My pregnancy with Katherine was full of complications: high blood pressure, swelling, irregular heartbeat and fluid in my lungs. This was diagnosed as atypical preeclampsia and resulted in an emergency c-section 33 weeks into my pregnancy. Katherine was born at 2:30 in the morning. After Katherine was born, my doctor said "It's a girl!" and I heard her cry. The sound was a welcomed sound. I had been in the hospital for observation earlier in the week and was given a steroid shot to help Katherine's lungs develop. Hearing her cry reassured me that her lungs were fine. The NICU nurse brought her over to me all swaddled up and said "Kiss goodbye before she goes upstairs". I kissed her face and they took her away. Another nurse asked Steve if he was staying with me or going with Katherine. Steve asked me what he should do and I told him to go with Katherine. I didn't want her to be by herself up in the NICU. (I know she wasn't technically by herself with the doctors and nurses there but I couldn't stomach the idea of her not being with one of us.) Steve followed the nurse upstairs and I immediately wished I had told him to stay. This feeling immediately went away after my procedure was done. I'm still glad I told Steve to go with Katherine. I don't remember much from that day. I do remember thinking I was never going to get better and feeling terrible that I wouldn't be able to care for the tiny baby upstairs in the NICU. "All I wanted was a baby" I remember thinking. Hours later the nurses and Steve wheeled me (IV and all) to the NICU so I could see Katherine and hold her that first day. I could only hold her for 10 minutes at a time because I was so weak. I wanted to hold her longer but I just couldn't. I was so sick and out of it that first day that I don't remember having the morphine drip provided for all c-sections. I also wasn't able to adequately manage my pain because I was simply too sick the first few days and the pain got out of control. I spent 7 days in the hospital recovering from my c-section and preeclampsia. Katherine was born 7 weeks early and stayed in the hospital 29 days.
My pregnancy with Sean went so much smoother. The only complication I had was gestational diabetes which at worst was annoying. I was able to manage it with diet and exercise. My c-section was scheduled. Steve and I drove to the hospital, checked in and within a few hours had our baby boy. The OR staff was relaxed and introduced themselves to me as they prepared for the surgery. (With my first c-section, the atmosphere was a lot more stressed due to my unstable condition and the knowledge of delivering a baby early.) The surgical nurse and my doctor held my hands as the spinal was put in place. After Sean was delivered, my doctor held him up so I could see him over the tarp exclaiming "It's a boy!" and I cried tears of joy. Steve was able to go with the nurse to weigh Sean. The staff were guessing Sean's weight because he was a lot bigger than the doctor had anticipated. He weighed 9 lbs and 1 oz. A nurse practitioner from the NICU was called down because Sean's Apgar score had decreased to a 7 from the 8 he initially scored. The nurse practitioner had been one of Katherine's NICU nurses so it was fun to see her again. Sean was able to stay downstairs and not make a stay at the NICU. Steve brought Sean over to me and I was able to hold him for a little bit. When the nurse took Sean out of the OR, Steve went with him. (It's my preference to have him go with the baby instead of stay with me.) A little while later I was wheeled back to my recovery room and able to see both of them. Sean's blood sugar was low so he was given a little bit of formula to bring his sugars up. I was better able to control my pain after Sean's birth. Being healthy will have that effect. ;) My hospital stay was 4 days and I was able to take my baby home with me when I left. I can't explain how great of a feeling that is after not being able to do that with Katherine. My recovery has been so much smoother. A lot of this has to do with my health after the birth and also the reduced stress load. I don't have to go back to the NICU each day to be with my baby or worry about balancing time at home with time at the hospital. I can simply enjoy my maternity leave with both of my kids.
To further illustrate the differences in my birth stories, here are a few pictures:
After Katherine was born:
(Believe it or not, this was NOT the worst picture of me from that day.)
After Sean was born: