And then that cold morning of december the 13th arrived... We left home at 7.30 in the morning, with a little suitcase with all those things we could possibly need (okay, and with two more large plastic bags filled with stuff, cause I had no idea how many things I would have to bring for a few days in hospital. A whole bag filled with baby's clothes was way too much, I quickly learnt!). In the car on our very short trip to the hospital -we live only five minutes from the city hospital- I looked at all the commuters that were already on their way heading somewhere, looking all important in their business suits and expensive cars, and I couldn't help but think: 'but we're the only ones on our way to a real goal today...'
Wow, it all felt so special, even the boring road to the hospital that I walk and drive all the time seemed to have a special glow this morning, the glow of looking forward to great things.
That morning I had dressed in my most comfy pajamas-style clothes (well, there weren't many other things I could wear anymore by that time in my pregnancy), but I noticed Helmut had put on one of his newest and most expensive button-down shirts. He usually dresses very informal (in just a t-shirt and jeans) and had only worn this shirt to a few weddings so far, so surprisedly I said: 'Why would you put that on? You'll have to wear a special suit in the surgery room and after that, once the baby is there, your shirt will probably get dirty anyway!' 'But I want to look good for the baby when she arrives', Helmut replied. I thought that was so sweet!
We checked in at the hospital, and a nurse directed us to a small room, dominated by two hospital beds. So this terribly uncozy place would be my room for the next few important days of my life... The nurse told me I would share the room with another woman who also had a c-section later that day, but she would arrive a bit later, so at least for the next hour the room would be all ours. The nurse left us alone in there, feeling quite uncomfortable. What should I do? Was I supposed to lay down on the bed already, or could I just sit in one of the chairs on the side? We sat down and started reading the pile of old magazines that we found in the room, just to kill some time.
Waiting, killing time...
But the nurse came back faster than estimated, telling us that our c-section was already planned for 9 o'clock. That would be so much faster than we had thought! Now I had to lay down on the bed for some last checks and preparations. I had been feeling quite calm, but now my body started to fill with excitement and expectation. But not for long: a little after nine, the nurse came back to tell us that my c-section had been postponed because of some emergency cases, and she had no idea how long those would take. Hours, maybe.
After this anti-climax it almost felt like this whole idea of giving birth today was some sort of joke that was never going to happen, and we started feeling quite relaxed again. Somehow the tension was gone, and I guess I almost expected that they would send us home again. We chatted with our roommates that had by then arrived, and with all this getting-to-know-one-another-conversation time went pretty fast. So fast, that I was rather surprised when the nurse arrived again at about half past eleven, to tell us that this time we really had to prepare for the c-section.
A little later I was in the bed wearing one of those very uncomfortable surgery jackets, and a nurse pushed the bed that I was on through the corridors of the hospital. It's so weird that you always see nurses push beds with people on them forward through the hospital (in real life and on tv shows), and then you always think: 'those people must be very ill'. Now I was one of those 'ill folks' on those beds... How bizarre to see the hospital from such a completely different perspective!
When we arrived at the floor where the surgery would take place, they told us that we still were too early: all the surgery rooms were still occupied. They sent Helmut away to the restaurant to eat some, while I was taken to another room for some more preparations. Now I started to feel quite alone and nervous: they put me in a room with a lot of other people waiting for surgery, and connected me to all kinds of medical devices of which I had no idea what they were for. It was cold in there and combined with the nerves I started to shiver; no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't keep my legs still anymore! I guess somehow so far I had sort of blocked the knowledge that I would actually have to undergo real surgery, but now that I was all alone in the middle of this medical universe filled with all kinds of bleeping devices and people in surgery uniforms, all of a sudden I started feeling pretty helpless and scared. I managed to keep my calm, but my shivering legs told me how I really felt!
Finally I was taken to one of the surgery rooms, where I met a huge amount of people that would apparently all take part in my surgery. How strange to be the centre of all this medical attention! You really feel like you have to give away all control of yourself, which is pretty easy to do once they've given you the epidural, but before that it feels strange, since you're perfectly fine and could still walk away from the bed any minute if you wanted to. However after the epidural all control of my legs was gone (though I wasn't so sure of that myself...I still thought I could move everything, but when they asked me to lift my legs I had to admit that was impossible!), and then all I could do was wait and let go.
After I had the epidural Helmut arrived and sat next to me. All we could do was look at each other and wait, and I believe we even talked some. I had some trouble breathing normally (they gave me extra oxygen through my nose which felt pretty weird), so I really had to focus on my breathing. Meanwhile I heard the gynecologist describe what he was doing: he was saying things like 'now I remove the next layer, then I put aside the abdominal muscles, then the bladder...' Rather strange to hear them talk like that about your body, but all I could think was 'whatever'.
The clock said 12.14...
And then, real quickly after the surgery had started, we heard the gynecologist say: 'Here we have the legs and bottom, next thing the baby will be out.' The next moment we heard a baby screaming pretty loudly, I heard people say 'Wow, it's a big one, probably at least 3.5 kilograms!', and then during just a few seconds they showed us our baby.
The very first look...
I can't really describe what I felt at that time, I guess I was so 'in the moment' that I can't even remember anymore, but one thing's for sure: my fear that giving birth through c-section instead of normal birth would be 'less emotional' turned out to be totally unnecessary. Of course I have no idea what you feel like after a natural birth, but I do know that this was an emotional moment that I can't compare with any other. Normally I don't think I ever cry when I'm happy, but in these minutes around Rosa's birth I just felt the tears flowing from my eyes constantly without being able to control them.
After this short moment they took Rosa away for some health examinations, and Helmut went with her. This was another moment that I had feared beforehand: I had been worried that I would feel scared and lonely when they would take our baby away, while I would be left behind for the surgery to be finished. But to my surprise I felt really calm. Somehow I wasn't worried about Rosa's health at all: I could feel that there was a happy and relaxed atmosphere in the room, and somehow that assured me that Rosa was okay. Besides that I could hear her scream pretty loudly in the room next to me, so that also seemed a good sign... I also felt I had to work pretty hard to remain conscious (I believe that has something to do with your blood pressure being low as a result of the epidural), so I was pretty busy with just that, and I didn't even have the energy to feel lonely or aware that I was missing moments with my baby or something like that.
The finishing of the surgery must have taken about thirty or forty minutes, but it felt much shorter and in my memory it lasted hardly longer than a few moments. Helmut came back to me with Rosa in her little crib, and he kept asking me: 'Can you see her? Can you properly see her?' Meanwhile I was basically thinking: 'I don't mind, let's finish this surgery first, then I can really concentrate on meeting our baby...' They say that with an epidural you experience everything consciously, but I guess I was pretty far away. When I tried to say something to Helmut my voice sounded weird and slow, and I had a lot of trouble concentrating on the sentences that I was trying to make.
The first closer look...
But a little after we arrived in the recovery room, it felt like all of a sudden the light in my head was turned on again, and in just one moment I felt super clear and conscious again. Now I could finally really see, meet and feel our little Rosa... Those moments felt like our real first moments together, and though we were in the middle of that surreal recovery room filled with people in beds recovering from all kinds of surgery, it felt like the three of us were the only ones in the room. We put Rosa on my breast, and she laid there so calmly...
And after those special first moments with the three of us, we were ready to introduce Rosa to the rest of our world!
ps Some great pictures of Rosa's birth were taken by the hospital personnel, we're really grateful to them for documenting these precious first moments with Rosa!