adventures of an american housewife in the south of france

Ramona Rose’s Birth, Part II

I don't think I'd ever been so excited to wake up before the sun. I rose at 7am and crept around the dark apartment with Fig, fixing some mint tea and an egg, peeling a banana, thinking about what was going to happen in a few hours.  I had been told not to eat anything after 6am, which was the first of several erroneous messages I received from my doctor's "secretary."  The idea of getting up at 5:30am for breakfast when I had gone to sleep only hours early seemed a little silly, so I ate when I wanted.  I was still anxious.  Still not 100% sure of our decision, even after the endless back and forth.  But I guess that's part of parenthood - making your best guess, closing your eyes, and jumping. Around 8am  I woke Michael up. "We're going to meet our daughter today!!"  We started getting ready, showering, cleaning up, taking out the garbage, making sure everything was in our Go Bags.  We played Ramona her birthday song, packed up the car, and headed over to our friend's house to drop off Fig around 10am.

going to meet our daughter

last moments with Mom and Dad as an only child - he's thrilled.

it was a beautiful fall day in the south of France

We arrived to the hospital at about 10:30 to check in.  Immediately there was some confusion about whether or not we actually had a C-section scheduled for that day.  Luckily Dr. B was in the office and helped clear that up quickly as Michael and I exchanged eye rolls.  So. Typical.  Dr. B said that after 11am, I was not to eat or drink anything - information that could have been useful 4 hours ago.  I went to the pre-labor room to be prepped.  Our midwife, Manuela, was so kind.  She set me up with an IV drip of antibiotics (I had tested positive for Strep B) and the fetal heart monitor to chart Ramona's heartbeat for a bit.  She asked if we knew we were supposed to be at the hospital by 8am that morning.  She asked if I had showered with the special antibacterial soap.  She asked if I had removed my toenail polish for the surgery. All information that was never given to us.  The only instruction we'd been given by the "secretary" was to not eat after 6am and arrive at the clinic between 10 and 10:30.  I think she may get fired soon.

After the monitoring was over, Manuela had me scrub up with the antibacterial soap and get into my cap and gown.  It was around this time when she told us that, after the surgery, I'd need to rest in the recovery room for 2 hours before I could go back to the room with Michael and Ramona.  Even though I think someone may have mentioned this to us weeks before, we didn't realize this was going to happen.  I was very upset.  I cried.  A lot.  I hated the thought of not only not being together when Ramona was born, but to be separated from my baby and my husband for so long after the birth.  Maybe that's normal with a C-section, maybe it's a French thing, but it was something I wasn't quite expecting and, in my fragile state, it was not what I wanted to hear.  For the millionth time that week, I wished I could just be happy and calm and excited about Ramona's birthday, not stressed out and angry.  Manuela left us alone for awhile and Michael tried to console me, but he was upset too.  In fact, it was the first time in our 7+ years together that I've ever seen him cry.  He didn't like seeing me this way.  He was scared for me.  But seeing Michael upset actually helped me because it forced me to calm down, gain some perspective, and tell him, It's ok, I'm going to be fine.  Everything will go smoothly.  I had to say it like I believed it.  I took a lot of deep breaths and got dressed in my gown.  I put my hair into the cap and Michael carefully hid a special secret inside my ponytail for me to use later. Then the nurses came and put me on a bed and wheeled me into the surgical wing, with Michael beside me the whole time.  When we got to the doors of the wing, Dr. B was waiting for us and told Michael to have a seat.  He sat down and they started wheeling me in.  We realized that this was it and he jumped up to give me a kiss good-bye and wish me luck.  I was really nervous.  He reminded me of the secret in my ponytail, squeezed my hand and took a seat on the bench, a pile of pink baby clothes in his lap waiting to be used. The surgery room was much bigger than I expected.  And even though I had been warned, it felt so, so cold.  There were so many people bustling around inside and I remember thinking, Michael could fit in this room.  He could sit right in that corner over there.  The doctors chatted away in French as they prepped me for the catheter (which, ouch) and I thought how glad I was that I didn't really know what they were saying.  Once the catheter was in place, they sat me up for the spinal block.  I started shivering and shaking from nerves and the temperature and the unknown.  Dr. B sat right in front of me and held my hand and tried to calm me so that I would stop shaking enough for the anesthesiologist  to insert the giant needle that I never saw.  Once this happened, there was no turning back and I wanted to freeze time and wait a few more days to see if the baby would turn, descend, decide to come out on her own.  But instead I thought of Ramona.  I thought of what she would look like and the fact that in just a short time, I would know.  I thought of Michael and the pile of baby clothes waiting outside nervously, just a few yards away.   I took some breaths.  I closed my eyes.  I touched my ponytail.  I tried to calm down, I tried to be brave.  And I stopped shaking long enough for the needle to go in and then it was just warm and calm.  I didn't feel totally out of it, but I wasn't totally there either.  Suddenly I didn't really care what was happening.  I was laid down and confirmed that, yes, I could feel a warmth spreading down my legs.  They hooked me up to several IVs and oxygen and an EKG monitor.  I could see the reflection of my belly in the large overhead light as they washed it with antiseptic, and I looked away.  I didn't want to see that.  Like a blood draw, I didn't want to watch, just distract myself from the procedure.  I felt very sleepy and Dr. B told me I could sleep if I wanted to.  But I didn't want to, I wanted to be present, but oh, the idea of sleep sounded so good. I lay back serenely and tried to concentrate.  I called the anesthesiologist over and told him that I was still able to wiggle my toes and was that a bad thing?  He informed me that the procedure had already started, so I guess I was adequately numb.  There was lots of pressure and tugging and moving my body back and forth.  I couldn't believe how much I was moving around, but not in control of it and not really feeling it either.  After about 10 minutes, I started to feel more tugging and jostling as nurses periodically asked me, Ça va?  Yes, ça va.  I guess.  How was I supposed to feel?  Suddenly I felt an enormous tug as I gasped, ohhh and then I felt empty.  "Do you want to see the baby?" the anesthesiologist asked me and I cried, yes! yes! in a voice that sounded small and faraway and not my own. He lowered the blue sheet that separated me from the birth and I saw Dr. B hold up a baby.  My baby.  Even though she was only 7.7lbs, she looked much bigger than I expected, her arms and legs splayed out and her mouth open and my first thought was, Wow, she looks just like Michael's baby pictures.  The nurses took her to the side to clean her off and I heard them whispering and cooing at her in French, something that I wanted to be doing, but I was too calm of a state to really care.  I began to worry that that was it.  That was all I could see of her for another 2+ hours.  "Is she still here?  Can I see her again?" I asked weakly and a few minutes later, they brought her over to me, all wrapped up in a blanket and hat, and set her on my chest.  She was really here.  I couldn't believe it!  She was so calm as I talked to her and kissed her cheeks.  I just kept saying "Hi baby!  You're here!  Hi Ramona!" and she opened her eyes.  They were blue. What happened next was like a dream.  They took Ramona out to Michael while they sewed me up and I just remember wanting to sleep.  Dr. B told me that Ramona had been very high, curled up on her side in the right half of my uterus, and that a regular delivery would have been "very, very difficult."  I let this information roll around in my brain for a bit as I tried to decide if that made me feel better about the Cesarean or not.  I decided, better. They wheeled me into the recovery room, which felt more like an old army infirmary.  There were all kinds of people in there recovering from surgery - men, women, old people, young people, people who sounded sick, and people who moaned in pain.  I lay in a corner, strapped to machines and IVs and every so often nurses would come to check my blood pressure and vitals.  I just wanted to sleep, but I couldn't.  I felt numb but calm, tired but awake. Was she really here?  Was the pregnancy really over?  What were her and Michael doing right now? Did he see her blue eyes?  Did he think she looked just like him? I asked for food or something to drink, and was finally given a small cup of water.  When I regained enough mobility and strength, I reached up into my cap and pulled the secret from my ponytail.  I unfolded the small square of paper and looked at the little pictures Michael had printed out of him, Fig, and and our last 3D ultrasound of Ramona.  My little family.  I held the paper in my hand and tried to close my eyes and rest.  But it seemed impossible. Finally the nurses came back over and started unhooking me from the machines.  It felt like so much time had passed, but also no time at all.  I had expected to be begging to be brought back to my family, demanding to know how much time was left, but suddenly, there I was being prepped to move.  They wheeled me through the hall, down the elevator, through another hallway and finally into the maternity wing.  When I entered our room, Michael was changing Ramona's diaper with one of the nurses.  I still felt a little out of it as Michael came over to kiss me and bring me the baby.  Oh, I was so content to be back with those two.

 Michael told me all about how the pediatrician had brought Ramona out to him in the hallway.  How Ramona had held onto his finger with her tiny hand all the way back to the maternity wing.  How the two of them had sat in a chair in the nursery, skin to skin, for the last 2 hours as he just looked at her and sent pictures and messages to our families.  He had kept her warm and calm and happy while they waited for me.  And I have to say, as much as I wish the delivery could have been different, could have involved all of us together right from the start, I'm really grateful that Ramona and Michael got that special time together to bond.  I always knew Michael would be a great Dad, but I couldn't have dreamed just how amazing he would really be.  He's a natural.

At that point, it was close to 8pm and our families were getting restless!  We got in touch with all the Grandmas and the Grandpas to tell them that everything had gone well, we'd been reunited, and Ramona was here, healthy and happy.  We spent the evening working on feeding and gazing at our daughter.  Even though I felt exhausted, I couldn't sleep.   I spent the night watching her little chest rise and fall with each breath and nervously glancing over at the bassinet at every little noise that she made.  But she lay there, content and blissful, sleeping from 11pm to 9am.  Probably for the last time ever.

Welcome to the world, little Ramona, we're so glad you're here!

34 Responses to “Ramona Rose’s Birth, Part II”

  1. Natalie says:

    This definitely made me cry Nat. I’m so happy for you both. She’s so beautiful. I’m glad Michael got that time with her as well. I know that special time Den had with Gavin was priceless and will leave a forever imprint on his heart.

  2. Greer Huffman says:

    Natalie,
    This is such a sweet post, I was tearing up at my desk reading it. I remember anxiously waiting to hear that she had arrived safely and that you were both healthy and happy. I can’t wait to meet her, her birthday present is in the mail…sorry I’m a slow mover sometimes :) love you both! Xoxo

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  3. Dawn says:

    This story is a real tear jerker. I too was tearing up at my desk hoping no one in my office would notice me.

    I am so happy that Ramona arrived safely. It sounds like she was quite comfortable in her little mommy house.

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  4. nate says:

    Beautiful

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  5. Julia says:

    Well, Nat. That was possibly the most beautiful story I’ve ever read. I’m beyond happy for you and your little family. I can’t wait to hug you and smooch little R. XOXO

  6. Sarah Dempsey says:

    Natalie, we are beyond thrilled for you and Michael. A beautiful story for an amazing little girl. Much love to you!

  7. Shirley Crawford says:

    Thankyou for sharing the gift of your story!! What a wonderful family you have. All our love and best wishes!! Jim & Shirley

  8. Susan Davis says:

    Nat, that was beautiful! Not what you hoped, but alright just the same. And now you’re all together! For at least 18 years!

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  9. Rosemarie says:

    That was beautifully written and it brought tears to my eyes as well. I am due with my first baby December 1st, so I have been happily following along with your story. It may not have been the way you wanted, but it worked out well. Congratulations!

  10. Ebit says:

    Natalie–such a sweet story and what a beautiful Ramona! Congratulations to you and Michael!

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  11. Sodi says:

    What an amazing story! How scary that you had to be without Michael during the birth. You are an inspiration to others. Congratulations to beautiful Ramona Rose. She is an angel.

  12. Sodi says:

    What an amazing story! How scary that you had to be without Michael during the birth. You are an inspiration to others. Congratulations to beautiful Ramona Rose. She is an angel.

  13. Abby says:

    Wow. What a whirlwind and roller coaster of emotions! At the end of the day, your baby girl arrived happy and HEALTHY and that is all that matters…but WOW! You are SO brave and strong :) Thanks for sharing!

  14. Devon says:

    Oh Natty!!! That’s beautiful. I love that Ramona will have that to read and treasure for the rest of her life and know just how much you love her.

    xoxox

  15. Bridget says:

    She is a beauty!! I am so happy for you all. Enjoy every minute!!

  16. Sabbio says:

    Following the previous post I’m reading this one which brought tears to my eyes :s
    Your feelings and sensations, your fears and cries, the secret in your ponytail and how Michael bonded and took care of her and your reunion… all that is beautifully told and just beautiful and moving!

    Your pics add to the emotions, so glad to see her! ♥

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