Originally Written Short Story, January 2023 for NYC Midnight Short Story Competition
“This is precisely why nobody in their right mind hires a Boa constrictor to perform at a five-year-olds birthday party,” his brother Marty hissed beside him.
Presently, the magnificent animal was winding its way up the absurdly muscular arm of its trainer, a very tall, burly man named Herc with a black goatee. Ben didn’t know a lot about snakes, but he had to admit that this particular one looked like a miserable son of a bitch.
The group of kids seated on the grass under the mid-day California sun were loving the performance and thankfully seemed cheerfully oblivious to any immediate threat to life.
“You think he’s alright?” Ben murmured, surveying the scene intently.
Herc’s default expression was fairly angry, but Ben thought that he could detect something else on his face as the snake wound its way up his arm.
“I don’t know man, I –” Marty was abruptly cut off by an answer to the question at hand.
“Get – this – thing – off – me,” Herc grunted, his eyes bulging. He lunged forward in the direction of the children and fell to his knees.
The party erupted in a sea of pandemonium, parents swiftly darting across the lawn for their children, shrieks of terror permeating the air.
Ben’s wife Leah made it to their son Oscar in the front row, and was now looking at Ben, her eyes wide with a unique combination of malice and horror.
“Come on!” Ben grabbed Marty by the arm and dragged him up to where Herc was now vigorously grasping at the snake with his free hand.
“Get – the – bottle,” he groaned, gesturing erratically towards the black duffel bag resting on the grass about ten feet away.
Ben dove for the bag and rummaged through it frantically, emerging with a plastic spray bottle crudely labeled “RUBBING ALCOHOL”. Without much thought, he began vigorously spraying the snake in the face.
It didn’t like that. With an almighty hiss and aggressive flick of its tail, the snake unraveled itself, cascaded into the tall grass, and began to slither away from the party at impressive speed. The pandemonium escalated.
“Grab it!” Marty bellowed at Herc, who was intently massaging his now free arm. But as quickly as the chaos had broken out, the snake was gone, disappeared into the thick shrubbery separating Ben and Leah’s house from their neighbours.
“Okay, it’s alright! Everybody in the house now!” Ben exclaimed in his cheeriest possible voice, escorting his traumatized party guests in through their sliding back door.
Once the backyard had been suitably evacuated, he returned to Marty and a hysterical Herc.
“You’ve got to help me man, I have to get that snake back, or it’s my life on the line!”
Marty looked murderous.
“I’ll have your life myself, you overgrown sausage. We call the police, or animal control, or whoever the hell deals with this shit.”
“No! No police, or animal control, you can’t call anyone!”
For such a physically intimidating man, Herc looked so small and terrified that Ben exhaled deeply and vigorously rubbed his eyes.
“Listen Herc, I don’t know what’s going on here, but we have to get that snake back before it hurts someone; there are lots of kids in this neighbourhood. If we can’t call anyone, then what do you propose we do?”
Herc looked up at him with a glimmer of hope in his eyes.
“I’ve got some stuff in my car. Bait. And some tools we can use to grab it.”
“Well, I guess that’s as good enough a place as any to start,” said Ben.
The three men made their way between the houses up towards Ben’s front yard, a steady stream of protest from Marty punctuating every step.
“Ben, are you out of your mind? This isn’t an episode of the Crocodile Hunter, we don’t know shit about snakes, one of us is going to get killed by this thing, if we can even find it.”
As they rounded the corner, Ben paused, and Herc made an audible noise that sounded like he was being strangled. A tall, well-dressed man wearing mirrored sunglasses was leaning up against a rusty gold Honda Accord. Something about his demeanour made Ben uneasy.
“Ah, Herc. You’ve made some friends I see.”
Ben and Marty both looked at Herc, but he stood frozen to the spot, his eyes as wide and terrified as they had been when the Boa constrictor had been squeezing the life out of his arm.
“I’ll fix this boss. I just need some time.”
The man took three brisk steps across the grass so that he was within a foot of them. When he spoke this time, his voice was low and thick with venom.
“I knew that you would screw this up. That’s why I’m here; to remind you that we’re overdue as it is. And also, to tell you this: I’m heading to the airport right now. If that snake isn’t safely on my plane when it takes off, you’ll wish that slithery fucker had killed you this afternoon. And if you had a brain in your head,” he glanced between Ben and Marty, “You’d find a way to deal with these two as well.”
“Alright dude, here’s the deal. Ben and I don’t go one step further until you explain what in Gods name is going on here,” Marty said folding his arms across his chest.
Herc was sitting on the plush green grass despondently, his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands.
“It’s all a front. I work for him, for all of them. We transport drugs across the border. The birthday party gig is all just a cover, gives us somewhere to funnel the money.”
“Hey! I paid you almost $300 for this party!” Ben exclaimed righteously.
Marty shook his head and continued,
“Okay… and a shipment is… overdue?”
“This job was going to make up for it. Security’s so tight at the airport now. A whole shipment got busted last week, thought they were gonna kill us all. We got some extra shit for them in this shipment. Really good quality. We were gonna send it to them, no charge to make up for being so late.”
“Okay, well why can’t you still do that? The airport’s not far from here?”
“It got away,” he said, his voice breaking.
“What do you mean, how did a shipment ‘get away’…?” Ben paused, his mouth dropping open in sickening realization. “You’re not serious? In the snake?”
“In the snake,” Herc confirmed, dropping his head into his hands.
“Am I on a TV show right now? There’s no way this is happening.” Marty leaned up against the siding of Ben’s front porch, shaking his head in disbelief. Ben nodded, wordlessly.
“What are we going to do, Ben? We can’t go on some crusade with a drug lord to hunt down a drug-stuffed Boa constrictor, for the love of God. We’ll end up in jail, or with our throats slit.”
“He’s in a jam Marty. The guy’s a mess, he clearly can’t solve this on his own, and they’re going to kill him if he can’t. Not to mention, there’s a damn Boa constrictor that just escaped from my kid’s birthday party, roaming around my neighbourhood. I say we find the snake and try to save this guys life. It can’t have gone too far.”
Marty closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“Where do we start?”
“Well, I would think that all we need to do is follow the screaming.”
Regardless of the rather grave circumstances, Ben had to admit that it was somewhat amusing to see his brother creeping around the shrubbery of his backyard holding onto an empty Boa constrictor cage. Somehow, Ben had drawn the short straw and had ended up with two pairs of menacing-looking tongs. His job was going to be to grab the snake and get him into Marty’s cage. Herc was in charge of the bait and had a sack of dead rats slung over his shoulder. Maybe it was him that had drawn the short straw.
“Okay, so we know that it went under these shrubs, and our neighbours have a fence on the other side. So, it’s got to be in their yard.”
The three men slipped through the dense shrubbery separating the two houses like they were entering hostile territory.
“Let’s get some of those rats on the ground Herc, try to get him out in the open,” said Ben in a low tone, as if the snake would hear them.
Herc shook the sack of rats out and four or five of them tumbled out onto the grass. Herc and Marty gingerly picked the rats up and tossed them in the direction of the shrubs on the outskirts of the yard, while Ben started pacing around the perimeter with his pincer tongs at the ready.
“Alright, you slippery little devil, where are you?” he murmured.
Herc and Marty had backed into the corner of the yard, giving the rats some space to draw the snake in. As Ben circled around, his gaze steadfastly trained downwards, he suddenly had the distinct feeling that he was being watched…but not from below.
He slowly, cautiously, raised his gaze and drew a breath in sharply. There, not six inches from his brother’s head, was the magnificent snake curled around the branch of the tree, perfectly camouflaged into the deep mahogany tones of the bark. A shiver of fear ran down his spine.
“Marty, come towards me, right now,” he said, trying for all his might to keep his voice flat and emotionless.
“Do you see it?!” Marty’s eyes widened and he immediately side stepped the wrong way, taking him closer to the tree, his eyes trained intently on the ground.
Herc stepped towards Ben before turning around in the direction of the tree. His eyes widened.
“Herc, don’t!” Ben shouted, as Herc impulsively reached for the snake with his bare hands.
The snake reacted swiftly, baring its impressive fangs, and sinking them deep into the leathery skin of Herc’s forearm. He let out a bloodcurdling scream.
“It got me!” he collapsed to his knees, clutching his arm desperately.
“Ben, the snake!” bellowed Marty, as the snake began to slither up the trunk of the tree.
Ben’s eyes darted between Herc on the ground and the snake, who was making steady progress disappearing into the foliage of the tree. Deciding that a wounded forearm would pale in comparison to what the drug lords would do to him if the snake got away, it was a fairly simple choice.
He gingerly stepped into the garden shrubbery, clutching the pincer tongs.
“Stay close Marty,” he said in a low tone, “Keep that cage ready.”
The two of them inched their way closer to the tree, Herc providing a soundtrack of low moaning in the background. The snake continued its slow, methodical ascent.
“You’ve got to get one near his head, and one near his tail, otherwise he’ll go apeshit, and you’ll lose control of him,” coached Marty, as if he had experience in this particular endeavour.
Ben could feel a bead of sweat trickling down the back of his neck. He cautiously reached up high with the pincers in his left hand in the general direction of the snake’s head and positioned the pincers in his right hand near his tail.
“Steady…steady…” Marty murmured.
Ben said a silent Hail Mary and proceeded to gently close the tongs around the top and bottom of the snake.
At the precise moment that he made contact, there was the rustling of a sliding glass door, and his 80-year-old neighbours crackly voice rang out across the yard.
“Ben? What are you…my goodness! Is that a snake?!” the woman shrieked frantically.
The noise shattered the tense silence abruptly, causing Ben to lose focus and jerk backwards; reflexively closing the pincers on the snake with full force. The snake erupted in what could only be described as utter indignation and emitted a furious screech as it launched itself off of the tree and backwards towards the three men.
Ben stumbled backwards out of control and toppled off his feet and into the garden, while Marty dove in the opposite direction with a stream of profanities. The snake had landed wrong-side up on its back and erratically thrashed around in the shrubbery trying to right itself. By the time Ben had made it back to his feet, it had succeeded in this regard, and was now slinking across the open grass, not far from where Herc had jumped to his feet. Ben could see the wheels in his head turning.
Before he could get the words out, Herc had abruptly launched his body in a full-frontal belly-flop on top of the snake in an attempt to stop it.
“Jesus!” Marty thundered, as he landed on the belly of the snake, who once again emitted a terrible hiss of fury, before beginning to wind itself around Herc’s torso, with a particularly nasty glint in its eye.
“Here, take this!” Ben tossed one of the pincers to Marty and the two of them raced across the yard and over to Herc, who was struggling against the snake.
Ben made it to Herc first and reached out to take hold of the snake’s head with his pincers.
“Get it’s tail, Marty!”
“Shit, shit, shit,” Marty swore as he gingerly extended the pincers and took hold of the snake’s tail.
“We’ve got it! Get the cage, Herc!”
The furious snake thrashed viciously between the two pincers. Herc jumped to his feet and ran for the cage, opening the wire door and extending it towards them. Marty thrust the tail of the snake in and with one last ferocious hiss, Ben pushed the head in to follow. Herc closed the door, and the three men collapsed down to the ground, gasping with adrenaline.
Ben came back to reality first, and turned back towards the house, where his elderly neighbour was still standing, her mouth ajar and eyes wide in shock.
“It’s all good Mrs. Federman, we’ve got this under control!”
“Man, do I ever owe you guys one,” Herc said, his voice thick with appreciation as they packed the cage up into the backseat of Herc’s Accord.
“So, what now?” Ben asked with a rueful smile. “I want my $300 back, you know.”
Herc smiled ruefully and looked down at the cage.
“I guess they’ll have to kill him to get the dope out, right?” Marty said, with an almost undetectable hint of sadness in his voice.
“I guess that’s the plan,” said Herc. “But I was kind of thinking…maybe instead of Mexico, we’ll head for the Caribbean or somewhere else where they can’t find us.”
“We? Us?” Ben asked, his eyebrows raised.
“Yea, we. Guess I’ve grown kind of fond of the slippery little bastard.”
From the moment that I found out that I was pregnant with our third baby, I’ve ridden the full roller coaster of emotions from sheer and absolute elation right down the track to pure, unadulterated terror. And I’m no thrill seeker.
Although I truly don’t have any burning desire to relive the trauma of the early months of our pregnancy, a little bit of background is important to set the scene for our eventual birth story on that steamy Thursday lunch hour in July.
It was Tuesday January 4th 2022. The second work day of a fresh, new year, the second day for most people’s new year’s resolutions, and for me, it was the day of my 8 week ultrasound to check on our sweet baby’s development in the early weeks. I had been sick (as per usual Sara Pregnancy Protocol!) during the early weeks of my pregnancy, and was very nervous about the outcome of the ultrasound, so I told myself that if all went well during the scan, that I would celebrate with an Iced Cappuccino from Tim Hortons on the way home.
I had the nicest ultrasound tech that I’ve ever had, and she showed me Kyle and his heartbeat right away. The relief I felt was so unbelievable, I was on top of the world. I said something to her like “this must be such a difficult job when you don’t have good news for the person on the table, I can’t imagine what you would say”. She agreed and said that she was always super happy to share good news with the mothers, but when there was bad news, she said that she had “a line”. She said that she always just said “I’ll let your doctor talk to you about this hun, okay?”.
After I had seen Kyle and she seemed to have completed everything that she needed to, for some reason, she kept circling around my lower belly over and over. I let her go on for a while, but as the minutes ticked by, I was getting more and more uneasy. Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore, and I said to her: “is everything alright?”. She hesitated, and then told me that I had a cyst on my ovary, but stopped abruptly after that. I asked her if it was big, or anything that I should be worried about. I kid you not, as God as my witness, that woman looked me right in the eye and said to me:
“I’ll let your doctor talk to you about this hun, okay?”
Of all the sickening dread moments that I’ve had in my life, that had to be one of the worst. It kind of felt like I was floating above my own body, dizzy, hot, completely oblivious to anything else that she said or did in that appointment. I think she might have asked if I was okay to drive myself home, and I must have convinced her that I was, because she let me go. Even though I wasn’t.
I remember so little from that day, but I do remember getting to my car and sitting there for a long time before I even started it, and thinking to myself that I didn’t know what to do about the Iced Capp. On one hand, Kyle was looking good…but on the other hand… something seemed to be wrong with me. I concluded that the appointment had not “gone well”.
But I got the Iced Cappuccino anyways.
That appointment unfortunately set in motion a tsunami of terror that lasted from January 4th right through to April 20th 2022. The “cyst” that they thought that they had found on my ovary ended up being confirmed to be a solid mass growing inside the lower part of my abdominal wall. I went through a parade of referrals, so many ultrasounds, blood tests, appointments, and the waiting. Oh the waiting. The waiting was the absolute worst. I’m a wordy person, but there are simply no words to describe the waiting. It was the worst torture I’ve been through in my life to date. I wouldn’t wish the waiting on anyone on earth.
After a referral to a leading oncologist out of Princess Margaret Hospital downtown, more ultrasounds and finally a biopsy, it was confirmed that this mass was actually something called a “Desmoid Fibromatosis” tumour. They’re super rare (only about 300 cases recorded in North America last year!) and seem to be caused by a combination of excessive estrogen, combined with prior surgical trauma. I guess I fit the bill for this because of my previous c-section, and my new pregnancy (which, of course causes a spike in estrogen).
In any case, the tumour sits right underneath my old c-section scar, and the oncologist told us in our last consult that the best course of action to get rid of it was to simply get to the end of our pregnancy, deliver the baby and get my hormones balanced out and back to normal to cut off the estrogen supply to the tumour. The other three options (chemotherapy, radiation or estrogen therapy) all sounded decently horrific, and so we were quite glad to go with this plan. We were referred to the Special Pregnancy Program at Mount Sinai Hospital, and met with a new team of OBs there who made a plan to do a “higher” c-section incision this time around to avoid the tumour, and my old c-section scar, altogether. Our surgery was scheduled for Thursday July 28th, at 38 weeks 3 days.
From that point on, life somewhat returned to “normal”, whatever that means. The last 10 weeks or so of our pregnancy crawled by. I was dealing with so many aches and pains by this point, and those combined with the overall mental and emotional exhaustion from everything that had gone on at the start of the pregnancy had really reached a peak and I was fairly desperate to get to the finish line and get our sweet baby out safely. Although it felt like it would never end, as time as a funny way of doing, it marched on in it’s steady, rhythmic way, and before we knew it, it was Wednesday July 27th, and we were packing up the car with our hospital bags, the boys overnight bags and all of our other baby gear to head downtown for game day.
Since our c-section was scheduled for 9:45am on Thursday July 28th, Matt and I decided to get a hotel room downtown for the night before so that we could get our heads in the game and (maybe more importantly) so that we didn’t have to get up at 5am to get downtown for 7:45am to check in! Unfortunately for us, it was the Thursday leading into the August long weekend, and it was also Carabana weekend in Toronto, so all of the big hotel chains were either fully booked, or $600 a night. I had finally found us something that looked reasonable for the deal price of $375, and thought that we should be pretty safe with what we were getting for a hotel that cost that much!
Matt and I dropped the boys off at my parents house, and we were all a little jittery because my Dad was starting to come down with a cold. My whole family (myself leading the charge) had been sick with a terrible respiratory virus that had really brought us all to our knees for over a month leading up to our birth. We were all pretty freaked out that my Dad was the latest victim, and that he might pass it along to our boys, who by some miracle had not gotten it from any of us over the past month. In any case, we really didn’t have much of a choice at this point, and so we gamely handed over our children and headed off downtown. I remember feeling such intense guilt when I left Austin to go to the hospital to have Carter, and I felt the same way this time. Like we were about to just rock these sweet little boys’ worlds, and they had no idea what was coming.
Matt and I went out for a quick dinner at Baton Rouge in the movie theatre plaza at Winston Churchill, but my stomach was a bit of a mess (nerves? anxiety? excitement? Some lovely cocktail of all three?) and I only really ended up eating about half of a club sandwich. Matt had a rack of ribs. We spent most of that meal talking about the name we had chosen for our third and final baby, and re-living some of the crazier moments of the journey that had brought us to where we were. We also chatted nervously about what our life might look like with three kids, and how in gods name we might attempt to handle what was coming for us the next day… (spoiler alert: we didn’t figure out squat ;)).
After dinner, we finished the drive downtown to our hotel. It was just off of Church Street, in a new-to-us part of town, and I drove right past it the first time and had to circle back to pull in. The hotel was a little sketchy, but decent enough. We parked underground in the tiniest, spookiest parking garage ever, and were pretty glad that we had brought my vehicle (our new Palisade!) rather than Matt’s truck, because it almost certainly wouldn’t have fit under the low ceilings.
By the time we got up to our room, it was already after 9pm and starting to get late. The rooms were setup like apartments with full kitchens and open living areas separate from the bedroom and bathroom. We got into the room and setup, and then the nerves really hit me hard. I started to get really anxious about the surgery. It’s a blessing and a curse to know what you’re in for (or so I thought lol), and I was replaying the details of Carter’s (very smooth) c-section over and over trying to remember all the details, and what everything felt like.
The mattress in the room was hard as a rock, and I hardly slept at all that night. I was so glad when my alarm went off at 6:15am. As we say in our house, it was “go time”.
I was so nervous. Thinking back to that pregnant girl pacing around, trying to get everything together, I just want to stop her, put my arms around her so tight and tell her that everything is going to be okay. I realized at some point in all of the madness that I hadn’t packed a single t-shirt or top for myself (I had left them all in the dryer at home), so I was stuck wearing my shirt from the previous day.
I wasn’t allowed to eat anything that morning, but I did have to drink two bottles of apple juice about 2 hours before the surgery, which I had brought with me. I anxiously sipped on apple juice as we started the short drive over to the hospital from the hotel. Even though it couldn’t have been more than 2km or so away, it took us quite a while to get through the busy Toronto streets at rush hour on a weekday. Once we had made the U-turn onto University, we got held up quite a bit because there was a big accident right in front of the hospital where a car had t-boned another car trying to turn across the intersection. All of the airbags had deployed, it was a mess.
At this point, we were getting pretty tight for our timing. We were supposed to be at the hospital for 7:45am, and I think by this time it was nearly 7:30, and we still needed to park and get ourselves upstairs. I started anxiously complaining to Matt about how I had no patience, and patience just wasn’t my strong suit (anyone who knows me knows this to be true lol). In any case, we finally made it to the parking garage, went back and forth over the bags and what we wanted to bring up, and finally made our way into the hospital.
We waited in a line for the elevators, which was crazy long, and nearly drove me to insanity because it was past 7:45am and I was frantic to get upstairs to the 15th floor. We finally made it upstairs, and found ourselves in another line of three couples checking into Labour and Delivery. It took forever, the first mother was in labour, but didn’t seem to be in any discomfort, and the second mother said that she hadn’t felt her baby move in a while and wanted to get checked out. When it was our turn, we stepped up to the glass window, like we were at a bank or something, and I awkwardly stumbled through something like “we’re here to have a c section”. She got us checked in (so much paperwork), and then sent us down the hall to a waiting room.
I was so nervous. With Carter’s c-section, I remember Matt and I chatting anxiously to pass the time, but I honestly was in a different head space this time, and we didn’t do a lot of talking at all. The waiting room was cheery and bright, lots of baby pictures. I was thinking to myself how much I wished that our surgery was over and that my baby was safe on the outside like those babies. Even though I hadn’t eaten anything in 12 hours or more, my stomach got really upset and I was in and out of the washroom twice. The second time I came back, Matt said, “they’re ready for us”. And we proceeded to the next step, triage!
We had a young Asian nurse, and she was really lovely. She took us through all the bureaucracy, our 8th set of COVID screening questions, got me into a hospital gown, took my vitals, all that good stuff. She paged our OB that we were here, and asked her to come by whenever she was ready to talk about the tumour and their plans for the surgery.
As we fiddled with vitals and monitors, our nurse said to me “do you mind if I guess what you do for a living? It’s a game I play with patients sometimes”. I said sure, and she said “are you a teacher?”.
I was shocked by that for a lot of reasons, primarily because I’ve applied for teachers college three times in the past 8 years, and have thought about being a teacher for a long time, but also because of my years instructing fitness classes. I told her not really, but that I did teach fitness classes. She asked what I did do, and when I told her she nodded, and then said “well, I think you’d be a good teacher. You explain things well.”
Our OB arrived shortly after that, and I was so relieved to see her. She has a really warm, motherly kind of energy to her, and I desperately needed some of that energy that morning. Although there were things going on to distract me, I had been nauseous with anxious energy the whole time.
She wheeled in a portable ultrasound machine and took a look at Kyle, and at the tumour. She started talking about where she would make her incision to avoid the tumour, and just at that moment, the anesthesiologist arrived to brief us on the anesthesia plan.
I can preface all of this by saying that anesthesia scares the living shit out of me. Like, TERRIFIES me. The thought of being slices open truly doesn’t phase me at all. But the thought of the anesthesia in my spine truly terrifies me. I’m not sure if it’s the paralyzed thing, or the thought of how dangerous this medication can be if they fuck it up, or maybe it’s a loss of control thing. But whatever the reason, the sight of the anesthesiologist made my heart rate climb so high that the nurse said to me “what’s going on, are you okay?”.
To make matters worse, the anesthesiologist was a resident doctor. I think his name was Edwin, but I could be wrong about that. He was funny, and got a small smile out of me, which was damn impressive at that point. He and our OB talked about the plan for anesthesia, and they decided that they would proceed with an epidural instead of the spinal injection that I had with Carter.
I voiced to them that I had had an epidural with Austin, and that it hadn’t worked for me. That epidural was the cause of so many problems with Austin’s labour. They reassured me that it was a completely different situation this time and that they wouldn’t begin until everything was working well. I was uneasy, but agreed.
Edwin scared the hell out of me. He had to give me the risks and complication possibilities, and by the time he was done, I was basically in tears. My OB stuck around and took my hand in hers and said “it’s going to be just fine, we do epidurals all the time, it would be nearly impossible for any of those things to happen, don’t worry”. Her skin was warm and her hand was soft and comforting. I really appreciated that gesture.
Everybody left us, including our nurse, and we waited. A couple on the other side of the curtain from us went in for their surgery and then not too long later, the most unbelievable sound, a newborn crying on the other side of the curtain from us. It was a totally surreal moment hearing that baby cry in that quiet room. It made everything suddenly so, so real, and was a reminder that in just a few minutes, we would have a BABY in our arms, in our family… it was crazy.
About an hour and a half late, they finally came to get us and said that they were ready to go. They transferred me to a traveling bed, and wheeled me down the hall with Matt in tow. I didn’t like that. I wanted to walk, but they preferred to wheel me and I wasn’t going to fight with them. We got to the doors of the operating room, and that was where Matt had to stop and wait for us. I can’t remember if we said goodbye, I just remember being terrified. So terrified.
There were a lot of people in the operating room, too many for me to remember them all. They got me sitting upon the operating table and got to work on the epidural. This was the part that I had been dreading for my entire pregnancy, and I just kept repeating to myself over and over in my head “you can do this, you can do this, you can do this”. They had me hold onto a pillow and hunch forward, and a really kind nurse held my shoulders and talked to me. I don’t remember her name, but she was very nice, had a cool and confident demeanor to her, and I trusted her right away. As they were getting ready to start the epidural, my OB asked me what music I’d like to have playing in the room, which I thought was kind of cool. I couldn’t think of any music fitting for my baby’s entrance into the world, so I said Elton John, and she put on the best of Elton John on some Bluetooth speaker right in the operating room.
Almost like that first ultrasound back on January 4th, I knew that something wasn’t quite right with the epidural because it was taking too long. I’ve had an epidural, and a spinal injection before, and both were quite quick. It felt like I had been hunched over for a long time, and I had. They wheeled over an apparatus for me to rest my feet and forehead on, and the nurse kept holding my shoulders and talking to me. They gave me a very painful shot of something to numb my back I think, and then there was all sorts of weird pressure, clicking, and sensations for several minutes. My OB came over to my head to talk with me and the nurse as well, and as we were in the middle of a tense conversation about their teenage daughters traveling on their own, I started to feel a panic attack setting in.
I suddenly got it into my head that I needed to sit up, or lie down, or stand up, but whatever happened, I couldn’t be in that hunched over position anymore. And I also knew that I absolutely, under no circumstances could move a muscle, because they were screwing around with my spinal cord. The combination of those two thoughts spiked my anxiety to a pretty unmanageable level, and I said to the nurse and my OB, “is there any way that I could lie down, do you know how much longer I have to stay like this?”.
They never did explain to me what exactly was going wrong with the epidural, but assured me that they were almost done, and got me some ice for my forehead. I fought like a warrior against that panic attack. It’s one of the most persistent ones that I’ve ever had, and I somehow managed to stay absolutely still and keep it together. Finally, after what I soon learned had been 45 minutes in that position, they said that they were ready to lay me down.
Laying down was the biggest relief ever. EVER. My lower body was tingly and numb-ish, but it was a very different sensation then what I had had with Carter’s c-section, where pretty much instantly I was paralyzed and couldn’t feel a thing. I was happy to be able to move my toes, but a little uneasy at how much I could still feel my legs and move them on command.
Matt appeared shortly after I was laying down, and I was so happy to see him. The poor guy had been waiting outside the operating room for nearly an hour. I can’t begin to imagine what he was going through out there with Kyle and I on the other side of the door.
Another dead giveaway that things were not going to plan was that at some point, Edwin the Resident transferred my care to his supervisor. The guy was a jerk, to put it kindly. He clearly thought highly of himself, and seemed to be very irritated by what was doing on with my epidural. They started testing my lower body to see if I could feel ice, pokes and prods, and a reflex test which felt like a jolt of lightning down my leg.
I failed every test.
They spent close to 30 minutes messing around with things. Another white haired anesthesiologist came onto the scene. My OB was clearly starting to get anxious and was up and down from her seat in the corner fussing with things here and there. Finally, I seemed to pass their tests, and they deemed that I was numb enough to begin the surgery.
At some point shortly after they began, I started into another fairly predictable panic attack. These always start the same for me, and begin with me feeling really hot and tight around my neck and up into my head and face. I had warned Edwin that this was likely to happen, and that it would be great to have some ice packs or bags of ice nearby for my face / neck, as that usually helps to ward them off. There was something so odd about how the surgery was unfolding. I could feel an alarming amount on the other side of the curtain. Not pain at this point, but I could clearly feel their hands and fingers moving around me, I could tell when they were using a different tool because the pressure felt different… it was completely a different experience from my last c-section where I felt nothing at all. Being able to feel things like their fingers moving around (presumably inside me…. ick…) really freaked me out and I was very, very anxious and scared. I started doing what I did during Carter’s c-section which was to count the minutes. His surgery had been so quick, that it literally was only a matter of minutes, and so I focused really hard on breathing, and trying to just get through a few more minutes. I figured that Kyle would be here very soon, and then I would have a baby on my chest to distract me from everything else going on.
Matt was very good at my head, he was basically on “ice duty”, re-positioning ice packs, holding my hand and providing totally baseless reassurance that “everything was going great” haha. I managed to get the panic attack somewhat under control, but the sensation wasn’t gone completely. I was very, very anxious to see Kyle, and saw that as the “end” of the hard part.
Unfortunately, the surgery just carried on and on. I was watching minutes tick by, fighting off waves of panic every so often, but no Kyle. My OB wasn’t saying anything to me at all, but was speaking in lower, very firm and direct tones to the people assisting with the surgery on the other side of the curtain. I don’t remember exactly what she was saying, but I do remember her repeatedly saying “clamp here please”.
I don’t know how long it had been on the table, when I suddenly realized that I was feeling a dull, aching sensation up near my right ribcage. It started off as nothing at all, just a very dull, far away ache. But as the minutes progressed, I realized that the ache was turning into more of a “hurt”. My brain started to play tricks on me immediately, because I realized that the pain actually very much resembled the pain that I had felt during Austin’s labour when my epidural had stopped working. It had started as a 2/10 ache, and then slowly, eventually escalated to no pain relief at all, and a full on 10/10.
I started to panic inside because I realized what a situation I was in, and that it wasn’t going to fly for the epidural to “wear off” in this situation. I remember saying in this small, meek little voice, “I think that I can feel some pain”. My OB stopped and looked over at me, and said “is it pain? Or is it pressure?” and I said that it was pain near my right ribcage. My OB looked at the anesthesiologists (all freakin’ three of them lol) and said VERY sharply, “can you please take care of that? NOW?”.
I had to laugh because there were literally only three men that were part of our birth from start to finish. They were all three of the anesthesiologists. And the anesthesia was a raging shit show from start to finish.
I’m just sayin’….you want something done right folks… give it to a fucking woman 😉
This was where our surgery started to go off the rails. The anesthesiologist started to push more drugs down my epidural line. Every time he did that, it felt like a rush of ice down my spine all the way down to the tips of my toes. I thought that that would be a good thing at first, but what I didn’t bargain for was the whole parade of complications that these drugs would bring.
Shortly after I got more medicine in the epidural, I started to feel absolutely HORRIBLE, extremely, extremely nauseated. I told Matt that I was going to throw up, and started to dry heave a little bit. I asked the anesthesiologist for anti-nausea medicine, because I remembered from my previous c-section that the anesthesiologist had given me an anti-nausea medicine in my IV that immediately solved all of my nausea woes, and made me feel like a million bucks. He pushed that medicine through my IV.
Shortly after THAT, I was laying on the table, and I started to drift away from my body. If you’ve seen the movie “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”, I felt a bit like Elizabeth Taylor at the end during her c-section when she passes out and is talking about the pigs wearing flippers on the surgeons surgical caps. I felt like I was floating, spaced out, I was cold sweating and my arms started to tingle. I turned to Matt and said super calmly. “Matt, I’m about to pass out”.
Poor Matt, this entire ordeal must have been so hard for him. I can’t imagine being in his position and feeling so helpless. He immediately got the attention of the anesthesiologist (who, I kid you not, had moved to the back of the room and was ON HIS PHONE while this was going on). He came over right away and announced “blood pressure’s tanking, pushing meds”. I glanced up at my blood pressure monitor, and although I can’t remember what the exact numbers were, I knew that it was shockingly low. The lowest that I’d ever seen, and I’m prone to low blood pressure.
The authoritative nurse that had been with me for the epidural came back around the corner and held firmly onto my hand while the anesthesiologist messed around with more medication in my IV. “It’s okay.” She said, “Your blood pressure is low from all of these meds, which makes you feel yucky. It’s going to be okay.”
The anti-nausea meds helped, but from there we entered a very long cycle of increasing my epidural meds to manage the persistent aching pain on the other side of the curtain, which led to my blood pressure tanking and me starting to fade out of consciousness. Matt said that it was like clockwork, he would watch my numbers start to fall off on the blood pressure monitor, and my skin would almost instantly turn a sickly grey colour, and I would get beads of cold sweat across my forehead, and he would call the anesthesiologist (who still did not deem it appropriate to just STAY BY MY HEAD lol) who would give me more anti-nausea meds.
I’m not sure how far we were into the surgery by now, but it must have been hours. I finally couldn’t take it anymore and asked my OB, “how much longer do you think it will be? Is everything going okay?”.
I knew the answer. Of course I did. I had been on the table over 2 hours at that point. Carter had been out within 13 minutes of them starting the surgery, and I was out of the OR in recovery within about 40 minutes total time start to finish. It was very obvious that things were NOT “going okay”.
My OB didn’t answer me. So I asked again, a little louder. She then looked over the curtain and said “I’m not ignoring you Sara, we’re just at a very critical stage and I really need to focus. In fact, can I get the music in the room off, and no more conversation in the room from anyone please?”.
As Matt and I have replayed this whole scenario over and over again, he says that that was the moment that he got really scared. Up until then, he figured that we were dealing with relatively simple things, but when she said that, he knew that we were playing with higher stakes. I was in a similar boat, and I remember that that was the first time that I had the horrific realization that it was not a given that my baby and I were going to make it off of that operating table alive. Horrible, horrible things started to flash through my mind. Austin and Carter’s sweet faces. My parents wringing their hands by their phones, waiting for an update. Matt walking out of the hospital and back to our big 7 seater vehicle to drive home with an empty car seat and / or an empty passenger seat.
So many of the things that I’ve achieved in life (not that there have been a lot), haven’t been anything to do with my physical or mental abilities at all. It’s been sheer, “do it or die trying” determination. And that was all that I had in that moment. I started trying (unsuccessfully for the most part) to change the narrative, and I kept repeating to myself some wisdom from my grandmother, a favourite of hers:
“This too shall pass. This too shall pass. This too shall pass.”
There was literally nothing that we could do except wait, and keep fighting off the relentless waves of nausea and pain. In fact, the waves of nausea and losing consciousness might have been what saved me from myself, because as I just outlined, my head had wandered down a pretty dark path.
Around this time, my entire body started to convulse and shake violently on the table. I felt like I was freezing cold (all the ice was gone at this point), and my entire upper body was rattling and shaking on the table, completely out of my control, and my teeth were chattering so hard against each other that it hurt my jaw. I started to close my eyes for small stretches here to try and just “escape” the situation for a moment, but when I would open my eyes again, I found my field of vision cloudy and much smaller than usual. It’s clear now that my body was going into some kind of shock, and that I was fading in and out of consciousness. Matt told me that the anesthesiologist was standing by with an oxygen face mask in his hand, I guess in case I really did crash.
After what seemed like an eternity, my favourite nurse poked her head around the curtain and said to me “baby is almost here, hold on Sara!”. Not long after that, my OB said to me “you’re going to feel a lot of pressure Sara”. I was on another planet by this point. I was fighting like a dog to stay conscious on the table. I wanted more than anything I’ve ever wanted in the world to stay awake to meet our baby. There was a lot of tugging, pulling, and pressure…and then that sound. Ah that sound.
A big, loud, wet, throaty cry that echoed off the walls of the operating room.
I was really in a bad place when Kyle was officially born at 12:04pm. I remember crying hot tears that felt good against my freezing cheeks. I remember saying “my baby, my baby, my baby” over and over again. I remember sending Matt away from me over to the little incubator to get him wrapped up and check his vitals, and while Matt was gone, having another heaving wave of nausea.
The nurse and Matt brought Kyle back over to me, and started pulling back what was left of my hospital gown to put him on my chest for skin to skin. But the problem was that I was convulsing out of control. My whole body was rattling on the table, and I just couldn’t stop it. I was also extremely weak and shaky, and while I tried to hang onto him in that awkward position, Kyle was getting bumped around my chest, and I just didn’t feel safe having him there.
“Please just hold him.” I said to Matt, with tears streaming down my face. I was so sad that I couldn’t hold him myself. So, so sad. Matt did such a good job though, he kept him right by my face, as much as I could tolerate, and still managed to keep an eye on my vitals and advocate for me, while holding a newborn.
I was really hopeful that we were almost done, but it took another hour (yes, an hour lol) to deal with me after Kyle came out, and close me back up. That was so hard. My OB started to explain to me that when they had opened me up, they had uncovered a number of very thick, varicose veins in my abdomen that were essentially “feeding” the tumour a blood supply. She said that I had lost a lot of blood, and that they had “cauterized” (ick) those veins in an attempt to “starve” the tumour and cut off it’s blood supply.
It seemed like an eternity, but finally, at long last, they said that they were all done, and they transferred me to a stretcher bed. Almost immediately, I started to feel better. Something about being off of the operating table that I had been on for over 3 hours just felt like I had a tiny bit more control over the situation, and there were less drugs flowing into me now, so my blood pressure stabilized fairly quickly.
We got back to our recovery bay, and realized that our surgery had screwwwwwwwwwed up the c-section schedule for that day. There were husbands and couples everywhere complaining that they had been waiting for hours and that the poor mothers hadn’t had anything to eat all day. I felt so bad about that, I knew that it was our fault that they had been waiting.
It was unbelievable how much better I felt in the recovery room. I finally got to really look at Kyle and take him all in. He was perfect. Just perfect. I couldn’t believe that my partner throughout all of the trials and tribulations of the past year was finally here on this side. I also, almost immediately started looking back at the surgery, turned to Matt and said
“Holy shit. That was intense.”
Matt went down to Second Cup and got us four plain bagels with butter (LOL) and we both scarfed down two bagels immediately, we were absolutely starving because neither of us had eaten anything that day either. There seemed to be a bit of a delay getting our room ready up on the maternity floor, so we ended up staying in the recovery room for about 5 hours. Once we got some food into us, we felt so much better, and things just started looking up from there.
Our stay in the hospital was relatively smooth, I struggled with pretty severe pain the second night, and had to take some low dose morphine to get it under control, and Matt and I had a bit of a standoff with a nurse who thought she knew better than we did how to feed our baby (lol). We had a good laugh afterwards about how timid and scared we were the first time around, and how much more confident we are with our routine and way of doing things now. We were both super anxious to get out of the hospital and just start doing things our way.
And the rest is history! Our birth story, while definitely a bit tumultuous, is perfect to me. A perfect blend of adversity, determination, love, purpose and triumph. Kyle is a product of all of those things, and his parents fought like hell to bring him into this world.
I fought like hell to bring him into this world.
Our birth story feels like the perfect ending to a very challenging pregnancy, and we are so beyond thrilled to be onto the next chapter of our lives as a family of five!
Originally Written Short Story, April 2021 for NYC Midnight Short Story Competition
Emily hiked the hem of her skirt a little higher up on her thighs in a desperate attempt to get her other leg up and over the windowsill. Christ, she felt like a whale. Whoever designed the fire escape certainly never considered the girl trying to bail out the window in a pencil skirt and four-inch heels. There was another loud bang at the door to her apartment.
“Emily? I know you’re in there!”
Shit. She was so late, and more importantly, she didn’t have the past three month’s rent for her landlord. With an almighty effort, she pushed the window screen aside and hoisted her other leg up and over the ledge. A loud ripping sound rang through the room, and she gasped. As she turned around to survey the damage to her rear end, the doorknob to her apartment started to turn.
“Emily? I’m coming in…”
“No! Don’t come in! I’m…I’m naked!” Emily shrieked frantically.
“Well can you please get…un-naked then? I need to speak with you.”
Emily sighed. She wriggled her bum backwards and heaved herself back into the apartment.
Her landlord opened the door cautiously and peered around the door like he was entering hostile territory.
“Hi Mr. Randolph!” Emily said brightly.
He furrowed his brow in disbelief, looking from her to the window and back again.
“Uh…hello there. Your rent is three months overdue Emily. And… wait, were you seriously just trying to get out the window?”
She shook her head emphatically.
“No, no! Just getting some fresh air.”
“Right… look, I really need your rent payments by the end of the week.”
She nodded solemnly, shimmying her skirt down from up around her thighs.
“And Emily…you’re going to have to fix that window screen.”
Son of a bitch. It hadn’t been her skirt that had ripped. It was the window screen.
Emily sat idly on the train, watching the world whizz by outside. To say that her life was in shambles didn’t quite capture it. Despite her very best efforts, she hadn’t worked full-time in nearly a year, her bachelor apartment was a dump, she had put on twenty-three pounds, and her idea of a love life was the one night stand she had had with the busboy at their local bar last weekend. Her phone trilled cheerfully.
“Emily, it’s Skye. You wanna grab a drink tonight?”
“Wish I could girl, I’m on my way to dinner at my moms.”
“Garbage. You just don’t want to see your lover boy from last weekend.”
“Ugh. Do you know that the poor guy actually gave me some million-year-old book of poems from his grandmother? Like we were in the fucking Notebook or something.”
“He did not. I’m not sure if that’s the sweetest or the saddest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Well, sweet or not, the guy had Cheeto crumbs in his bed. And he was sweaty. Really sweaty.”
“Say no more. I can live with Cheeto crumbs, but it’s a hard pass at sweaty.”
Emily laughed in spite of herself.
“Okay girl here comes my stop. You find us another bar, okay? I ain’t showing my face there ever again.”
“Emily sweetie! What’s kept you?”
She hardly recognized her mother, Margot; sharply dressed in fitted jeans, a crisp white tank top and gorgeous flowery pink kimono. For as long as she could remember, her mother had thought that any clothing that didn’t have a drawstring was high fashion. Love did weird things to people.
Margot had met her beaux John at bridge club six months ago and things had taken off quickly. Emily had to admit that he was very charming, in a Sean Connery sort of way, but it was still weird seeing her mother like this.
“Sorry Mom. Ran into a little snag on my way over.”
Margot clasped her arm tenderly as they started towards the kitchen.
“Oh, honey that’s okay; I’m just glad that you’re here. Let’s head outside, John and his son are barbecuing.”
“Yes, I mentioned that didn’t I? We thought it would be nice for you guys to meet.”
They made their way out the sliding doors and down the steps to the patio where John and a tall, thin man stood at the smoking barbecue.
“John, Dave, Emily is here!” Margot cheerfully announced.
As the two men turned to face them, Emily froze to the spot, her stomach dropping like a stone. There, standing on the back patio, holding her mother’s barbecue tongs, was the busboy from the bar.
As Dave turned to face her, his expression changed from a cheery smile to a look like Hannibal Lecter had just walked in for dinner. John jovially made his way over and gave Emily a hug.
“Emily! So glad to see you. This is my son Dave. Christ Dave, what’s wrong with you son,” John said, clapping his son roughly on the shoulder. “This is Emily, Margot’s daughter.”
Emily came to her senses first and extended her arm at ninety degrees.
“Nice to meet you Dave,” she said robotically, dully aware that her eyebrows were hovering somewhere up around her hairline.
“Uh, you too… it’s nice to meet you,” Dave said in high staccato.
The four of them stood in tense silence.
“So… shall we head inside? Steaks are done!” John said cheerily.
Emily was certain that at any moment someone was going to pop out from behind the couch with a camera and announce that they were on some reality show. Dave kept looking at her like some kind of panicked hostage trying to communicate something with his eyes, but she steadfastly avoided his gaze. Every time she caught a glimpse of him sitting at her mother’s dining room table, all she could picture was “The Night”. The dirty underwear in the corner of his bedroom, the questionable smell permeating throughout his apartment, the Cheeto crumbs. At least he seemed to be showing no obvious signs of perspiration tonight.
Part way through dinner, Dave excused himself and Emily seized the opportunity to casually follow him down the hall towards the washroom. As soon as the door opened, she placed her palm directly on his chest and pushed him back into the room, closing the door behind them. Dave yelped in surprise and looked genuinely scared.
“Okay, listen…there’s no need to say a word about what happened, alright? Let’s just forget the whole thing.”
Dave’s eyes were wide.
“Are you sure? If they’re going to be together, isn’t it bound to come out sooner or later?”
“Have you lost your mind? What would we tell them? That we got drunk off our asses and had a one-night stand? I don’t know about you, but that’s not typical dinner conversation for my mom and I, alright? We say nothing. Now let’s get back before they wonder what’s going on.”
Emily slipped out of the bathroom and closed the door behind her. As she came back into the kitchen, her mother had made her way over to stand behind John, with her arms around his
shoulders. Emily uneasily sat down, not liking the look of the scene. As Dave entered the room, still looking scared, John cleared his throat.
“So, you kids… we’re thrilled that you could both be here tonight, because Margot and I have some wonderful news to share.”
There was a pause for dramatic effect.
“We’re engaged!” Margot finally exclaimed, beaming with pride.
Dave looked from their parents to Emily with eyes the size of dinner plates.
“What?! So that makes us…”
“Shut up Dave! It doesn’t matter what that makes us…”
What was happening to her voice?
“But…but it’s wrong… isn’t that like… incest or something?”
“Why don’t I pour some more wine, anyone need a refill?” Margot asked weakly, making her way back over to the island and uncorking the nearest bottle she could lay her hands on.
“Incest? Would someone please enlighten me as to what the hell is going on here?” John asked, looking from Emily to Dave.
Dave looked like he was about to hyperventilate.
“Margot, Dad… you can’t get married. I’m sorry, but you just can’t.”
“Dave, can I please speak to you for a second…” Emily interrupted with clenched teeth, pushing her chair back roughly.
“Can’t get married?” John’s complexion was turning an interesting shade of puce. “Dave what in God’s name is wrong with you…”
But the words came spilling out of his mouth like word vomit before Emily could do anything about it.
“Emily-and-I slept-together-last-weekend.” Dave blurted out all in one breath.
Emily’s mouth gaped open like a fish as she looked at him in disbelief. John’s face had crumpled into an expression like he had just sucked a lemon.
“Son, you…you slept with your step-sister?”
Dave brought his hands to his head seemingly involuntarily.
“No! No! What’s wrong with you Dad! She’s not my, well…she wasn’t my…”
Margot’s eyes had widened to the point that her entire forehead had disappeared, and she was frozen in the “pour” position with a now empty bottle of wine in hand like she was having some sort of a stroke.
“Mom? Mom, are you okay? MOM, speak to me please, say something.”
“I think I forgot to take the cheesecake out of the freezer…” Margot said in a strangled voice.
“Wait so…do you mean to tell me, that you two are in some sort of relationship?” John stammered.
“NO,” barked Emily and Dave in panicked unison.
“Alright then,” John straightened his posture, “So, if it was just meaningless humping, then I don’t think we have a problem here.”
Emily winced; the man did not just use the word “humping”.
“If you’ll excuse me for a minute guys…I think I need some fresh air,” she said with as much dignity as she could muster, striding across the kitchen and out the front door.
The front door clicked open behind her, and she turned around to see Dave sheepishly step onto the front porch.
“I’m sorry about that…can I sit down?”
Emily sighed and loosely gestured to the step beside her.
“I’m not in love with you, you know. If that makes any of this better.” Dave said earnestly after a moment of silence. The words came as such a shock that Emily laughed out loud.
“That’s always nice to hear. Well, I’m not in love with you either. But I am sorry about all this. You’re a good guy, Dave. It’s not your fault that I’m such a disaster.”
She paused and then looked at him quizzically.
“So, if you’re not in love with me, then why on Earth did you give me some romantic old book of poems from your grandmother?”
“It’s not like it was an heirloom or something. It was just something I got stuck with in a box of trinkets that came from her house when she moved last year. What I actually wanted to give you was inside the book…did you even open it?”
Emily’s forehead creased in confusion, and she reached for her purse beside her. She hadn’t emptied her bag since last weekend, and if she remembered correctly, the book was still there. As she pulled out the worn paperback, and gently cracked it open, her mouth hung open. There sitting crisply inside the front cover, was five one-hundred-dollar bills.
“Why would you… but why?”
“I just felt bad for you, I guess. You were always talking about how you were so behind on your rent… and you always seemed to be so nice to other people. I just wanted to help you out a bit. I never actually meant for…what happened…to happen at all. And I sure as shit never thought you’d end up being my step-sister. But I’m not in love with you.” He reiterated holding up two fingers. “Scout’s honour.”
Originally Written Short Story, January 2021 for NYC Midnight Short Story Competition
It was all supposed to have been a joke. Just a stupid, harmless joke. But now Rachel Albright was dead, and there was really no doubt that she had been the one that had killed her. Ellie exhaled deeply and glanced at the oven clock which cheerfully read 9:13am in bright blue fluorescence. Was it too early to start drinking?
She stood from the island and made her way across the kitchen. The new house was absurdly large; she had told Dave this when they had taken the tour. But her husband was especially fond of flaunting their hard-earned wealth and prominence, and here they were. At least they were in good company. Wellton, California was a community like Ellie had never seen before. Everyone had money. Everyone. Even their stop signs seemed fancy somehow, with their beveled edges and deeper, more classy shade of red.
As she reached the wide sweeping staircase, the peaceful silence in the house was shattered by the frantic ring of her cellphone. Her heart skipped a beat.
She briskly made her way back into the kitchen and turned over her phone, wincing pre-emptively before she looked at the number. Sonia. Thank God, it was just Sonia. When she brought the phone to her ear, she intended to speak, but no words came out.
“Ellie…what the hell happened?”
A flood of hot tears was welling in her eyes.
“I don’t know,” she whispered hoarsely. “Nothing…I didn’t do anything… well, except for, you know… but that was it, I swear.”
“So, you just… that was all you gave her? Nothing else?”
“Okay, well, try not to panic. Maybe the chick had other issues that we don’t know about. It probably had nothing to do with you. Just freaky bad luck, okay?”
Ellie took a deep, shaky inhale and let it go.
“You’re right…you have to be.”
“Listen, Rachel had it coming to her anyways. That little whore was sleeping around with half the town, and everyone hated her for those condo plans. There’s more than a few people around here that wouldn’t have been sad to see her get it.”
Ellie’s stomach churned uncomfortably.
“I better go. Thanks for having my back Sonia.”
As the phone clicked silent, Ellie leaned her elbows down onto the cool marble of the kitchen island and rested her head in her hands.
The moms of Wellton were a kind of high elite society that she could only have dreamed becoming a part of. They were simply flawless in every way. Well groomed, well dressed and impossibly gorgeous, they moved through the town like some kind of designer-clad wolf pack, simultaneously terrorizing and charming everyone in their path. Ellie, by contrast, had always identified as being quite average in every way. So, it had been a complete shock when the pack had happened upon her two weeks ago while she was out in her front garden. She took a deep breath and recalled the day.
Ellie had looked up at the mom pack on the sidewalk, clad in multi-colour lycra. Although they were all spectacular in their own right, she had taken the woman who had spoken to be the leader. She walked and spoke with a slightly different swagger than the rest. Her sleek blonde hair was slightly glossier, her cheekbones a little bit more defined, and her crystal blue eyes could have frozen fire.
“Hey. You’re new here, right? What’s your name?”
“Um, hi! Yes, we’re new here. My husband just transferred from La Jolla. My name’s Ellie… well, Eleanor really, but nobody calls me that, and…”
The blonde had put a hand on her narrow hip expectantly.
“Ellie. My name is Ellie.”
She had paused briefly, her eyes giving Ellie the tiniest flicker up and down. Apparently approving of what she saw, she had spoken again.
“I’m Grace. This is Laurel, Sonia, Hallie, Meg and Jilly.” The women had each given a small wave in her direction. “We walk this neighbourhood Tuesdays and Thursdays after we drop the kids at school. You wanna join us on Thursday?”
Ellie had hardly been able to stand it.
“Oh… I’d really like to! Yes please!”
She had hated herself for her desperation.
“Cool. We meet at the park just around the corner. See you there around 10?”
Ellie exhaled, coming back to the present. Part of her deeply regretted that fateful day. If she had never met the mom pack, then none of this would be happening right now. Most likely, Rachel would still be alive. But if she had never met the mom pack, then she would never have joined their ranks. And that simply wouldn’t do either.
Hellbent on avoiding the news, Ellie spent the better part of the day vigorously decluttering and scrubbing every nook and cranny of her palatial home. But she couldn’t escape her. In every corner, in every cabinet, under every bed, was Rachel. Wellton wasn’t exactly a small town, but word about Rachel had traveled fast, and there wasn’t a soul that wasn’t talking about her.
Rachel Albright had been very well known, although not overly well liked in Wellton. She had been here on an urban planning contract to advise the city council on the best strategy for erecting a series of massive high-rise condominiums down by the water. Nobody was happy about the condos, and nobody had been happy about Rachel either. She was young, and insanely gorgeous. The mom pack harboured an especially passionate hatred for her. Most likely, Ellie gathered, because if it was possible, she was even more beautiful than they were. But what did any of that matter. She was dead now.
As Ellie folded cashmere sweaters, she replayed her last interaction with Rachel over again in her head. It had all just been for fun. Just a harmless initiation task, assigned to her by the mom pack as the newest member of their group. Rachel had been scheduled to deliver a big presentation on the new condo plan at City Hall yesterday afternoon. It was to be televised and was open for Wellton residents to attend. The moms had challenged Ellie to invite Rachel over for a coffee that morning and slip enough laxative into her drink that she would either miss the presentation entirely or better yet, embarrass herself in front of everyone. And that was exactly what she had done. It had just been a laxative for crying out loud, right out of her own medicine cupboard. But once Rachel had left Ellie’s house yesterday morning, she had never shown up for the presentation, and she had been found dead in her townhouse hours later.
Ellie was abruptly jolted from her thoughts by the harsh trill of her cellphone. A now familiar pit of dread churned in her stomach. Every ring of her phone, every creek of the floorboards, every passerby outside her window seemed to carry an ominous tone, as if someone had put the pieces of the puzzle together and was coming for her. She took a deep breath and pressed the phone to her ear.
She leaned her head back against the wall and closed her eyes with relief.
“Hi,” she said meekly.
“Ellie…this is crazy. What are we going to do? I’m totally freaking out.”
“I know it is. Laurel…do you think…should I just phone the police?”
“Ellie,” Laurel interrupted, her voice high with confusion. “Have you been living under a rock? Have you seen the news?”
“No. I’ve been avoiding it.”
“They’ve just taken Grace’s husband Hank in for questioning. They found him with some poison called thallium at his work. The same poison that they found in Rachel’s medical exam.”
Grace’s husband Hank was a man befitting of the alpha mom. He was a highly sought-after plastic surgeon and owned a successful practice in Wellton. Just like his wife, he was drop dead gorgeous, one of the most beautiful men that Ellie had ever seen. As she watched and re-watched the media coverage of him being led from his practice with his hands cuffed behind his back that afternoon, she couldn’t help but think to herself that the man even looked good in handcuffs.
The only one who had been able to get a hold of Grace was Jilly, and apparently, she was a wreck. She had sent their two little girls off to their grandparents’ house in Sacramento to get away from the craziness in Wellton and was now desperate to get out of the house herself.
“She just needs to be out, you know?” Jilly had said earnestly. “She was hoping we could do your place tonight Ellie. It’s the furthest from downtown, and she thinks that people won’t know to look for her at your place with all those crazy cameras.”
Ellie had agreed to have the pack over that evening, against her better judgment. It seemed a bit odd to be socializing during a murder investigation, but what the hell. She paced around her house all evening wrought with nervous energy, snapping needlessly at her boys and obsessively checking the news for updates on Hank.
The initial findings from Rachel’s medical exam indicated thallium poisoning as the suspected cause of death. A tasteless, colourless, odourless poison, it was being rather graphically referred to on television as “the poisoners poison”; and Hank had been found with a ton of it.
Perhaps even more shocking than the thallium, was the latest report that there seemed to be some sort of illegitimate relationship between Rachel and Hank. An anonymous tip had come in that the two had been seen together a number of times late at night at both her townhouse and Hank’s practice, and while nothing had been confirmed yet, eager news outlets were already reporting that Hank had murdered Rachel to ensure that his indiscretions remained private.
Feeling sick to her stomach for Grace, and mortally ashamed of herself for her own relief, the only constructive thing that Ellie could think to do while she waited was to put two more bottles in the wine fridge. She wasn’t sure how much wine it would take to numb the pain of your husband poisoning the woman that he was cheating on you with, but she was certain that it was more than a glass or two.
Ellie had put her boys to bed early, and unceremoniously ushered Dave out the door to go watch the basketball game at his friend’s place. She waited with nervous anticipation for the pack to arrive and was hugely relieved when the doorbell finally rang.
For someone who’s personal life was crumbling, Grace still showed up dressed to kill in a knee length, black lace turtleneck dress and dramatic knee-high Chanel boots. Ellie was equal parts intimidated and infatuated with her.
As the pack assembled in Ellie’s living room, Grace made it clear that she was not interested in talking about Hank, nor Rachel.
“I’ll go back to my train wreck of a life tomorrow,” she said with a measured smile. “Tonight, I’d love to just relax for a bit.”
With the help of some alcohol, the mom pack settled into comfortable, light-hearted conversation. They had been at it for nearly an hour when Grace stood up wordlessly and made her way around the corner into Ellie’s kitchen.
The conversation turned to whether or not Laurel should consider lip implants, and as the moms debated the topic, Ellie absently traced the rim of her empty glass, thinking about Grace. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but there was something off about her tonight. Something about the coldness in her eyes. She seemed detached from the scene somehow, as though she were here in body, but absent in mind.
The minutes ticked by and Ellie glanced towards the kitchen, then back to the girls, who had moved on to discussing the hot new gym teacher at the elementary school. She set her glass down, and stood, making her way in the direction that Grace had.
She came around the pantry wall into her kitchen and inhaled sharply. Grace was standing on the other side of the island staring directly at her with steely eyes. Sitting atop the counter, two inches from her right hand, was a bottle of Ex-Lax. Ellie looked from the bottle, back up to meet Grace’s piercing gaze.
“You should throw this out Ellie. It’s past its expiration date. You wouldn’t want anyone to get sick.” Grace’s voice was smooth and emotionless, and Ellie felt the blood drain from her face.
A sickening realization washed over her as she recalled Grace asking for an Advil the last time that she had been in her kitchen. How she had carefully observed where Ellie had retrieved the pills; how she had been left alone when she had requested a specific vintage wine from Ellie’s cellar.
She could hear the banter from the living room and took a step backwards. Grace picked up two glasses of red wine sitting on the island and made her way across the kitchen towards her. Her steps were smooth and weightless, almost like she was floating.
“Here,” she said, extending one of the glasses to Ellie.
Ellie looked from the glass to Grace, to the Ex-Lax, and remained motionless.
“It’s rude not to take a drink when someone offers it to you.” Grace said coolly.
With shaking hands, Ellie reached out to take the glass.
“Hank is a cheating son of a bitch. You don’t have to worry about him. None of us do anymore.”
The two women said nothing for several moments; the silence sitting heavily between them. Grace took another step towards her.
“Ellie, have you ever heard the expression…”
She leaned into her so close that Ellie caught the scent of vanilla in her lip gloss as her lips brushed her ear.
“The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives,” she murmured in a sultry tone.
Grace paused a moment, and then reached down, took the wine glass from Ellie’s hand, and took a long, deep drink. An enchanting smile danced on her lips, but her eyes remained ice cold.
“It’s a good thing that you’re part of the pack, right?” she whispered, pressing the glass back into Ellie’s hand.
As Ellie stood face to face with her, eyes locked on her leader, the natural order of things seemed to have been restored. Grace was their alpha, and both Hank and Rachel had gotten in between her and what she wanted. And Grace was a woman who always got what she wanted.
Dully aware that she was holding her breath, Ellie gave a tiny nod of her head. Grace leaned in and pressed her lips against her cheek with a rush of citrus perfume. She floated past Ellie, winking at her over her shoulder before disappearing around the corner. She may as well have been howling at the moon.
Oh boy…well, here I am writing from my first class seat on the Struggle Bus! Our sweet, cuddly little Carter-Bee turned 1 month old this past week, and we have been having a really, really hard time over here with a whole bunch of stumbling blocks. BUT, before I get into all of that, let’s recap the last 3 weeks since we last touched base!
Sweet baby Jesus…. what we’ve learned from the past 4 weeks is that there is no way, literally, no way out of the baby feeding struggle. Breast, bottle, formula…nobody wins!!! With Austin, we struggled tremendously with breastfeeding, and it took us months of agony to finally arrive at our routine of exclusively pumping and settle into our routine. Carter and I have been on a completely different feeding journey, and have had our own unique struggles.
So, first of all, Carter has really picked up well on breastfeeding, and my sweet little man is actually doing a phenomenal job with the whole thing. I’m so proud of him for how well he’s done with it. The issues that we’ve been having have been mostly related to my inconsistent supply between breastfeeding and pumping (i.e. sometimes I have lots of milk, and he will feed really well and get enough from me, but oftentimes, I have hardly any milk, especially after I pump, and he won’t get enough and will be screaming hungry again a half hour later).
It wouldn’t be such a big deal that he’s hungry again a half hour later after a feed, except for two scenarios: overnight (when we’re riiiiiiiight on the brink of complete and total insanity from sleep deprivation at this point), and when he refuses to take a bottle for a top-up. We’ve been trying to do fairly regular top-ups with the bottle, but Carter really seems to struggle with the bottle, and frequently chokes, spits up and scares the hell out of me. So that really puts us behind the 8 ball when we want to do a bottle feed because I don’t have much milk, or we just want to be sure that he’s getting a full feed before bed.
We’ve been trying to get Carter to take a full bottle feed before we go to bed so that we make sure that his little tummy is full in hopes that we all might get a decent stretch of sleep. But, that doesn’t always work. So instead, we have to rely on a breastfeed session, which sometimes will do the trick for a few hours of sleep, and sometimes (many more times) it doesn’t, and he’s awake within an hour or two hungry again. Sigh.
So in summary (lol), breastfeeding is great (when it works), but it comes at the expense of our sleep, which is totally killing us. Breastfeeding is the exact opposite of everything that I try to cultivate in my life: routine, consistency and predictability. I know that it’s good for my sweet babies, and I love and cherish the cuddly time spent with them, I truly do. But I’m really getting to the end of my rope with the ups and downs of feeding. I’m totally desperate to do the right thing for my sweet babies, and if that comes at the expense of my own anxiety, then so be it. But right now, I really have no clue what we’re doing in terms of routine, and we’re just muddling through one feed at a time.
To finish up the feeding subject on a high note, all of this belly-aching being said, Carter is doing fantastic with his weight gain!! We had him weighed at his 1 month doctors appointment this week and he tipped the scales at 10 pounds 13 ounces (right on his 72 percentile curve that he’s been rocking for several weeks now)! So I guess moral of the story is that by hook or by crook… we’re getting the job done and little man is growing every day. Ultimately, that’s all that matters, so we’ll continue to muddle along feed by feed with this weird breastfeeding / pumping / bottle hybrid that we’ve got going on and see how we do!
Cold & Flu Season
If we ever decide to have more children (seriously questionable at this exact moment in time LOL), I am putting my foot down HARD and insisting that we time it so that our baby is born nowhere NEAR cold and flu season. Jeepers!
With Austin being in daycare, we’re totally exposed to most of these nasty cold and flu bugs, and our entire family (including my parents!) has been super sick on and off for the last few weeks straight. Most concerning for us of course was tiny little Carter, who came down with a terrible cold that peaked right on his one month day (January 27th). His breathing was so laboured and he was having such a difficult time feeding that by the end of the day when Matt got home, we decided to take the poor little guy over to the emergency room to get checked out and make sure that he was okay.
In hindsight, it was probably a mistake to go to ER because it was PACKED with people sick with cold and flu symptoms, and we ended up sitting with our tiny sick little baby in a crowded waiting room for over 5 hours, inhaling all of the germy goodness.
I was totally shocked that the hospital didn’t prioritize a newborn coming in sick, but I guess it was a crazy night for them (we did see an older man in pretty bad shape in the room across the hall from us when we did eventually get in after 5 hours), and plus the hospitals have all been dealing with this coronavirus scare that’s been going on right now, so I’m sure that boosted traffic a bit as well.
Long story short, we survived the waiting room, and finally saw a doctor. And of course, in true “Maytag repair man” style, by the time we saw the doctor, Carter had rebounded 150%, was bright eyed and bushy-tailed, happy and chatting away when the doctor came into the room.
*insert swearing here*
The doctor assured us that we did the right thing coming in, and that newborns struggling to breathe is no joke, so that made me feel a little better. We left with instructions to keep a close eye on him and come back if it got worse. Sigh.
Poor Austin also had a stomach flu and was home with my mom and I for 2 days this week (week 4 for Carter). He was vomiting overnight and had diarrhea as well… eeks. I THINK that we’ve managed to dodge and weave the stomach flu for now… although my own stomach has been a little bit turned this week as well… I’m really crossing my fingers that we can avoid that one. I just can’t imagine Carter vomiting and having diarrhea like that at his size.
All of this, combined with this coronavirus scare has really had us feeling like maybe it’s better if we just lay low for the next couple of months and avoid big crowded areas to try and stay healthy. Of course, I’m sure the biggest threat for all of us is really Austin’s daycare 😉
Next baby (if there is one) is a Summer baby. That’s final!!!
My recovery has been progressing well, although I am starting to get a little bit nervous that I’ve just crossed the 5 week mark, and I’m still feeling pain and soreness. I was hoping that all of this would be in the rearview mirror for me by this point, but unfortunately it isn’t quite yet. I know that we’re getting there though!
Starting somewhere in the 3.5 – 4 week mark I stopped feeling really sharp pain, and the pain changed to more of a general ache in my stomach / incision area. Admittedly, I’ve been a lot less careful with my movement ever since that point, so maybe that’s why I’ve been feeling more pain recently. I’m also thinking that some of the pain I’m feeling may be some abdominal muscle soreness, because it’s been several weeks that I’ve actively been working on NOT using my core muscles (quite the opposite of what I’ve been trained to do in the gym for all of those years!!), so maybe they’re a little bit lazy and need to get used to working again.
I saw my pelvic floor physiotherapist at the 4 week mark, and she was really happy with how my pelvic floor is functioning, how my incision scar was looking, and overall how my recovery was going, so I’m trying to hold onto that and believe the professionals when they tell me that I’m on the mend.
I’ve been getting incredibly frustrated the last little while with being so dependent on other people, and not being able to look after my babies the way that I want to while I’m trying to recover. I HATE not being able to drive the boys on my own right now because I can’t lift Austin and Carter’s carseat into the car, and although I’m so grateful for my mom coming over early on the weekday mornings to get Austin out of his crib for me and help get everyone into the car so that we can get Austin to daycare, I’m also totally desperate to have our own space as a family of 4 (something we haven’t had any of since Carter was born with the holidays etc), and to start figuring things out on my own.
I see my OB again this coming Monday (2 days away!!) for my postpartum check-up, and I’m hoping that she will confirm that my recovery has been going well, and that I’m close to being able to lift again. Here’s hoping!
It’s been so interesting watching Carter develop and change every day. It’s really taken me back to remembering Austin’s milestones and when he started to do various things as well. Carter was a bit more lethargic early on, possibly because he was a c section baby, but week 4 was a big one in terms of him being much more alert and awake!
Carter started his first development “leap” this week according to my Wonder Weeks app, which is the development of perception and really being able to focus in on objects and people. Coincidence or not, I really found this leap timing to be spot on in terms of him being especially cranky and fussy, and also the change in his perception! I was a bit worried before this leap because I hadn’t been able to get Carter to focus on my finger or follow my finger with his gaze (oh the dark places that Google took me to lol), but after this leap (part way through week 4) he’s definitely come a long way and really focuses well on things now!
Carter has been working diligently on his neck strength and is doing really great at holding his head up, especially on our chests. He’s not rock solid with this yet and still looks a bit like a bobble head sometimes, especially when he’s tired lol but we’re getting there!
My absolute favourite thing about our sweet little Carter-Bee right now are his crazy facial expressions. Right from early on, Carter has had this hilarious expressive face, and these big huge wide eyes that make him look completely horrified by something LOL I keep saying that it’s like he knows that he was born to a family with a very busy 2 year old as his big brother, and is permanently looking around like “oh holy sh*t!!”…hilarious.
Oi. I was so dreading this part while I was pregnant, and it’s every bit as hard as I knew it would be. We are so exhausted. I honestly don’t know what we’re going to do sometimes because I’m just physically not able to function anymore.
Carter isn’t doing terrible with sleeping, it’s just the nature of the beast. He will usually do at least a 2-3 hour stretch before waking up overnight, and the odd time he’s done 3 – 4 hours. I think once or twice he may have done 5 – 6 hours, but my exhaustion amnesia could be playing tricks on me there. He has been sleeping in the bassinet in our bedroom, which has been rough for Matt because he gets woken up all night and still has to go to work. Mind you, Matt has been great at getting up with me to help with feeds etc overnight anyways (thank goodness).
Looking back at Austin’s baby updates, he started more consistently doing longer sleep stretches for us around 6 weeks, which we’re coming up on with Carter but I’m honestly afraid to hope for it because it’s just too frustrating and disappointing when it doesn’t happen lol…
I’m trying as hard as I can to roll with the daily punches when it comes to sleep, but it’s hard. It’s really hard. It’s damn near impossible to keep up with Austin on a broken 5 hours of sleep every night, and I’m getting really concerned that he is going to start suffering because we’re not doing nearly as much with / for him as we used to.
“Just keep swimming” is my mantra when it comes to this (and everything really lol). I’m sure one day we’ll look back at this phase and laugh..hopefully that day is coming soon!!!
************************************************************************************So in general, as I’m sure you can pick up from this post, we’ve definitely been on the struggle bus this month, but we’re doing the very best we can, and I guess that’s all we can do. I know that it will get easier, we just need to keep moving forward! My recovery period coming to an end will be an enormous milestone for us, as will getting a little more sleep more consistently. And hopefully both of those are just around the corner!
Phew! What a complete and total whirlwind the last 12 days has been. I’m still trying to get my head around how 12 days has gone by since we became a family of 4.
As could be expected, the first week has been a roller coaster of really challenging days and moments, and really wonderful days and moments as well. Taking care of a newborn is H-A-R-D, and layering all of that responsibility on top of looking after Austin and trying to keep him happy has really been a test for Matt and I so far, but I think all in all, I can say that we’re surviving, and doing our best.
Our C-section was on Friday December 27th, which landed us right in the middle of those crazy in-between holiday days where you don’t remember your last name, you eat chocolate for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and you couldn’t tell someone what day of the week it was if they had a gun to your head. That made things a little extra challenging for us with trying to get appointments for Carter booked, get discharged from the hospital, and manage all of the visitors in and out of our house over the rest of the holiday days.
Although I was still a little bit sore on Sunday December 29th, both Matt and I were anxious to get out of the hospital and get home to Austin. Austin came to visit in the hospital with his grandparents a couple of times, and it was totally heartbreaking for me to not be able to get out of bed and scoop him up like I normally would. I could tell that he was starting to get a bit confused with everything that was going on, and was really anxious to get home and start creating a small bit of normalcy for him.
There were two small complications with Carter that worried us a little bit, but both seemed like they could be overcome. First of all, Carter’s kidneys (which had been slightly swollen on all of my prenatal ultrasounds throughout the pregnancy) needed a follow-up ultrasound to make sure that the issue was resolved. This couldn’t be booked for a few days until Tuesday, so waiting around in the hospital for an extra 3 days wasn’t really a good option. Secondly, poor little man was not showing good weight gain in the first few days of his life, and had lost nearly 9% of his birth weight by the end of day 2.
Feeding was a constant struggle for Austin and I right from the beginning of his life, and Carter and I have had similar (and also, different!) struggles this time around. In the hospital, Carter was very “mucousy” and seemed to have a little extra fluid and mucous buildup in his little body. We were told that this was really normal for C-section babies because they haven’t been “squeezed” through contractions (lol) and therefore the mucous doesn’t get expelled the same way as vaginally delivered babies. Carter was spitting up quite a bit, and his breathing was pretty rattly and mucousy as well, which totally freaked the hell out of me. Neither Matt nor I really slept at all the very first night of his life because we were both terrified that he was going to spit up and choke on it in his little bassinet. The mucous, unfortunately, also wreaked havoc on our first few days of attempted breastfeeding because it was hard for poor little man to breathe and eat at the same time with all of that extra gunk rattling around.
It seemed like Carter was doing pretty well with breastfeeding, it really did. He was much more agreeable to trying the whole thing than Austin was, that’s for sure! Austin would scream his little head off everytime I got near him to breastfeed. Carter wasn’t at all like that, but more seemed kind of listless and distracted while we were trying to feed. Most of the time early on, he would actually fall asleep while feeding, but we had picked up a few tricks of the trade from our first breastfeeding experience (re: fail), and were hand-expressing colostrum and giving it to Carter by syringe and / or by spoon. For that reason, I was feeling pretty confident that things were actually going pretty well…until I saw the huge drop in his weight after the first day. My heart just sunk like a stone.
After the first day and a half, Carter had dropped from 8lbs 15oz to 8lbs 6oz which was pretty scary for us. The nurses did reassure us that C-section babies usually come out a little puffy and full of extra fluids that I had had pumped into me during the surgery, so their birth weights may be a little extra inflated. But still…it was a pretty tough blow. We had a lactation consultant come and see us in our hospital room, but unfortunately for her, she really picked the wrong time to come and see us, because she came in first thing in the morning after the night that we had been awake throughout, woke us and Carter up (after 8+ hours of trying to get him to sleep comfortably), and insisted that we try to feed him that instant, even though we had just finished a feed not more than an hour earlier (“it’s always time!!” was her now famous line….lol). Not surprisingly, the session with her in the room did not go well, and she then waltzed out of the room mid-feed claiming that “oh I think he’s just too sleepy to eat right now!” and left us with a screaming baby…again lol
Anyways, we made a follow-up appointment at the breastfeeding clinic for later that week, and kept on ploughing ahead with the discharge paperwork. Our nurse was a little bit out of it, and seemed to be very confused about everything that needed to be done to discharge us (she actually seemed to be pretty confused about a lot of things lol I can’t even count the number of things that she bustled into our room saying that she had “forgot to do”). Finally, somewhere around 4pm, we were cleared to leave the hospital, and started to shuffle our way out of there. And I really do mean “shuffle” because we were kind of just sent on our way with no mention of a wheelchair or any help for me! I ended up walking all the way through the hospital (very slowly) and out to the parking garage 48 hours after surgery!!
We made it back to our house after a bumpy and painful car ride for me, and Roy and Dianne had been cleaning our house like fiends while we had been in the hospital, and things were looking really good when we came home (much to my nesting relief lol). My parents arrived shortly after we got home as well with Austin, and I was so happy to see him and to be home with him. I found that first evening difficult getting on and off the couch or really doing much of anything, and pulled my stitches a bit at one point getting off the couch but Matt and our parents were all really helpful and pretty much brought me anything that I needed. Stairs (into our house and up and down to our bathroom) were really challenging for me too, but got better every time that I did them.
Similar to the way that we did it with Austin, Matt and I have been sleeping on the couch downstairs with Carter in his bassinet this week. We find it easier to be on and off the couch and closer to the kitchen / supplies for the immediate term, plus it’s just easier for me to get on and off the couch as opposed to climbing in and out of our super tall bed for the first few weeks as well. I think we are planning to move back upstairs to our bedroom the weekend before Matt goes back to work (gulp), and I’m looking forward to it… I’ve had enough of couch sleeping for a little while I think!
As with any newborn baby, the two biggest variables for us have been feeding and sleeping. Feeding has been a total emotional roller coaster, and so incredibly frustrating, just as it was with Austin. Although we had what I would call a decent start with breastfeeding, it’s a constant work in progress. Some feeds go so well, and I think, “man, we’re killing this!”, and others are so bad that I just want to scream and break everything in the house. I’ve been pumping again just like I did with Austin, and we’ve been offering top-ups with the bottle after every feed. Sometimes Carter takes the bottle like a hungry hippo, and other times, he can’t be bothered. We’ve been followed closely by our family doctor and by the breastfeeding clinic to monitor his weight gain, and so far I think we’ve been doing enough to keep everyone (including me) happy. He hit 8lbs 11oz by just past 1 week old, which I was thrilled by, and we just had him weighed again today (Wednesday January 8th) and he was up another 2oz to 8lbs 13oz. It’s hard for me to know how much of this can be attributed to breastfeeding vs. to the top-ups that we’ve been giving him though…which makes it hard to commit to one vs. the other. My nipples have been quite sore, and earlier in the week, I even had to throw out an entire bottle of milk that I had pumped because my poor nipple had cracked right in half and was gushing blood into the bottle, resulting in an entirely pink bottle. Talk about freaking out when I saw that lol… for now, I’m trying to breathe deep, and just keep on keeping on, one feed at a time. I find it overwhelming to look further ahead to our “long term” plan, so am trying really hard to go against all of my natural, type-A instincts, and to just go with the flow. Some days, and some moments, I do better at this than others. Sigh.
Sleep-wise, Carter hasn’t been doing too bad at all. Either that, or Matt and I are just used to sleep deprivation now, and can survive on 4 hours of sleep a night no problem lol our biggest issue has been that sometimes (usually during the middle of the night lol) Carter can take well over an hour to settle and go to sleep after a feed; which really cuts into the amount of time that we can sleep between feeds. He typically wakes up to feed about every 2 – 3 hours, but he’s gifted us a handful of 4 hour stretches overnight which have felt soooooo super good. Low expectations friends, low expectations. I know that this phase isn’t forever and that sleep will come again, so again, I’m trying not to freak out too much about how tired I am, and to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
My recovery has been a glowing, happy spot for me over the past 12 days. I can’t even begin to tell you what a huge, enormous, gigantic relief it is to me to have our C-section behind us, and to be recovering as well as I am so far (*touch wood*). As I wrote in Carter’s birth story, my healing has been so linear and straight forward, I’ve been meeting all of the milestones and checks and balances, my pain is decreasing every day and I’m able to do more and more each and every day. I’m almost entirely off pain medicine now (day 12), and am only taking 1 Aleve pill every 24 hours. The real challenge that remains for me is that I still have just over 4 weeks until I will be able to lift anything of significant weight (i.e. Austin)…. and really that is the biggest obstacle that we’re facing right now, because it severely handicaps us as a family that I can’t pick up Austin, or really get down on the floor and play with him too vigorously.
Poor Austin has had a tough first week adjusting to our new reality as a family of 4. There’s been a lot of things working against him: the remnants of the disastrous Christmas holiday schedule (eating, sleeping, everything has just gone out the window!), a really brutal, lingering cold, being back and forth to my parents house and being looked after by different people every day, and ultimately, a new little being to share our attention and love with. It’s all led to quite a number of tantrums, outbursts and really out of character behavior for our sweet little man, and it’s just breaking my heart into a million pieces. I would give anything to be able to pick him up, but have to settle for kneeling and seated hugs right now…when he’s willing to give them to me. Austin is really clinging to Matt right now, and seems to want as little as possible to do with me. Punishment for how much I’ve had to pull back from holding him etc? I don’t know… sigh. I could just sit down and cry about this all day and all night, but I know that that won’t help matters any, and so instead I’m just doggedly trying every minute of every day to be involved in whatever Austin is doing, to get excited about things that he is excited about, and to remind him as much as I can in every way how much I love and adore him. I’m not sure that any of it really counts for him, but I tell myself that it does, and that in 4.5 short weeks, this period will all be behind us, and he will never remember the awkward start that we had. This has certainly been the only downside of the C-section so far.
Our sweet little Carter-Bee (as I’m affectionately calling him lol) is just that: the sweetest, most docile little baby. I just love his sweet little face, and his wiggly little body so much! He’s really been so amenable to everything that we’ve put him through so far (lots of appointments back and forth to the hospital – including an ultrasound on his kidneys when he was only 4 days old! Eeks!) and all in all has made things pretty simple for us. He doesn’t seem to have the same set of pipes on him that Austin did as a baby, and has the saddest little cry ever that just breaks your heart. He doesn’t pull it out very often, but when he does, man oh man, get the tissues! Thankfully, the ultrasound of his kidneys went well, and the pediatrician didn’t notice any swelling at all, so that problem seems to have resolved itself with his birth.
Matt’s parents left for home at the very end of week 1 / very beginning of week 2, so for the past few days, we’ve been settling into our new routine as a family of 4. Matt goes back to work in another 4 days, and I’m freaking out just a tad about how I’m going to get Austin out the door to daycare with Carter in tow, and then take care of Carter all day all by myself… but once again, trying to take things one day at a time and not borrow anxiety from tomorrow. Today has enough all on it’s own 😉
Anyways – I think that that’s about it for our first week as a family of 4! I’m proud of Matt and I (more Matt than me to be honest – he’s really been a champion this week while I’ve been kind of useless at least for the first half of the week) for soldiering on and getting things done. Although the newborn phase is definitely kicking our ass, I feel like it may be kicking our ass slightly less than it did the first time around?! Carter seems happy, and I know that Austin is too (deep down sometimes lol)… so at the end of the day, that’s really all that matters.
I am so thrilled, and so proud to share our sweet baby boy Carter Campbell Sidders with all of you, and to document the story of how he came into the world!
In typical fashion, our birth story took a few minor twists and turns along the way, but we made it in the end! From the very beginning, before we even got pregnant, we knew that this birth was going to be a planned c-section. I’ve worked so diligently at my recovery from Austin’s birth, and am really happy with where my pelvic floor / core have returned to. I’m not “perfect”, nor will I ever be, but all in all, that whole mess is a sleeping dog that we really need to let lie, and not disturb with another attempt at a vaginal birth. SO, that being said, I’ve been all-in on our planned c-section from Day 1, and have felt really positive about the whole thing all the way along.
Our c-section has been planned since I was about 22 weeks pregnant for Monday December 23rd, which really made us laugh because this poor, poor child… he doesn’t stand a chance at a birthday party! There really was no flexibility whatsoever with the dates; I guess 39 weeks is now officially considered full-term (as opposed to 37 weeks, which it used to be), and there’s a fair bit of research that shows that babies really benefit from staying in for every critical day up until 39 weeks, so there really wasn’t any wiggle-room for me to negotiate a slightly earlier or later date to dodge Christmas (and believe me – I tried!!). So, we sucked it up, and Monday the 23rd was our date.
My last day of work was Friday December 13th, and Matt’s parents Roy & Dianne arrived that weekend as well. They were coming for Christmas and for the first few weeks with little babe as well, so the timing worked out well. This entire pregnancy I’ve battled various symptoms, aches and pains, but miraculously, as soon as I was finished work, I started feeling like a million bucks!! My energy levels spiked through the roof, the nausea that I’ve battled on and off for the entire pregnancy finally lifted, and the aching in my hips and back started to alleviate a bit as well (although my back pain was something I did battle right up until delivery – especially when walking or sitting for too long). I guess I’m going to attribute some of that to the stress of work being lifted at last. My work was just insane for the last several months, and I was at work until after 5pm on my very last day before maternity leave. It never really “ramped down” for me, so I was one happy girl to walk out the door and dust my hands of everything on December 13th, that’s for sure.
I still had a lot of prep to do for Christmas the following week, so I spent Monday the 16th and Tuesday the 17th running all over the GTA like a mad-woman (I told you – energy levels, through DA ROOF) to different malls, stores and errands and got soooo much done. On Wednesday, things started to get interesting…
On Tuesday night overnight, Austin woke up puking. If there’s anything more heartbreaking than toddler throwing up… they’re so sad and scared and just want their mamas. Break my heart. Anyways, because of this, I kept Austin home with me on Wednesday. We then heard from his daycare that public health had come to visit / inspect the daycare and had officially declared an outbreak of Norwalk virus at the facility.
Austin unfortunately had all of the Norwalk symptoms. Diarrhea, vomiting, fever, loss of appetite… ugh. He stayed home with me for the rest of the week, and it was a bit of a blessing and a curse. I was so glad that I was off work and able to be with him and just cuddle him and make him feel better, but at the same time, that was the end of my crazy productivity for the week as well! I was getting a bit anxious that not everything was going to get done before December 22nd, but knew that my priority had to be getting Austin better, and so that was what I did.
My parent’s had their annual Christmas party on Friday December 20th, and Austin was mostly better by that point. We went, and I basically parked myself by the food all night and hung out haha #39weekspregnant. It was really hard for me to stay standing or sitting in one place for any period of time at this point with my back aches and pains, so I just did my best to be up and down as much as possible.
Overnight on Friday December 20th…I woke up feeling super nauseous and like I was going to vomit. I asked Matt to get me a puke bucket, but didn’t end up actually throwing up. It never dawned on me that I could be heading for trouble. I just assumed that I had eaten too much at the party, or maybe eaten something that didn’t agree with me.
Saturday morning, I woke up feeling pretty dreadful. I was super nauseous, but a different nauseous then I had had for almost the entire pregnancy. This was a “sick” nausea. All day I felt like I was going to throw up on and off, but couldn’t make myself do it. Matt and I took Austin on a little adventure downtown Burlington to get a cookie at his favourite bake shoppe and walk by a construction site downtown where there are bulldozers and excavators working (his fave lol), and the whole time I just felt like I was going to die. By the evening, I was on the couch and couldn’t even bring myself to help put Austin to bed. I knew at this point that something was up, and I was going to vomit for sure.
Sure enough, by about 9pm, I was vomiting up a storm. Normally one good vomit will make me feel a lot better, but this just kept coming and coming in these awful waves. Diarrhea kicked in shortly after as well, and that was when I realized: holy effing hell, I think I’ve got that Norwalk bug.
That Saturday night has to go down as one of the worst of my life – I wouldn’t wish that bug on annnnyyyyybody, no matter the evil you’ve done lol it was so vicious. At some point during the whole mess, I looked up (very pathetically) at Matt and said “there’s no way I can have a c-section like this!”. He reassured me not to worry about that for now, and to just survive the night.
By the morning, things had settled down, and although I was still feeling awful, weak and dehydrated, I wasn’t throwing up anymore. We phoned the labour and delivery floor at the hospital to tell them what was going on, and to ask what we needed to do for our c-section that at this point was supposed to be the very next day. I spoke with two really kind nurses, and after a few hours, finally heard back from them that they were going to delay our surgery until Friday December 27th, to give me time to recuperate and get rid of the bug. The charge nurse that I spoke to was so kind and reassured me that it was not uncommon for stuff like this to happen, and that they had had bit of an epidemic of Norwalk sweep through the hospital themselves, so not to worry. They also thanked us for calling and for not just showing up the next day, because they wouldn’t have done the surgery anyways.
I was so intensely relieved to not be undergoing surgery in my condition, but at the same time, I was also so disappointed to have to wait a few more days to meet little babe. Although our Christmas was going to be a disaster, it was a disaster that we had planned and looked forward to for several months, and we had always pictured little babe being a part of our Christmas this year. After processing the disappointment for a little while, I resigned myself to make the best of the situation, and on the upside, little babe would have a few extra days to develop and grow in utero, and that definitely wasn’t a bad thing. I also wouldn’t be recovering from major surgery on Christmas day, and there wouldn’t be as much pressure for us to get out of the hospital quickly to be home for Christmas. Onwards and upwards.
We did end up having a wonderful Christmas with Austin and our families. We spent Christmas Eve at my parents house for most of the day, then came home to sleep here. Austin was so excited about Christmas – so it was really nice that we could be here for / with him and make it special for him.
My parents came over in the afternoon on Christmas Day and we had a Christmas dinner at our place. The entire day, I was on pins and needles about going into labour spontaneously, or my water breaking, but thankfully little babe was a trooper and stayed put on the inside!
Boxing Day was all about trying to get back on even-keel after the crazy Christmas Day festivities. Nesting mode kicked in big-time, and I was frantic to try and get the garbage out of the house, and things tidied up as much as possible before we left for the hospital the following morning. Eeeks. Nerves started to kick-in big time at this point, and I started to get a little more anxious about the upcoming surgery. Thankfully, I was feeling great at this point, and ready to rock and roll in the morning.
At our pre-op appointment (back on Friday December 20th lol), I had been given instructions to take two showers prior to surgery and wipe myself down with an isopropyl alcohol solution to try and minimize the risk of infection. I had my first shower on the night of the 26th, and I actually used my breast pump for 15 minutes as well to start letting my body know that it was time to produce milk again, and hopefully get a jump start on my milk coming in. Shit was getting real.
The morning of the 27th was a gong show; as can only be expected with us! We probably slept in a little later then we should have to meet our timing, and ended up scrambling out the door about 10 minutes later then I had wanted to leave. It was probably good that we were running around like crazy people, because it took my mind off of the surgery, and it also took my mind off of leaving Austin, and all of the feelings that I was having around that. I had been nervous the entire pregnancy about disrupting my Austin’s little world with the arrival of his new brother. I’m so so excited to raise brothers, and I know that they will have so much fun growing up together, but at the same time, I figured that it would be hard on Austin to have to share the limelight and to have someone else at the centre of our universe along with him.
I picked Austin up one more time for the next several weeks (sniff sniff) and gave him a huge hug before Matt and I sprinted out the door.
Driving myself to the hospital to give birth when I wasn’t in labour was very surreal, and very different than the last time! Last time I couldn’t have told you one detail about the ride to the hospital, but this time Matt and I were nervously chatting away the whole time about everything from the Leafs to parenthood… we got to the hospital pretty much right on time, and bustled in and up to the labour and delivery floor only about 3 minutes late. Phew.
We checked in with the admission desk on the labour and delivery floor, and again I was struck by the total normalcy of it all as she breezily read through my medical information, asked me questions, processed insurance paperwork for our room…the whole time I kept bouncing my legs up and down thinking “doesn’t anyone know that I’m having a BABY today?! Like in matter of hours?!”. We finished up with admissions, and the super friendly nurse took us just around the corner to the “pre-op” room, where I had Matt take the picture below to get a shot of the “full” belly bump… I’ve been so so bad at taking bump pictures this pregnancy, so this was my guilty attempt to make up for it right at the end… eeks… 😐
We didn’t have to sit for too long before the sweetest nurse ever named Olivia came into the room and introduced herself as “my nurse” for our c-section. She was so lovely and sweet, and really put my mind at ease that everything was going to be just fine. She very methodically went about pre-op things: verifying my information, giving me my hospital gown, getting my IV setup and fluids running and running through pre-op questions.
We had about an hour and 15 minutes to wait in the room in and amongst all of these things going on, and Matt and I got chatting about the Leafs and hockey standings, and if I remember correctly, were right in the middle of a spirited debate about the Eastern conference standings and playoff rankings, when Olivia came back into the room to tell us that it was time for me to come with her into the operating room, and that she would be back for Matt once they were ready to start the surgery.
As we say in our house: “it’s go time”.
It was a very short walk to the operating room; literally just down the hallway and through a set of double doors. Walking into the operating room, I actually said out loud “oh my god, this is terrifying!”. It looked like something out of a horror moving to me! The entire room was very stark, white and very bright. There was this tiny, very narrow little bed (that I’m sure my ass was hanging off of on either side attractively lol) with arms outstretched to the side, and these big scary trays of scalpels and scissors and other surgical paraphernalia all setup. The only thing that was somewhat reassuring was the little incubator over in the corner that indicated that a sweet little baby was about to come into the world in this room. Rather than someone was about to be dissected and sold for spare parts on the black market.
I had a seat on the edge of this narrow little bed and kicked my legs nervously waiting for more information. I hated that Matt couldn’t come with me for this part, but knew that it was my time to shine and keep my freaking cool as much as I could. I had literally visualized and practiced for this moment for months, and I knew that I needed to keep it together, or else I was going to get put under general anesthesia and miss the birth of my sweet little babe. And I didn’t want that at all.
We were waiting for just a few minutes for the anesthesiologist to arrive, and when she did, I was struck by how young (and very pretty!) she was. I also realized that the entire team of people in the OR (which consisted of my OB, Olivia, sassy nurse, a GP doctor to assist with the surgery, a nurse for little babe, and the anesthesiologist) were all women!! Matt ended up being the only male in the room (well, that is, until little babe arrived on the scene, but I’m jumping ahead of myself here ;)). GIRL POWER for all!
The anesthesiologist was very kind, and very matter of fact. She stood in front of me and explained exactly how she was going to administer the spinal injection, and what I should expect. I was totally freaking out at this point inside, but nodded along. I asked her if there was any chance that the spinal could interfere with my breathing, and she had to give me the textbook answer that “nothing is impossible”, but it was highly unlikely. Gulp.
Olivia came over to hold my shoulders still and gave me a pillow to hug while the anesthesiologist worked on the medicine. First she administered an injection that had freezing medication. She warned me that this stung and burned a little bit, and she was right, but it wasn’t anything too bad or that really affected me all that much. After that, she talked me through administering the spinal block, which I barely felt, except for some pressure on my back.
As she had promised, nearly instantly after getting the spinal block, my legs started to go tingly, warm and numb. At this point, my level of freak-out escalated a touch. I kept wiggling my toes to reassure myself that I could still move them…but then it kind of hit me that in the very immediate future, I wasn’t going to be able to move them anymore.
Enter Stage Left: beginnings of a panic attack.
The nurses moved very quickly after the medicine went in to swing my lower body up onto the bed, hang the drape across my chest, and start prepping for the surgery. The anesthesiologist stayed by my head and kept talking to me about what I was feeling, which helped somewhat. Within a matter of 2 – 3 minutes, I couldn’t feel my legs at all anymore, and probably no more than 1 minute after that, I lost the ability to move my lower body at all. If you’ve never felt a complete paralysis like this before, there’s no way for me to explain it to you except that it’s friggin’ scary. There’s something extremely unnatural about trying to move and not being able to, and it was wreaking havoc on me almost instantly. For some reason, I was super focused on the fact that I couldn’t wiggle my toes, and that was my number one concern. I probably said it out loud to the anesthesiologist 10 separate times; and she reassured me that that was completely normal, which didn’t do a lot to ease my mind.
My OB started working on cleaning my belly and other prep, and the entire time I was engaged in a full on battle against a massive panic attack. I started to feel that familiar hotness in my face and neck, and then the nausea started to creep in (the anesthesiologist said that this could be from the drugs, but I know that it was anxiety – I’ve been to this rodeo before). I told the anesthesiologist that I thought I was going to throw up, and that I was scared. She responded quickly and said that she would “take care of the nausea” right away with anti-nausea drugs. I also asked them for a cold cloth for my head and some ice for my neck. My OB at this point said that they were ready enough that someone could go and get Matt as well to help matters.
The anesthesiologist got me a small bowl for beside my face, and set me up with a cool cloth and a hospital glove full of ice (lol). Matt came into the room not more than 2 minutes later, and I was very glad to see him. The first thing I said to him was “I can’t move my toes”… lol a combination of Matt, the ice / cool cloth, the anti-nausea drugs and some good old fashioned mother-effing grit and determination staved off the panic attack, and I started to feel a little better.
My OB started “testing” to make sure that I was completely frozen, and I told her that I could feel something sharp poke me at one point. She asked me again to tell her when I could feel the sharp prick, and I did…but I must have failed the test, because they went ahead with the surgery and I didn’t feel a thing!
Matt was a champ beside me, holding my hand, re-positioning the glove-full of ice on and around my head and neck (lol) and just reassuring me that everything was going to be okay. I focused on my breathing, and watched the clock on the wall of the operating room as minutes began to tick by. The anesthesiologist told me that pretty soon, I would feel a ton of pressure on my belly when they were actually pulling the baby out, and I asked her how far away we were from that time. She said no more than 5 minutes, and I felt this huge enormous surge of confidence; we were almost there!
I think my OB and the doctor assisting with the c-section had a little bit of trouble getting little babe out of me (go figure – apparently my babies just don’t want to come out via any means LOL) and they were kind of tugging and pulling at various things on the other side of the drape. The anesthesiologist quickly said to me that there was a chance that they may need to give me a spray under my tongue that would make my uterus relax so that they could get the baby out a little easier. My OB made a joke on the other side of the drape that my abs were too tight to get the baby out (which is laughable at best given my current level of fitness lol), but then suddenly it felt like some progress was made, and my OB exclaimed “we don’t need it, we don’t need it!”. Not more than 1 minute later, I heard the most wonderful sound – a big, throaty cry from the other side of the drape.
Both the OB and the assisting doctor exclaimed that he was crying and he wasn’t even out yet, and they told Matt to get his camera ready for the picture! Matt stood up to take the first picture of our sweet little Carter, but at first when he stood up, he was confused because he didn’t know if he should be taking a picture of the surgery scene with all the blood and gore in the background (heh). The doctors laughed and joked that he had choked under the pressure, so they would set him up for another shot at the picture. He still seemed a bit confused so at this point I started yelping to “take the picture! take the picture!” and he finally did (he’s still confused as to why he was taking a picture of an open surgery scene LOL). I personally love the picture, it’s Carter’s first moments earthside! Matt still thinks it’s a little gruesome… 😉
At this point, I hadn’t yet seen Carter on the other side of the drape. I could hear him crying, but hadn’t laid eyes on his sweet face. One of the nurses finally brought him around the drape and I got to see him…and I was totally overcome with emotion at how beautiful and perfect he looked. I know all mothers think their babies are perfect, but I truly felt looking at him in that moment that he was just the most perfect little baby ever, and I couldn’t believe how lucky we were that he was ours.
The nurses took Carter over to the little incubator to weigh him, do his tests and clean him up a little bit. Matt went over with them and I never took my eyes off of them. From that moment on, I completely forgot that I was wide-open on an operating room table, and time just flew. The nurses kept calling out times, and it seemed like they were trying to get through everything that they needed to do with Carter as soon as possible so that they could get him over to me for skin to skin, which I really appreciated.
Less than about 3 – 4 minutes later, the nurse brought Cater over to me on the operating table and positioned him on my chest. He had been crying pretty loudly the entire time since he had been born, but the exact instant that he made contact with my skin, he stopped crying and fell asleep instantly. I couldn’t believe it. I was very weepy the whole time (all happy tears this time!!), and just so happy.
Time started flying once Carter was on my chest. I think it ended up taking about another 20 – 25 minutes for them to finish closing me up and everything else that they needed to do, and then they transferred Carter and I over to a hospital bed, and began wheeling us out of the operating room and over to the recovery room. I still couldn’t feel my lower half at all, or wiggle my toes, and I was still pretty anxious about that, but having Carter to focus on made it all much more tolerable. I remember asking what time exactly the medicine went into my back, so that I could count down the three hours until I should be able to move again. I still had nearly 2 hours to wait!
We spent a little over an hour in the recovery room with our nurse Olivia. She gave me an injection of a blood thinning medication to prevent blood clots in my legs, but I couldn’t feel a thing because she gave it to me in my stomach, and I was still completely numb. While we were in the recovery room, we started to notice that Carter’s skin had a pretty red rash developing all over his back / arms / legs. That scared the bajesus out of me, and Olivia said that she hadn’t really seen anything like it before, but she would check with her charge nurse and have her come to take a peek at him. I was worried, but hoped that it would be nothing, and it turned out to be exactly the case. By about 2 days later, the rash was completely gone all on it’s own, and all was good.
After our time in the recovery room, Olivia and Matt wheeled us down the hall and around the corner onto the Maternal Child unit where we would be staying for the next couple of days. They initially put us in a double room (with nobody in the other bed) because the hospital was pretty full that night, but later on that night, another girl (who had had an emergency c-section) was supposed to join us in the room. Luckily for us, a single room had opened up late that night, and we were able to high tail it over to that room so that we had a bit more privacy. We had great nurses in the hospital (with the possible exception of our very last nurse, who although super sweet and kind, seemed a little fast and loose with the details and ended up discharging me from the hospital without a wheelchair lol…she was a bit all over the place!), and we had lots of help with breastfeeding, and moving around post surgery. In general, our experience in the hospital was just much more positive all around this time. I was really happy with our experience.
Reflecting on our birth experience with Carter, I really couldn’t be happier with how things all went for us in the hospital and leading up to it. Contrary to what it may seem like from the outside, our c-section birth has been truly healing for me in so many ways. I feel like this birth experience has helped me to regain a sense of control and more importantly, a sense of pride in myself for what I’ve been able to overcome to bring my sweet baby boys into this world. I feel this overwhelming sense of closure and contentness for both Carter and Austin’s births, and I feel like I’m finally ready, and willing, to turn the page on my first birth experience, and move forward with our lives without looking back. This has been something that I’ve struggled to do for months (and even years), so it truly feels like the weight of the world has been lifted off of my shoulders. I am so, so truly grateful.
I am 10 days post-surgery today, and I’m feeling better and better every single day. My healing has been very linear this time (compared to the slingshot roller coaster that it was last time!), and every single day I’m noticing a major step forward in how I’m able to move, and my pain levels. The one really challenging thing with my c-section this time, is that I’m not able to pick up my sweet boy Austin. I’m only 10 days into a 6 week stretch where I can’t lift him, and already I know that it’s going to be a really tough go. I’m trying to stay focused on showering Austin with love every other way I possibly can, and to just take it one day at a time and focus on the gratitude that I am healing well, and will be back to myself in 6 short weeks (or less!), and ready to move forward with getting fit and healthy again, and being the best version of myself for my boys.
I plan to continue with our weekly update posts, just as I did for the first several months of Austin’s life, because I love having the detailed record to look back on (and I dearly regret not keeping up with my weekly pregnancy updates for Carter’s pregnancy – so I owe it to him and to myself to keep up with his weekly updates now that he is here earthside!). I’ll be back shortly with our first week recap; it’s been a busy one, but I’m so proud of Matt and I for everything we’ve accomplished so far, and I know that there isn’t anything we can’t tackle together.
I’m writing this letter to you on the night before you are born, and I just can’t believe that this day is here. Our journey together has been a wild, wild ride, and although it’s been a bit of a tough one for your mama, I’m so very sad to see this chapter come to an end tomorrow.
From the very beginning of our pregnancy, you’ve been such an easy little baby in there. You met all your checks and balances flawlessly, no medical complications, no trouble at all. You’ve gamely come along with me on camping trips in the Summer, trudged all over theme parks, soccer fields and our neighbourhood in hot, hot weather, put up with constant nausea that’s prevented me from eating as well as I should with you and exercising very much… and still, you keep on chugging along, growing and developing every day, wiggling and moving all the time to reassure me that you’re doing okay in there. I’m so grateful for you sweet boy. Thank you for putting up with less than ideal conditions in there, and for being such an easy-going little baby already.
I’ll be honest with you sweetheart, ever since the first day that I found out I was pregnant with you, I’ve been scared that I won’t be enough for you. That there won’t be enough of my love and attention to go around between you, your brother, your Dad and everyone else that we love. As we head into surgery tomorrow, it’s still my biggest fear of all. What I can promise you beyond a shadow of a doubt is that I will give you the very best that I have in every given moment, on every given day. It may not always be enough, but between your Daddy and I, I can promise you that you will never ever want for love. No matter how crazy life gets, I know that this is true.
A lot of people will try, but nobody will ever love you quite as much as I do. Even though it was tough, I cherish the last 9 months that we’ve spent together, and I miss them already (even though we still have 12 more hours :)). I guess it’s time for me to share you with the rest of our family, and with the world though, and I just know that you will steal everyone’s hearts and bring so much joy to our family. You are being born to a family so rich in love and laughter, and I can’t wait for you to meet everyone; you are already so entwined in the fabric of who we are, and we haven’t even seen your sweet face yet.
I am nervous about our c-section tomorrow, but I’m going into it with the mindset of a soldier, and I am bound and determined to be rock solid for you throughout whatever comes our way. I am putting 100% of my trust and my faith in the medical team, and I know that they will get you out of there quickly and safely (and hopefully a little less traumatically for you then the way your brother came into the world!!). I cannot wait until the surgery is over, and we can hold you.
Well, it’s getting late my love, and both you and I have a huge day tomorrow. It’s the first day of the rest of our lives!
Counting the hours until I can see your sweet face.
Well I’ve certainly fallen off the proverbial wagon in terms of keeping up with my weekly pregnancy blog posts this time around!! It’s been on my mind, but to be honest pretty much ever since I found out I was pregnant again, I’ve been in a constant state of survival mode, and finding a few minutes to sit down and write my weekly updates has been so tough!
Since I’ve missed so much ground from the first half of the pregnancy, I’ll sum it up for you in three words:
I was sick for a reeeeeeallly long time with this pregnancy, and still am sometimes, but the constant nausea is finally starting to settle down, and I’m able to enjoy (most) food again… hurray!! I never realized what a bummer it would be for most foods to make you sick, but man it was hard!! I’m very much conditioned to turn to food as a source of comfort when I’m feeling down and out, and man did I ever feel down and out for a lot of those first 20 weeks… but the problem was that food made things much worse, not any better. I’m still not really doing that well with very sweet things (here’s lookin’ at you Timbits), and things heavy in dairy (no Drumstick Ice Cream cones this time around…noooooo), but in general, I’m feeling much better and much more functional now, thank the high holy lord.
My energy levels have been a constant challenge, and still are at this point in the pregnancy. I’ve never felt exhaustion like I felt at the start of this pregnancy, it was all I could do to get through a day or to the next point where I could lay down and close my eyes. Keeping up with Austin has been incredibly tough (seriously, I don’t know what the boy runs on, cause it sure ain’t an overly healthy diet of vegetables and green juice, but he just keeps going and going and going!!!), but I’ve been doing my best to not let my slow-ass hold him back from the fun things that he wants to do.
Recently, Austin’s taken more interest in my belly and has started piecing together when we ask him “who lives in Mommy’s belly?!” that it’s not just a “BAAAAAABY!!” but “Austin’s baby brahhhhhther!!!” and it just melts my heart. I hope that he adjusts well to Little Babe (our nickname for this little man LOL), but think we could be in for some rough times as things settle into new normal once he’s born… although Austin is a total wild animal at home and with people he knows, he’s quite shy and reserved in new situations and around new people, and I think it might take him a while to get his head around a new little human being part of his world. We’ll see though, I’m hopeful that a little bit of prep work will make things easier for him… fingers crossed.
Aside from my symptoms, I’ve been freakin’ HUGE this time around compared to last time (so much so that I haven’t yet taken a bump picture… I just feel like a whale!!). I look at pictures from 22 weeks last time and think damn! I hardly look pregnant! This time I feel like I look 40 weeks already, have been in maternity clothes for the past month or more (please shoot me – the pants haven’t gotten any better), and just in general look like someone’s inflated me like a helium balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Mmmmm Thanksgiving… ❤
I’m trying not to worry about it too much, my activity level has been much lower then it was when I was pregnant with Austin, for three main reasons: 1) I’ve felt like garbage, 2) I’ve been exhausted and fall asleep pretty much as soon as Austin does and 3) Every minute that I have awake / functional, I want to spend with Matt and Austin and not at the gym. I’m still teaching BodyPump once a week, so that’s my one saving grace, and am trying to do some free weight stuff at home once in a while to keep some sort of muscle tone under all this flab. I figure I don’t need to actually be “in shape”, I just need to be in the same area code as “in shape” so that I can find it again after all is said and done with my pregnancy! I did get totally suckered in to buying this fit pregnancy program that I haven’t even opened yet (seriously, $40 well-spent Sara), and maybe one day I’ll get around to doing a few workouts from that program lol
We had our anatomy scan a few weeks ago, and for the most part things looked good with Little Babe, but there was one kind of scary thing that our OB mentioned, which was that there was a bit of swelling in both of his kidneys, most likely just because his system wan’t mature yet, and the valves needed to grow / develop some more. Apparently it’s a common finding, especially for boys, but I’m still nervous about it, and hoping that at our next ultrasound (September 12th!), things are looking better and less swollen.
I’m not sure if it’s because I recognize the movements more clearly now that I’ve been pregnant before, but Little Babe seems to be soooo much more active in there than I remember Austin being at this early stage! It feels like he’s constantly darting around in there and kicking forcefully, which I always get a smile out of. Austin was less of a kicker and more of a “pusher”… he would always puuuuush his little legs against my stomach like he was trying to bust right outta there… so much so that I could clearly make out his little foot print through my skin LOL… we’ll see as Little Babe gets bigger and stronger how his movement patterns develop, but for now, he seems like very much of a “darter” LOL
This week I did actually have a kind of scary episode that landed me in the hospital on Thursday. I was at work when all of a sudden I had this crazy spell of black spots and couldn’t see at all for about 20 – 30 seconds… felt like I was going to pass out… so did the only logical thing, which was to stand up and walk outside to my car and drive away from the office lol… (I am, of course, kidding, that was probably the dumbest thing I could have done *insert eye roll here*). I drove myself over to the hospital to get checked out for any scary blood pressure issues or anything like that, and got sent right up to Labour & Delivery which was a bit scary, but they quickly checked me out once I got up there and assured me that it seemed like an isolated blood pressure dip, and that all looked good with Little Babe and with me at that point… so off I went, and onwards we go. Pregnancy is weird, I tell ya.
Anyways, the long -weekend is coming up, and I’m sooooo looking forward to a few days with Matt and Austin without having to deal with work… work has been slowly sucking the life out of me over the past few months, and I’m really feeling like I need a break these days. Hopefully the long weekends will keep me going until I take a week off in October, and hopefully THAT will get me through to December… 😀
Anyways, happy long weekend to all – hope you have a great one and I’ll see you back for 23 weeks next week (mark my words!).
Life has been a crazy, beautiful, exhausting whirlwind, and I’ve fallen off the wagon in terms of my monthly Austin updates, but I’ve also come to terms with that and the fact that we’ve been busy living and enjoying every moment (or at least most moments ;)) with our little man, and that has made it challenging to find the time to regularly update on what we’ve been up to.
To add to the chaos… Matt and I found out that we were pregnant again in April! Ahhh! It happened much more quickly this time for us, only three months of trying compared to the seven it took with Austin, and I’ve found myself back on the crazy, upheaving ride that is pregnancy again ever since.
This first trimester has been extremely challenging for me, and has really pushed me to the brink several times. I’ve been sick this time around… nauseous like you wouldn’t believe, day in and day out. Eating has been a real challenge (although I’m still forcing it all down and ballooning up like you wouldn’t believe!), and my energy has been absolutely ZERO, so most days it’s been all I can do to make it to 7pm when Austin goes down for the night, and then pass out on the couch from 7pm until Matt wakes me up at 10pm to go upstairs for bed.
While the nausea has been beyond miserable, the absolute hardest part of this first trimester for me has been struggling to keep up with Austin and to be everything that he needs me to be when I’m not feeling well and have zero energy. My little monkey is 20 months now, and he is this complete Tasmanian devil of energy! The child never stops moving! He’s plucky and outspoken and full of spunk and I just couldn’t love him anymore if I tried, but sweet mother of all things holy, he takes energy, and I’ve been in extremely short supply of that these past several weeks!
Somehow (I’m honestly not quite sure how), we’ve survived the last 8 weeks, and this week (week 10), I’m starting to feel a little better in terms of nausea / energy. As I write this, I’m feeling a little nauseous, and definitely a little tired… but not like I was a few weeks ago. I’m hoping and praying that with the end of the first trimester juuuuuust around the corner (but who’s counting? ;)), I’ll start feeling the second trimester energy wave come on soon, and I can get back to feeling like myself again.
I’ve only had one ultrasound so far, our dating ultrasound which I did around 8 / 9 weeks. Little Babe looked good in there, and was measuring right on schedule for our conception date, it’s little heart rate was a strong 170 bpm!
With Austin, I was sure from Day 1 that he was a boy… and with this little Babe, I have a strong feeling that she’s a girl. It could be that I feel so extremely different with this pregnancy then I did my first, or maybe just a mother’s intuition, but I would bet a decent amount on this one being a girl. We’ll have to wait and find out for another 10 weeks! Ugh!
I have my next ultrasound on Monday June 17th, and I can’t wait… I always get nervous in between ultrasounds / appointments, and since this time I’ll be going with an OB, I won’t actually see her until closer to 20 weeks (which just seems cray-cray to me!). The reason that I’ll be going with an OB (the same OB that delivered Austin actually) is because this time around, I’ll be having a planned C-section from day 1. My poor body is still battling to come back from the horrific experience that it endured during our first vaginal delivery, and I’ve had several doctors, specialists and physiotherapists urge me to go the route of a planned C-section this time.
And I ain’t arguing.
I’m feeling extremely positive and (dare I say?) excited about my C-section this time around. I understand completely that a C-section isn’t the easy way out; it’s major abdominal surgery and it’s not something to be taken lightly… but if you recall from some of my posts late in my pregnancy with Austin, what I’ve always craved and envisioned for my sweet babies birthdays is calm, peace and love. Poor, sweet little Austin wasn’t lucky enough to get any of that when he was born, because he came out right in the middle of a horrific battle scene, with his mother dissociating from the entire room because she was so traumatized.
I am so hopeful for this birth that things will be different, and will be the calm, peaceful environment that I so wanted for Austin. I plan to be very proactive leading up to the surgery and to do everything I can to help set me up for a smooth recovery afterwards. A lot of people have warned me that “it’s a 6 week recovery you know…”, which makes me half laugh and half shake my head, because my injury from Austin’s birth is permanent, and life-long. I’m 20 months out now and still dealing with symptoms and complications that will likely only get worse with time. A surgical wound seems like a much preferable option for me.
ANYWAYS, aside from the nausea and the exhaustion, the other thing different about this pregnancy is that I feel like my belly is HUGE already! I’m barely able to conceal it at 10 weeks, whereas I really didn’t show at all until about 20 weeks with Austin. I pretty much don’t fit in any of my pants anymore, so it’s going to be a looooong haul with those mother effing maternity pants. Curse those damned things to hell.
We haven’t told any of our family yet at this point, mostly because I’m still really paranoid and freaked out that something will go wrong. I’ve had a lot of my friends go through terrible losses during pregnancy, and I just can’t stand the idea of getting everyone’s hopes up and then destroying them if something happens. I’d rather take that burden alone. I’m hoooping to wait until our next ultrasound on June 17th to tell anyone, but at this point, 11 days away, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to hide it for much longer (especially since I’m going to be in a wedding next weekend and will be wearing a very revealing bridesmaid dress lol). We’ll see which way the wind blows I suppose, and tell people when the time is right 😉
I guess that’s about it for this week! I’m almost to Week 11 now, and have got my eye on Week 12 / 13 as the official end of the first trimester, and hopefully the start of an exciting new one with decidedly less nausea and sleeping! 🙂 🙂