Luca's Birth: A Prologue
Our beautiful baby boy, Luca Benjamin, a miracle more than 10 years in the making, was welcomed into our arms earlier this week by the grace and ever-faithful love of our unfathomably merciful God.
In my prior post, I had mentioned needing emergency surgery that snatched away our hopes for a calm and natural birth. That surgery was a temporary band-aid meant to help us get through the final weeks of pregnancy, but God had other plans.
On Super Bowl Sunday, still reeling from excruciating pain, I found myself back in the ER. Again I was told I needed emergency surgery- this one much more extensive and significantly more invasive. It was a truly terrifying prospect, especially given how close to labor and delivery I was. I asked if there was any possibility of postponing surgery until after delivery, but the surgeon said I'd be putting myself at even greater risk as parts of my body had already begun necrotizing. The band-aid had failed; it was either surgically remove the dying tissue now or risk my life and the life of Luca.
Chris and I are of the same mindset- the best way around a hard situation is to dive in and head straight on through. Knowing how overwhelming this news was, he asked the surgeon to give us a few minutes. He knows that I process overwhelming news like this in two steps:
I've always been this way, and Chris immediately recognized that I was rapidly moving into Freak Out Phase as the surgeon explained what was happening. He asked the doctor to step out of the room so that I had the space and privacy to let out the tsunami. He sat next to me on the bed and let me unleash it all. He pulled me into himself, letting me rage and cry and spill out every fear he knew I had. He knew each and every one because they matched his own. He understood what this sort of surgery meant and how dangerous it was so close to Luca's delivery. But he also understood that there was no other option, and so he repeated what he said to me just a few days prior, and he forced me to look him square in the eyes as he said it. And he repeated it, several times, because he wanted me to not only understand, but to believe him.
But oh... the pain in his voice. The thing is that I 100% believed him. Even now, I know he meant every word. But such a truth... such a generous, selfless capital "T" Truth... it comes at great cost, and I could hear the depths of that sacrifice aching alongside my own broken heart. I touched his face and he pulled me into his arms again. We allowed ourselves to crash against the rocks as the tempest of our grief and fears tossed us mercilessly forward.
We only consent to be victims of our feelings for the briefest of times, though. Once we poured ourselves out, we got to work planning the logistics of moving forward. We didn't have much time, because the surgeon had already made clear that he was heading to the Operating Room to begin prepping his team. That left Chris and I about 20 minutes to sort out next steps, and we had to do so while nurses came in to do blood draws, COVID test swabs, and explain consent forms.
Since we knew I'd be at the hospital for several days post-op, he got to work figuring out care for the kids. Luckily, our older boys were set, but Nico was a different story. He mobilized key members of our support network so they knew what was happening and could chip in to help with Nico. He also alerted his bosses that his work schedule would be shifting to accommodate daycare pick up/drop off. He also started updating family members on where I was in terms of health and recovery. As for me, when not having blood drawn or signing consent forms, I was updating my midwifery group and doula on complications they'd now need to be ready for and connecting them to the new surgical team that would be taking over my life for the next few weeks.
It was a whirlwind of texting, emails and phone calls, but somehow, we got it taken care of just as transport came to wheel me down to the operating room. Chris followed me as far as he could, kissed me, and said he'd be waiting for me when I got into Recovery. He also slipped me my rosary so that I'd have it through the procedure.
The surgical team was fantastic. They understood my anxiety was through the roof and they all understood what was at stake. One doctor in particular, Susan, held me as they began the sedation process and acknowledged- with what felt like sacred reverence- the impossible situation I'd found myself in. As she held me, she put her head against mine and said that she was so sorry this had to be done. Even now, a week later, her empathy overwhelms me with gratitude.
Chris made it to Recovery before I did and was there when they wheeled me in. Still enjoying the benefits of sedation, we got in about an hour of pain-free time together before it was time for him to head home to take care of Nico. The surgeon had warned us both that the next several weeks would be hell, and the man wasn't kidding.
I was in the hospital from Sunday morning through Tuesday afternoon, and in that time, I was on a rotating cocktail of Morphine, Fentanyl, Dilaudid, and Percocet. As someone who refuses to take even Tylenol for kidney stones, being on such a strong menu of opioids/narcotics- ESPECIALLY whilst pregnant- scared the crap out of me. My doctors and nurses all swore it was necessary, and given the incredible pain I was in, I partially relented. I agreed to the pain meds on a reduced schedule. Rather than taking them every two hours, I stretched myself to 6 hours. The pain was unlike anything I've ever experienced and would never wish it on anyone. But I persisted, because that is what mothers do.
Finally, it was time for discharge Tuesday afternoon (Valentine's Day). Chris came for me, and after a brief scare regarding contractions, we were able to go home. The pain was still impossibly intense, and I called my friend, Sam, to help as I labored through some of the involuntary post-operative spasms that felt an awful lot like giving birth. Even she said that had she not known I'd had surgery days prior, she would've been calling 9-1-1 expecting me to deliver Luca in the bathtub.
Eventually, the involuntary spasms subsided and I was able to redress (though the process repeated several more times that night). I told Sam (and my brother who had stopped by to help) to go home but that I'd call with any updates. I was still refusing to take the cocktail of pain medications because I refused to put Luca into harm's way, so I'd take the bare minimum and try to sleep it off.
Alas, I only made it one day before recognizing the tell-tale signs of real labor.
Wednesday, February 15th at about 10PM, I made the call to get to the hospital. Luca was coming and for as much as we had wanted to give my body a chance to heal from the prior two surgeries, it was not meant to be. We packed Nico into the car, dropped him off to our friends, Sam and Brett, and immediately headed for the hospital where my midwife was already waiting.
Part II: Happy Birthday, Luca!
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