You can all understand why it's been a while since I've posted. I'm now taking advantage of the fact that my daughter loves to stare at herself in the mirror in order to finish this post I began two weeks ago.
Bear in mind that I began this when Tessa was only a week old.
I thought I might take the time to list the instances in which the ol' floodgates that normally keep my crying at bay threw themselves open in the last week, further manifesting that a) I am not as stoic as previously thought, and b) pregnancy hormone effects don't stop once that baby comes.
1. The night before I went into the hospital to be induced, I became overwhelmed with concerns that Ted and I had not sufficiently prepared a spiritual environment in which to foster our little peanut. Whilst he read the latest Newsweek, I laid on my back, wide awake (the last time I can recall that happening for more than 30 seconds), thinking of all the ways I have failed as a future parent. I let out all my thoughts in a torrent and Ted had no idea where it was all coming from. Instead of dwelling on it, however, we came up with a couple more things we could do to step it up, thereby making me feel good enough to fall asleep. Meanwhile, Ted laid awake for a long while, sufficiently freaked out by his loony wife.
2. All was fine and dandy the next day as we arrived for my scheduled induction. Ted and I cheerily chatted in the curtained-off triage area while a very young OB came and ultrasounded all over my belly, taking measurements and saying things like "Hmmm..." and "...big baby.." and "...might pose a problem." The cheeriness didn't last long as this doctor explained to us that since our fetus was weighing in at approximately 9 1/2 pounds (macrosomy, I overheard: loosely translated, it means "large body" in Latin, "total fatty" in Tedspeak) and that her head wasn't "engaged" in my pelvis (when checking my cervix, her head floated back into my womb instead of staying there, ready to be birthed). Combine that with the fact that she was already a week overdue and induction would most likely result in a long, hard labor with a good chance of having a C-section anyway, this doctor told us she would consult with another doctor, but that a C-section was most probable.
Once she left, I couldn't control the tears. I think the emotions behind them were a combination of feeling like my body wasn't working right, the letdown that if I chose to "wait it out", we wouldn't be meeting the little sweetie that day, and cursing all the peanut M&Ms I had eaten in the last couple months, causing her to plump up to such a nice chubby weight.
Ted said a prayer at my hospital bed, then leaned over and whispered that he thought I should just have the C-section, thereby keeping my poor vagina intact (he didn't actually say those words) and ensuring the health of the baby. I cried again because I knew he was right. I'm now realizing I have the words "prayer" and "vagina" in the same sentence, but I'm not changing it.
3-6. I cried about four more times when I had to explain the situation over the phone to my dad and two close friends.
7. When the doctors pulled her out and confirmed she was a girl, I cried with relief. I really didn't want to have to dress a boy in all the pink stuff we got at the shower.
8. Seeing her for the first time, of course.
9. Secretly watching Ted watching her in the baby warmer. He just gently touched her head and cheeks and "packies", and I melted.
10. The following morning, while the morphine effect was wearing off, one of the many hundreds of knocks on my door produced a nurse who was supposed to prick her heel to draw blood. Well, she pricked it, and that was all fine, but then this incompetent bimbo (a kinder b-word than the one I actually want to use) distracted herself so much by telling me which Miss Universe contestant I most looked like that Tessa's heel actually dried up and she had to prick her again, thereby causing unnecessary pain and suffering on both our parts. While this nurse tried to cover up her sin by saying "She's not a bleeder! Oh, it's okay, sweetheart... She's not a bleeder! Oh, it's okay, sweetheart" all in a foreign accent, Tessa just wailed and wailed, looking at me with eyes that could only be saying, "Who ARE you, to let this awful person DO THIS TO MEEEEEE??????" I cried. And I tried to tell her later it wasn't my fault. And I would never let b-words touch her again.
11. Later that night (V-day), I was beside myself with angst because Tessa hadn't eaten more than a half dozen sucks in 24 hours. As her fussing got more and more intense, Ted tried to console her, only to result in all-out screams and shudders. Ted broke down in tears and I got frantic with the nurses because my stupidly-shaped nipples were causing me to starve my baby and WASN'T THERE ANYTHING THEY COULD DO?? They wheeled in a pump for me, I pumped a whopping 13 mL of colostrum (not even half an ounce), and she gulped it down and fell instantly asleep.
12. Seeing this a few hours later:
13. It was my third and last day in the hospital. We were informed Tessa would require yet another blood draw from her already pin-cushioned heel to check her bilirubin count and then do her PKU test. Why they can't just do all these tests in one draw, I don't know. Another heartless lab tech came in and stuck her good. Though she screamed bloody murder, I was proud to see her fiercely kicking against the guy's hand with her other foot, and had half a mind to join her. This incident itself didn't make me tear up, but in tandem with trying to get out of my bed after my vicadin had worn off, then trying to go poo despite searing hot pain in my incision, then watching Tessa get wheeled off for more heel-squeezing to please the PKU gods, then realizing I'd chalked up only a few hours of sleep in the last three days, it all came to a head and I just bawled and bawled. Ted couldn't fathom what on earth was wrong, so I helped him out by telling him I just wanted him lying near me while I sat in the chair next to him. I put on some Debussy in order to calm myself down, but Ted asked me what I needed, and I replied I just wanted to hold my baby - the ultimate fix-all. He jumped out of bed to find out where she was at the moment, saw her being wheeled back into the room, and gently placed her sleeping body in my arms. I cried all over again, but this time, it was all relief and sweetness.
14. Later that night, I decided three and a half days was long enough to go without a shower, so I turned on the hot water and made the mistake of stripping in front of the bathroom mirror. I had seen parts of my naked body since the birth, but nothing (even Sherri's warning) could have prepared me for the sight of the post-partum train wreck staring back at me. I turned away and sobbed. Ted heard me and quickly asked, "What's wrong??" I pointed at me in the mirror and said, "Look at me!! WAAAAAHHHH!!!" at which point he held me close and whispered, "Honey, you look beautiful. You just gave birth to our perfect baby girl and you look beautiful." That made me cry again, at which point I could feel the loose folds of purple-striped stomach skin shake in rhythm to my sobs, making me cry harder.
15. The next night, she woke up hungry, or so I thought. I tried to feed her, but she got more and more unruly. I tried to calm her while she shrieked and writhed for 20+ minutes, so frustrated that I couldn't give her what she needed. Then I remembered my wise mother advising me to get baby gas medicine because she won't be able to get rid of it as easily as her parents can and do (not her words). So with her turning several shades of purple in one arm, I frantically searched for the drops with the other. She sucked down the dose and I cried, hoping this was the solution while I practically patted her bum right off. She eventually got gas coming out of both ends and was happy as a clam while she sucked away at my nip-nip.
16. A day or two later, I was putting our bundle down for a nap. She was calm and cool as a cucumber, but I decided to sing her to sleep anyway (no one was listening but her, so why not?). If you grew up on the church musical My Turn on Earth, you can appreciate the sweet little "Angel Lullaby", which I've had memorized since being a little girl myself. I started singing and could barely get through the first verse:
You came from a land where all is light
To a world half day and a world half night
To guard you by day, you have my love (lost it here)
To guard you by night, your friends above.
Tessa looked at me like "Why the heck are you so weird??" I'm sure I'll see that look countless times during her life, especially when I can't resist the temptation to sing my other favorite song from the same musical, "I Have a Plan." I do a great Satan!
17. Just when I thought I was getting a handle on all these emotions, Sachia came over with dinner one night, and brought our friend Laura W for dessert as a surprise. I was SO happy to see them both, but especially Laura since she skipped town with her husband and cute daughter way too soon. While Sachia was getting a plate of her fabulous dinner ready for me, Laura and I scooped about C-sections (I've discovered it's an elite club). She told me her reason for thinking it preferable to a vaginal delivery, and after experiencing it, I have to agree. Labor can be extremely intensive and painful, as we all know. It can be hours or partial days until you get to see your baby, but often the mom is so wiped out she can't even enjoy it. But with the completely numbing drugs that come with major surgery, and the quick time frame in which it's performed, a C-section allows parents to have these first moments with the baby that are completely serene and pain-free. As a result, Laura and I both had intense spiritual experiences in the first few minutes of our daughters' lives, and we both shed a few tears talking about it.
Now, before anyone gets on a high horse about the superiority of a vaginal delivery, refer to my crying reasons #2-6 and realize that for hours, I had to make lemonade out of what I thought was an entire bushel of lemons being handed to me in "having to have a C-section." At the end of the day, I'm so grateful for modern medicine that allows so many more parents to have a healthy birth experience. If I had to choose, I would have done it the same way all over again because it resulted in one of the hugest blessings in my life.
That blessing is still staring at herself in the mirror.