in me somewhere. Soon I was expecting again, and started reinventing my vision of the perfect birth I felt I’d been robbed of.

But the theme of Cole’s birth turned out to be “expect the unexpected.” My labor was quick, very quick. I arrived at the hospital fully dilated and no sooner had I gotten into a room than they were rushing me to the OR for an emergency c-section because his heart rate was dropping.

I had to be put under general anesthesia due to the emergent nature of it all. To go to sleep pregnant and to wake up not pregnant results in feelings not easily explained. I was delighted to hear he was perfectly healthy. It was seven hours before I was to meet him for the first time, merely because they were too busy to bring him to my room. In retrospect I should have been more persistent and demanded they bring him. Hindsight

The c-section was very hard on me. The physical recovery was long and the emotional recovery was even longer. No one understood why I was upset; after all I had a healthy baby. But I was a very unhealthy mother. And mothers matter too. I couldn’t help but think ahead to the third child we had always planned to have. I did not want to experience another c-section, and the unfortunate reality is that in our area, once you have had a c-section it’s tough to avoid another one. I had thought our hospital had a “ban” on VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean) but I never cared much because never in a million zillion years did I think I’d deliver Cole by c-section. Soon I learned there was no ban, just a real difficulty in finding a doctor to attend one. And so my research began.

I had no idea when Rey and I would decide to have another baby, but from very shortly after Cole was born I knew I would have a VBAC. I was bound and determined, hell bent, if you will. I just needed to find a doctor to agree with it, and I would do the rest.

Before I knew it, I was pregnant again. The little plus sign showed up on the pregnancy test, and Lila’s genesis was happening via rapidly multiplying cells. Enter Dr. B. My sister was also pregnant at the time, and it was her vanity that led me to him. Ironically, she chose him for her OB care because she was having a planned c-section and she had heard that his closure left the most minimal scar. BUT, it just so happened that he also did VBACs.

At that point, I didn’t care who the doctor was, so long as he had a pulse and did VBACs. But it turns out Dr. B. was hands down, unequivocally the best of the nine OBs I had seen over the course of my three pregnancies (my record number of doctors is another story in itself). He sat with me for hours during my labor, reassuring me when she would have heart decels, telling me that they were perfectly normal and she was fine. He was wonderful. Lila’s birth was perfect. I finally got to live my dream of holding my new baby moments after her birth.

My accomplishment was quickly obvious inasmuch as I was the talk of the nurses in the hospital. I got several “Oh you’re the VBAC mom!” comments, and lots of questions from them ranging from “How did you get the doctor to agree to it?” to “Weren’t you scared?” Both questions struck me as equally dumb. But I felt great. Happy, elated… and a little sad for my boys about how their first few days on earth went down.

As I held my baby girl tonight, I watched the rise and fall of her belly and she slept in my arms. I reflected and relived all the emotions from the days each of my three children entered this world. They were all so vastly different. I honor the painful and the proud, traumatic and the triumphant, the sweet and the sour. Which trust me, is not an easy thing.

But nothing worth doing is ever easy, right?

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