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.
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?"
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.