Shortly after I was laid down on the table and had the catheter placed (which I did not feel at all this time, THANK GOD, because feeling the catheter through a failed epidural was easily the most physically painful part of Lorelai's birth), I was hit by a wave of nausea. "I'm feeling sort of nauseous," I said, which is Polite Patient code for "Someone get me a bowl because I'm gonna ralph in about two seconds and if it gets in my hair I'm gonna be pissed." The anesthesiologist was on it, pushing something anti-nausea-y into my IV, and the feeling was gone as quickly as it came on.
Kevin came into the OR soon after that. Last time, they already had me opened up by the time he got in; this time, I guess because it wasn't an emergency C-section, they waited till he was in the room before they started.
Once he was there, I was okay. I won't say I was totally fine, but I wasn't alone anymore, he was holding my hand and as cheesy as it sounds, I was able to draw strength from him. He was calm and excited to meet our baby girl, and I was able to pull some of that into myself and push some of the panic back. (Probably the happy drugs had started to work too.) Things got started on the other side of the drape, and I honestly wasn't paying a lot of attention to what was going on, but I know the doctor and Paula and the nurses were chatting and it wasn't the dead silence of Lorelai's birth. I do remember the surgeon telling me he was going to make the first cut, because I'd asked him to tell me that, but after that I mostly just remember lying there, watching Kevin watching me, trying to focus on the fact that we were about to meet Kaylee.
The surgeon was tall, over six feet, and Paula is probably only about 5'4". When it came time for her to push on my belly to help get the baby out, I heard her say, "Can we lower the table so I can get better leverage? This baby is really high and really wedged in there." Then she said, "Erin, you're going to feel a lot of pressure. Like, a lot of pressure. Just hang in there for me."
She wasn't kidding. I'm pretty sure she had to climb on top of me to push that kid out, because all of a sudden all the air left my lungs, the blood rushed to my head, and it felt like someone was sitting on my diaphragm. Someone said, "Hey, Dad, peek over the drape if you want to see us pull her out." To my complete surprise, Kevin actually did stand up and peer over. He's a bit squeamish about medical stuff -- well, maybe squeamish isn't the right word. It's not like he passes out at the sight of blood. But he never had any intention of looking between my legs as the baby came out if I'd delivered vaginally, he didn't want to cut the cord either time, he's perfectly content to let the doctors do the doctor-y things and stay in the dark himself. So I was really surprised when he stood up, because I thought it would freak him out to see me wide open on the table, having a person pulled out of my guts. I'm actually really jealous he got to see it, because I would have loved to, and if I'd known he was going to look I'd have asked him to get video so I could see it too. (Next time, for sure.)
The pressure lifted, my lungs refilled, and I heard this tiny little coughing sound. "Is that her?" I asked Kevin, and then she cried, and I may not remember Lorelai's first cries but you'd better believe I was paying attention this time and I will never forget the sound of that beautiful, pissed-off wail.
Someone called out, "Look at that hair! Erin, she has so much hair, and it's dark and curly!" (It's not curly. It may have looked curly when it was wet and goopy, but now it's stick straight just like mine. So was Lorelai's, though, so it's possible it'll turn curly later. But I digress.) I didn't think I was going to get to see her until she'd been cleaned off, but on the way to the warming table whoever was holding her stopped to hold her up so I could see her. She was purple and angry and she looked just like Lorelai. I'd wondered how it would be possible for me to love another baby as much as I love Lorelai, even though I knew that of course I would, and sure enough, I took one look at that squalling naked child and my heart split in two, with equal amounts of love for both of them. "Oh," I said. "Kaylee!"
They wiped her off, bundled her up, and handed her to Kevin. Before he even got to me, I was freeing my right arm from the blanket (I think I left my other arm under it, because I was freezing -- if you've never had a spinal block, there's no way to really explain the bone-deep cold that you get) and when he placed her on me, I wrapped my arm around her, touching her face, and I turned my head into the blanket she was wrapped in and just let the tears soak into it. These were good tears, mostly, tears of happiness and relief. The bad part was done, I'd managed to get through it and I had my Kaylee in my arms and no one was telling me I couldn't hold her, no one was pulling my arm away, and Kevin was there and nothing else in the room mattered.
The anesthesiologist took the camera from Kevin to get our first family photo.
I have mixed feelings on the existence of this picture. On the one hand, it's our first picture together, but on the other hand, on the other side of that blue drape my insides are exposed to the world, and that's freaky to me.
The hospital had introduced a new computer system a few months ago, and it seems no one really has a grasp on it yet, because they were trying to input Kaylee's information and were really struggling with it. This would be a theme throughout my entire hospital stay, but this time I didn't mind because they couldn't take her to the nursery until they got the info entered, so I got extra time with her and Kevin while the nurses fought with the computer. In fact, by the time Kevin and Kaylee left the OR, the doctor was almost done. I'd been worried about what I would feel like, lying there being stitched up without my husband or my baby with me, but as it turned out I didn't have enough time for it to matter. The anesthesiologist told me, "I just gave you the second half of your sleepy meds," and I said, "No, I don't want to go to sleep, I don't want to be knocked out," and I must have been more forceful than I'd intended because very quickly she said, "Sorry, I mean the happy meds, but they might make you drowsy. I'm not going to put you under, don't worry." Then she made small talk for a few minutes, asking me about Lorelai and what the new baby's name was, and about five minutes after Kevin and Kaylee left, they took down the drape and wheeled me into recovery.
As soon as I was in there, I asked my nurse for water. She said I had to wait a few minutes, and I tried really hard not too be cranky with her about that. Finally, she let me have some water, and it was the most glorious water I've ever had in my entire life.
After what seemed like ages but was probably only 15-20 minutes (during which time I focused on trying to move my toes, which were getting the feeling back in them, and tried not to make myself sick guzzling water), they brought Kaylee and Kevin in with the lactation consultant so I could nurse. The LC had to stay with the baby because she was the one who'd brought her in, which was a little annoying because I didn't really need anything from her (I knew what I was doing and Kaylee figured it out pretty quickly, so I didn't need any assistance) and I'd rather not have had to make small talk with her, but it wasn't that big a deal. Then they took Kaylee back to get her bath, and I was taken to my room. Which ended up being the exact same room I was in after Lorelai's birth. Go figure.
My postpartum nurse, Andrea, was amazing. She brought me extra heated blankets, helped me change into a nursing nightgown I'd brought so that I wouldn't have to wear that awful hospital gown when Lorelai came to visit, and told me she doesn't believe in liquid diets after C-sections and brought me graham crackers and peanut butter and a big cup of ice.
Kevin's parents had Lorelai while we were in the hospital, and they brought her to visit that evening. I'd been very firm in my desire to have a few minutes with just Lorelai and Kevin and Kaylee and me before any other visitors came in, so they hug out in the waiting room for a bit while Lorelai came in to meet her baby sister.
She was not at all cranky about having her picture taken, as you can see.
I was afraid the hospital bed and IV would freak her out, but in true Lorelai fashion, she was unfazed. She pointed to my arm and said, "Mama gots a boo-boo and a Band-Aid," then went to the corner where her present from Kaylee was sitting in a giant glittery pink Disney Princess bag. (We got her a Baby Rapunzel doll for the baby to give her. She was interested in it for about four seconds and hasn't touched it since we've been home.)
I was so glad to see Lorelai. I'm sure it was partly the hormones, but I'd been desperate to see her and once I had I felt like I could finally relax completely and let go of all the stress and anxiety.
"You guys, I'm HAPPY. I'd forgotten what this feels like," I tweeted that evening. Which is a really sad thing, really, but I'd been so sad and anxious and freaked out for so long, I'd forgotten what it felt like to be happy without any of those other feelings hovering in the background. (I realized later that part of the reason I felt so just-plain-happy was that the happy drugs they'd given me during surgery had probably finally fully kicked in. But whatever. I don't care why I felt so happy, I was just relieved to finally feel that way again.)
The rest of the story isn't all that interesting. They let me get up and move around my room that night, I got to shower the next morning, and I never had to be on a full liquid diet, which was awesome. We got them to release us a day early, because we were bored and the stupid bed kept buzzing and inflating in random places (supposedly this is a bedsore prevention feature, but it was really annoying) so I couldn't sleep at all. I had to talk to someone from the mental health department because the "Are you at risk for postpartum depression?" test they gave me said that yes, I was a high risk. (In my defense, all the questions started with "In the past 7 days, have you felt..." and since the previous few days had basically been the most stressful and tear-filled days of my life, I'd had to answer that yes, I'd cried, I'd felt overwhelmed, I'd had no appetite. I explained this to the nurse and to the social worker lady, and said I have been seeing a therapist and will continue seeing her if I feel like I'm struggling, so they signed off on my leaving.)
The day we left, Andrea The Amazing Nurse was in the nursery instead of on postpartum duty, but she came to say goodbye and thank me for being such an easy patient. It was all I could do not to burst into tears and spill the entire story of the past few months when I thanked her for being awesome. Seriously, I want to buy that woman a unicorn. She was that awesome.
The next few days were a little rougher -- I hadn't needed any pain meds other than Motrin in the hospital, but when I got home I did end up having to take Vicodin at night. We got home on Sunday, and on Monday I felt awful. I'd overdone it on Saturday because the pain meds from the surgery were still in my system, so I walked around a lot ore than I probably should have, and then coming home Sunday meant getting in and out of the car and doing stairs. Kevin's parents were kind enough to keep Lorelai until Tuesday afternoon, so we were able to go to Kaylee's newborn appointment at the pediatrician and back to the hospital to have my staples removed without having to worry about her being bored or cranky, and Torg was with our trainer until Friday so we had a nice long break from his ridiculousness and multiple-walks-a-day requirements. (It was really weird not having him in the house though. We've gotten used to having him underfoot and it was weird to sit on the sofa without anyone jumping on us.)
I still have a lot of Feelings about Kaylee's birth (and the fact that any future children will also be C-section babies) that I'm processing. I have an appointment with my therapist next week to talk about it, because while I do feel much better about this experience than I felt about Lorelai's birth (and a lot better about it than I'd thought I would if you'd asked me beforehand), and I don't feel nearly as anxious and stressed as I did in the early postpartum days of last time, I do want to keep an eye on myself because even though I make light of my at-risk-ness for PPD because of the way the questions were phrased, I know I am at a higher risk then a lot of women, given my history after Lorelai's birth and during this pregnancy. I don't ever want to feel the way I did at the end of this pregnancy ever again, and if avoiding that means continuing in therapy, then continue I shall.
But overall, the whole experience was much better than I'd anticipated, and in the end, I got this baby. Scary and awful as a lot of things about it were, you know I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat for her.
So there it is. Kaylee's birth. In a semi-timely fashion. I may not have gotten a single thing written in the baby book yet, but at least I got her birth story written before she turned 12.