He's here! He's arrived! He's changed everything (mostly for the better)! To say that finally giving birth after 9 long months of gestation is a relief would be selling it short. It's an amazing and very odd feeling to suddenly be carrying this little person in your arms instead of your belly. Like most new moms, as ready as I was to be done with my pregnancy, there is a significant part of me that misses it already. I've traded the pregnancy backaches for the breastfeeding backaches, the not sleeping because I have to pee so often for not sleeping because he pees so often, the gestational diabetes meal plan for the "mom never gets to finish a plate" meal plan, and you know what? It's freaking awesome!
We checked into the hospital the evening of March 19th and pretty quickly settled into our digs with what seemed like way too much stuff at the time. Not the nicest or most modernized birthing room but it had everything we needed for what we thought was going to be a fairly short stay. I handed over my birthing plan to the nursing staff, changed into the comfortable nightgown and robe I had brought for laboring in and was promptly hooked up to the monitors, IV's and Pitosin that would induce my labor. No big deal. I was totally ready, but ready is pretty damn different from prepared. Our first nurse was an absolute dream. Sweet and young, attentive and positive. She complimented my choice to bring something comfortable to labor in, apologized when an injection site bleed slightly on the robe and was always sure to ask if we needed absolutely anything before she left our room. She interacted with Jason as much as with me and I really appreciated that. I cannot say the same about the following 15 nurses that cycled in and out of our lives over the next 5 days. Helen, I am sooooo looking at you.
Considering that everyone has a birthing story that is unique to their situation, both beautiful and stressful, I'll spare you a long drawn out account of every interaction with a nurse, scary moment, relieving moment, humorous moment, and just stick to the major parts: 37 hours of labor, an epidural that was adjusted 3 times, the most horrifically uncomfortable hospital bed ever, a catheter, 3 hours of pushing, a forcep assisted delivery, stitches, and the scare of him being born with the cord around his neck later, Bazil Oliver Murdoc Brink was born (Bazil with a soft A. Think Brazil without the R.). He weighed in at just over 9lbs, was 21 inches long, and even covered in all that gunk was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Instant true love. Nothing can prepare you for it. He had a pretty severe "cone head" from being in the birth canal for so long and from the forceps. These two factors also caused a pretty serious scalp hematoma that posed a semi-serious problem. The entire back of his head was a large merlot colored bruise that was very obviously painful for him seeing as he cried every time his hat was adjusted or he was passed from one person to another. It absolutely broke my heart. The worst part is that a trauma like that caused him to develop jaundice in less than 12 hours. Jaundice is fairly common but cause for more concern than normal when it occurs in the first 24 hours. It has to do with billirubin levels and the processing of red blood cells. The tiny liver of a newborn just isn't equipped for the amount of processing required from a hematoma. The worst case scenario is a high enough level to cause brain damage. Not very likely, but once you say something like brain damage to me when I've had him less than a day, that's pretty much all I heard. Stressful business.
We anxiously awaited assessments from the doctor, pediatrician, blood tests, lab work and so on for 2 full days in hopes that he was fine and we would be released. No such luck. He needed light therapy in what they call a billi-bassinet. UV light therapy and bowel movements are the only effective treatment for jaundice in infants. I was required to wake him and feed him every hour which was very difficult because lethargy is a symptom of jaundice. After a day of his illness, he no longer woke up to eat on his own, had stopped crying even for diaper changes, and was almost orange. It was really awful to have him go from a normal demanding infant to a limp little yellow doll. I was going crazy on the inside but trying very hard to hold it together on the outside. It was very stressful for all of us especially after so many days in a hospital room without leaving. No fresh air. No walks. No sunshine, and now a move into a smaller room in another wing of the hospital. We all had a very rough night. One of the longest of my life. His treatment required him to be in a light bed for as close to 12 hours as possible with no swaddling, no taking him out if it could be at all avoided, and his little head wrapped in a bandaged eye mask to protect his eyes. I stayed awake almost the entire night just watching him and trying to comfort him. Helplessness is a horrible feeling when all you want to do is make it easier for him and you are running on less than 3 hours of sleep a night already. I cried as much as Bazil did.
The upside is that after just one night in the billi-bassinet he was making a quick recovery and we were discharged that afternoon, free to return home with our baby boy and spend some time with the family that was still in town to meet him. The car ride home felt bizarre and I was so paranoid about the idiotic road maneuvers of the drivers around us that I finally just stopped looking anywhere but at Bazil. I resisted the urge to look even when Jason pumped the breaks and called somebody an ass-clown. I just stared at that baby and thought, "There's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no place like home.". It was amazing how relaxing it was just to be in my own house once we got there. I knew I was eager to get out of the hospital but I had no idea what a negative affect being there was having on me until I was in my own living room. Nothing had changed. Bazil was still new and fragile, he still had jaundice, we still hadn't slept, and I was still on the verge of tears both from exhaustion and happiness but just knowing that I could go make a cup of good coffee or take a shower with good water pressure, and that I was going to sleep in my own bed was enough to make me feel rejuvenated. So awesome to be home, sweet home.
I'll end this entry with a short list of things I found it really helpful to have with us in the hospital. Some essential and some just really handy.
1) A sleeping pad like the kind you use when camping. It will be a god sent for your birthing partner to help pad that awful vinyl couch that's provided for them and will be even more amazing for you after the birth because those beds could be used as a torture device. So. Fecking. Uncomfortable.
2) A fan. Paper or electric. Those rooms are sweltering, stagnant, and you will sweat your ass off during labor.
3)Really good chap stick. Splurge on the good stuff. You'll need it.
4) Massage oil or lotion. Your back is gonna hurt and the whole process makes your legs swell up something awful if they haven't already. Have your partner learn a bit of lymphatic drainage massage as well. You will love them forever.
5) Your own pillows. As many as you can carry. Body pillow included. You will be glad you did. Hospital pillows suck and as I mentioned earlier, the beds are horrible. I think the pain of being stuck in that bed was worse than the actual labor.
6) Snacks. And lots of them. Healthy things and yummy things alike. You will be ravenous after laboring and if you happen to give birth when the cafeteria is closed, all you'll be getting is PB&J. If you're really lucky, your partner will go on a food run for you. Even Taco Bell is delectable at this point.
7) A birthing ball. lots of hospitals provide them but they are very small and if you start thinking about how many naked, laboring vaginas have been on them, cotton pads or not, you'll get grossed out.
8) A luxurious and fluffy bath towel and showering items. The first shower you take after birth will be the best shower of your life. Seriously.
9) Only pack clothing that you can comfortably nurse in if you're breastfeeding. If not, pack easy and comfortable items only. Don't bother with underwear. They'll get ruined and the hospital will provide you with disposables that are actually really comfy. Don't be afraid to ask for multiple pairs while there and some to take home.
10) Super comfy socks. Your feet will get so cold and hospital floors are nasty. They'll offer you theirs but they suck. And make sure that whatever kind you bring have those little grippers on the bottom or they won't let you wear them. "You may slip and sue the hospital and then how would I retire?", was actually a stated reason. Again, Helen, I am sooooo looking at you.