Noah's Birth Story, Part Two
November 17, 2005
(Have you read Part One? Yeah. You probably want to read that one first.)
The next few minutes were a blur. I stared at Noah, he stared back. I saw that he had hair and looked just like the 4D ultrasound. I'm pretty sure I cried some more.
Everyone in the room was marveling over his size. My doctor talked about the nine pound, 10 ounce baby he'd delivered that morning (a scheduled caesarean) and how he figured that one would be the biggest of the day. Then he told the nurses that he didn't use staples -- he wanted stitches.
I realized that my abdomen was still wide open.
I started to shake, badly. My teeth chattered.
The pediatrician came over to talk to me and said that everything went fine with suctioning the meconium and the cord hadn't caused him any additional distress and Noah looked just fine.
"But we'll be testing his blood sugar in the recovery area," she went on. "Because babies just aren't supposed to be that big."
The hell? Thanks! That's fucking reassuring, I thought to myself.
Out loud, I chattered out a weak little, "Okay."
After what seemed like FOREVER, I was ready to head to the recovery room. I was shaking too badly to hold Noah so they nestled him between my legs. I stared at the top of his head for awhile and then closed my eyes and tried like hell to stop trembling.
And then, full circle-like, I was back in the very same room where I'd labored hours earlier. I heard a nurse tell the woman in the next bed that a delivery room would be ready for her in just a few minutes.
"Ha." I muttered.
I was rolled over on my side and Noah was placed next to my face. The shaking immediately stopped.
I started to tell Jason about this amazing miracle, this CLEAR SIGN OF MY DEEP MATERNAL INSTINCT AND BONDING, when the nurse informed me she'd just added a shot of Demerol to my epidural.
"Oh." I was vaguely disappointed and newly unnerved.
Jason started videotaping again, and while I've refused to watch any of the earlier footage, I've seen this part.
I'm very yellow and puffy. Noah is very red and puffy. I give him some hesitant kisses and then I stare at the camera, looking uneasy and bewildered.
"This is the best part," I slur. "It was all worth it."
I sound like I'm trying to convince myself of that.
I hadn't yet gotten a look at anything other than Noah's squished-up little face, so without thinking I pulled his blanket back so I could see his feet and count his toes. This earned me a rapid reprimand from the nurse, who stopped doing...whatever it was she was doing to the numb lower half of my body to reswaddle the baby.
I was informed that Noah passed the blood sugar test and was just fine.
Then it was time to breastfeed. The nurse pushed me further onto my side and very unceremoniously grabbed my boob and mashed Noah's face against it. The video shows me lifting my arms like I'm just trying to stay out of the damn way.
Noah didn't latch and I gazed critically at my very small boobs and my very big baby and wondered why in the world I thought breastfeeding would ever work for me.
And then, he latched and started sucking. And it hurt and was wonderful and was the weirdest fucking sight I had ever seen.
Jason zoomed the camcorder in on my boob, similarly amazed and possibly creeped out.
I asked him to get me some ice chips, as the oxygen mask I'd worn for hours left me thoroughly parched and miserable. He got them and I shoved a handful in my mouth -- just in time for the nurse to yell at me a second time.
"No!" she shrieked, grabbing the cup from me. "No ice! You'll get nauseous and throw up."
I quickly swallowed the chips I had in my mouth, afraid she'd make me spit them out or something.
She flipped me over so Noah could nurse from the other boob for awhile, and then...he was taken away and I was to be sent to my room without him.
The room was tiny. And I had a roommate. And my roommate had the bed by the window.
For what felt like the hundredth time, I was asked if I could move myself from the gurney to the bed, and for the hundredth time I stubbornly said no.
And suddenly, I was all alone. The curtain was pulled around my bed and I stared at it. I listened to my roommate's horribly nasal voice cackling with her visitors. I tried to wiggle my toes and couldn't. I tried to sleep and couldn't.
So I cried instead. I felt very small and overwhelmed and I wanted Jason and I wanted the baby and I wanted my cell phone and I wanted a do-over without the c-section.
It seemed like hours before I got to see him again, and it seemed like forever before our parents arrived from Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, I managed to convince my nurse that I didn't feel nauseous at all so could I please, please, PLEASE HAVE SOME GODDAMN ICE CHIPS FOR CHRIST'S SAKE ALREADY. She reluctantly agreed and brought me a cup. Which I then hid behind the telephone and sent Jason out for a replacement so I could have ice chips right then and a contraband cup of actual liquid water later.
I called my office and left a series of slightly drunk-sounding messages to my co-workers, and within 30 minutes a bouquet of flowers arrived in my room from my boss.
When dinnertime came around, I lied and said I'd been cleared for a liquid diet tray.
Jason stayed long past visiting hours, but eventually had to leave.
It was just me and Noah.
And my roommate. My horrible, terrible roommate.
She'd just had her third baby by scheduled caesarean the day before. The baby didn't have a name yet, and she instructed the nurses to keep him in the nursery at all times, except when it was time to nurse, so she clearly thought I was crazy for keeping Noah with me all the time.
She was also deeply, deeply distrustful of everyone around her and would do this thing where she asked the same question of anyone she could get to listen -- almost hopeful that she'd get a different answer from one of them.
When I first arrived in the room, she was obsessed with pain medication. As in, she wouldn't take any, because of breastfeeding. Our nurse assured her that the doses of Percoset and Ibuprofen were extremely safe for both her and the baby. Our night nurse assured her of the same thing. She paged the staff pediatrician to ask her too, and spoke to about four people on the phone about it. Still, she continued to turn down medication.
Needless to say, once her epidural fully wore off, she was in terrible pain. I didn't notice because Noah screamed. The. Entire. Night.
(He'd scream all night, every night, as I'd learn. I didn't have enough milk for him, I was stubbornly refusing a pacifier or formula, and I couldn't walk him around because I was stuck in bed with an IV and catheter.)
The next morning, she related the story of her middle-of-the-night attack of terrible pain to our new nurse, the nurse who took our blood pressure and who I don't think spoke English, her obstetrician and pediatrician, and no lie, the guy who brought the breakfast trays.
They all kind of had the same reaction: Well, duh.
I stared at the bottle.
"And with this, I..." I looked at the nurse blankly.
"You...wash with it." the nurse said knowingly, making vague hand-waving motions at waist level.
Finally something clicked and I got it. I think. I mean, I don't think I could give a course on Squeeze Bottle Bathing and You, or anything, but I did okay.
I was allowed to take a shower that afternoon, which caused a minor meltdown when I discovered that Jason has accidentally taken my bag of toiletries home with him the night before, so I had no shampoo and had to use the combination SHAMPOO and BODY WASH abomination offered by the hospital.
(SHAMPOO. AND BODY WASH. TOGETHER IN ONE BOTTLE. GAH.)
(I was also given a new robe, which looked exactly like the old robe, with a strange design that I could not make any sense of even after staring at it for hours and hours, and if anyone can figure out what it's supposed to be I will be forever in your debt.)
At lunchtime, I lied again and upgraded my menu to solid food, and my GOD, beef tips in brown sauce have never tasted so incredibly delicious.
My roommate's latest obsession was with her breast engorgement, because they still hurt after the baby ate so clearly, there was something very, very wrong and her baby was starving and the hospital was trying to kill her because they told her she didn't need a pump, just to give her supply a day or two to regulate itself.
We also got to meet her family, including two of the worst-behaved little boys I have ever seen and a husband who brought them over to MY SIDE OF THE ROOM TO SPANK THEM, while wearing a "World's Greatest Dad" t-shirt.
Our families left Saturday afternoon (after my mother-in-law spent a few hours cleaning my house). Jason fretted over my decision to not have any family stay with us for the first two weeks, and while Noah's nightly screaming fits had me concerned, I stuck to my guns.
Sometime on Saturday, the diarrhea started.
Not mine, of course, but my roommate's.
And OH MY GOD, SHE WOULD NOT SHUT UP ABOUT THE DIARRHEA.
She called people to talk about it. She buzzed the nurse after every run to the bathroom. She refused to flush so the nurse could inspect it. (Which, HELLO, I WOULD LIKE TO PEE TOO, FLUSH THE GODDAMN TOILET.) She spoke to doctors, other nurses, and my mother-in-law.
She said it was "terrifying," because she was convinced that the "stress" of all the "walking" and "sitting" on the toilet and "shitting" was going to cause her internal stitches to rip.
Just take a minute to ponder this logic.
Everyone told her that the stitches? Were not going to rip. That no woman in the history of c-sections ever had her internal stitches rip because of a BAD CASE OF THE RUNS.
My nurse came to check on me at some point in the night and, with dose of stool softener and a smirk, asked me if I had any diarrhea. And then laughed because of the two of us, I was supposed to be the paranoid first-time mother. I smiled sweetly because ta-da! I was doing so well! Am world's greatest mother and c-sectioner!
I later called this nurse back in around 4 am and begged her to take Noah to the nursery or SOMETHING, because I couldn't get him to stop crying and couldn't take it anymore, and I felt like a big fat fucking failure. They wouldn't take crying babies to the nursery, but she agreed to take him anyway and give him a bath just so I could at least get an hour or so of sleep.
(The screaming was from hunger, because the poor baby was starving, and a bottle of formula probably would have saved us all from a lot of grief, but MAN, I was stubborn.)
(Let this be a lesson to you all: BE YE NOT SO SIMILARLY STUBBORN. GIVE YOUR BABY FORMULA IF HE SCREAMS FOR FIVE HOURS STRAIGHT IN THE HOSPITAL AND THEN TAKE A NICE NAP.)
Noah was circumcised on Sunday morning, and I called Jason (who was driving in, and who had just discovered that someone had sideswiped our car in the hospital's parking lot the night before) in tears, because I was sure I could hear Noah crying down the hall and he was going to hate me and damn Jason with his Jewish heritage and damn me for not thinking this was a big deal when CLEARLY, my son was being traumatized.
When he came back, he was sound asleep, as he had apparently slept through the entire thing, and the baby I heard was actually just the baby next door, because again, my miraculous maternal instinct was way, way off.
And despite the non-stop Diarrhea Watch from the next bed, my roommate was being discharged, and she was shocked that they were discharging her in spite of this life-threatening condition.
After she left, the nurses put a hold on my room to ensure that I would have the room to myself that night. They may have also applauded.
While the hour-to-hour and minute-to-minute excitement had certainly slowed down by this point, Jason and I still had regular moments of, "Oh my God, we have a baby!"
Our favorite topic was mostly what an incredibly good-looking baby Noah was. Sure, he had that rashy, splotchy baby skin (which my mother worried was hives, which freaked me out, which was why I stuck to my guns about the no-family-for-two-weeks rule), but he looked so much better than all the wrinkly, pruny old man babies we saw elsewhere on the ward. Probably because he looked about two weeks older than any of those babies. His head was almost perfectly round, save for two small ridges where he'd been pressed against bone during the brief time I tried pushing. His eyes were big and bright, his cheeks were delicious and dimpled, and he sucked his bottom lip in and created an adorable pout.
Jason shooed nurses away when Noah needed a diaper change and handled him like an old pro -- nothing like the man who refused to hold our neighbor's newborns because he was afraid of dropping them. He brought Krispy Kreme donuts and coffee for the nurses' station every day.
On Monday morning, Noah was with the pediatrician when Jason arrived. He'd made the unfortunate choice to check his work email that morning, only to learn that all sorts of problems had erupted over the weekend. He was visibly disappointed at Noah's absence, because "he just makes everything better."
(And I may have melted a little. Okay, a lot.)
It was time for me to go home. The hospital lactation consultant said I was doing just fine, despite the obvious fact that my milk wasn't in, Noah had already lost 15 ounces and my nipples were bloody.
I raided the room, stealing maxi-pads and disposable mesh panties and diapers and wipes and even a pacifier that mysteriously appeared in Noah's bassinet after he returned from his hearing test.
Every nurse and doctor we saw that last day had advice and pointers for us, and they all contradicted each other. Use gauze and Vaseline on the circumcision. No gauze on the circumcision, just Vaseline on the penis. No, just put Vaseline on the diaper. No baths for mom. Yes, baths for mom. Sponge baths for baby. Tub baths for baby. No wipes. Use wipes.
I was really, really happy to go home.
I knew it would only get better.
I was right.