Sunday, November 27, 2016


They say you don't know what you have until it's gone.  That's especially true of abdominal muscles.  I certainly never had a six pack, but prior to surgery I was capable of all kinds of physical feats.  I could sit up.  I could sit down.  I could positively dazzle you with my ability to pee independently.  After the C-section however I needed lots of help.  Luckily, the postpartum wing of labor and delivery is filled with more help than anyone could ever want... or need.


"Time for a feeding" said the night nurse, as she wheeled my son in from the nursery.

I fumbled sleepily for the control.  Eyes closed, I inclined my bed and unlatched the straps of my nursing bra.  Suddenly, I was jolted awake by the feeling of a cold hand on my breast.

"Oh!" I jumped.
"I'm just going to help you with the latch" explained the nurse, tweaking my right nipple.
"Oh, okay."

She showed me how to stack the pillows over my lap and laid Bobby down across them.

"Now we sandwich the nipple.  See?"
She squeezed my breast into Bobby's mouth and stroked his cheek to prompt suckling.
"You sandwich beautifully" she said.
"Thanks" I said, squinting up at her.

It took us a couple tries but Bobby eventually latched.  Of course when he came off my boob, we noticed he missed the nipple entirely and had been sucking my areola.      

"Yeah, that happens" said the nurse.  "You can just present the colostrum and finger feed him until you get the hang of it."  She proceeded to squeeze me like a tube of  toothpaste (err...titpaste?); collecting each droplet on the tip of her finger and shoving it between my son's lips.

After about twenty minutes of this, she disappeared into the night never to be seen again.

The next day my head was spinning.  So many people were inviting themselves into my room I couldn't keep track.

A nurse came in to administer my pain medication.

A different woman came in to ask about my rash.

A different woman still came in to inspect my incision.  "You can't eat solids until you fart" she said before leaving forever.

They'd flash their badges, introduce themselves, touch me and vanish.

Day 3 was the worst by far.  Bobby and I were getting much better at breast feeding but I was in immense pain.  The epidural wore off and the flesh around my incision was on fire.  That's not hyperbole.  Every time I moved the wrong way it felt like someone was burning my skin with a small torch.

I looked up at the time and realized my medication was thirty minutes late.  Lucky for me a new, a random doctor had just magically appeared.

"Hi!  I'm Dr. so-in-so.  I'm here to check your incision" she said displaying her ID.
 "Great!"  I sighed with relief.  "After that, do you think you could send in my medication?"
"Of course."

Ten minutes after her departure a new nurse came in.

"Do you have my medication?"  I asked.
"No - I'm here to help with the breastfeeding."
"Oh, okay"  I said, dizzy with pain.

Bobby was rooting for food, letting out short flustered cries as I struggled to force my nipple into his mouth.  His little, wiggly body pushed down on my surgical wound and sent sharp pains through my abdomen.

"Hmm... try this" the nurse would say grabbing my boob or adjusting my son or shifting my pillow.  With each jostle I could feel the frustration rise up inside me.

"Some babies have a hard time latching" she said.

That was it.  Each nurse seemed to contradict the previous one and I was tired of the mixed messages.

"He latches" I replied.
"I just meant..."
"He latches!"  I shot back.  "I can't tell how much food he's getting this way.  I haven't worked with the same lactation nurse twice and my son needs to eat!"  Warm tears threatened to push out through my eyes.

"Everything okay in here?" asked another nurse from the doorway.

"No" I sniffled.

"She needs her medication" said my husband sternly.  "She's been very patient; it's almost an hour late and she's in pain."
"Nobody called me about any medication" replied the nurse, seemingly dumbfounded.
"Called you?" my husband asked.
"Yes - you need to call in advance of every dose" she explained.

That was news to us!  Up until now, someone was always there with pills when I needed them.

I couldn't hold it in any longer.  Those first tears broke through and a waterfall followed.

"My son needs to eat!"  I sobbed.  

Everyone froze for a moment and then suddenly kicked into hyper drive. With comical speed, I was provided a breast pump and formula; I was assigned a new nurse and my medication was finally administered.

Though the lambs finally stopped screaming, I was still raw, unshowered and exhausted.  I quietly cried into my husband's shoulder when there was yet another knock at my door.

Now what? I thought.

A new woman emerged wheeling a cart packed with equipment.

"Is this a bad time?" she asked.
"That all depends..." I replied wiping my tears.
She chuckled.  "I'm a photographer and I'm here to offer some professional photos of your newborn today."


Utterly drained, I looked on as the woman wrapped Bobby in a hand-knit blanket from my aunt.  She posed him in the gentle light from our window; and with each click of her camera I could feel my body settle in.  The tears of tension turned to tears of joy as every small moment was skillfully captured.

I wasn't made up.  My hair was unwashed and unkempt.  My skin, still marred by an aggressive pregnancy rash was hardly photo-ready.  My limbs were swollen with water.  My eyes were puffy from the day's trauma.  Yet, I'd never been more happy to have my photo taken.

There's nothing easy about creation and these photos reflect that.  But every time I look at the beautiful truth in each frame I feel incredibly honored to have had this experience.  

Thursday, November 3, 2016


Still flailing from the labor shakes, I was wheeled into a sterile, white operating room.

"We're going to numb you a little more" explained the anesthesiologist.  "Patients sometimes say it feels like they can't breath - but it's just the medication."

"Okay." I nodded.

Slowly the feeling completely drained from my chest and abdomen.

"Can you feel this?" asked a nurse.
I couldn't.  I couldn't feel anything.

The room quickly filled with people:  my OB, a surgical assistant, a pediatrician and lots of nurses.

"We ready to go?" asked my OB.
"No - I need my husband.  Where's my husband?" I asked, trying to stay calm.
"Where's Dad?" yelled the OB.

A door opened and there he was, all scrubbed up.  He quickly took his place by my side as a nurse hoisted a blue sheet to block our view.

"We're going to get started." my doctor said.
"Please," I begged "don't give me a play-by-play - just get in and get out."
"You got it" my doctor chuckled.  "We'll be totally done in twenty minutes."

I squeezed Will's hand and looked into his eyes.
"I love you."  I whispered.
He smiled gently back at me.  "I love you, too."

Just then, I gasped desperately for air.
The nurse is right I thought.  It really feels like I can't breath.

I gasped again. "ItfeelslikeIcan'tbreathbutIknowIcan..." I blurted quickly on the exhale.
"Yup," confirmed the anesthesiologist "it's just the medication - your oxygen level is normal."

Shake, gasp, squeeze, apologize - rinse and repeat.  That's what was happening on my side of the blue divider.  Meanwhile my doctor and her assistant chatted politely as they peeled me open.

"Where did you go to school?" I heard my OB ask.
What is this, a cocktail party? I thought.  Focus, ladies...

Finally, I heard a collective "awww" from the group.

"He's nine pounds!" my doctor declared.  OH MY GOD. 
The nurses around me shook their heads in disbelief.
"A nine pound baby inside such a small woman" I heard one remark.

"He's stuck in your pelvic bone and the chord's wrapped around his neck" said the doctor.
"Is he okay?" I asked.
"Yup, we'll have him out in just a minute."

"Now, don't be worried if you don't hear him cry right away" a nurse came in close to whisper.  "It's totally normal."

"Okay" I nodded.

"Here he is!" shouted the doctor.

I heard one little coo and then nothing.
"Oh my God!" I smiled "Will, can you see him?!"  
"Yes - he's beautiful!" Will answered.

They whisked my baby to the pediatrician seated about ten feet behind me on the left.  The doctors were reassembling me layer by layer - but all I could focus on was Bobby.  I craned my neck trying desperately to catch a glimpse.

After roughly an eternity and a half, he was clean, swaddled and by my side.  He was the most beautiful child I'd ever seen in my whole life.  Blonde, pink and absolutely perfect.  Will held him up as a nurse snapped a picture.

"Because of the meconium" she said "he'll have to go to the NICU for monitoring - but I don't think he'll be in there long."

And just like that we were separated again.

We wouldn't be reunited until an hour into my recovery.  After 9 long months - the exhaustion, the mood swings, the aches, the weight gain, the worry, the rash, the induction, the labor and the surgery - there he was in my arms at last.