January 30, 2011
Motherhood started unexpectedly for me at 4:11 AM on January 30, 2011.
Unexpectedly – because Harry, my son, entered the world 7 weeks earlier than his due date. I guess it should not have been totally unexpected since 50% of lupus pregnancies end before 40 weeks. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20.
Being a first time mom, the unknown is usually filled with two things — excessive planning and unrealistic expectations. I spent so much time planning and picturing a certain kind of birth that it was difficult for me to switch gears and accept what happened.
I went to birthing classes focused on natural birth and mothering. I resolved not to resort to any drugs. I imagined a blissful labor. I dreamed of holding my son just seconds after birth. I planned to breastfeed right away. I pictured having him fall asleep on me. None of this happened. None. With many new moms, the birth rarely goes as planned but mine was just so far from what I had expected.
It was a quiet Saturday afternoon. My husband went into work and I was starting to unpack some of my purchases for the nursery when the pain started. Not that I would ever know what labor pains are like but from what I have read, this was nothing like it. The pain was not in my abdomen but in my upper chest/back. I felt light headed, dizzy and had extreme difficulty breathing. Nothing seemed to help. My husband came home around 7pm when I finally told him about my symptoms. He called the doctor’s office who informed him that maybe I was suffering from gas. He ran out and got some Gas-X. I took some and passed out for a few hours. I remember waking up and asking my husband to make me some food in hopes that it would allay the symptoms. Things started to get a little blurry from here as my symptoms worsened. I remember eating pasta and watching some SNL before we decided to check into the emergency room. At this point, I had no idea what was wrong with me, only that the chest pain felt very much like the time I was hospitalized for pneumonia.
It didn’t take long after they took my blood pressure to decide that I was suffering from preeclampsia. I was told that I needed to deliver the baby right away.
What? But I’m only 33 weeks pregnant? I’m not ready. What is preeclampsia? What’s going to happen? Is my baby going to be ok? Am I going to be ok? Am I really having this baby now? What?
While I had so many questions, there was no time for debate and after a weak (and misguided) attempt at natural birth, I was quickly prepped for a c-section. I never even read up on what a c-section was.
During the c-section, I did not feel any pain, only pulling and tugging. I was fully conscience and I had my husband talk to me during the procedure so I will not have to follow the doctor’s play by play. For example, I did not want to hear the resident being scolded for dropping a tool in my open stomach.
This really was not how I pictured the birthing process.
When my son was born, I heard a cry and I was told he was healthy. My husband snapped a quick picture but before I got to see him, he was taken to the NICU. I was wheeled into a recovery room and was not allowed to see him. I had to stay in the recovery room, where I was only allowed ice-chips and videos of my newborn from my husband’s iPhone.
Later that morning, I still have not seen my son but I was moved to a hospital room. I had requested a private room but while we were waiting, they put me in a room with another new mom. She was full of energy, had a natural birth (and a easy one from what I overheard) and was on the phone non-stop telling everyone about her birth experience. As I laid there, I started to really break down. The anesthesia from the c-section was wearing off and as the physical pain set in, so did the reality of what happened. I just gave birth, via c-section and I still have not held my son. When they brought in my roommate’s baby to breastfeed, I just snapped. I was quickly changed into an empty room. Apparently, the nurse overlooked a hospital policy against booking natural birth moms with c-section moms in the same room.
Later that day, I was asked if I felt well enough to go visit the NICU. I was feeling awful and walking was extremely hard but since my baby could not be brought to me, I had to go see him. The walk to the NICU was the hardest I ever made. My heart broke when I saw my little boy for the first time. When I got there, Harry was inside an incubator with heart and pulse monitors hooked onto his little body. He was wrapped up in his baby blanket and hat. He had an eye mask and was hooked to an oxygen tube. I could barely see him. He was so tiny, weighing in at less than 5 lbs. I didn’t know what to do. The nurse thankfully came over and unhooked him so I can hold him for the first time. When I did, words could not describe the dreamlike euphoria I felt. Even though the birth experience was not what I had planned, holding this new life in my arms felt nothing short of a miracle. At that moment, it was just me and little Harry. Nothing mattered but that he existed. For the first time since I entered the hospital, tears of joy, not of pain, wet my cheeks.
Whatever the beginning, he was here, in my arms. And all I managed to say was “hello my baby, thank you and I love you.”