They outfitted Sam with scrubs and told him he was allowed to watch everything and even take pictures, as long as he didn't pass out. I quickly added that he was not, in fact, allowed to take pictures of my guts, as I am perfectly okay with never knowing what I look like inside out. He could take pictures of our daughter and that was it.
I was wheeled into the operating room, where one of my midwives greeted me and said she'd be assisting my doctor with the surgery. I was glad to have a familiar face in the room, and happy to know that one of my midwives would still be involved in Ellery's birth. My nurse, Ellery's nurse, and the rest of the team were all so kind and gentle, and I felt like I was really in the best hands. It was very surreal, knowing that I was finally just moments away from meeting this person whom I'd loved for the past nine months.
Once I was numb and there was a partition preventing me from seeing anything below my chest, Sam was allowed to come in. I felt much better once he was at my shoulder. He talked me through each step and let me focus on him so that I wouldn't be scared. Soon the anesthesiologist told Sam that they were pulling the head out, so Sam leaned over the blue sheet and watched them wrench her little body from mine.
Then I heard the most incredible sound I've ever heard in my life - my daughter's first tiny cry. I looked at Sam and started to weep, overwhelmed with love and relief that she was finally here and that she was okay. They carefully held her up over the partition so that I could see her wriggly little body, and I kept crying, so thankful that she was alive and breathing.
When my doctor pulled her out, she said, "Wow, you're heavy!" and soon I heard the rest of the nurses commenting on what a big baby she was. They took her to a warming station to be measured and weighed, and my doctor said, "I want to know how much that baby weighs!" When I heard the words "Nine pounds, fourteen ounces," I made Sam repeat it to me, because that sounded huge. Then I heard the nurse say, "Twenty two and a half inches!" and I asked Sam whose baby they were talking about. Surely I couldn't have a baby that tall! Then I heard a flurry of comments like, "Where were you hiding that baby?" and "How did she ever fit in your tiny body?" and "Thank goodness you had a c-section!" And suddenly my aching back and the feelings I had had that the baby had literally no room inside my womb all made sense; I was carrying a huge kid.
Ellery's nurse quickly brought her over and placed her on my chest for some skin-to-skin time. I couldn't stop staring at her perfect face and body, and Sam and I cried a little bit and laughed and told Ellery how excited we were to finally meet her. Sam was enthralled with the baby, but also with the process of stitching me up. He kept peeking over the blue sheet, and at one point the anesthesiologist told me that my uterus was sitting on my belly. Bizarre!
I was wheeled back to my room and got to feed Ellery for the first time. She latched immediately and I felt another wave of love and thankfulness wash over me. I kept telling Sam how lucky we were to have a healthy baby, and I don't remember ever feeling so happy and relieved. I had been worried about how well she'd eat, and was pleasantly surprised to have such an easy baby to breast feed. The nurse told me that big babies were usually pretty good eaters, and all my nurses throughout the rest of my stay said that because my labor had been so frustrating, it must be nice for something to go right. And it was! She has been such a good eater and I couldn't be happier to have one less thing to worry about as I healed from my surgery.
After Sam, Ellery and I had some time alone as a family, my anesthesiologist came back in and told us about a new procedure he was learning to block the pain. Pharmaceutical companies are creating a shortage of the drugs normally used to manage pain from c-sections in order to make more money, so he was learning alternative methods. He said I was a perfect candidate, and that if I wanted, he would do the procedure for free since he was still learning. I felt really confident in his abilities, so we agreed to have the procedure. It was very short and easy and worked really well! I have had pretty minimal pain as compared to the typical c-section patient, and according to my nurses, I was moving much better and quicker than most people. So that was another thing we were really grateful for - a drug-free, pain-reducing procedure that was performed at no cost to us!
I was also incredibly blessed with the doctor I was referred to. Dr. Keller apparently does the best job with c-sections at the hospital. All the nurses who came to check on my incision immediately would say, "Oh, you had Dr. Keller!" based on how well my incision looked. The other doctors use staples, but Dr. Keller sewed me up from inside, so there wouldn't be a visible scar and I wouldn't have to return to have anything taken out. The incision site is below my bikini line, so Dr. Keller and all my nurses were excitedly telling me that I'll be able to wear my bikinis again in no time without anyone knowing I'd ever had abdominal surgery. (I didn't have the heart to tell any of them that I've never had a pretty stomach, that the only time I have ever looked good in a bikini was for maybe a week when I was twenty-two, and that I wasn't counting on childbirth and a c-section to suddenly give me a nice, flat, bikini-ready stomach.)
After talking with Dr. Keller after the procedure, she said that the size of the baby, along with her 14.5 inch head, was probably what was preventing my body from going into labor. Her head was still really high, so it wasn't able to "tell" my body to go into labor, most likely because her head wouldn't fit into my pelvis. If we'd tried natural labor, I probably would've pushed indefinitely, and it would've most likely resulted in an emergency c-section. With the scheduled surgery, I was able to mentally prepare, as well as rest my body enough so that I was physically strong enough for the surgery. It has also helped speed up the healing process for me.
Knowing what we know now makes it very clear that God's hand was over the entire pregnancy, labor and delivery, and that it really worked out for the best. God even gave me a big baby who doesn't feel like a newborn! I know it's silly, but I never like holding newborns because they feel too small and fragile, and I prefer to wait until babies are at least a month or so old before I hold them. Ellery feels like a month-old baby when I hold her, so she's perfect for this mama. Thank you, Lord!
Speaking of her size, Ellery is not a chubby baby! All the nurses kept commenting on how perfectly proportional she is. She's very long - almost two feet tall! - which accounts for a lot of her weight. She does have some healthy meat on her bones, but she's not chunky. She's a very strong little girl. (Can you tell I'm a bit sensitive when people insinuate that she's too fat?)
Aside from her size, her hair was also a huge surprise to me. I didn't think she'd have hair at all, and if she did I was sure it would be blonde. Sam had white blonde hair as a boy, and I had blonde hair when I was little. I couldn't believe it when I saw her little head full of dark hair! We're anxious to see if she keeps it or if it eventually turns blonde. Either way, she's perfect.
It's been even more of a blessing now to have my mom here to help us out. I honestly don't know how we'd do it without her! I'm not able to drive for another week, and moving around to take care of the baby is difficult. My mom has Ellery sleeping near her, so when the baby wakes up at night, Mom changes her, brings her to me in bed, waits while I feed her, then takes her to be burped and changed again if necessary, then rocks her to sleep and puts her back to bed. It's been an invaluable help to us, as it's difficult for me to get in and out of bed due to my incision. Sam was able to go back to work this week so that when Mom has to go back home, Sam can take time off. That way I'll have someone here to help me for an extended period of time. She also helps calm me down when I worry too much about the baby, and she helped me and Sam bathe Ellery for the first time on our own. Sam and I don't want her to leave!
I hope you've enjoyed reading about Ellery's birth. We really do feel so blessed and that everything worked out the way it was meant to. It meant letting go of our own plans and desires, but ultimately, isn't that what usually works best anyway? God knew what this baby needed, and what this mama needed, and gave us the perfect scenario for this little girl to come into this world. We are deliriously happy!