Michael and I leave for the hospital at five in the morning. I’m 39-weeks pregnant and scheduled for a C-section because our son is breech with a cord wrapped around his neck. A nurse’s assistant takes Michael and me to our room, where there is a sink, a bed, a cot, a monitor, and a round bath with jets I will not use.

I ask Michael to grab the birth plan from the hospital bag. The fold is uneven and my punctuation is sketchy. Not as glamorous as I had envisioned, and I’m embarrassed about its lack of professionalism. I give it to the nurse when she comes in with a surgical robe for me to put on, and she reads it.

“Skin to skin?” she asks, looking over the paper. “You’re having surgery. Your abdominal cavity will be completely exposed.” 

“Will my chest be covered?” I ask.

“Yes,” she says. “Your entire body will be covered.” 

“How long will it take for them to finish the surgery after he’s born?” 

“Not long,” she says. “It shouldn’t be more than an hour and a half.” 

For the hours I spent looking up C-sections, I missed the detail that I would be in the operating room for an hour and a half, and I’m disappointed.

I need my body for that hour after birth, the so-called golden hour of skin-to-skin. And not just for my baby. I need it for me, too.

RELATED: Having a C-Section Wasn’t In My Plan

The nurse starts an IV on the back of my hand but it blows out, a dark balloon of puffy skin, and she restarts it on the other side. 

My OB comes in wearing green scrubs. At our last visit, he said, “We’ll have a birthday party.” He looks at the birth plan and says it looks great. The nurse asks about skin to skin, and he says, “We usually do cheek to cheek.” Not what I had in mind, but it’s something. 

The anesthesiologist comes in. He’s friendly, calm. He tells me what I will feel at each step as he is working: it will feel like cold water here, like I’m pressing your back here. I assume he’s washing my skin with iodine, but he soon says the spinal is done. 

I start to feel nauseated, and I tell him, almost choking. He says he can fix that, and I close my eyes and wait.

This is what I have done for so much of pregnancy: closed eyes, waiting, trying to stay still while my body tells me to puke.

More voices. Another doctor comes in. 

They put a giant paper pillow inflated with warm air over me in the cold room. After a few minutes, it occurs to me I don’t feel nauseated anymore. I tell the doctor I feel better, and he says, “I thought so.” Everything seems a little hazy and disjointed. I am about to have my abdomen cut open, about to give birth. A body is about to come out of my body. 

RELATED: To all My Fellow C-Section Mamas

The production starts, faster than I expect. I tell Michael, who sits by my head, that he isn’t allowed to look at the surgery. I check out again, like I have been doing all morning. On the operating table, I don’t even try to eavesdrop on the doctors performing my surgery right in front of me, though they are talking the whole time in a light, casual tone.

I catch one of the doctors saying, “Definitely a boy,” followed soon after by a baby’s cry, the harbinger of all good things in a delivery. Someone explains to me that the room must be very cold for the operation, so they are going to take my baby out and put him in a warmer.

I no longer need to check out. I hear the doctors clearly, surprised they are mostly talking to me. I am able to pay attention, granted the lucidity of joy.

My son is carried in, swaddled in receiving blankets, and wearing a hat, his eyes open. I kiss him as many times as I can, his cheek held by mine for a minute or so.

They take him back to the other room, and Michael follows.

RELATED: Yes My C-Section Is Birth

A pediatrician tells me they will need to take my son to a transitionary NICU to recruit excess liquid from his lungs. But they aren’t quite ready: he is being weighed or bathed or something. I am quiet and jittery with surprise, the terrific reality of it all, the actuality of the baby I could never quite believe in when I was pregnant. But somehow, here he is. Even in the other room, I hear him. I hear Michael, suddenly and fervently a father, calling him by name. 

Previously published on the author’s blog

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Alizabeth Worley

Alizabeth Worley recently graduated from BYU’s MFA program in Utah, where she lives with her husband and two kids. She was a 2017 winner of the AWP Intro Journals Award for her poem “Kid” and she has published poems, essays, and graphic nonfiction in journals Sweet: A Literary ConfectionHobartJukedReliefSegullah and Waccamaw. Her husband, Michael, is an attorney with spastic quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy. You can find her at alizabethworley.wordpress.com and on twitter at @EarfulLizzie

Worrying Is Part of the Job

In: Baby, Motherhood
Woman's hands holding baby head

My baby girl is four. How did four years go so fast? It blows my mind how much children develop in a short amount of time. One day they can’t lift their heads and then suddenly they’re shouting, “Go away, Mommy!” Lucy is my rainbow baby. She was born on a Wednesday evening in October. Our first day with her, we rested and gazed at our little creation. At midnight on Friday, we sent Lucy to the nursery so I could rest. At 2 a.m. a doctor rushed in. He flicked on the lights. Our tired eyes were blinded. “Lucy...

Keep Reading

I’m Sorry It Didn’t Come Naturally

In: Baby, Motherhood
Mother holding newborn in hospital, color photo

I should have spent every waking moment with you. I should have been right there by your side through every difficult and challenging moment you faced. I should have moved hell and high water to make sure I was there. But I didn’t. And I should have. I’m sorry the first days of your precious little life were filled with strangers and wires and loud noises. I’m sorry you were being poked and prodded from the moment you finally opened those little eyes. I’m sorry that the angel nurses of the NICU were there for you when your mommy should...

Keep Reading

Dear Sophia’s Mama

In: Baby, Motherhood
Baby in isolette inside NICU

I think about you often. I noticed you on our second day in the NICU. I was in the hallway in front of your daughters’ room speaking with our nurse. You looked up from your chair and tried to smile. As I walked away, I looked at the nameplate on the door. Sophia. From where the rocking chair was in our room, I could see out our door to Sophia’s room. Over the next few days, I noticed your daughter’s door proudly displayed several milestones. “Off ventilator” and “first-time mommy held you” made me realize you were seasoned here. Your...

Keep Reading

The End of Maternity Leave Makes a Mother’s Heart Ache

In: Baby, Motherhood
Mother holding infant on shoulder

As my last week of maternity leave begins, my heart feels heavier and heavier in my chest. I can’t fall asleep at night for fear that I haven’t fully appreciated this time with my sweet baby girl. I know plenty of moms who find joy in returning to their old routines. Mamas who feel peace in knowing they can unlock a part of themselves they haven’t used in 12 weeks.  As for me, I’m filled with an anxiety I’ve never felt before. I’ve waited my whole life to be someone’s mama. I’m doing it for the first time, and while...

Keep Reading

Hyper-what? The Toll of Hyperemesis Gravidarum

In: Baby, Motherhood
woman with morning sickness in bathroom

Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Hyper-what? It sounded like some fancy medical diagnosis that would never touch my life, but . . . alas, here I am several months deep. I remember briefly hearing about Kate Middleton’s battle with it, but I never thought it would affect my own life, especially after having four prior uncomplicated pregnancies and births. I want to share my personal story because I’ve been lucky enough to find a few fellow moms who shared their stories with me. Without the help of those who had experienced the diagnosis, been transparent about it, and made it out on the...

Keep Reading

Time Moves a Little Faster with You, My Last Baby

In: Baby, Motherhood, Toddler
Woman hugging toddler

Something about that last bottle of formula I made, it makes me wonder where did this last year go? I feel like I just brought you home from the hospital. In the middle of a pandemic. We had no visitors like we did with your brothers. No cards, no flowers, just me, you, and daddy. Those 2.5 days flew, and we were on our way home. Time moves a little faster with you. You’re our last baby, and I am about to make the last bottle of formula for you, the last everything. It all hits me at once. This...

Keep Reading

I Carry the Baby I Lost In My Heart

In: Baby, Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Early sonogram image of baby

I ignored it at first, the pink on the tissue. It wasn’t anything to worry about. I’d known for three weeks at this point that I was expecting baby number three, and I was still giddy about it. In fact, I had just shared my news with people at work and told them when I was due.  I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face.  So, when I visited the bathroom, I ignored it.  Two healthy textbook pregnancies and births, why would this be any different?  But, looking back, there was a little nagging voice at the back of my...

Keep Reading

Don’t Fear the Gap

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood
Baby lying on mother's chest, black-and-white photo

I was afraid of the gap. You know, the one where you have some kids and then wait several years to have another? That gap. When we moved here, we kept all the baby things because we weren’t ready to say we were done but weren’t ready to start over. Moving to the farm brought wayyy more chores than our neighborhood home and adding a tiny human to that mix felt a bit crazy. RELATED: I’ll Always Want Another Baby There were months of back and forth . . . talk of barefoot baby feet stomping all over this place...

Keep Reading

Having a Late Preterm Baby Is Hard Too

In: Baby, Motherhood
Mother holding infant, color photo

I see you, mama, who holds her breath while they bag your brand-new baby. Asking “is she okay?” and being met with “everything is fine” when you know that everything is not fine. The baby who was due in just a few weeks. The baby, who just a few hours earlier, you joked “wanted to surprise us early.” The baby who was fine on the monitors just minutes before. I see you, mama, when they tell you they are transporting your baby to the NICU. The baby you held for five minutes before they took her to the nursery for...

Keep Reading

Dear Loss Mom, Grieve Your Baby In Heaven Without Guilt

In: Baby, Grief, Loss

My third baby was due on October 19, 2019. Instead, she was born into heaven on March 24, 2019. Not only do I grieve her more in October than in other months because of her due date, but I also grieve for so many other parents who have also lost their children.  RELATED: A Letter To My Mama From Your Baby In Heaven Pregnancy loss is such a strange journey to walk through. I’m years into it, and there are still days when the grief hits and the tears come and I can’t breathe. On other days, I am so...

Keep Reading