"God showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand… and it was round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought: 'What can this be?' And it was generally answered thus: 'It is all that was made.' It was so small I thought it might disappear, but I was answered... everything has being through the love of God." --Julian of Norwich

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Little One, Part 3: The First (Six) Month(s)

The day after Lucy was born was so surreal.  It was bewildering to be rolled out from the quick, efficient surgery, into recovery, handed a baby--my baby!--then rolled from recovery into an elevator that took me--well, I had absolutely no idea where it took me in the labyrinthine hospital.  It didn't matter much, my legs felt like a strange, warm rubber to the touch.  I stared at my toes and willed them to move, but they completely ignored me.  These legs would be entirely useless for another few hours.  I couldn't go anywhere if I wanted to.  There was a bright blue sunlight shining onto the white sheets.  My mind was alert, every image that met my eyes sharply in focus, every sleep sound from the cot next to my bed acutely clear, but space and time had become a fog around these precious first moments.  As the sun rose, there were phone calls, people went in and out of the room, exhausted witnesses to the labour and birth tried to sleep, but sleep was far from me.  I was busy treasuring and pondering things in my heart.* 

In the next 36 hours in the hospital, I rode a roller coaster of awe, exhilaration, terror, exhaustion, post-tramatic tears, and wonder at the whole miracle of life that had burst into my quiet existence.  I was also starving.  Of all places, a hospital is one of the least accommodating to food allergy.  No one plans for an emergency surgery, of course, and I didn't know that I would need clear liquids, then gentle foods, and I had none of these ready for my mom to bring from home.  They brought me mouth-watering trays of food, which I handed to Clint, while my mom did her best to bring me something nourishing.  I was also in a bit more pain than normal, because I was worried about pain-killers.  Tylenol has corn in every formulation, and I had no idea about other medications, so I was attempting to make do with a tiny bottle of Advil.  The nurse looked at me with mingled skepticism and respect.

And in my arms for most of those first hours, was the tiniest, most beautiful person I had ever seen.  Lucy was bright-eyed for the first eight hours after her birth, exploring the world with the same bright focus I seemed to have.  Dark eyes that seemed age-old as she nursed, the wrinkly skin of her neck stretching out to me from her swaddle, she reminded me of an ancient sea turtle.  She grunted and squeaked and choked from time to time on the mucous still in her system from the birth.  And she cried.  I fed her from my own body, amazed that my blood could transform itself into her nutrition.

I held her, warm and close as she slept. I watched the dark hours tick by on the clock, willing myself awake to hold her even as I nodded.  Clint breathed rhythmically on the mat laid down on the floor beside my bed.  Her cot was so hard to reach from my bed, impossible really with my limitations and her weight in my arms.  Unsure what to do, I concentrated hard to avoid the little shocks of sleep that zapped me.  Afraid my arms would give out, and afraid of the posters along the walls that prohibited co-sleeping in hospital, I cradled her gently on the bed between my legs.  The difficult moments with beeping monitors and painful decisions replayed themselves in my mind.  Had I done something wrong?  How had I ended up here, so exhausted and sore in all the wrong places?  I woke Clint gently, apologetically to take a shift in the hallway as Lucy woke full of squeaking and I tried to sleep.

The doctor came to visit in the morning, in her plain clothes, and said that she knew I was disappointed, but we had done the right things.  I could absolutely try for a VBAC next time, there was no reason I couldn't push a baby out.  It was just the low fluid, and the cord wrapped twice so tight, and the heartrate  so low and not recovering.  Lucy was here safe, that was what mattered.  She released me to go home early, since I was healing well and I had the midwives to care for me at home.

Home. I shuffled straight to my bed, and Clint made me scrambled eggs with butter.  I've never tasted anything so good in my whole life.  They were life, the whole thing was just full of life.  And love.  I have never been so filled and surrounded with love.

This was a lot of what I wanted to say after the first month with Lucy, when I promised a blog post after I had rested up a bit and while she was still sleeping so much of every day.  The fog of time and place had lifted.  I was more mobile (that first 20 minute shuffle around the block four days after she was born was so humbling!), and I'd had a chance to be social (we had such a lovely "churching" service in our home with Communion, giving thanks for her safe arrival with friends and with the bottle of Port we'd been saving to celebrate Lucy's birth).

 But the fog has this tendency to slide in still.  When Lucy turned three months, I got really sick with an infection and ended up in the emergency room.  Pilonidal abcess.  Emergency drainage surgery.  Antibiotics (with a nasty look at the doctor, "Don't even think about suggesting an antibiotic that means I can't nurse my daughter.")  Six weeks of daily, then every other day, then bi-weekly outpatient wound care.

Then the Holidays and travel and hugs and smiles and Lucy's sitting on her own, and Lucy's eating soft finger foods, and Lucy's sleeping in her new crib (most nights... :oP) and everything is going so fast!  I blinked and she's six months old.  Every minute is so precious!  They're speeding by.

But you can't appreciate every moment.  There have been many nights when every minute felt like a million years, as I watched the green digits on the alarm clock pulsate, praying for the next number to pop up before my arms fell off or gave out.  "Just five more minutes, then she'll be out enough to lay her down.  Just three more minutes.  Just one minute..."  And many diaper changes followed by the immediate need for another diaper change... scratch that, a whole new outfit... and a bath... for both of you... that is, if this airplane would ever land.

Lucy, however, never fails to smile precisely when I begin to feel like I can't handle another minute. Overall, I'm pretty glad to have her around.  I think I'll keep her.  Forever. :)

*Doctor Luke must have been at many births and a very sensitive person.


  1. You're the best kind of feminist, Laura.

  2. Why thanks, Dawson! I'm curious what makes you say that?

  3. Laura, I'm so glad you wrote this. You describe your experiences with beauty and honesty, and that is such a gift to the rest of us.

    Also, I don't think I knew about these medical complications! Goodness gracious! I hope you're doing better again...

    1. Cindy! Thanks! I am feeling a lot better now. Our church small group took really good care of us. It was a little hard to "call for help" though, pretty humbling.