“Now this is the story, all about how, my life got flipped, turned upside down…”
I had a baby y’all!
A real live, kicking screaming human baby boy who is the cutest (and gruntiest) little dude I have ever seen.
We are all doing great and settling in as best we can, and I think it’s coming along nicely. The dogs love him. We thought all along that Georgia would be the nanny dog given her border collie heritage and wanting to protect the herd, and she is, but Sookie is just something else. She almost always has her eye on him and is persistent to the point of being straight up neurotic about making sure he’s good to go and she can see him. If we put him in his pack and play, where he sleeps in our room, putting him about waist high on me (a 5’2″ person), she walks back and forth and jumps up and down over and over and over so she can see him.
It’s weird, and it’s cute, and it’s very Sookie.
But aside from all this, I wanted to get nitty gritty to share some things with my peeps because I have a lot of friends who are expecting, want to be expecting in the near future, or recently had babies so I want to put some stuff out there because it definitely ain’t all peaches and cream.
This is obviously just my experience and everyone has their own story!
So this is mine…
3:30 pm, on a Monday
I mentioned in this post about returning to NC where we discovered a local Asheville restaurant called King Daddy’s, specializing in chicken n’ waffles. Bomb. Dot. Com.
We were both feeling hungry-borderline-hangry (in my case) on this particular Monday at T-minus 2 days til the due date, and I was also feeling READY to get that baby out, in general. In the early afternoon, Sammy suggested going to King Daddy’s to which I replied that if I ate dinner that early in the day I’d have to go to bed around 7pm, which *could* end up being just right if we could get a nice full night of sleep before *possibly* going into labor ideally around 4 or 5 the next morning…
…which is kind of what happened.
I woke up at 4:07am with contractions that ended up fading away in about 3 hours.
But then they came back around 11 am, and they never went away.
Now I had planned to do this whole thing naturally but was still open to the idea of an epidural if I needed it down the road, I just wanted to experience some awful contractions first to see how it felt.
And they got awful. But that took some time.
We went to the doctor around 3 pm and they made a comment like, “so ya think you’re in labor, huh? I heard you laughing in the waiting room…” and this didn’t really make sense to me at the time, but NOW I understand.
Because when it REALLY gets going, there is no laughing.
So at that time I was 3cm dilated and 75% effaced, an improvement from the 2cm and 50% I had been chillin’ at for the past 3 weeks. With doctor’s orders, we came back home and hung out as the contractions slowly got stronger. I tried all the tricks I had learned in Lamaze to make sure he’d be in the right position, head down and facing my back — I sat on my yoga ball and did a lot of hip circles, sat on my yoga mat with my feet together, moved around as much as possible. Sammy went and grabbed pizza and breadsticks for dinner…
…but when he got back, I was unable to eat more than three small breadsticks.
Which I thought MULTIPLE times during labor were going to make a second appearance but by some miracle of nature, they managed to stay down.
I decided to wait it out until the end of Jeopardy, cuz that’s how I roll, but that was a struggle although we made it through. Afterward, we packed up the last of our things and headed to the hospital.
Things started to get more intense once we got there. I lost all focus (you REALLY have to do some freaking DIRECT inner goddess channeling when attempting to have a natural labor) and was writhing in pain on the most uncomfortable bed I’ve ever been on as they did their preliminary checks in deciding whether I could be admitted. Luckily, my blood pressure was high for me which won me a ticket to the L&D show! It is terrifying when you feel like that and obviously have no insight into your own body about whether things are okay, and the nurses are threatening to send you home. Thank goodness for abnormal blood pressure at that point!
I had constant waves of nausea but we managed to walk laps around the floor over and over stopping every time a contraction would rear its ugly head while I carried around my little blue puke-bag around all night, day and the next night. It was my bestie. Little Blue did not leave my side until it was permanently replaced with a baby. Considering our bedtime hovers around 9pm, it started to get “late” and we started to get really tired, but obviously, there would be no sleeping.
Next time they checked me I was at 5cm and 90%. Yay! The end is getting near!
But we didn’t know that.
So we officially moved to the delivery room. We tried walking a little bit, but didn’t last long. Sitting or laying down, no matter how badly I wanted to, resulted in worse contractions than just standing up, so I was exhausted already and unsure what to do. I stood in the shower somewhat catatonically and hung on to the bars on the wall for dear life for a good while. We turned on Pandora to Simon and Garfunkel radio and I’ll tell you now, some of those songs as I start to hear them again are the perfect triggers to bring this all back again. But that’s okay. They are starting to come back as less of a traumatic incident and more of a, “yeah I did that!” sort of memory. “Feeling Groovy” I think will ALWAYS remind me now of pushing to the point that I thought would surely end in an aneurysm…
I started to feel like there was NO WAY I could do this naturally, because I was extremely tired and that pain is unlike anything I had ever experienced. My whole body was shaking uncontrollably and because it hurt so bad to sit, I just kind of paced the room hanging on to the wall, trying to cry, trying not to cry, wanting to lay down, but ending up just standing there in pain trying to literally keep my legs from buckling because we were all so tired.
They checked me again and I was at 6cm. That was the point when I started begging for the epidural.
Need. It. Now. Please. And. Thanks.
So the anesthesia people moved in all efficient-like and meaning business which was really all I could deal with at that point. I needed to-the-point folks in my life to help move this thing along. Leave your business card on the table on the way out, y’all; ain’t nobody got time for formalities!
So the epidural went in around 4am on Wednesday morning.
And Sammy and I went lights out.
For about 2.5 hours when the next nurse came in with the on-call doctor to check me again. What they don’t tell you, for one, is how many nurses and shift changes you will experience while spending two nights in labor in the hospital. Every time you wake up, there is a new nurse. You want to remember them, because you can’t help but be UBER thankful to them all for helping you through this extremely difficult task at hand, but I started to not be able to keep track and my tired brain wouldn’t allow my memory to function all that well.
It seems like every time they checked me again, I had gained another centimeter of dilation. But we went an average of 2.5 – 3 hours in between checks so time kept marching on as we stocked up on sleep in between. I was given some pitocin to help things along.
And then finally, I got to 10cm. I couldn’t stop saying how much I was in madly in love with the epidural because I could see my contractions on the screen, and I could see them getting closer together and bigger than before, and I was eternally thankful that I didn’t have to feel them, especially after the pitocin. I didn’t think I’d be saying this because I was really determined to make it through unmedicated, but that epidural made this whole thing bearable. To all the ladies reading this who didn’t have one, seriously, go on and treat yo’self today to SOMETHING that makes you happy. Please. You are fucking queens and someone should give you a golden crown to wear around in your toughest moments as a memory that you can do anything. SERIOUS kudos.
Plus, you just plain deserve the crown. Just sayin’.
Back to my much anticipated arrival at 10 cm…. The nurse and the doctor moved back in as we got ready to push. A whole new level of anxious excitement went through me as I was scared about this whole thing but excited to meet our boy at the same time. And so we pushed. And pushed.
And pushed some more.
Until I was sure I was going to pass out. They offered me an hour of naptime before we could try again and I accepted it without question.
Then they moved back in and we went for it again. And over and over until she determined that he was sunny side up (facing my front) which I remembered from our childbirth class made it a lot more difficult for babies to get out and something like 3% of them end up like this. They can’t just tuck their chins in and move through the birth canal anymore as their head literally gets hung up on your pelvic bone. She attempted to manually turn him, which hurt like a bitch since they had turned back the epidural a bit by then, and we tried again. And again and again. But he wasn’t really budging. I just kept asking, are we making any progress?? I wanted to know that he was at least moving even if just a millimeter each time so that I wasn’t wearing myself out completely and totally just to never be able to get him out.
Finally she told me it would take hours to get him out this way. More hours. On top of the ones we had already put in. She offered to try forceps, or a C-section.
Now, sticking forceps into my body to remove a baby by his head had always scared the shit out of me and was high on my list of things that I did not want to do should medical intervention become necessary, so there was really only one choice at this point. C-section it was.
We asked them to give us a moment as they left the room, and I pulled my cool cloth over my eyes and cried for a while because this wasn’t the way I saw this going. Honestly, with all my baby apps and childbirth classes, I really didn’t pay much attention to the C-section articles and discussion because I had told myself I wouldn’t need it.
But the truth is, you don’t know what you’ll need and you should educate yourself on all of it to make it all a little less scary. In the moment though, you have to just make these decisions as they come and there is no time to be scared. You may not have met this baby yet, but momma bear instincts are kicking in telling you to do what is best. Birth preferences are just that; preferences, but you have to know and accept that you may need to adjust as the labor unfolds.
So we decided on the surgery. The anesthesia-business folks moved back in and delivered a whole new level of numb in the form of a spinal that I am still feeling some of the effects of in one leg and three fingers. They asked me which Pandora station I wanted to listen to in the OR and I blurted out, “Led Zeppelin!” They were excited about this. I didn’t have many thoughts except I just wanted this to all be over.
So they wheeled me in while Sammy parted ways to go get scrubbed in as they hung the sheet and explained briefly to me what was going to happen and what I was going to feel or not feel. There were so many people in the room at this point that I just tried to trust that they all were there to do their parts to make the process whole.
Sammy came back in in his scrubs and sat next to me as they pulled the sheet up and got started. Though I couldn’t feel much, I could feel the elbow grease that the doctor was putting into her work, which is next-level freaky when you are well aware that this is all taking place in your insides. And THEN we heard the POP that was the noise of my abdominal wall being pulled apart. Sammy and I both stared at each other wide-eyed because THAT my friends, was unexpected and horrifying. I think that noise will stick with me for the rest of my days.
But, within what had to be only five minutes of this surgery, I started hearing people say, “congratulations!” and all of a sudden they pulled down the sheet so we could see our little dude.
And there he was, in his birthday suit of glory, at 11:41 PM on Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017. On his due date, to the tune of Sammy’s favorite Zeppelin song, “Ten Years Gone.” All 6 pounds and 15 ounces of him.
Our little Heath Preston was naked and angry-faced and cute and slightly cone-headed from being stuck for so long.
But he was kind of quiet…
So Sammy went with the baby as our childbirth class told him to do, as the nurses wheeled a TV over to me to watch the group huddle around our little bundle as they did their thing while he took his first breaths. Only because of all those people in the room, there was constantly someone in the way of my view of the baby but what I could see was them slapping him a lot. More than usual. I knew this was not good. We all know they do this to kind of wake them up and bring them to life, to cause them to breathe their first breaths and cry a nice strong cry.
But this was not really happening here. Just a lot of slaps.
I said, “is he okay?!?!!!” and they told me yes, he just took in a lot of amniotic fluid on his way out.
They bundled him up and let me hold him for a little while as I got stitched back up behind the sheet. Then they took him back again to monitor him and try to wake him up until finally we heard that angry little cry meaning he was okay.
They wheeled us back out into another temporary recovery room for an hour or two which was where overwhelm instance #1 really kicked in. I was still trying not to be freaked out about his little breathing issue, and have you ever felt when you have some sort of tunnel hearing, like everything seems far away? There was that. And another nurse was asking me questions for paperwork so I was having to focus on this when I was euphoric and exhausted and borderline delirious. Then another nurse was trying to have me breastfeed him at the same time. I remember saying, “too much! Can we please just focus on one thing at a time?”
And then she thrust him into my gown and went to sit down to do her paperwork forcing me to figure it out before I thought I was ready.
And such is life.
I was not prepared for what recovery from a C-section would be like.
After spending two hours in the recovery room, we were wheeled through this bright hallway down to the room we’d stay in as a family for the next few days. I remember feeling all the emotions as they wheeled me through the hallway and I was trying so hard not to cry stunned tears from being brave, scared, amazed, proud, happy, etc. etc. It was a lot of feels!
The first whole day is a total blur. I didn’t get out of bed for over a day, what I thought was by choice, until I realized that this was major surgery recovery! You don’t just get right out of bed on your own right after. Given the fact that one of my legs is still numb starting and ending above and below the knee, and I lost the ability to do any and all things involving my core, including sitting up in bed, I was in need of two people to get me to the bathroom the first day.
The nurses were on a constant rotation, a new one each day and night, and it was like this cocoon of care as they gave us meds and monitored us on a strict schedule. It was nice not to have to think about anything because it was all provided for us, mostly.
I remember so many times just observing our surroundings and taking in the aftermath. Bloody towels or clothes. The bruises left on my hands and arms where I had IV ports left in for hours. The circles under my eyes. This little baby that we created and have to keep alive, cluelessly. All of these things would make me cry whether the tears were from somewhat scary memories or happiness and awe. Emotions were real high during this time. I just kept telling myself, one day at a time.
The food that is provided free (to just me – they didn’t provide for significant others) was pretty terrible. They were all over the place about calling us to ask if I wanted food, which if anyone knows me, I took them up on this every single time. They had strict ordering hours so if you missed your window, you were on your own.
One time I ordered dinner, and it never came. A nurse had to go to the cafeteria and get me real food in the form of a salad bar because I was getting real hangry about now being outside of my ordering window. I was like this bedridden, mostly naked beast grumbling about needing my supper. I think I might have scared her into getting this food for me. She was just starting her night shift and probably didn’t even know the animal she was about to face.
Day time TV was worse. Who in the world can watch that mess for three days straight? I know, I feel all “#firstworldproblems” too, but I’m just saying…. daytime TV is the absolute worst. I think I’m definitely maxed out on the amount of Law and Order: SVU that was in my yearly allowance. Maybe even borrowed well into next year. But I had to keep the content serious because I discovered something else pretty quickly.
I decided to watch the Golden Girls on the iPad (why can’t you find any regular speed episodes on YouTube???) and realized that laughing after a C-section is a no-go. I apparently have a bit of a belly laugh that tore me up every time Sophia and Dorothy talked shit to someone else, which is basically half of the show. How can you watch the Golden Girls when you can’t laugh?! Impossible! So I had to stop laughing which is sad because I love laughing. Laughing’s my favorite. I had to begin stating it as a direct fact: “I’d really like to laugh right now” and hold a pillow to my abdomen in case it did happen.
This is as lame as stating “LOL” instead of laughing.
There was literally a story that came up about Sammy somehow kicking himself in the face with a kickball (you freaking kidding me?) when he was younger that I had to shut down many many times before ever getting the full scoop because I just could not handle that shit.
Could. Not. Handle.
I would laugh until I would cry just at the promise of this story. You got hit in the face with a kickball and it was self-inflicted, you’re telling me?
It became a running daily joke: “Are you ready to hear my kickball story yet?” Sammy would ask. And I’d have to shut him down.
Update: I finally got to where I could laugh and hear this ridiculous story. It did not disappoint. I would suggest asking him about it sometime…
Sneezing and coughing were intense fears of mine that I narrowly avoided for the most part. When you do that, it feels like all body parts that were stitched up are momentarily stretched out while being held together by string, which uh, they basically are. It was terrifying. But I got really lucky and was never struck by a sneeze during this time, thank goodness.
Most of the time at the hospital, I didn’t wear clothes. I just had on the granny panties that they provided, and that was it. In case you have never seen these, they are gigantic white mesh panties that go halfway up your abdomen, because you must avoid anything aggravating the incision from the surgery. They are probably the least attractive thing a person could possibly wear, especially when it’s all you’re wearing, but that was how I was rolling, for days. When parts of your body have officially turned into udders, there becomes no point in covering it up. Just gotta let it hang, man. Not to mention my boobs were making milk, and I was unfamiliar with the signs and symptoms so I was caught off-guard, and I became a hunchback because a) I was overcompensating for having no core usage by using my back instead, and b) my chest literally just kept expanding and I didn’t realize it yet.
It wasn’t pretty.
And something else they don’t tell you before having a baby is the amount of peeps who just bust into your room throughout the recovery days. The hours of 9-11 AM were prime time for mystery guests! We never knew who we were going to get and I really didn’t even care at any point in time that I was making new acquaintances while pretty much naked. Pediatrician, social security person, lead nurse doing a survey, people serving food, whatevs. “I’m Kellie, it’s so good to meet you!” I’d say as I’d shake hands with a stranger and not come close to caring about covering myself up. A totally different world.
So here I was, standing around hunched over in my awful-but-oddly-comfortable mesh granny panties the day the photographer walked in asking if I wanted pictures done that day? I was incredulous to this ask right at that moment given my appearance and general energy level and asked, “do I have to be in them?!”
I don’t know if my willingness to do pictures would have been any different had they got me fresh out of the shower (the. best. feeling. ever. at this time) and dressed, versus standing around in my momma-diaper with tits hanging out, but I’m thinking it would have.
Needless to say, we never got these pictures taken.
The other thing about a C-section is “The Incision“.
Who here knows Jersey Shore? The stupid ass “reality” TV show from like a decade ago (OMG) about 7-8 superficial people from the Jersey Shore who were put in a house and then filmed over a period of a few months to observe their drama, drunken debauchery and mating behaviors in the wild? Literally, their motto was “GTL” which meant, Gym, Tan, Laundry and was basically a daily routine for these meathead guys.
For whatever reason. Like, why is this interesting?
One of the cast members was named Mike Sorrentino, and he was so obsessed with his own abdominals that he named them: The Situation. I am not sure an episode went by where he didn’t mention The Situation at least once.
This turned into him getting a new nickname: Sitch.
Mike “Sitch” Sorrentino.
I’m just all over here like, my Incision is my Situation. Kellie “Ciz” Kliewer.
Cuz for a while there it was allllllll about The Incision.
Every day, the on-call doctor or midwife from my OB practice would check-in with me. They would check the Ciz as well as push down kind of hard on my uterus to make sure I wasn’t hemorrhaging. Considering this was right where I had been torn open just hours or days before, it was painful as hell, and in the beginning they’d tell me: we need to check your incision and we’re going to push right heeere…..
By the time we got to day three and the last doctor came in, she didn’t tell me a thing. She just engaged me in conversation and then promptly pulled down my granny panties and pushed down firmly on the current most painful spot on my body while I was mid-sentence before I had any chance to react.
Obviously, this one was well-seasoned.
She also surprised us by telling us we could go home that day.
But it was Saturday morning! We had been told that we weren’t going home until Sunday morning.
I can’t tell you why this small difference was such a thing, but it was. Because that means you have to come out of your cocoon unexpectedly with little to no mental preparation and go home. To care for yourself as well as this new tiny human that you’re bringing home and introducing your pets to.
And oh yeah, we haven’t adjusted the car seat yet and we don’t really even know how!
And oh yeah, I can’t walk very well and we have to go up and down stairs several times a day at home!
What will we ever do?
I had to figure it out before I thought I was ready. Which is exactly what we did.
Such is life.
But I quickly entered overwhelm instance #2.
I am glad she told us in the morning that we could go home anytime that evening because it gave me all day to prepare for all this mentally. I packed up our things throughout the day excitedly. Showered. Got dressed (obviously this was a big day for me). We notified our favorite nurse, Dorothy, today is the day!
When we finally had all of our stuff packed up, Heath was in his VT onesie complete with maroon hat and white fuzzy socks, and the car was waiting outside, I got in the wheelchair and left that room for the first time in days. I had opportunities to go walk in the hallway or get some water while I was in recovery, but I chose not to. For one, that required clothes of some sort, and two, I’d have to leave the comfort of our room for the unknown of that bright hallway with all the memories. As Dorothy wheeled me into the hallway, I felt all those emotions again and was trying to hold in my tears. I kept thinking, the last time I saw these people was during and after labor… and all those memories and Simon and Garfunkel and the abdominal POP and feeling stunned the last time they wheeled me down the hall… it was kind of like PTSD… would come back and freak me out, but make me proud at the same time.
We’re going home.
I was still teetering on an emotional tightrope when I gave her a hug and thanked her for everything, then climbed into the car and we drove home for the first time as a family of three.
Heath kicked off his fuzzy socks by the time we got home and I grabbed them and stuffed them in my purse in an effort to bring everything inside once we got home.
Two and a half weeks later, those little white socks are still in my purse.
Being home took a little getting used to. Our master bedroom is downstairs in the basement while the two guest rooms and the living room/kitchen are upstairs. The first night we were at home, I never went downstairs. We just unloaded the tons of stuff we had brought home from the hospital, dropped it at the top of the stairs and tried to endure our first night while getting some sleep. Like everyone else who is just getting home, there is little schedule worked out whatsoever between the baby or yourselves so nobody knows who should do what, when.
All of our beds are a little high up off the ground and it was incredibly difficult for me to get into a bed because of this and being unable to use my core. Then, once you lay down, you’re down. There is no getting back up without assistance. I would try to comically and painfully slowly wriggle myself up onto my elbows, but then I’d be all wriggling on my hair and simultaneously pulling my head back because of it until I’d have to plop back down and start over. I might cry, and then try again. I might make it, or call for Sammy to come pull me up.
I was missing my nurses being there to tell me when to take meds, to help me out of bed, to bring the baby to me.
Because after a C-section, those first few days are hard. A lot of your movements hurt. Baby cries and you want to go pick him up or feed him but you can’t just go do anything. This took me completely off-guard because I’m not a person who has spent much time being down.
I woke up with early shift that next day, fed the baby and put him back down. I decided to do some things on my own schedule that made me feel better. I took a hot shower. Which was not as rewarding without unlimited hot water like I had at the hospital, but still, I look forward to my hot showers every single day.
Overwhelm instance #3 hit me when I finally went downstairs and looked at everything juuuust a little differently now. Going down the stairs was a challenge with a numb leg that bends sometimes without me being aware. It made me feel miserable and helpless.
But I reminded myself that I’ll get there. That recovery takes work and it doesn’t happen overnight.
As I looked at our bedroom and my office, I felt like I was looking at my life as I had left it before it was changed forever. Before I went through that traumatic event (which now that I write this doesn’t seem so traumatic anymore). Our bed was made and the crib was in place and there were all these things I had done to prepare that now seemed so long ago and strange. I stood there nodding my head in the dark, reminding myself through some (more) tears that life would go back to normal eventually.
And you know what? It’s getting there. It’s a new normal now!
I’m not sure if I’ll ever be on time to anything ever again, but I always ran a little on the late side. Now I can probably just say “we had a blow out” and get away with it. This is probably bad juju for what is to come, but we’ll take it as it comes.
I still can’t imagine managing a car seat or stroller or whatever I choose to use in public, by myself, without Sammy, but there’s a first time for everything.
I already notice him growing so fast and I get intensely sad to think that these days are limited. I can shed a tear at any moment just thinking about it. But being his mom and watching him grow and accomplish things trumps all of this.
I can sleep on my belly again! Although it’s hard to do it because I have a couple milk jugs in the way now that actually LEAK at night.
We wonder multiple times a day if baby farts and poops will ever NOT be funny. This physically hurt me at first because laughing irritated the Ciz, but it can’t be helped. Also, I can laugh again now so there MUST be good progress being made.
It’s freaking awesome that Heath arrived right before football season and I can show off his Hokie colors every weekend.
After these random thoughts, I’ll end this post with a photo from this morning of our little man in his adorable and season-appropriate All-Star footie pajamas.
Right before he pooped in them so much that it came out his diaper and stained the pajamas, so he’s been naked ever since.
We are parents now.