“There is no one holy like the Lord;
there is no one besides you;
I had prepared myself for labor. We took the class. I knew how to breath. I had my birth plan, but I was willing to throw it out if we needed to. I was going to do whatever I had to in order to keep Samuel and myself safe and healthy.
I was not prepared for what came next, however. The recovery.
Shortly after my epidurals and wet tap, I was told that there was a chance I could get a spinal headache. The headache hit me as soon as I was seated in the wheel chair. It felt like my head was pulsing and throbbing with pain. The lights were all of a sudden severely bright. I held my head in one hand while I gripped my son in the other, so afraid the pain would cause me to let him slip.
That night was the longest, most painful night of my life. I had an episiotomy with a second degree cut. Certainly not the worst, but I was still in pain. And I'm not very good at dealing with pain. I had never had stitches before – what an introduction. The headache was minimal when I was lying flat in bed, but the pain was so bad when I stood to go to the restroom that I just cried.
My heart still aches for that first night. I still have a lot of guilt. I was supposed to feel so much joy for our new son, but I was so focused on myself and what I was feeling, the pain, the exhaustion. The hospital promotes rooming in with your newborn, but I couldn't that first night. I had to send him to the nursery.
Still lying flat to get some relief, the next day was a whirlwind. A flurry of people in and out of the room, asking questions, taking blood, giving me medication. The stress of the activity in that tiny little room was almost too much.
I have no idea when I nursed Sam for the first time. I didn't really know when I was supposed to and no one came to help me. I tried and tried to nurse him that first day, but he wouldn't latch on, wouldn't wake up. Later in the day lactation finally came to my room. I explained that I was having such difficulty figuring out how to feed Sam. I really didn't know what to do. He wasn't really eating. They asked if we were supplementing him. I had no idea if we should be or what that really meant. I was so unprepared for this part of the experience and I am still a little frustrated with the lack of support in those first crucial hours.
In the afternoon, an anesthesiologist came to discuss my headache. There were some other short-term treatments that could help reduce the symptoms, but the only real solution was a blood patch. The thought of having another epidural procedure was overwhelming, but because of the pain, I was not able to be a mom to Sam. I was so scared for the procedure, but I knew it needed to be done.
The relief was instant. Kyle was there holding my hand, helping me sip a Coke (caffeine helps the headache). The fog I had been under had been lifted.
Nursing started to go a little bit better. I felt like I had a better understanding of how to feed Sam and keep him awake. The visitors slowed down a bit. I was settling in to what our life looked like now, preparing to go home as a new family.
In hindsight, I should have taken a shower immediately. I should have washed my hair, changed clothes, and forced myself to walk around a bit. Once the headache was gone, I think my attitude and fear of the pain kept me in bed longer than I should have been. I brought makeup with me but didn't use it. I should have. It would have gone a long way in helping me feel human again.
The time I spent in the hospital was not at all as I expected. But I think I have a greater sense of what I want and need for the next time. I need to be a better advocate for myself, asking questions, demanding support. I want to nurse our next babe right away. I will wear my gown so it opens in the front during delivery so I can be skin-to-skin with him or her the second we're together. I will do what I need to to be able to keep our baby in the room with us the first night. I will grin and bear the pain, knowing that I'll be just fine. I'll shower and put on some yoga pants and worry about what's going on down there later.
We didn't think Sam would join us as early as he did, so we didn't have the car seat installed. But we did have enough sense to bring it with us. While Kyle figured that out, my mom and I packed up our bags, got Sam dressed, and prepared to bring him home.
That car ride home was surreal. It felt like a dream. A beautiful yet confusing dream. The ultimate culmination of our prayers, yet an experience we were completely and utterly unprepared for. There were no more nurses. No more call buttons on the side of the bed. Just us, left to all this new-ness.
As I said in the first part of the story, I have never felt God's presence in my life more than during this last year. That didn't change when we left the hospital. It hasn't changed since. He has been preparing our hearts for parenthood, and although we were scared, he was confident. He made Samuel just for us. And in our fear and anxiety and exhaustion, this was the truth we relied on. This is the truth I reflect on every day.
Read part 1 here.
And part 2 here.