There are many weird things about already knowing the when/how of giving birth. But the anxiety I felt Thursday morning was as great–if not greater–than last time, probably because on the other side, I knew I’d have not only Luis and I and our new baby to be concerned with, but also Maya.
I barely slept the night before — surprise, surprise — and when the alarm went off at 5 AM, I was anxious to hop in the shower and get going.
The whole check-in process was fairly uneventful but two students from a local university were going to be watching the whole time — from pre-op, during the op, post-op, recovery … so that was a bit strange.
I remembered that I’d walk myself to the operating room alone (Luis couldn’t be there for the spinal) but somehow had blanked out on just HOW BRIGHT the room is. I mean, it was bright. And there’s something weird (and inherently wrong) about hopping onto the table to get cut open.
This time the spinal hurt a lot going in — well, I guess more so the numbing before the spinal (which feels like a small electric shock). I don’t remember pain last time, just anxiety … and this time there was both, but I also think I was in a state where I would feel pain, real or otherwise. Carmen, my nurse, was amazing and held my hand and told me it would be OK. Within a second I was numb from the waist down and they’d rolled me over to begin surgery.
Like last time, they inserted a catheter and then began to cut through my previous scar and scar tissue. I could hear my doctor talking — “bladder,” “scar tissue looks great, Melissa,” “he’s way up in there” but I was in such a fog none of it really registered.
By the time Luis was able to come in, the tugging had begun and my doctor told me I’d feel one big push on my upper belly–closer to lungs/ribs–where baby boy was snugly tucked in.
“Get your camera ready, Dad!” Luis, who had been rubbing the side of my face and holding my hand to soothe me, stood up and got in position to shoot pictures of our son being born.
Then, with a small cry, there he was … Benjamin Diego, born into this world at 9:29 a.m. I couldn’t get a good glimpse of him at first, but he looked exactly like Maya and that’s what stuck with me.
The other wild thing was, Ben had his eyes open most of the time we were in the operating room. It blew us away. It was like he literally came into this world with eyes wide open … ready for whatever the world has in store for him. It was love at first sight and, in spite of being in a cold, sterile environment, I drew in only breaths of his sweet newborn scent. Luis and I had both cried when Maya was born but this time, neither of us cried–we were just elated and on cloud nine.
Luis held him close to me and I was able to get some skin-to-skin with him before they left for his bath and I got sewn up. This time it took significantly longer … but I just kept thinking, on the other side of this awaits my son. My family. I chatted with the surgical team while they did their work and in no time was in recovery, holding my son. My sweet, beautiful son.
Strange Operating Room Snippets
I got to see my placenta — gross as it sounds, it was amazing to see it and realize it is literally the sac of life. Ben grew in there, from a little zygote to a full-fledged human being. It was a huge, gross mass and I couldn’t fathom eating or encapsulating it — especially in that moment — but it was still incredible to bear witness to such an amazing organ.
The students were clearly examining my open abdomen cavity because I heard my OB pointed out my ovaries and Fallopian tubes. Just a wee bit unsettling … !
As I’d mentioned here, we couldn’t agree on a name and I had a feeling it would be an 11th hour call: totally the case, as we didn’t officially name him til the car ride to the hospital!
So how did we come up with Ben’s name? Well, Benjamin is my grandpa’s name, my mom’s dad who died when she was nine. In Judaism we name after someone deceased and I always knew I wanted to use a B name (for Grandpa Ben) or a J name (for my friend Jason). Luis and I couldn’t agree on a J name we both liked, but Ben was the stand-out, and my mom and dad cried when they heard the name we chose. As for middle name, Diego has been the name Luis has been obsessed with my whole pregnancy.
While I wasn’t keen on it as a first name (hello, Dora the Explorer!) we were able to agree on it as a middle name. I love Benjamin Diego because it’s a strong name … a name that can carry him easily into adulthood and his professional life.
What’s funny is now Maya calls him “BenDiego” as in, one word! It’s pretty cute. And we’ve been calling him Benjamin Button, my family calls him Benny Boo Boo, and I’ve also been calling him Benji Boy. Lots of cute nicknames for this little nugget!
The first thing Maya said to me when my parents brought her to the hospital was, “Baby brother is out of your belly already?” I had to laugh … “already”?! 🙂 She stared at him and asked to touch his head … but otherwise didn’t seem that intrigued by this little guy. She was more concerned with my IV and my scar (she happened to be there when a nurse was checking me out). We gave her a present from Ben and she seemed unfazed.
My parents and sister were with her while we were at the hospital and they got a lot of insider scoop to share with us to help make the transition to big sisterhood a little easier. Apparently Maya would change the subject if Ben came up with them, asking instead to see pictures and videos of Baby Maya … exhibiting some jealousy, which was to be expected. So we listened to that and tried not to speak much about Ben in front of her at the hospital, letting her drive the car, so to speak. And by us easing back, each day following that initial day, she grew a little more interested, asking to touch his jammies, his feet … commenting to us that he has no eyebrows. The real moment of connection seemed to happen when he peed on his face during a diaper change. She is still talking about that today, and I’m sure she will be telling random strangers that, too!
After a special trip to the AirZoo with my parents Saturday where she went on two big-girl rides, she kissed him and it was THE sweetest moment. And by the time we pulled in the driveway Sunday on our way home, she said, “Can baby brother play with me? Can I sing to him?” She was ecstatic when we picked her up at school yesterday and wanted everyone to see “BenDiego” and she wants to see him in the morning when he’s sleeping or eating. She covers him with blankets when he’s in the bouncy seat and has given him his paci when it’s fallen — nurturing gestures she would do to her own baby dolls. While I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight, I have confidence these two will be besties in no time.
Breastfeeding, Round Two
Ben did great nursing from the get-go. It’s amazing how they just instinctively know what to do. He literally began to suckle as soon as Luis put him on my chest in recovery. And, though it had been a while, I surprised myself knowing what to do. The first few days were tough as baby gets colostrum (“liquid gold”) and it is often not enough to satisfy them. Ben was one of those kids who needed more, so I was grateful our hospital has a milk bank on site and we were able to give him a little donor milk after his feedings.
My milk came in on Sunday and, after a couple tough starts where he wouldn’t nurse (forcing me to pump as 1) I didn’t want to harm supply early on and 2) I didn’t want him to starve!!) we finally got back on track last night. Today we went to Ben’s well-baby visit and he weighed the same as he did the day we left the hospital (7 lbs 1 oz, 8% less than his birth weight) and he should be back to his birth weight within two weeks of his birth so we’re on a mission to gain weight. To help us achieve this goal, we met with the (wonderful!) lactation consultants at the hospital. The LC watched me nurse for a full session and then weighed Ben after each side, to see how much he is getting. It looks like everything is going great — just he needs to eat more often to help increase my supply and get him plumping up.
I am determined to not give up this time … though I did a combo of nursing, pumping and formula with Maya, I feel like I only half-assed it with her. For example, I would stop nursing if she fell asleep or seemed disinterested. I didn’t often wait for the second let-down when pumping — I was impatient. This time, I’ll try harder — at least these eleven weeks I am home. I refuse to beat myself up, though, if I need supplement so be it … but I do want to give it my all.
I’ve never experienced a vaginal birth and I’m sure the recovery from that is far worse, but a C-section recovery isn’t a walk in the park, either. Even while you FEEL like your abdomen is “put together,” your body is still healing and the incision area is very sensitive and tender. I hate that I can’t pick Maya up and hold her (she can snuggle with me but that’s about it for the next couple of weeks). Getting up out of bed can be horribly painful and sometimes I feel like I will tear the scar (highly unlikely but still). Peeing post-catheter burned a lot and you still bleed a ton with a C-section — up til 6 weeks post-partum, just like with a vaginal birth.
All in all, I feel pretty good.
I was surprised at how quickly my stomach has flattened out already. Still there’s a ways to go before it’s actually flat … but the difference between Thursday morning before we left for the big day and Monday night (see below) is quite amazing.
The scale is down nearly 13 lbs. I gained 34, so I have a long road ahead … but between eating right, nursing, and then getting back to the gym at the 6-week mark, I hope it will fall off. And truthfully, when I look at Ben and smell his sweet baby scent, the scale really seems insignificant.
Our world has been rocked in the most incredible of ways. It is hard not being able to give Maya 100% of my attention and I’m especially grateful to have such a hands-on husband because I really couldn’t do this without him.
And that’s Ben’s birth story … the first chapter of a million ahead. Being a family of four is an adjustment and we’re learning the ropes day by day. We will make mistakes along the way, for sure. But at the end of the day, we are doing our best and that’s all we can strive for.
Maya made me a mom … and Ben completes our family. I feel so unbelievably blessed.