The night before Phoebe’s birth was not unlike most nights in our home. After all, having a scheduled c-section came with the luxury of knowing I could (theoretically) get a full night’s rest before meeting our baby. But, this pregnancy was my fourth and my last, and I was determined to savor every second of feeling this girl kick and squirm inside my body.
It had been an uneventful pregnancy, but not without concern. After three healthy daughters, we experienced a pregnancy that ended in a miscarriage early last year. This new baby would be our “rainbow baby”, and carrying her felt like holding my breath for 9 long months. Every doctor’s appointment was fraught with fear in the back of my head and anxiety in my heart that held both pain and excitement at the same time. I could no longer take for granted things like kick-counts or round ligament pain. Even the 25 weeks of a hormonal migraine (yes, it was miserable) gave me little reassurance that everything would be okay. Every day was a constant reminder of how little control I had over this growing miracle so close to my heart.
The night before her birth was no different. I massaged my belly with my favorite Earth Mama Organics Belly Oil, and sipped on Organic Peaceful Mama Tea. Trust, hope, love, and most of all, faith, circled my thoughts as I prayed over my giant belly in anticipation of her arrival. I had a final snack around 10 p.m. and saw my older three girls off to school the next morning. I showered and got ready, trying to practice calm breathing as if to prep my body with a pretend labor. I had experienced spontaneous labor with my first two girls, so I was no stranger to the relaxation needed to endure contractions. But, the “contractions of the mind” are an entirely different hurdle, preparing my nerves for the upcoming trauma it was about to undergo. All of my births had ended in c-sections, so I was well-versed in what to expect for my fourth. But, nothing really prepares you for the moment your body is surgically opened up to meet a brand-new human!
We arrived to the hospital around 10 a.m. and were checked in to a curtained off “room” where they let me change into a gown and started an IV going. We passed the time watching the baby’s heartbeat on the monitor, grateful for the steady sketch of mountains and valleys on the screen indicating her safety. Before we knew it, they were handing my husband his surgical “hazmat” suit and wheeling me into the OR. It was chilly and bright, and the anesthesiologist and nurses helped me onto the table.
It was time to get my spinal block inserted, and if any of you have ever had an epidural, then you know how fun this is. (Ugh) Unlike a natural labor and delivery (when the epidural is typically a welcome reprieve downgrading pain from excruciating to tolerable) the spinal block pre-caesarean is really the introduction of pain starting from ground zero. It’s a mental game, and I’d been doing my best to prepare my breath and brain for the control it takes to sit like a statue and ignore the giant needle being inserted in my back. This time around went very smoothly and I was singing the praises of my anesthesiologist the rest of the day! Unfortunately, the spinal block also has a tendency to lower blood pressure, and I was immediately woozy and began dry heaving from the sudden nausea. By the time my husband entered the OR, the worst had passed and I was gaining color in my face again. It was time to meet our girl.
C-sections are remarkably fast. It’s shocking how a tiny human can come Earth side within minutes of surgery. It’s a myth that c-sections are painless, however. Even with the numbness of the spinal block, there is significant pressure and tugging/pulling that is unlike any other feeling I’ve ever experienced. Finally, my doctor announced, “Okay, drop the curtain and get ready for a lot of pressure!” The nurses peeled back the blue surgical drape and revealed the clear curtain we requested to see our daughter’s first moments. I felt a deep and painful push on my abdomen followed by a rush of relief as if someone blew up a balloon to its limit, only to let the air out again.
“Here she is!” I heard over the curtain. I tried to look, but my neck couldn’t strain high enough. I could tell she was getting pulled out, and as soon as there was less pressure I heard the unforgettable cry of my daughter’s lungs bursting with air for the first time ever. Her screams were like a symphony, and they quickly brought her around for us to see her. She was adorable, squishy, and very, very gray. As soon as we saw her, they whisked her to the side to be measured and monitored. Her oxygen was low and she was aspirating fluid from having cried as she was being pulled from the womb. They let us get a couple quick photos, then they continued checking her breathing. She was crying, but it sounded gargled and raspy.
I’ll jump straight to the punchline: she was okay. She is okay. But, the next hour was brutal for me emotionally as they took her to the NICU for oxygen and monitoring. Josh followed her (upon my insistence) and I was surrounded by nurses and doctors while feeling utterly alone and without my baby. This had never happened to any of my girls before, and I felt completely helpless and vulnerable. There I was, with my insides literally exposed, and all I could do was cry and keep asking the kind anesthesiologist to keep telling me everything was normal and okay. Like the calm eye of an emotional hurricane, I felt a deep peace in my heart that everything would be fine even though the atmosphere around me felt foggy and dark.
I spent the first moments of recovery alone and anxious. Back in the curtained “room” I stared at my iPhone as updates from my husband would trickle in about the baby. She was on oxygen. She was on her tummy to help get the fluid out of her lungs. She was less gray and getting some color. And, finally, “she’s okay and we’re wheeling her down to you”.
In the best reunion of my life, I could finally hold my girl. Phoebe Delilah Victory Pardy weighed 8 pounds, 7 ounces, and 18” long. Her cherub cheeks perfectly kissable, and her tiny body snuggled into my arms. Safe. Here. Finally.
Her first two names mean “Radiant Delight” and Victory is after a verse in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 15:57. After a miscarriage, a long pregnancy filled with anxiety, and a bit of a scary entrance into the world, we couldn’t be more grateful for our victory in holding our rainbow baby, Phoebe. Welcome to the world, sweet beauty!