If you missed how Snow Pea's labor started you can read Part 1 here or if you need to catch up on the sudden turn of events in her delivery, read Part 2 here.
Once the call was made for me to stop pushing and get prepped for a c-section, my first thought was just one thing: water! I was so incredibly thirsty from all of the breathing and pushing I had been doing for the past couple of hours. The cup of water Chad was passing to me had barely grazed my fingertips when a nurse intervened and took it away. I nearly cried at that moment and I think she sensed my desperation so I was allowed one tiny ice chip before the staff began shuffling me carefully onto the the gurney for my trip to the operating room.
On the way, I was hurriedly trying to send a text to my friends and family across the country letting them know what was happening while also trying hold myself together in spite of my growing anxiety. Chad held my hand tight and kept reassuring me that despite my disappointment with myself, I had not failed and everything would turn out great. All too quickly we were outside the OR doors. My new nurse wasn't exactly patient with me or my emotions and despite my requests for one more minute to text my family and hug my husband, she told me to hand him my phone and sent him off in the opposite direction to be prepped as she wheeled me into the room. I had been disappointed when shift change happened but now I wished more than ever that my previous nurse was still on duty.
Once in the OR, I was shuffled onto the operating table and my gown was pulled up to my waist as the curtain was placed above my chest. My anesthesiologist arrived to re-do my IV and prepare me for surgery. As he worked and the nurses did their prep, I kept asking my nurse questions about what to expect. I was getting more and more anxious with every second and even though I knew a lot of the answers from having read the books and attending the classes, I felt as if hearing the answers again would somehow calm my nervous energy. Unfortunately, as I said my nurse wasn't very patient with my anxiety and I could tell I was getting on her nerves. it didn't help that as I talked I was staring at the door waiting for Chad to appear. I knew that he was really the only person that could truly make me feel any better.
Luckily, my anesthesiologist, Dr Thoughtful, was one of the nicest and friendliest people I have ever met and he did a great job of soothing me until Chad finally arrived. It had only been 15 minutes that we were apart but it felt like an eternity. I was so relieved to see him, and even though I was laid on the table with my arms out as if on a cross, I did my best to hug him when he swooped down to kiss me on the forehead.
Dr. Casual came in and asked Dr Thoughtful when the medication would be sufficiently in my system. He said I was all set and that we could start at 8:50pm, which was in about 10 minutes. I held onto Chad's hand and began directing my questions at Dr. Thoughtful. He said I could keep my arms unstrapped but I did need to keep them out and away from the curtain. He also told me that the anesthesia would remove all pain but that I would still feel tugging and pulling sensations. It seemed like within seconds I was feeling exactly what he was talking about. As soon as it started my focus seemed to turn inward and thanks to the drugs, I have very sparse memories from this point onward. I remember knowing that the incision was being made, and feeling the tug as my abdominal muscles were pulled apart. It didn't hurt but it did feel completely unlike anything I have ever experienced and I groaned with many of the pulls, largely aware that my insides were being tugged and moved.
The birth part of a c-section is quicker than you can imagine, and suddenly Dr Thoughtful's hands were on my temples and he was chanting my name as he guided my face up to look into a mirror he held for me so that I could see the other side of the curtain. I stared into it and saw a curved little body resting on top of a sea of red. Snow Pea's back was curved up with her legs tucked under her with a swirl of darkened, wet curls on her head. I held my breath and stared at that mirror for what simultaneously seemed like a nanosecond and an eternity before hearing her very first life-changing cry. I let out the biggest exhale of my life as I squeezed Chad's hand and looked into his tear filled eyes. At 8:57pm Snow Pea was born.
As Snow Pea was cut free from my body, Dr Thoughtful told me I would feel a sting in my hand. I quickly replied "there it is" and that was it, I was in a medicated daze. No one had sufficiently prepared me for the morphine or it's effects. I felt like my body was trying to force me into a coma like sleep as I fought against it with everything I had and that feeling lasted for hours afterward. I hate that I was so drugged for the first few hours of my daughter's life. I can only remember Snow Pea's birth in bits and pieces and so much of it is so fuzzy in my memory, but thankfully the most important moments are with me, imprinted on my soul forever.
I don't remember Chad leaving my side but once she was in the warmer, the neonatologist called him over. He hadn't wanted to cut the cord, he thought it seemed unnecessary, but the doctor extended the scissors and being in the moment, Chad went ahead and cut away the length of umbilical cord still attached to Snow Pea's tummy. He talked to her and took pictures as she was weighed and wrapped to be brought to me. Once she was ready, he held her for the first time and carried her to me.
Like I said, I don't remember this time period but I know I was still being stitched up when he nudged her body toward my face so that I could see and hold her for the first time and that I do remember. As soon as her body made contact with mine, my free arm- the right one- wrapped up around her and held onto her as tightly as possible. I nuzzled my face into her body and just fell into that moment. Nothing else existed in those few seconds but her. There really are no words to adequately describe that first embrace. It was like time stood still and the whole universe just fell away. There was only my body holding onto her tiny little body and every ounce of pure love that has ever existed seemed to flow through me. I can't describe it as intense because it was so much more peaceful than that. It was what I always imagined a state of nirvana might feel like. I didn't think of her as my daughter or myself as her mother. I didn't think about my past or my future or even my present with doctors sewing up my insides, it just me and her and nothing else. And then Chad was there holding me and her together and it was just the three of us. In our own little bubble of joy and love, nothing else seemed to exist and even if it did, it didn't seem to matter.
The next thing I remember is being in the recovery room alone with my nurse as she checked my blood pressure. I was panicky inside wondering where my family was. Why wasn't Chad or Snow Pea with me? What was going on? I felt like someone had amputated my heart, they should have been there with me! It turned out that Snow Pea had a lot swelling on her head from having her head trapped during labor in addition to some concerns about her breathing so she was in the nursery for care and observation. Poor Chad was shuffling between my floor and hers, not sure where he should be. Finally, my hour of recovery was up and I was cleared to be moved to my room.
First, my nurse wheeled my gurney to the nursery so that I could see my sweet baby girl. I tried furiously to force my eyes open as I looked at her struggling to breath under the nursery warmers. I tentatively reached out to touch her and received a very wet, rattling cry in response. I realized my hands must have been freezing to her and quickly shrunk away as I apologized. I gave my fingers a chance to get warm before placing my index finger into the palm of her hand and stroking the back of my hand with her thumb. It was the first time I had made direct skin to skin contact with her and all too quickly it was over and I was wheeled into my room to wait until she was released from the nursery.
I slept off and on until they finally brought her back to me at about 1am. The neonatologist explained the tests they had done and told me that if the ultrasounds they planned to perform on her head swelling revealed any blood, that she would be taken to the NICU. I held my breath at that and prayed that wouldn't be the case. The nurses came again at 3am and took her for her first bath. Normally they do this in the room with the parents there to be a part of it, but they were still concerned about her and wanted to do it in the nursery and keep her in the warmers again afterward. I was so devastated not to be there for that and then again when I realized she had been alive for 6 hours and I had yet to feed her or even truly hold her, let alone name her!
Morning came and the sun rose over our new view. This time instead of an ocean scene, our window faced a building. But not just any building, we were just across the street from the very building where it all began. It was the building where my egg retrieval took place, as well as the fertilization of those eggs. It was the building where our embryos are currently on ice and where one of those formally frozen snowflakes was transferred back into my body on July 15, 2010. The embryo that stayed and grew and thrived and became our Snow Pea. When I was finally able to truly hold her, I showed her that building and told her what an epic ninth month journey it had been for to get to the other side of the street.
Then at long last, just before the staff member came to collect the paperwork for her birth certificate, Chad and I decided on our daughter's name. We already knew her middle name would be Sue, after not only my sister who has the same middle name, but also both of our mother's who are Susie (mine) and Sue (his). With that much family connection, there really was no other choice for me. Her first name however, we could never commit to during my pregnancy. Finally looking at her face to face though and feeling the enormity of all we had been through to get her here as well as the extreme gratitude at having her to love at long last, we realized only one name on our list would do. I am not a religious person but I do believe in a loving spirit outside of us. Eliana in Hebrew means "God has answered me" and after years of hurt, loss, hope and now finally holding her in my arms, I know that he certainly has.