Annabella’s due date was March 3, 2012. Since it was clear she was not coming out to meet us on that day, my husband and I went to a first birthday party for the son of one of our co-workers. The only thing I could fit into was a purple maternity dress.
The physical weight of the baby on my body was almost unbearable. The nesting period was over, and I really just wanted her out of me. I was becoming more and more irritable with everyone around me, and eventually stopped responding to, “OMG you’re ready to pop!” (It just about took all the energy I had to not pop them in the nose).
Finally, my OBGYN decided it was time to be induced. On the evening of Saturday March 10th, my husband and I went to the hospital to get the ball rolling. Later that night, when we were in bed, the contractions started up. I knew it was the real deal and not just Braxton Hicks, because they didn’t stop. I took a look at the crib one last time before leaving for the hospital, my heart full of hope, that the next time I’d be looking at my baby in there.
Since daddy to-be was still half asleep/liquored up, my father in-law drove us to the hospital. He comforted me while I focused on breathing, and told his son to get me into a wheelchair and up to the maternity ward, while he parked the car.
Once we arrived at Labour/Delivery, I was greeted by a nurse who looked at me and spat, “why are you in a wheelchair?” Now, there are several creative ways I could have answered her, like, “maybe because I’m in labour, you miserable piece of crap!” However, as always, I bit my tongue and stood up out of the wheelchair, and followed her into one of the patient rooms, where I was ordered to change into a gown and walk the halls.
I was scared shitless, trying to remember all of the stages of labour from the prenatal class we took, and the different ways to breathe and bounce and stretch and be massaged during those excruciating squeezes in the middle of my body. It would have been bit more helpful and calming of an experience if the nurses weren’t so bloody rude. (Etobicoke General Hospital y’all).
When my water finally broke during the hall-walking, I was told to lay on the bed while they checked the baby and my vitals. Things were moving slowly but surely, and so far everything was fine.
I called my cousin and asked her to bring my grandmother to the hospital (my mom was in India at the time) to help keep me calm, since my husband looked pretty helpless. Soon, in the room with me were; 1) nurses, 2) husband, 3) father in-law, 4) grandmother, 5) cousin. After some time, they were eating pizza right in front of me, and I wondered where the hell my cup of ice was. Then there was a Tim Horton’s run, and I was ready to kick someone in the face.
After about 14 hours, crying from the severeness of the contractions, my husband said, “get the epidural, come on; you don’t have to prove anything to anyone.” So, I listened. The contractions were so sharp, slicing and squeezing and knocking the wind out of me, I knew it was time for the giant needle in my spine.
I was asked to sit up in the bed, and “curl my back like a cat, nice and round.” No joke, this is what I was told to do, in the middle of my contractions, while asking myself if I really wanted to be stabbed in the back. I tried my very best to “curl” my back for them, and in the needle went. Directly into my spine. I can still feel the fluid rushing in and spreading across my back. (My spine was sore for a very long time after having the baby).
Shortly after, I was in a state of bliss. Laying down in the bed, not feeling a thing. The nurses were the ones to tell me when I was having a contraction. More visitors came and went; mother in-law, cousins, sister, aunt. For a time it was a bit of a blur. At this point, I had no idea that I had blown up into a water balloon; my face, arms, legs, everything was HUGE. Everyone there was kind enough to not mention it, I only realized when I saw the photos afterward. For most of my life, I’ve been fairly petite, even throughout the pregnancy, so it was hilarious to see myself all puffed up.
It had been a full 24 hours, and I had only dilated 2 centimeters. I was told my baby’s heart rate was going down because she was heading down the magical canal, but had no way of getting out that way. I was devastated. Beyond devastated. When the doctor asked me to sign the paper titled “Cesarean Section”, my dreams of pushing my baby out and placed on my chest, just like in the movies, were shattered. I wanted desperately to have a natural birth. I felt that I had failed; my first job as a mother, I couldn’t even do. My body had failed me. I cried and cried, but I signed the form.
A nurse came in and rubbed off my nail polish, took my wedding/engagement rings, my karas (Sikh bracelets) and off we went to the Operating Room. I was given anesthesia and the doctor pinched me a few times here and there to make sure I was numb. I could see my husband dressed in scrubs in my peripheral. The curtain was up and the cutting had commenced. I tried to remember again, from our prenatal classes, how many layers they were cutting through. I looked up at the ceiling and could see a blurry reflection of the operation. All I remember seeing is a fuck-ton of blood so I decided not to look up. I looked to my sides; both arms were tied down. It was a horrible feeling. They were taking my baby out of me, and I was just strapped down, helpless, with nothing to do but wait.
Felt like forever, before I heard the crying.
“It’s a girl!” The doctor told us, and I smiled. Yes. I knew it. I could feel it throughout the pregnancy that there was a little girl in there, but we didn’t end up confirming the gender. I didn’t want to know. There are very few genuine surprises in life, and this was one of them. I remember one of my co-workers once condescendingly telling me that when she found out the gender of her baby, her excitement grew ten-fold and she was able to connect with her. I respectfully disagreed. I didn’t care to know my child’s sex. All I cared about was that he or she was healthy. I also stayed away from the pinks verses blue baby clothes thing. I kept all our colours neutral; lots of greens and yellows and whites. Anyway. We had a girl.
When I saw her for the first time, I wanted to dance and jump and scream, but I could barely even turn my head to look at her. My husband held her close to my face so I could kiss her.
We were taken to a private room, once I was all stitched up, and once I was able to sit up in the bed, they brought my newborn baby to me.
“Are you bottle feeding or breastfeeding?” one of the nurses asked.
“Breastfeeding,” I answered.
“Good,” she said. And my baby was finally placed on my chest. She latched on to me right away and stayed there for about twenty minutes. It was exhilarating. I didn’t even know if I was doing it right. The milk didn’t actually come in for another two days (I woke up to a completely soaked shirt, and deformed breasts), so for now she was only getting colostrum.
Unfortunately, she lost almost 10% of her baby weight, so I was forced to tape down an extremely thin tube to my chest, across my breast, and the other end was inside a ready-to-feed bottle of formula. This way, the baby would be breast feeding and getting formula at the same time. It was incredibly stressful. My back and neck tensed up as I held her to my breast, my eye glasses kept sliding down my nose, and the nursing pillow was sitting directly on my c-section incision.
We were in the hospital from Saturday night until Thursday. With the help of a lactation specialist, and when my milk finally did come in, I was able to get my baby back to her birth weight. It was an amazing accomplishment for me. (She was 7 pounds at birth). I had to keep a breastfeeding journal recording the times I fed her and the duration, etc. until baby and I developed a full routine. It was a lot of work. But so worth it. Seeing her drink my milk was so, so rewarding and I felt so fortunate to be able to breastfeed. My sister and I were both formula-fed babies, so I didn’t have anything against formula, but since the birth didn’t go as planned, I wanted at least my plan to breastfeed to be a success. And it was.
The day we brought Annabella home, the sun was shining so bright; it felt like a warm Spring day. It didn’t feel like March at all. The water-weight was out of me, but my heart was full of love and pride, my breasts were filled with milk, and tears spilled over my cheeks. I was full. I was complete.