Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Last 36 Hours: Birth, Struggle, and Snuggles

Cora is a snuggler. She is tiny, sweet, calm, and very alert, and she is happiest when she is snuggled on someone's chest like a little baby wombat. (Actually, I have no idea if wombats like to snuggle, but it just feels like the right animal analogy.) I took this wombat baby selfie last night after a rough recovery day (for me, Cora's doing great) so I could show my grandma that we're using the blankie she knit for Cora (largely because Claire pulled it out of my bag 3 seconds into her second visit and insisted that Cora needed it on her immediately), and I love the calm reality that it captured.


I had only just brushed my hair for the day (it was about 8 p.m.), any vestiges of makeup was whatever was leftover from my Tuesday morning application 36 hours before, and my big goal for the evening was to take a shower and brush my teeth. But my pain was under much better control and Cora was snuggling. Things were, and are, quite excellent. And now, since I seem to have some time (Cora is sleeping happily on my chest again), I'll document the last 36 hours or so and promise to proofread later:

Birth Story

As you could probably tell, Cora patiently waited to meet us until her scheduled arrival date. My mom flew in the night before, we got the kids off to school, I got ready and re-packed my bag and then we just sat around and waited until we could head to the hospital at 11. We went right back to pre-op where I got changed into my hospital gown, said goodbye to my big belly in the mirror, and got into bed. There was lots of waiting punctuated by activity (I got my IV, I got prepped, I got a super fashionable surgical hat) and little meet and greets (my nurse, my anesthesiologist, my OB's partner I'd never met (mine had her baby two days before), my new OB's nurse). We found out at 1 p.m. that the time was officially being pushed back to 2 p.m. I hadn't had anything to eat or drink after midnight and was getting quite thirsty, but the IV helped once it got going. The nurse gave JP his "daddy pack" of surgical scrubs and asked if my mom was going into the OR too. We hadn't known she'd be allowed, and when I asked if she wanted to she said it would be a thrill (I think from both the "see my baby having a baby" and "biology II AP teacher" perspectives :), so she got a daddy pack too!

At 1:45 or so, I was wheeled off to the OR to get my spinal and epidural while my two guests got changed and waited to be brought to me. In the OR, which was supposed to be freezing but felt perfect to me (I had been SO HOT the last two months of my pregnancy, poor JP who is usually a furnace at night would wake shaking from the arctic depths to which I had plunged the room while he was sleeping), was bright and big and full of people. My anesthesiologist was very friendly and good about explaining what was happening. I got my spinal, which always amazes me in its immediate effectiveness- one second you're putting your feet on a bench and bending over, the next you can't even wiggle your toe. I got an epidural as well for post-surgery pain management, was laid back on the bench, got draped, and waited a few minutes for my mom and JP to be brought back while a lot of preparatory activity I couldn't see was happening in my mid-section. I did get a comment from every single person in the room about my prior "you can barely see it!" scar and lots of compliments to my connective tissue and healing abilities. For some reason, this made me think of Wolverine and I felt very fierce. My blood pressure also fell immediately after getting the spinal, just like it did last time (when you start out in the 90/45 range normally, you don't have far to fall before everything goes numb), so I got some medicine that perked it right up (and, as an added plus, gave my vampire pale skin some nice pinkening). It's all about glamour in the OR.

Around 2:00, Mom and JP were in place by my head and everything got started. Being squarely behind the drape, I can't really tell you what all goes on, but according to JP "lots of cutting" and according to my weirdly pain free, but not totally sensation-free mid-section, "lots of tugging." Cora was, of course, in a difficult posterior position high in my rib cage (I knew I couldn't breathe!) so at some point there was a LOT of tugging and I'm pretty sure a nurse jumped on my ribs to push her down. I know that JP kind of jumped back at that and said "holy crap" under his breath, so I guess Cora was pretty stuck. And then the anesthesiologist told me, "In a few seconds, she's going to be born!" And out she came! Quiet at first, then quite mad. I heard the OB remind JP to take pictures and then she held up a very angry, very red little Cora. She looked a little bit like a demon and it made me laugh.

Poor, poor Cora thinks she is having a very bad day

They start stitching me up- I can feel some very light tugging, but no pain- and Cora goes to be weighed and suctioned by her nurse who has been waiting in the room. JP and my mom follow to the other side and let me know the stats- she's 20 inches long, our shortest baby (Landon was 20.5 and Claire was 21) and 7 lbs. 10 oz., a full pound lighter than her same-term big sister! Cora just knows she's still pissed about how her day is going.


JP brings her over briefly. I'm so glad my mom got to be in the OR with us and see Cora come into the world, and not just because I got a second photographer to capture moments like JP making our first real introduction:


I'm still being put back together, so Cora and JP head back over to the other side of the room for her assessment. I overhear the nurse explain that Cora swallowed a lot of amniotic fluid and isn't clearing it as well as they want so they'll want to keep a close eye on her. I asked the anesthesiologist if I could see her again before they take her (this is what happened to Claire and then she was gone for 3 hours, and of course we only saw Landon for a few seconds after he was born and then not again for about 8 hours) and he said, "Oh, she's not leaving, they'll just watch her here with you." Cora's nurse came over to my head and explained the same, that Cora was retracting and her respirations were a bit too high, and would I be interested in trying some skin-to-skin contact to help calm her down?

Meeting my baby girl

I've never been able to just be with my babies after they were born, so I was very, very happy. I laughed when I saw this picture later because it really does manage to capture my rather incandescent glow in the moment, even as I'm still being stitched up right out of the camera frame.

So, so happy

At some point I was finally put all back together and Cora rode with me, still skin-to-skin on my chest, back to the recovery room. My epidural was in, giving me Demerol every 15 minutes, and I was feeling pretty good. Cora's nurse checked her again after a while and was very pleased with her improvement. I remained delighted with our full contact tummy time. After an hour or so in recovery (maybe more, I really have no idea), we were taken up to our room on the 3rd floor. Cora rode with me again, while my mom and JP trailed behind.

JP left soon after we got settled to pick up the kids from school and bring them over to meet their sister. I was still feeling pretty good, thanks to the lingering effects from the spinal and the new effects of the epidural, and Cora was breathing great and sleeping in my arms after trying a little nursing. Around 5:00, the door opened and two Big and Bigger siblings popped through.


Claire climbed on board the bed IMMEDIATELY and Landon paused just long enough to remember that we don't wear shoes on furniture.

They took turns holding their highly anticipated baby Cora and I watched from the bed with the video camera and a big smile.


My mom took the very excited siblings home for dinner and bed and Cora got her first real bath (they wait to bathe them here until they're more than 8 hours old, which was nice, they hate it so much and Cora was stressed enough post-birth). Like she's been with everything except her actual eviction, she was calm as can be and her eyes were so big and dark and open.


Then I just got to hold her. We checked each other out for nearly an hour. It is such an amazing thing to meet the baby you've been carrying around for 9+ months.


And then began a difficult night of not sleeping (constant interruptions, discomfort from having to be on my back, increased gas and abdominal pain, and increased incision pain). The epidural was pulled around 4 a.m. and I was put on hydrocodone. As we found out a few hours later, I do not do well on hydrocodone. Cora spent some time in the nursery so we could try to sleep, but came back about 5:30 when it was clear that wasn't happening. I was forced out of bed to go to the bathroom (the catheter went away with the epidural) and that 4 foot walk left me shaky and in a lot of pain. Things did not much improve from there. My mom forced me on a walk with JP (I was supposed to be walking every 2 hours and had basically sat in bed gritting my teeth for the last several hours) and I was shaky and dizzy and gripping onto his arm for dear life while moving 1/2 mile per hour, hunched over, with sad shuffling steps. I never, ever felt that was after Claire's c-section.

When I got back to the room I was extremely pale (which is saying something, given my normal coloring) and my lips were bluish purple. We paged my nurse, who was utterly unhelpful (the only unhelpful type person we've had so far, but of course, the one I had right then) until my mom basically demanded she call my OB and ask for a different pain medicine for me. I was hurting so bad I genuinely couldn't imagine ever not feeling that way. I couldn't hold Cora and couldn't really move, even though staying still wasn't feeling great either (and was only making the abdominal pain worse by the minute).

And then Percocet came into my life. Within an hour I had my coloring back, within 2 hours my pain was way down, and by 3 I took a slightly faster (maybe 3/4 miles an hour, slightly less shuffling) walk around the hallway. I was a whole new woman!

The kids visited after school and were again very excited to see their sister. Cora was sleeping, so the kids gave her "pets."


Claire dug through my bag to find Cora's blankie (lovingly knit by my grandma, just as Claire's are) and insisted that Cora have it on her immediately.


The petting and blankie covering did manage to wake up little Cora, so the kids jumped on the couch to take turns holding her again.

Landon is an excellent holder of babies. He loves her so much. Claire needed a water break.


Cora checked out her big brother. I think they had a deep and important conversation.


And then, in another testament to how much better I was feeling, I got all 3 kids in/around my bed. 3 kids!


Cora went to the nursery last night and my nurse barred everyone from my room so we could get some sleep, and we did! And Cora came back to see my about 5:30 a.m. and snuggled with me for a solid 2 hours of intermittent napping. I'm feeling MUCH better and my discharge has been bumped up to this evening. Cora is snuggled in my mom's arms, I'm about to take a shower, and everyone is very happy.


  1. Congratulations!!! She is so cute -- you have beautiful babies!!! So glad that your medication worked out. Just curious because you mentioned nursing, and I think you hadn't nursed previously. How did it go, and do you think you guys will keep trying? (I know it's a personal question but you've talked about it before so I'm not sure if it's off-limits.) I hope you feel great soon!! We have a 6-month-old now and it's still a hard adjustment.

  2. Congrats, LL! She is so precious and surprisingly non-squishy for a newborn! Let me also say, incidentally that I am feeling actual pangs in my uterus while reading this post.

  3. Terrific post LL! I am torn between wanting you to write and wanting you to get your necessary rest. Actually, the blog can wait...I guess. Your mom, JP and you look terrific!

  4. What an incredible story! Thank you for taking the time to share it in detail! What a miracle birth is. You have a lovely family and you - are radiant!!!!!!


  5. I am utterly happy for you and your growing family! She is a precious addition, and a lucky one too to have you and JP as parents, and L and C as her siblings! :)

  6. My second c-section was much harder to recover from than my first, which doesn't seem fair. I think you should have the rough one first, so you're not expecting anything. So glad that your medications got worked out! You all look wonderful!

  7. Great post! You look radiant in your pictures despite describing the agony you were in. Good job Momma! I wish you a swift recovery and look forward to more pictures :)

  8. Sorry about your pain issues, that sounds miserable! But yay for percoset and baby snuggles and sleep! You look beautiful and your family is adorable! Congratulations!