Wednesday, 26 March 2014

a quiet welcome

A caesarean is a very clinical, impersonal way to bring a baby into the world. We sat in a surgical waiting room, stripped down and dressed in hospital gowns, lined up in beds waiting for various operations. The man next to me had travelled a long way for his surgery. His wife came and wished me all the best and he was wheeled away. The man across from me had his cancelled due to high blood pressure. I prayed my blood pressure was normal.
Soon, we were moved to the 'little room of needles' just outside the operating theatre. It's my least favourite place, though the staff were so fun and friendly. We joked about middle names. Tim asked questions about needles. I asked him to stop. I sang a song to Tim about a spider and a fly so that I didn't faint while they put the spinal block in. I sang it quietly so that I didn't distract the anaesthetist. And by the time he was done and I was lying back on the bed, my legs were warm and heavy. It's the strangest feeling.

Tim had been checking in with me throughout the day about The Name. We had narrowed it down to two.
"Feelings on the name?"
"Yep, I think I'm settled, you?"
"Yep. Me too."
The conversation went like that every time. It's fun to have little moments like that, fun and intimate and understanding, that make you realise how much you love a person, that give you a side to your relationship you don't see often, maybe just a few times in a lifetime.

I was wheeled into theatre. Vomited. They gave me something for my blood pressure. I started to feel normal again. Well, as normal as you can knowing you're about to undergo surgery awake. I did feel excited. And terrified. I did enjoy the solid knowing, "Today I am going to meet you!" I did remember the awful recovery last time. I was incredibly thankful my mum had offered to take the big kids home with her so I could come home from hospital to a quiet house. And that Tim's mum had spent the week with us cooking and cleaning and letting me rest, letting me finish her quilt. (!)

Our baby was born around 12:30. She came out with a small cry and went back to sleep. And they lay her on the table, wiggling her purple body, giving her oxygen so she would take a deeper breath and expand her lungs. It would have been terrifying if it wasn't for the constant reassurance of the midwife: "This is really normal! She has a very strong heartbeat! She's just gone into shock and we need her to have a big cry!"

Cry Baby!
Her bird-like squawk filled the room and finally she was brought to my chest where I held her awkardly. I couldn't lift her with all the wires attached to me, to see her face, but I was so glad for the hospital policy which allows her to rest on me, skin to skin, after she's born. She lay there quietly and I spoke to her softly.

After miscarrying this time last year, I felt like I'd been pregnant for 15 months. I can't describe how good it felt to have this girl in my arms. And how that relief and thankfulness and affection has grown more as the wires were removed and the morphine wore off.

We named her Finlay Lucy Florence. Finlay meaning 'fair warrior', Lucy after my dear, creative, generous, tenacious friend, and also meaning 'bright'. And Florence? Well that was some colourful decoration just for me. A name I'd loved since reading about Florence Nightingale years ago. Florence means 'flourishing'. Naming a third child is challenging! And in the end I had to let go of all my concerns about style (it's so different to Eve!) and gender (it's traditionally a boy's name!) and just go with our favourite.

After 2 days in hospital, we came home to a beautifully empty house. And in the quiet, I think I just spent 3 days looking at her. And talking to her, singing, nursing, falling asleep on the sofa with her on my chest. I have never taken my babies in like I have taken her in. It has been deeply warm and calm and intimate. And today, when the noise returned, wonderful and homely though it is, I hardly said hello to her. It was all I could do to remember when she last fed. And when she squawked from the bedroom today during the kids' rest time, I thought, 'Oh, that's right, you're here now! And you're awake!"

And all through the day I have reflected, that though a planned date and a cut belly seem so far removed from the design of childbirth, the opposite of intimacy, this time it allowed me to organise what I needed - family who live away to help at the right time - to make it a truly intimate experience.

And her quilt? Finished just in time, 506 hand-stitched voile hexies, backed in Anna Maria's Loulouthi Flannel, and hand-quilted. I'm so glad I did this. It took several times longer than I expected and I would never have pushed through for any other reason. I feel like I have now been initiated into my craft - my first baby since becoming a sewist. My first completely hand-stitched quilt. Our own family heirloom.