I just kept staring at him, hoping it would hit me. I wanted to feel that overwhelming flood of love and connection. I felt it hanging out just around the corner but it seemed hard to catch onto. But there was a curious, parallel set of feelings that were powerful and new. They were rather vague in nature and their purpose was unclear but they induced me to clutch maniacally at him, then suddenly and just as frantically, to de-clutch, worrying that I was suffocating him. I kept noticing I was clutching again and would then relax my arms to near-tonelessness to rescue him from my suffocating grip. This foreshadowed the first few months of motherhood…for much of that time I just sat with him on the couch, scared to carry him around and when I did, I could think of nothing other than that I might drop him at any second, and clutched him madly in my arms.
They brought us to the postpartum floor and we settled into a double room that we were to have to ourselves for our 4-day, barring-any-problems stay. One of the first things they wanted to do was take some blood. Well, they sucked at that too. Poke, poke, fish around, sob, finally they drew a little blood and I told them, anticipating their next move, it’s enough. I’m not sure it’s enough, the nurse said. It’s enough, I said. That’s all you get.
Other indignities awaited. The anesthesia was wearing off and they started pushing pain meds. They made me stand up the next morning which was incredibly agonizing, to go to the bathroom to remove the catheter. They also removed the IV and told me my pain meds would be PO from now on. It was great to not be connected to anymore tubes but the pain steadily increased and I began to think, really? Women do this all the time? Major-ass surgery? Sometimes electively? It really sucked. I found out what my pain med orders were and rejected them as laughingly insufficient. Vicodin? Really? That useless bottom-of-the-barrel substance is for, like, a sore foot after you run too far. Percocet? A bit better. I found out that the doc had written the Percocet orders for 5mgs if my pain was 5 and under, 10mgs if 6+. Usually, when they asked me what my pain level was after that, it was a six or seven. “It’s always a six or seven!” a nurse complained. “Well it always is!” I insisted. There were other complaints and comments and generally insensitive remarks around the pain meds on most days. You sure like your pain meds, one nurse observed. Yes I do like my pain meds. I like them very much. Pain, by definition, SUCKS ASS. Why am I being made to feel like a goddamn pussy for not wanting to be in agonizing pain while trying to get acquainted with LD? I hate that stupid American ethic of “suck it up, weakling.” But to what end? If god had wanted us to suffer he would not have given us the poppy and its pals, synthetic opiates.
The nurses were really bossy and for the most part, annoying. One, Sue, spoke in my unfortunately racist, least-favorite style: clipped Tagalog-accented English. You not need meds now! You had only 3 hours ago! She never listened and just talked over me, telling me to get up! Walk! Stop laying around! You need to walk! One of the lactation consultants made me cry with her brusqueness and implications that I was already a bad mother on day two. The baby needs to eat. It’s on you to get him to eat. He’s too sleepy. What can I do to wake him up? What should I do to make him eat?! It’s on you, mama. See ya. Gotta go encourage someone else to take up bottle-feeding (maybe she was taking money on the side from Nestle). We ended up having to supplement with formula for a while until my milk kicked in as LD’s blood sugar was getting low. Another deviation . . . another failure.
I kept feeling resentful that I was in so much pain. Stupid C-section, I would grumble. Now I can’t even pick LD up. I can’t do anything except lay in bed and hold him which is great, oh never mind, this is fantastic, I love holding him and snuggling with him and watching him trying to latch on to my breast and look up at me with his dark blue eyes. Then I would worry about being off to a bad start with him, he was sure to feel the world was a sucky place, the first thing he had to experience was being tugged out of his nice warm hidey-hole rudely by the ankles, then subjected to scrubby-style baths and eye drops and proddings and pokings and needles and whatever else they had done and were doing to him…a far cry from my fantasy. I was pretty emotionally labile.
I remember when he really latched on for the first time and drew colostrum from my breast, and I started feeling the oxytocin flowing. I looked over at Mark. I feel so high right now, I said. I looked back down at LD’s little face and saw how truly, inspiringly, magically and uniquely beautiful he was. He smelled like kisses and fresh puppies. His skin felt like it was covered in miniature velvet with a nub so fine as to be invisible. His beautifully round head (not all squished, alien-style, like those poor vaginal-birth babies) was lightly covered with golden down. My baby! Oh how I loved him! Yay for evolution and the flexibility of humans (monkey mothers routinely reject infants delivered by C-section). Wave after wave of, yes, Oceanic Love poured over and through me.
I liked the pediatrician who came in every morning to take a look at LD. Mark asked about the fact that LD had what appeared to our knowledge-poor eyes to be gigantic testicles. Yeah, he said, sometimes they come out looking like superman due to the hormones. It’ll subside and he’ll eventually be normally-testicled. I felt proud of his supersize balls, anyway.
You know what looks really hot? Those mesh hospital panties that are huge and ugly and whose main job is to hold 2 giant maxi-pads in place—one underneath to catch the blood and the other across my scar to well, catch the blood. It’s a great look. Accented by those ridiculous hospital gowns. Why couldn’t they have the stylish ones like on “House”?
Another dude came in wanting more blood. I refused. Enough blood. Why do you want to take more blood? I asked. He said something about needing to know how much blood I’d lost in the surgery. A medium amount, I suggested. Let’s just go with that. Get your damn needles and lack of skill outta my room, I’m busy hanging with LD (who still didn’t have a name, we couldn’t decide). Dr. Yee came in later and I told her I had refused more blood draws and she said that was fine (!!). I sat around hoping they would come in again so I could tell them my doctor said so! Ha! My doctor also kept asking me if I’d passed any gas yet. Was there no end to the procession of vulgar indignities they were inflicting on me? Thank you, kind ladies who had problematic births that benefited from Western medicine, for screwing up the entire process for everyone. I bet you any money if I’d just avoided all my useless prenatal visits and ultrasounds and blood tests (endless, endless blood tests), urine tests, this crap and the other the WHOLE time without any benefit other than providing the standard of care that is the safe side, and just didn’t eat so much damn candy during pregnancy (apparently, LD got too big; at almost 9 pounds, he stopped being able to hang out head-down in my weirdly-shaped uterus), everything would have been perfectly fine. If I’d had my baby in my house with my husband and my cat in attendance, (and ok, a midwife), there was like a 90-some percent chance nothing would go wrong, and a near certainty of getting us to the hospital in time if something did. One was like 4 minutes away. But my pregnancy had been deemed “high risk” due to “advanced maternal age” (thirty-six) and a history of stroke. The whole overly-medicalized birth I ended up with pisses me off still. I know, I know, we were both healthy and fine and that is what matters in the end, but life consists of moments, moments that are mundane and forgettable (or regrettable), and moments that are transcendental and rare. I missed out on my moment of birthing. I’m making up for it as best I can with moments spent mothering.
The woman from the officey-part of the hospital kept coming in to ask if we’d settled on a name yet. She was sick of coming into our room to ask us this, I could see, and we felt pressure to come up with the name LD would carry the rest of his days so that she could write it down and not have to deal with us anymore. We finally settled on Jackson, because we liked both the long and short versions. I have pretty much just called him “baby” since then. I hope it’s a long time before he minds.