As I predicted, I did not sleep well the night before the c-section. I think I was up starting around 5 am which meant I had five hours to kill until we went to the hospital. I laid in bed for awhile reading email and the news on the iPhone and then decided to just get up and take a shower and get ready. That took me until about 7 am, I don’t think I have ever been ready any earlier than this. I killed some more time by filling out all of the sections in Belén’s baby book and progress calendar that I already had the info for. That took me until 8:30 or so. After that, Andy and I watched an episode of House that had been TiVo’d but we were both so anxious I think that Dr. House was just annoying us. We left the house around 9:40 and headed to the hospital. We checked in and they showed us to a triage room. Not a lot happened, but they did check to make sure that she was still breech and hooked me up to an IV. They also put these automated pads on the lower part of my legs that squeezed every 20 seconds or so to prevent blood clots. We waited in triage until just before noon. Dr. Hodges came in to say hi and ask if we had any questions. The anesthesiologist also came in and introduced himself and explained what he would do to me. He was nice, calm and comforting, but surprisingly young. I didn’t want to hold this against him as I reminded myself that young people can be better at their jobs than older, more experienced professionals, but for some reason this is harder to accept for medical than other professionals. Finally, right around noon, they wheeled me to operating room. Andy had to go to the “new dad waiting area”, a lonely chair off to the side while they put in my spinal and my catheter and started my morphine. It was freezing in the room and I was literally shaking until the spinal was in and suddenly I couldn’t feel anything below my breasts. Everything started to happen a lot quicker as the scrub nurses, surgical techs and doctors all showed up in the room and Andy was ushered back in to sit at my left. The anesthesiologist sat behind me and told me what was going on and how it was going to affect me. Everyone in the room was happy to see one another and asked about each others weekends and personal affairs. It was strange to think that my surgery was just another day at the office for them. They had set up a blue curtain about one foot high just below my chest so I could not see the surgery, but Andy had a vantage point where he could both see my face and my body if he desired to look over the curtain. Things got started and Andy was pretty fascinated with the surgery. Once my body was numb, Dr. Hodges repeated what he had told me on numerous doctor visits (and what you really want to hear from your OB), “you really are all baby.” He said he could really tell with my body fully relaxed. I replied that I had definitely not skimped on the desserts while pregnant, but thanks. Nobody was really giving me a play by play so I really didn’t know what was happening. Dr. Hodges and a nurse told me that my stomach muscles were awesome and that they had more intimate knowledge of them than even my physical trainer. I felt various sensations such as tugging on my body and shortness of breath and the anesthesiologist usually tried to warn me of such sensations ahead of time so they would not surprise me. I wasn’t sure what was happening to cause the sensations and at the time I tried not to be too curious about it. Occasionally I would try to engage in the conversation of the room which in retrospect seems kind of strange. I remember Hodges bringing up the swine flu topic in Mexico and I piped in with the population of Mexico City. I am not sure why I thought I needed to add that. It was a surreal experience to be awake during the surgery yet feel very little. Andy was very strong and was able to watch the surgery without flinching. He said that it was a good thing my nose was stuffed up because the smell of them cutting and cauterizing my skin was not pleasant. I was looking at his face to read what might be going on, and it was a picture perfect poker face. At 12:32 pm, Dr. Hodges said that the baby was out and that they knew who had gotten all of the desserts. He held her up for me to see and I immediately had tears in my eyes. The song “American Pie” was playing on the radio set to a local station. After Hodges had suctioned some initial stuff from her nose, one of the doctors cut the umbilical cord but left enough of it for Andy to ceremonially cut it a bit later. All of the doctors and nurses were commenting on how beautiful both she and her umbilical cord was. In looking at pictures later, the cord was very cool looking and a perfect spiral shape. The two doctors operating on me immediately handed the newborn Belén over to the two NICU doctors/nurses who were responsible for suctioning everything out of her lungs and making sure she was okay. Soon after, Andy was able to hold her for the first time. Both Andy and Belén came over to my left to give me a better view of her. Next, they left to go to the recovery room where I would meet them 15 minutes later after they had finished sewing me up. I believe I thanked the doctors in my groggy state after the surgery as they were wheeling me out of the room.
I was thrilled to reunite with Andy and Belén in the recovery room. The NICU nurses were busy weighing and measuring her. At birth she was 8 pounds, 7 ounces and 21.5 inches long. They had also applied ointment to her eyes and given her a Vitamin K shot.
They immediately came over and handed me Belén to breastfeed, which I was very happy about as I wanted to breastfeed as soon as possible. Again it was surreal to be laying there with no feeling in my lower body with a baby which was mine on my breast. It was too much to immediately internalize and I would later understand that it would take days for it to all feel real. The rest of the afternoon is a bit hazy. At the time, I didn’t feel out of it, but by the next day, I understood that the effects of the morphine had made many things fuzzy from the day before. I couldn’t feel my legs for awhile and then they slowly started to regain feeling. I couldn’t believe that my stuffy nose actually seemed to immediately have subsided. Andy called each of our moms and they were able to come and join us in the recovery room. A short while later, I was wheeled up to the eighth floor holding Belén with Andy following us. Later in the afternoon, both of our dads and sisters, Anna and Erin as well as Anna’s husband, Derik came by. Conversation focused on how beautiful Belén is, who she looks like, her likes/dislikes, etc. Initially I thought she looked like me until I later saw Andy’s baby picture and she looks a lot like him as a baby. One thing that she does do like me is sneeze. She has the multiple rapid-fire sneezing like I do. She loves her arms and it is clear that they were near her face in the womb because she continues to have them up by her face. We have to file her nails so she does not scratch her face (like she ended up doing the first night). For much of the afternoon, I don’t remember a lot of the details. What I do remember was everyone’s immediate love for Miss Belén. Andy and I could not believe how beautiful she was and that she was ours. Later that night, Andy wheeled her bassinet to the nursery as we really needed sleep. They brought her to me to feed when she was hungry. The funny thing about this day is that everything I prepared for, I didn’t need. We prepared for natural childbirth and she was born via c-section. I was prepared for breastfeeding to be very difficult and Belén latched on as if she was an old pro almost immediately. That is a bit of an exaggeration but it was less challenging than I was expecting. Finally, the one thing I wasn’t prepared for, but I could have never expected was how much we fell in love with her the moment we laid eyes on her. Pregnancy, the surgery and everything leading up to this day was suddenly worth it and we had to be some of the proudest parents ever on this day.