When I wrote Part 1, I never anticipated that it would be 4 months later that I would get around to writing Part 2, which is the real story. I was hoping it would fortuitously land on a significant day, but I missed the 37-weeks-in-37-weeks-out thing and their 1st birthday is still 2 months away, so, well, the boys are asleep, it’s too cold to go food shopping, the husband is watching football….in my world, that means the stars have finally aligned to tell this story.
April 2nd. To be honest, all I remember about waking up that morning was a surreal feeling – disbelief that this was really happening: that in a few hours, these babies would here. In a few hours, I wouldn’t be pregnant anymore. I would be a mom.
I had to be at the hospital at 10:30 am, so after a last-minute pit-stop to get batteries for the camera, we arrived. We were the only ones in the labor-and-delivery waiting room, and we just mindlessly watched TV, not saying much. As I automatically began rubbing my belly, a million disjointed thoughts were going through my mind, but none that I could shape into any coherence.
Finally, we were called, and as it turned out, a mom of some former students was my nurse. Her familiar face and caring touch put me at ease. Another reminder God was with me. I was somewhat on edge because of the scare we had the week before, so I felt tense until the monitors were on and I could hear the heartbeats for myself. And hearing the ‘swoosh, swoosh, swoosh’ of their hearts was the next best thing to hearing their cries just a few hours later.
My C-section was scheduled for noon, but it became really clear we were running late.
There was a few ‘comic relief’ interludes (that didn’t seem funny at the time), like my husband leaving his wallet in the men’s room. Really??? Today you do this? Not only was I freaked out that it was stolen, I was worried he would miss the delivery while he was out looking for it. (He found it. Thankfully.).
Then, the nurse told him to get something to eat – that he shouldn’t be in the surgery with an empty stomach. Again, I was worried he would miss something. But after he came back, he felt sick and needed to find Tums. Nerves or hospital food, we weren’t sure (yet). This, all the while, with my parents in the waiting room, on pins and needles. Every time J. came out for something else, they thought it was the grand announcement. Every time, they thought he was toying with them.
Nope, he said. Still waiting.
Finally, some time around 1 pm, they brought us in to the operating room, full of staff, all in their specialty teams.
They started the spinal tap on me (and informed me I had scoliosis, by the way. I guess it had been a long time since I bent over to touch my toes and had the school nurse feel my spine). The anesthesia wasn’t spreading high enough like they wanted, so they tilted me to a 45 degree angle, with my head down and feet in the air.
And soon, it was go time. The curtain was up, J. was holding my hand, and the doctors got to work. Again, just a surreal feeling, like it wasn’t really me in this moment. I felt some tugging and movement, but I was so in my head…just praying and waiting and holding my breath. I couldn’t really grasp that Baby A and Baby B who had been moving around in my belly, a part of me, for 37 weeks, were now actually going to be real, live babies that I could hold and know. Babies that would be alive apart from me. Babies who would be separate, distinct individual beings.
Then, at 1:57 pm, I heard a cry. J. and I looked at each other. Boys or girls??? Then we heard my doctor say, ‘We have a boy!’ I let out a laugh, and then tears filled my eyes as reality sunk in: We made it. We actually made it to the other side of infertility. We have boys.
Then I heard another cry. Our second boy. By this point, J. was moving around the room taking pictures. I looked sideways to my left to see Baby A – well, Michael Robert – and the first thing I said was, ‘He has hair!’
I couldn’t see Baby B- James Anthony – but soon, the nurses brought both of them to us. I held James and my husband held Michael. All I could do was just look at him and kiss his little face and cry. I couldn’t believe I had my babies. Beautiful, healthy, perfect little baby boys.
While all of this was going on, I was aware enough to listen for Apgar scores. I wish I could remember what they were, but for both boys, both numbers were high – 8s and 9s and 10s, I think. I kept waiting to see if there was going to be some kind of bad report – but it never came. Just two beautiful, healthy boys – Michael was 6 lbs, 4 oz; James was 5 lbs, 12 oz.
The nurse took many pictures for us – our first family photo shoot – and then after they stitched me up, they wheeled me to recovery.
At this point, my parents were still waiting. Instead of J. going out there to tell them, the nurses brought them to us so we could tell – and show- them ourselves. Our little boys.
The nurses laid each boy on my chest in turn, seeing if they would breastfeed. I’ll never forget holding each of them on my chest for the first time. Utter perfection. Utter peace. It sounds cliche, but I never wanted that moment to end.
However, at that point, another doctor wasn’t totally happy with how they were breathing, so she wanted them to go to the NICU for a little while. She assured me this was common with C-section babies and that all was well. So we said goodbye as they wheeled our babies away.
Once they left, I realized I was feeling the effects of the anesthesia and I was FREEZING. I mean, shivering to the point where I could barely talk. I was brought to my room to recover, and J. went to the NICU to check on the boys and bring me reports.
The rest of the time in the hospital is a bit of a blur, but here is what I remember, in somewhat random fashion.
I didn’t think the C-section recovery was that bad. I mean, the first few days it hurt, especially trying to sit up, but I took pain meds on schedule, whenever they offered it, trying to stay ahead of the pain. That helped.
I didn’t find the PP nurses especially helpful. I didn’t know I was supposed to take off the compression belt or I’d have excruciating pain. No one offered to help me shower. I had to request a breast pump – no one offered. I had to request a lactation consultant. I just felt like they assumed I would know what was going on and what to do. I didn’t. I was a brand new mom. Was I really supposed to know all this? Thankfully, a girl from my church who is a post-partum nurse was working, and she was amazing. (The L&D and NICU nurses were fantastic, though).
The NICU was a floor below mine, so it was an ordeal trying to get to my babies. When my husband wasn’t there (more on that later), I had to take it on myself to get there. It took too long to wait for hospital transport, so I would either wheel myself there or walk down holding my wheelchair. After a C-section, both were very difficult. And painful! But I was determined to be there at feedings and to hold them (my milk hadn’t come in yet, so I couldn’t nurse).
Even though it broke my heart to see them in the NICU, I was assured they would be okay. I still couldn’t believe they were mine. Not only was I allowed to be there and hold them, I was supposed to be. I was their mom. It just didn’t seem real. There were lots of tears in that NICU as that reality sunk in. The first time I reached my hand in to touch Michael, he screamed. Didn’t he know who I was??? I was convinced he hated me.
So back to my husband. He stayed overnight the first night, Thursday, but wasn’t feeling great. So, on Friday, he went home to feed the cats, snooze a little and come back. When he came back, he still was feeling sick. Then I started to worry – for him, yes – but I didn’t want him near the babies if he was sick! He planned to stay the night, but I told him to go home and get some sleep. Well, turns out, he had to pull over on the way home to throw up. When he told me that on Saturday, I insisted he go to the doctor. If he had the flu, he could not come near us!
A few hours later, I got a call from him and he said he was at different hospital.
‘Um, hon? We aren’t at that hospital!’
‘No, I’m IN the hospital. In the emergency room!’
The doctor sent him to the ER, and of all things, he had food poisoning. From the food he had eaten at this hospital!
Needless to say, J. wasn’t coming back that day, so he really missed so much of the boys’ first days of life in the hospital, which was a huge bummer. However, I had James to keep me company on Saturday. He was discharged from the NICU to my room, so I was able to have at least one of my little guys with me. The lactation consultant in the NICU was great, but the one on my floor was useless. (“So, what do you have questions about?” Really? “Um… everything. I have questions about everything.). Thankfully, a friend came that night and coached me through.
Michael never got discharged from the NICU to my room, but he was discharged from the hospital the same time as James and I were. We all went home together on April 5. Easter Sunday. A day celebrating new life. Perfect.
It was hard to believe they were actually letting us take home these babies. I have NEVER seen my husband drive so carefully. We felt so unprepared. So inadequate. I had spent so much thought and energy getting through the pregnancy, I did not feel ready to be a mom. I hear that no one ever really feels ready.
But I knew I was ready to meet them. I knew I loved them with all my heart, and I could already feel that growing even with the first hours and days. I knew that these two helpless little human beings had stolen my heart and had changed our lives forever. And as unprepared as I felt, I didn’t feel fear. I truly felt peace in my heart, that somehow we would all be okay. Us and them.
And that’s how our life together began.