A little context is everything. The image above at first glance looks like a cutesy baby dress, which it is. But it also represents something I bought for my girls that they will never wear.
And yes it is one dress, because they are conjoined with one arm each. So one complete dress was the most logical way for both girls to wear an outfit. The muslin hedgehog blanky would have been used to wipe spit-up. The crochet blanket was donated to us from the hospital.
We don’t have very many pictures from the night before their birth, or from the surgery. So the few we do have are for my husband and I and our family. Some things need to be kept private and remain intimate.
May 1st, 2019:
I showered as instructed and wiped almost every inch of my skin with special wipes that were provided by the nurses. I was also told not to eat or drink anything 8 hrs before surgery. If I absolutely needed to I could sip water up to 2 hrs before. My husband and I went to bed that night in our hotel room just outside of LAX, but we didn’t sleep. We had to be at Ronald Reagan Hospital at UCLA by 4 am to get me prepped and ready for surgery, scheduled to happen around 7-7:30ish.
My daughter stayed with my mom and stepdad back home and planned on driving to the hospital the morning of the girls birth. I have never spent the night away from my daughter since she was born four years ago; this was not what I had in mind for our first night apart.
May 2nd, 2019:
The hospital was empty at that hour of the morning and parking was plentiful. Once in our room I was instructed to undress and put on my gown. I don’t remember why but I was allowed to wear a type of “bra,” which essentially was a wide piece of elastic mimicking a tube top. The nurse, who was ready for a shift-change at that point after working twelve hours, shaved the area where the incision was to be made and set up my IV’s.
I had to get an epidural as opposed to a spinal tap, in the event the surgery would take longer than expected and I could be administered the anesthesia as needed. I had one IV set up per arm in case of an emergency where I could be given a blood transfusion.
The process of setting up the epidural was horrible. It took about 30 minutes or maybe even longer because of me being tall, with a slight curve to my spine and a huge belly getting in the way of me arching my back. This was a recipe for extreme discomfort. I made it through with the help of my husband, a wonderful nurse pressing down on my shoulders and keeping me steady, and my own tenacity and grit.
The nurses shift-change happened at some point before the epidural (my memories are pretty foggy) and the priest we requested also came in. He prayed over us, and I was baptized Catholic.
Soon I was wheeled out on my bed into the surgery room down the hall. My husband had to wait just outside the doors on a chair until instructed to come in.
Then I was on the operating table. A huge round light was above me, and eventually a curtain was hung in front of my face to block my view of the surgery. Both of my arms were stretched out perpendicular to my body on arms rests, palms up. I was administered the anesthesia at some point, and a catheter was placed.
My husband was allowed in, and a huge team of nurses, doctors, and technicians were conversing and taking their positions. There were so many people there. One team per child, plus the people performing the surgery and taking care of me.
The doctor asked if I wanted her to talk to me to let me know what she was going to do next, and I told her yes. I needed the distraction. And so the surgery began. I anticipated a sense of pressure or tugging and pulling, but thankfully I didn’t feel anything.
An overwhelming sense of fear enveloped me and I began to shake uncontrollably from the chest up. I was told by the anesthesiologist that the shaking was normal and he even warned me about it before hand, but I wasn’t in control of my own body and that was frightening. He administered something intravenously that stopped the shaking completely, and a warm heavy blanket was placed over my chest for comfort.
My husband was to the left of me most of the surgery, and if he wasn’t I asked for anyone who was free to be there because from my perspective I was alone, and scared.
I remember chatting with my anesthesiologist about the new Avengers movie. He seemed geeky and I wanted to distract myself. He was to the right of me the whole time.
My favorite doctor couldn’t be there for the surgery, so another one of the doctors was by my side when my husband was eventually whisked away. I appreciated her comfort and reassurance, even though we never connected on an intimate level before that. She told me of her Russian roots, and I told her of my family and how my husband came to this country.
The girls were born.