Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sitting in the Catbird Seat

Note: I'm actually not wearing the carrier right here. The 
front strap around my abdomen is meant to be folded up 
and under, creating a sort of pocket for baby. D'oh! 

I'm not sure if it's a good or bad thing, but this blog is quickly becoming a family-oriented mommy blog with a Jewish twist. Who would have thought when I started “Just Call Me Chaviva” nearly eight years ago that such an evolution would occur, right?

So keeping with the theme of all things baby and family, I've partnered with Chicago-based Catbird Baby to delve into the fun and versatile world of babywearing.

Catbird Baby carriers
For those not in the know, never fear, I haven't turned Ash into a clever fascinator or stylish handbag. Babywearing is the art of schlepping your little one to and fro in one of dozens and dozens of different types of carriers. An evolution all its own, babywearing used to be the only way to tote your kid because it was allowed for work + caring for baby. Strollers (or buggies if you prefer) took over for a long time, but at some point babywearing was rekindled as all the rage, and in Israel babywearing is an art form all its own.

Mr. T and I were down with babywearing from the beginning, which for us has been convenient because the stroller we purchased is waiting for us in Nebraska, where we're heading next month to visit family and pick it up (it was 1/4 the price in the U.S. as here). Short of carrying Ash everywhere in the carseat, babywearing has been a necessity.

When wearing Ash, our hope and goal is that he'll happily feel like he's in the "catbird seat." I'll be honest: I was unfamiliar with the term before hearing about Catbird Baby, but now it makes sense when it comes to babywearing.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first recorded usage occurred in a 1942 humorous short story by James Thurber titled "The Catbird Seat," which features a character, Mrs. Barrows, who likes to use the phrase. Another character, Joey Hart, explains that Mrs. Barrows must have picked up the expression from Red Barber, a baseball broadcaster, and that to Barber "sitting in the catbird seat" meant "'sitting pretty,' like a batter with three balls and no strikes on him."
With Ash, especially because he's still so young, being bundled all close and cozy to mom or tatty is hugely important because it provides him a sense of safety and security (not to mention he falls asleep a lot quicker when he's cuddled super close). With babywearing, he's in his own catbird seat because he's reaping the benefits of that close, secure positioning that carriers like the pikkolo and mei tei provide, and that a stroller simply doesn't. I can't wait until he's a little bit older and his neck support is awesome enough that we can wear him facing forward so he really will be sitting pretty, seeing everything the world has to offer.

Stay tuned for more detailed reviews of Catbird Baby's carriers, including some thoughts from the peanut gallery Mr. T (who, by the way, doesn't like the Ergo and preferred the Moby until we got these carriers). Also: Be sure to let me know if you've got a favorite carrier!

Note: Catbird Baby has provided me with pikkolo and mei tei carriers at no charge for our blogging partnership. That being said, I did have to pay duty and VAT on the carriers once they arrived in Israel, which was a huge bummer and quite expensive. All product reviews on this blog reflect my own honest opinion, however pleasant or harsh they may be.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Cloth Diapering: It Begins!

When Mr. T and I found out we were preggo, we began having conversations sporadically about things like co-sleeping, pacifiers, and cloth diapering. Oddly enough, because I'd never fully committed to having kids, I'd never really considered all of the options out there for how and when and where and why to raise a child.

Mr. T was very anti-pacifier (pro thumb), in favor of co-sleeping, and most definitely down with cloth diapering. I'm a big believer that you can get rid of a pacifier, but a thumb is forever, and in Israel there are a lot of kids pushing 10 years old that are still sucking their thumbs, so I made my opinions on this clear from the start. Co-sleeping scared the daylights out of me because I'm a pretty messy and aggressive sleeper because I simply don't sleep well. Covers on, covers off, covers on the floor, pillows here, there, and everywhere ... the thought of having a baby in bed with me just horrified me. But cloth diapers, that was something we could agree on.

(Note: Since the baby was born, of course, everything has gone out the window. Ash is trying to suck his thumb and we're waiting with breath bated for him to figure it out, because he won't take a pacifier. I've been co-sleeping since our first night in the baby hotel because he won't sleep alone, and so far he's still alive and well.)

Having lived in Colorado, I became a bit of a hippie, what with my then-vegan diet and frequenting farmers markets for the best in organic groceries. Cloth diapers just made sense to me, what with saving the planet and saving bucket-loads of money.

I began researching and researching and, overwhelmed with the dozens of different types of cloth diapers, I decided to think about it later, and then later became, oh man the baby is coming in a few weeks. In the meantime while trying to not think about cloth diapers, I got in touch with a few diaper companies like Charlie Banana and Bubi (review forthcoming) to see about trying their products out, as well as a local gemach to borrow some different cloth diaper brands to try out.

The kind folks at Charlie Banana sent me two sizes: One Size and XS. 

Of the few that we've tried out so far (mostly because what we have don't fit the wee one just yet), we're loving Charlie Banana, which are known as pocket snap diapers in the lingo, because they have a pocket in which you put an absorbent pad and the diaper closes with snaps. The nice thing about these is that you can add in more than one pad at a time in case you have quite the pisher and the snaps can be adjusted to accommodate the size of the baby. We've also noticed, in a short time using this brand, that they get clean much better than other brands that hold quite colorful stains. And, come on now, the designs are unbelievably creative and unique, and who doesn't want their baby to have a bit of fashion around the bum, eh?

Although a lot of people advise against purchasing newborn or XS diapers because your baby might grow out of them and/or it's a bit easier to use disposables in the first few months because of how frequently your baby is going to go through diapers, there's been something nice about at least having the one XS Charlie Banana that fits Ash like a glove. Mr. T is quite fond of Charlie Banana, and I'm guessing there will be a larger purchase of the cute nappies once we're stateside.

Are you cloth diapering? Do you have brands that you love or would recommend? 

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Spitting Image?

In case you were wondering which one of us Asher looks the most like ...

Chin, nose, skin pigment, hair, oh my! The eyes are a spitting image of mine, too, although you can't tell because Ash's asleep in this. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Part 2: Recovering


Note: The recovery time in-hospital for c-sections in Israel is 4+ days, instead of the usual 2-3. 

Thursday: After the labor, I was shuffled on a stretcher, shivering from the meds and unable to move my legs, through corridor after corridor to a different building to the "recovery" room. I had assumed when they told me I was going to recovery that it meant a maternity ward recovery, but where I ended up was something along the lines of general surgical recovery. The man next to me was vomiting or spitting something up every five minutes, the two women across from me were bruised and tied up to machines, and the recovery area got more and more full over the next five hours that I laid there, unable to move, crying, scared, and frustrated.

Mr. T made sure I was settled and then went upstairs to the nursery to see the baby, to make sure he was okay and to see what the situation was. Left alone, nurses came and changed various things in the most aggressive way possible, rolling me on my side with a quick shove, without telling me what was happening. The pain was unbearable, and one of the nurses said she'd make sure I was kept on medication, which turned out to be an empty promise because hours later I'd asked three different women for medication and crying uncontrollably not a one came back with anything for me. When Mr. T returned he was swiftly kicked out because the doctors were making rounds and, evidently, guests aren't allowed in the room when this is happening. The security guard threatened him for standing outside the door, poised to come back in, instead of in some special waiting area. Later the same thing happened and with the security guard standing at the end of my bed yelling at my husband to leave I shouted "Gever, gever, b'vakasha ..." trying to get his attention to explain the situation.

He didn't even have the decency to turn and look at the crying woman in the hospital bed. He just scowled and yelled at my husband more.

You see, with my first ever hospital stay, my first surgery, my first birth, I was both in shock, incredibly emotionally exhausted, and scared beyond anything I can describe. Left alone those minutes in the recovery room to my own thoughts and devices I cried. I didn't want to be alone. I shouldn't have been alone. Mr. T knew that, and he went to great lengths to make sure he was there for me.

After he'd gone up to the nursery, in fact, he came back with a little plastic cup.

"Don't lose this," he said. "It's very important."

The little cup was meant for me to express in, so that when my newborn baby was ready, he could eat. They told Mr. T they needed it back by noon to feed the baby, and as the hours ticked on and I clutched that little plastic cup having zero clue how to express on my own, Mr. T grew frustrated and I grew more depressed.

After speaking with countless nurses and doctors, after waiting hours, Mr. T finally went to the maternity ward and demanded they make space for me. Put me in the hallway, anything, just to get me nearer to my son so that when he's ready to eat, I'm there. I tweeted, I Facebooked, I wanted someone, anyone to help me. (Oh, and Hadassah.org responded, hours later.)

Eventually, five hours after I'd been sitting in recovery and nearly six hours after I'd last seen my baby, we were moved onto the maternity ward, me still clutching the little plastic cup.

Mr. T went to the nursery asking them to please bring the baby to see his mother, and a nurse rolled him in to us saying "Five minutes, I'll be back in five minutes." He was on a monitor because of concerns about his breathing, but from the looks of him, he was calm, breathing, content, exhausted. I put my finger near his face and he grabbed it firmly -- my baby's first attempt at reaching out to mom. For the first time in days I felt relaxed. This was my baby, he was okay, things were going to be good.

The woman spared no seconds, returning the baby to the nursery and setting me on the journey to recovery. Nurse after nurse would come in over the next few days taking temperatures and blood pressure at all hours of the day (why they need to take these measurements at midnight when I'm sleeping is beyond me), another nurse to deliver medication, another to teach me how to express (telling me that most c-section moms can't express so quickly -- so there's a triumph), another to explain how to breast feed, another to check the catheter, another to bring me food so I can take the higher-dose medication, and yet another to stand outside the door while I sat in a white plastic chair, shivering, attempting to shower for the first time in nearly two days.

The food they served on the ward floor consisted of cheese, more cheese, hardboiled eggs, and more cheese. Oh, and chocolate pudding. The hot food was gluten-filled, ranging from shnitzel to quiche. After the birth my appetite disintegrated and I still don't have it back. I lost more than 14 pounds over the pregnancy and birth, and I find myself only eating when I know I'm supposed to. In the hospital Mr. T grew more and more frustrated with the food options -- for someone who was lactose intolerant pre-pregnancy and because they suggest avoiding mass quantities of dairy if you're breastfeeding because of baby sensitivity.

The real kicker came one of the first night after the birth when around 12:30 in the morning, with me, the baby, and Mr. T all asleep someone came in to take my temperature and woke all of us up to take the baby back to the nursery. We had no idea that the baby couldn't stay with us in the room, especially because it didn't make sense with a breastfeeding mom to have the baby down the hall when mom (that's me) wasn't incredibly mobile. Was I expected to get up at 3 in the morning and schlep down the hall to feed? Why couldn't they leave the baby with me?

That night I believe I spent five hours straight nursing the baby in a room adjacent to the nursery, which was filled with screaming children whose mothers, I assume, were relying on formula and getting a quality night's sleep. I sat and nursed and nursed and nursed and nursed and only when it was okay for me to roll the baby back to our room did I set him down and return to my room where Mr. T was sleeping.

Did I mention husbands were technically supposed to sleep in the rooms and that there is nowhere else in the hospital for them to sleep except on Shabbat? Yeah ... there's that. Israeli hospitals are not husband friendly. I guess the assumption is that post-birth moms just want to shove their babies off into the nursery and for husbands to go home and take care of the other kids and leave mom alone for the next three days or so. On Shabbat, dads can sleep in the synagogue on cots that are setup and there are options for meals, too. The rest of the time, dads can't eat the food served on the ward and if you're caught sleeping in the room, depending on the nurse, you'll be booted.

Saturday: After a few days on this particular floor, we complained about the food, not being able to have our baby in the room, and other things and we were moved up to a different floor that allowed the baby to room-in, but most definitely did not let Mr. T sleep in the room overnight. But we were content to have the baby in the room with us after two nights without him and me schlepping around to feed him down the hall.

This night was the the worst night in the hospital for me. I was frazzled already from exhaustion and still reeling from the pain of surgery and everything happening with my baby. Around 12:30 in the morning, as I sat in bed feeding a fairly fussy baby, an older, fanny-pack toting nurse came in to (once again) take my blood pressure and temperature. The conversation went something like this:

"What are you doing? Who taught you to feed like that?" the nurse said.
"What do you mean? A nurse on floor B. I've fed him like this for two days just fine. He's fussy. It's fine. We're fine," I responded.
"No, you can't feed him like that," she said as she came over and pulled the baby out of my arms as he screamed and I started to cry.

She proceeded to tell me a variety of "problems" with my breasts and why the baby isn't feeding right, as I sat bawling and the baby screamed. Another nurse came in and asked what was going on. The fanny-pack toting nurse told her I wasn't feeding my baby right and that's why he was crying and that there were problems with my breasts. The younger nurse came over and investigated (me, still bawling as I was being manhandled and my baby was starving) and said things were fine. The older nurse tried to get me to use this ridiculous device to feed the baby and the younger nurse assertively told her to lay off. The older nurse backed off and watched as the younger nurse helped me get the baby to latch. He calmed down, he fed, she told me it would be okay.

I spent the rest of the night feeding the baby and feeding the baby and crying on and off. Inevitably the younger nurse suggested we top him off with a formula bottle, and against my better judgment we did. I was exhausted and wanted to sleep. So she took the baby, said she'd feed him, and then burp him because he was gassy. Around 4:30 in the morning -- me asleep -- she wheeled him into my room, said he was fine and had been asleep for a while.

In the morning, before she left for the day, she came in to check on the baby and (having explained everything to Mr. T), we both thanked her again and again for her help and kindness. Her name? Chana. Truth be told, she was the only nurse with a sense of empathy that we came across during our time at Hadassah Ein Kerem.

Sunday-Tuesday: After speaking with the head nurse about everything, it was decided that we were going to be moved over to the Hadassah Baby hotel next door to chill out, relax, and get out of the hospital. We waited until nearly three in the afternoon, but we were moved over to the hotel and given two free nights (for me and baby -- husbands, of course, have to pay). The benefits of the hotel? Baby in the room, quality food options with a chef who was willing to make me gluten-free nosh (I had my first real meal in nearly a week thanks to some stir-fried veggies and tofu). With a giant comfortable bed, a nice shower, privacy, and no nurses checking my blood pressure every five seconds, things looked good.

Then, that evening, I began to have intense pain on my right side under my rib cage. We thought maybe I'd bruised or broken a rib in the process of the birth, but this was the first I was experiencing of the pain. We pushed the baby into the nursery and explained the situation, to which the nurses in the hotel said it was the after-effects of the c-section. They put me back on pain meds, and I proceeded to be med-loading every four to five hours for the next two weeks (I'm still taking ibuprofen nearly every night to calm the pain of what I think is a seroma behind my scar, but a visit to the ER last week had the on-call gyno saying that it wasn't a seroma, so who knows).

On Tuesday, after a week of being away from home, moved between six different hospital rooms, 45 hours of labor, having an unplanned surgery, having my baby forcibly removed from my arms several times, and being scolded for how I was feeding my child ... we went home. I was immediately more relaxed being in my own space. Without the eyes of nurses watching over me and the concern of eating enough to provide enough for my baby, I was in the comfort of familiar surroundings. And here I've been for the past three weeks.

These three weeks have been emotional and exhausting. They've involved a half-dozen trips to the nurse in Efrat to get my surgical staples removed, to check on my scar, which so nicely decided to open and cause problems, and a visit to the ER for the same reason. Luckily, we're getting into patterns with sleep and feeding, and having Mr. T at home every day has been helpful. With the baby attached 24/7 because, let's be honest he's at the age of Mommy = comfort, having someone to make food, do laundry, change diapers, and keep the house presentable while I feed and work is a huge blessing. Today I made my first solo outing to the grocery store, leaving a sleeping baby at home with the husband and it went fairly well, despite the cart falling over and the overly heavy bags being hard on my body to lift. Who would have thought a grocery trip could take it all out of me?

I guess this concludes the drama of my birthing and recovery story. I'm still recovering. There are a lot of things that I'm unable to do because of the pain and the possible whatever/seroma that's living in my body. I'm loving having lost more than 14 pounds because, hey, I look good, but not being able to lift things, bend over, reach things on high counters has me feeling a bit feeble and helpless. It's frustrating, but I'm working on it.

I didn't think we'd get to three weeks last month, but baruch ha'Shem, we're doing good. The baby has peed on me more than a dozen times (why is my instinct to cup my hand to stop the pee instead of folding the diaper up?) and decided to poo on me mid-diaper change several times, too. I've become a master of Googling baby-related things (seriously, how are some of these things even Googleable?!), and I've come to terms with the age of my baby necessitating 24/7 attachment.

Now to get tatty to understand that crying baby means baby needs something from mommy, not that tatty isn't cool.

Read Part 1 here.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Book Review: Letters to President Clinton

I am seriously backlogged on book reviews at the moment (all the books read and merely waiting for me to share my two cents) thanks to a bundle of joy that is ever-so attached to his mommy at all times. I really should get better at voice-to-text, but the reality is that the way that I write and the way that I speak are two very different animals. So here we go!

The kind folks over at Sterling Publishing reached out to me with Letters to President Clinton: Biblical Lessons on Faith and Leadership, which (you guessed it) is a book chock full of fascinating and insightful thoughts in the form of letters to President Clinton. The president wrote the foreword to the book, and it was edited by Rabbi Menachem Genack.

Rabbi Genack and President Clinton became acquainted in 1992 in New Jersey, and their friendship has remained strong since then. The book highlights their communications, but also letters that Rabbi Genack requested from friends and colleagues on special topics for the president. Although not in any kind of date-sequential order, the book's communications come from President Clinton's second term and after and its lessons are divided among Leadership, Sin and Repentance, Creation, Community, Faith, Dreams and Vision, and Holidays. With some of the letters there are responses from President Clinton about the essay (and the responses are included in the book in image form, so you can see that it's written on President Clinton's letterhead!).

The great thing about this book is that you can easily hop around from gleaning to gleaning without reading the book straight from start to finish. In fact, I wouldn't necessarily recommend reading this from cover to cover. With authors like Norman Lamm, Adin Steinsaltz, Nahum Sarna, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Cynthia Ozick, and Joseph Telushkin, you might want to find an author that you love and dig into a letter they've written to President Clinton.

One thing this book does well is creates an accessibility to Jewish and non-Jewish readers alike. With President Clinton being a Southern Baptist, most of the essays are accessible on a cross-denominational level. Translations of Bible verses come from President Clinton's preferred mode of bible and the authors build lessons that are universal in their nature. It really is a book for leaders of every generation.

The only off-putting aspect of this book that I ran into, oddly enough, was a very awkward preface written by Rabbi Sacks. I tend to love just about everything that Rabbi Sacks writes and does, but this preface was forced, uncomfortable, and referenced his own books and work at random intervals. It was like he was less interested in talking about the topic and more interested in selling his own books and philosophies on American Judaism and how it is shockingly different than English Judaism.

Have you read this book yet? Sound like something up your alley? Let me know what you think!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Part 1: The Labor

I've been waiting to tell the story of the labor and birth of our beautifully awesome baby, and now that we're two weeks out and I'm suffering some of the interesting after-effects of having given birth, I figured now is a good of time as any, right?

After the crazy-bananas snowstorm that hit Israel and buried Neve Daniel in foot upon foot of snow, we were fairly snowed-in and unable to get out. I was hoping every day that the baby would hold out until things were a bit better, but the roads into and out of Neve Daniel and the Gush in general were slowly being opened and closed on a daily basis thanks to thick sheets of ice and dangerous driving conditions after dark. 

On Tuesday morning, December 17, I was lazying about in bed because, let's be honest, there wasn't much to do once I did get out of bed other than work. We couldn't go anywhere still, mostly because (despite our cars being unburied), the roads in the morning were still too icy to manage. I ran through my usual morning routine, checking my email, Timehop, Twitter, Flipboard and finally decided to roll out of bed around 9:30 a.m. It was then that I realized something strange was going on, so I sat up in bed and, well, I felt like I had lost control of my bowels. Waddling my way to the bathroom, I realized that my water had broken, so I called out to Mr. T, saying, "Honey ... I think my water broke ..." 

He came running and we decided that we needed a game plan. The moment I walked out of the bathroom I got hit with the first contraction, which stopped me in my tracks. I'd been having Braxton-Hicks contractions for months, but this one was absolutely debilitating. My water broke and the real contractions hit me like a ton of bricks. They began coming about every 6-10 minutes. 

With the roads being shut down around 4 p.m. daily, I knew that with my water breaking I had about 24-48 hours for the baby to show up. We decided to pack up the go-back with a few final things and head out because the sun had come out and, despite seeing on the local email list that two buses and a police vehicle had stalled in front of our building, we figured we could make it. We got to the stop of the stairs and told a few neighbors our plans, to which their reply was "NO WAY." Neighbors got on the horn with the local ambulance and before I knew it I was in the back of one racing down the 60 past the huge backup of traffic because of the bad roads. 

We'd picked up a midwife on the way and she was monitoring my contractions and blood pressure as I was thrown around in the back of the ambulance while holding on for dear life. The poor woman had to keep shoving me back on the stretcher because once we hit Jerusalem, the road to the hospital was through neighborhoods with gobs of roundabouts. Luckily, the trip was short and we arrived to Hadassah Ein Kerem in no time flat. 

I was dropped off in the maternity area where they put on a monitor and attempted to start tracking my contractions. The funny thing was, the contractions I was experiencing appeared to not be showing up on the monitor, but because my water had broken (which they confirmed), they admitted me, put a port in my arm for future fluids, and admitted me to the hospital. After some back and forth I was sent to a room, a monitor was put on my stomach, and I was set to wait out the contractions until I was actually dilated enough for someone to care. 

The next several hours were slow, painful, and frustrating. Despite constant contractions about five minutes apart that were painful and debilitating, my body wasn't responding in kind with any sort of dilation. My doula showed up and slept in a chair overnight, and Mr. T ran for food and fell asleep in another chair in the small room. I didn't sleep a wink Tuesday night because of the pain, and I fell more and more frustrated that despite water breaking and contractions nothing was happening. 

By Wednesday morning, they were concerned that I wasn't dilating at all (I'd been sitting at 1 cm for nearly 24 hours), so they moved me downstairs, put me back on a monitor, and began exploring the options to get things moving. The doctors were concerned because there were decelerations in the baby's heartbeat, so it seemed like we were going to accelerate the process to make sure baby was okay, but in the end what happened was an more waiting. Slowly but surely I dilated a bit more, but it was going at half-a-centimeter every three hours. 

Worried about the baby, mid-day on Wednesday, they decided to do something called an amnio infusion because it had been more than 24 hours since my water had broken. Unfortunately, this didn't seem to help. 

Eventually, they decided to throw petocin at me, which accelerates the process, but I wasn't given an epidural or any type of pain killer. They quickly ramped up the levels of petocin and had me standing up, to the point where my doula and Mr. T were holding me up and I was crying with a pain that I've never experienced in my life. Concerned about the baby's heartbeat and the fact that I was having crazy contractions that, again, weren't showing up on the monitor, they cut the petocin and gave me an epidural -- at last. Unfortunately the epidural went wonky and they had to do it a few times before it took, which I think eventually resulted in some post-delivery pain and swelling because of a pinched nerve, the pain of which I'm still coping with today. They put me back on the petocin and I spent the next several hours incredibly comfortable thanks to the epidural. 

Late on Wednesday they finally moved me into a labor/delivery room, despite the fact that the baby wasn't dropping and my dilation had stalled. It was late, I was tired, I hadn't slept, and the epidural was starting to wane despite the constant flow of medication. The doctor started trying other things like pushing, changing how I was positioned, and still, the baby's decelerations and my own painful contractions were sending us nowhere. 

We kept setting milestones to hit and if we hit those milestones, we'd keep going toward a natural birth. I was committed to having the baby the natural way for many reasons, so I kept going along with it, despite the stress on my own body and the baby. 

Around 3 a.m. on Thursday morning, everyone was asleep, there were screaming women giving birth (turns out I was in the high-risk delivery area), and I was davening. I'd been davening with every milestone, begging HaShem to help move the delivery along, to help me give birth to the baby naturally and quickly, to deliver a healthy baby quickly. The doctor came in at one point and the dilation had jumped to nearly 10 and he asked, "Have you been davening?" 

But the baby wasn't dropping. My cervix was stubborn. The baby was in stasis. 

We kept going. 

Finally, a little after 5 a.m. Thursday, the head doctor finally came in and said we had to do a c-section. It wasn't an option, there were no other choices. Paperwork came flying at my face, a nurse demanded all of my jewelry (including my nose ring that I never take out), a rough explanation of what would happen was given to me, and through it all I was being torn up on the inside. 

They took me into the operating room, where I was thrown on the operating slab and, as I sat there trying to hold back so many tears that I'd cried over nearly two days, I was cleaned and prepped and made sure that my epidural was working and in no time flat I was being wrenched open and could feel the pressure of everything happening in my abdomen. Mr. T was allowed to join me shortly after the surgery started, and I was so disoriented I lay still. Stretching and pulling, it was if I felt everything all at once. My mouth went dry, my lips went dry, I felt cold. This was my first surgery -- ever. This was my first hospital stay -- ever. This was my first exposure to birth and medicine -- ever. And I was horrified. 

At nearly a quarter to 6 a.m., I heard a "mazal tov" from the doctor and fell confused. I turned to Mr. T and began crying, "He hasn't cried, the baby hasn't cried, why isn't he crying?" He looked over toward where they had the baby and said they were cleaning him. Just then a doctor came over and asked if I'd been taking any depression medication, to which I said no, and he shuffled off back to the baby. Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, there was a quiet, muffled, forced cry. Just one. A single squeal. I said again, "What's wrong? Why is he struggling so much?" to Mr. T. He kept watching. I felt helpless, unable to see anything, unable to move, unable to do anything but cry and worry. 

Then a few more cries came and tears flooded from my eyes. Something about his oxygen. Something about needing to monitor him for 24 hours. Then there he was, held near my face, I couldn't reach out to touch him, I couldn't hold him, I couldn't even kiss him. Mr. T, frustrated, asked the nurse to hold the baby closer to my face, so I kissed him, and those few seconds were all I had with my baby ... for the next six hours. 

The baby was shipped off, Mr. T was torn whether to stay with me or go with the baby to the nursery, and I was being sent to "recovery." I asked him not to leave me, so he came with me to recovery, where I was positioned next to a man vomiting or coughing up phlegm every five seconds and a host of beds with the elderly tied to dozens of tubes unable to move. I was told I'd be there for two hours and then moved upstairs to the maternity ward where I would see my baby. I couldn't move my legs, I was crying, I didn't know what was going on with my baby, I'd just been ripped open and sewed back shut, I was helpless, confused, frustrated, and tired. 

And I was in that horrible recovery ward for the next five hours because they couldn't make space for me. After more than 45 hours of labor and an emergency c-section, my baby's first meal was formula, my baby's first hours were in a large nursery surrounded by screaming babies, my baby's first hours were not filled with the touch of his mother or father, and me? 

I felt like a complete failure.