Two days before August was born, I got a pedicure. I hadn’t had one in forever, and I knew that once he arrived, I’d be even shorter on personal time than I already was as the parent of a toddler. The pedicurist couldn’t help but notice my very large belly and asked me when the baby was coming. “Wednesday!” I said with certainty. She laughed, and I did too, choosing not to sheepishly explain that no, I really did know that August would be born on Wednesday because he would arrive via scheduled Caesarean section.
I say sheepish because there is still an unfortunate stigma around scheduled C-section births, like you’re giving up before you even start trying. A few months into my prenatal appointments with August, my doctor asked me about birth plans. It wasn’t like I’d forgotten about Oscar’s birth, but there was something in me that sort of thought medical technology had advanced and/or my body had shifted enough in the two-plus intervening years that would allow me to birth August vaginally. That is pretty much exactly what I said to my doctor, and she said, “Let’s walk through what happened during your last delivery,” and gently led me down memory lane. She stressed that it was absolutely my choice, and she shared her professional opinion. Given all of the evidence, it was clear: we’d be scheduling August’s birth.
And that was kind of awesome! Recovering from a C-section is hard, but once I’d accepted that’s what needed to happen, I leaned in to all of the silver linings. I’m a planner, and having a specific date to work with for my parental leave from work and care for Oscar and myself made me feel really calm and in control (and I’m a gal who loves control). I was able to wrap things up neatly at work and easily complete prep at home. The day before August was born, I kayaked Como Lake with Oscar and meditated on every last snuggle we had with my round belly. We had dinner with our family that evening at Hola Arepa. I went to bed that night feeling excited and tired, and I slept decently well. Everything felt right.
On the morning of June 28th, Matt and I woke up early. I showered with special pre-surgical soap. We took one last picture in August’s room before leaving for the hospital. Because it was so early, we let Oscar sleep in. We left him a video message that we took in the car, sitting in our driveway.
The drive to the hospital this time was so different from Oscar’s birth. It was raining that day, and we were tense because I was headed for induction and we didn’t know what to expect. On the morning of August’s birth, it was sunny, and we were excited. I felt really at ease and confident in our care team. Our pre-op nurse, Mary, was sweetly chatty and knowledgeable. She brought me peppermint essential oil to help me manage my IV-induced nausea. She told us that back tattoos make it really difficult for women to receive epidurals. She loved our kids’ names (kids! plural!), and she told us that early as it was, a record number of babies had already been born at Fairview that day.
Soon I was in the OR, surrounded by friendly people who all shared their names and their roles with us. Another silver lining of our C-section was that I knew my doctor, Dr. Percy, would be the one to deliver August. Her morning was a little nuts- she was in the midst of helping deliver another baby when we were checking in- but I knew she’d be there to introduce us to our sweet boy. The anesthesia hurt a lot more than I remembered, and there was more nausea to battle, but it passed quickly, and before long my body was ready for delivery.
Matt and I opted for the family-centered C-section, which meant that August would be born with just a clear sheet of plastic between us instead of the traditional blue curtain, and I’d get to do skin-to-skin with him as soon as he was born. (Part of my pre-op preparations included being outfitted with a tight, gauzy tube top for August to snuggle into.) During Oscar’s birth, I was so anxious and exhausted that I don’t remember many physical sensations. In my memory, I was barely breathing in anticipation of my baby’s safe arrival. During August’s birth, I could more fully attend to what was happening. It is a strange thing to feel the pressure of hands inside the center of your body, pulling and tugging, turning and guiding. Dr. Percy was getting paged for another delivery, and we were all joking about her running back and forth. The setting was sterile, for sure, but there was light and laughter. No tension. No worrying. Just welcome. Matt and I knew that our little love was almost home.
And then he was born! He was out, he was free! He was squishy and quiet. His size- well over eight pounds- surprised everyone. Matt cut his umbilical cord, and in a moment, our sweet baby August was in my arms.
When I think about those first seconds and minutes, I remember Matt’s comforting closeness on my left shoulder, and August’s tiny warm head resting on my right. I made a lot of involuntary cooing noises. I was being sewn up and put back together, and I didn’t notice anything but the fresh smell and softness of my new baby, our son.
We spent a couple of hours in post-op, helping August learn how to nurse and coordinating the pick-up of my placenta for encapsulation. We shared the good news with our loved ones, and then we traveled to our family suite in the swanky new digs at Fairview Riverside.
While I loved and needed to have special time with just August and Matt, I missed Oscar. Because there was a measles outbreak in Minneapolis at the time, children under five were not allowed in the newborn wing. That little ache in my heart was only soothed knowing that he was happy and loved at home with my parents. We spent three nights in the hospital to make sure I was in the best shape possible to go home, so for the first two days, I only saw Oscar on FaceTime and from several stories up while he ran around the hospital’s playground. Finally, on our third day in the hospital, I felt well enough to walk slowly to the elevators and meet him in the lobby. I could not control my tears as I got to hug and kiss my first baby for the first time since we became a family of four.
On July 1st, we were ready to go home, and I was struck by how much more confident and calm I felt than when we took Oscar home. I didn’t feel nervous in the absence of nurses, or worried that our house wouldn’t easily accommodate a baby. I knew that our family was complete, and the only anxiety I felt was just for us all to be together. Once we were, we’d be just fine.