I feel like I need to preface this by saying that I can't help but compare every aspect of Nolan's - a singleton's - birth with that of having twins. I never really thought of Caden and Brooklyn's birth as being difficult before. Though things (of course) didn't go as "planned" with the twins, everything was fine in the end. However the entire experience, top to bottom, of a twin pregnancy, labor, birth, and the days that followed cannot compare to that of a singleton, at least my singleton, Nolan. While I knew that the experience of having twins was different, more difficult, I really had no idea just how much so until now.
I was continually amazed at the peace, the rest, the laidback pace of it all this time around. Obviously having a planned c-section helped. Yet while we were in the hospital with Caden and Brooklyn, there was always something happening. If one didn't need to feed, the other did, followed by a nurse needing to see me, or Caden, or Brooklyn, or both, or all of us. Someone needed to be taken away for a hearing test, the other needed a day under the Bili light, it was time for my meds, their meds, a new IV, a meal (which I never ate uninterrupted), the lactation consultant stopped by, etc., etc., etc......meaning that my room was a constant hub of activity.
But last week, I actually had downtime with Nolan. Time for cuddles just because I wanted cuddles, a meal or a snack when I wanted to eat a meal or a snack. Tyson looked at me at one point and said, "I'm actually kind of bored". Let me assure you, at no point during our stay in the hospital with Caden and Brooklyn were we ever, ever bored.
All this to say that this time around, everything seemed to be actually...enjoyable. I was present, in the moment, and mentally and physically able to appreciate the experience. I can even articulate it better now, with a (mostly) clear head of just what all happened.
This is how we met Nolan.
I awoke the morning of February 22nd fully aware and prepared (well...as much as possible) for what the day was to bring. And I did prepare: I had the luxury being able to shower, do my hair and makeup, and finish packing for our hospital stay. It was calm, and besides the packing, more or less like any other morning. From the get-go, this was nothing like two years and two days before, when I spent the night in labor, ended with a c-section, and all after over 24 hours with no sleep. I was rested, ready, and, heck, even clean.
I can't stress enough how calm it all was. I had time to play with Caden and Brooklyn before we left for the hospital at 9:30. We played choo-choos and puzzles, cuddled, and snapped one last photo of us as a family of four before it was time to go. Which Caden and Brooklyn took completely in stride. When I told them that "Mommy and daddy are going to go bye-bye now to go have the baby. We'll see you later!" Brooklyn calmly turned to me, waved, and said, "Bye-bye mommy." (If she only knew...)
Tyson and I drove to the hospital and it was somewhat surreal...yet so ordinary. Driving there in the car felt like any of a million other times we've driven in the car together...and yet - come on - we're going to the hospital to meet out baby! The two just didn't seem to go together.
My family (mom, dad, brother) was already in the waiting area when we arrived, and we chatted for a bit before I checked in. I really can't emphasize how ordinary this all felt. Like it should have felt big and emotional and monumental -today is the day!- but it just didn't. Not yet. And certainly not like the urgency of arriving at the hospital for Caden and Brooklyn's birth.
After signing some paperwork, Tyson came back with me as I was prepped; gowned, given an IV, blood drawn, baby monitored, etc. All this took only about an hour, which meant we had to wait another hour before they were actually ready for my scheduled OR time of noon. Which, to be completely honest, was plain old boring. I didn't have anything to do and so...we waited. My family all came back to say hi one more time, but I basically sat in a tiny room with no windows, hooked up to an IV, in an extremely flattering hospital gown. Just waiting. Again, Caden and Brooklyn's birth was anything but boring.
Then things started happening - really happening. The anticipation began to build. At exactly five minutes to noon, doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, all began entering my room to introduce themselves and let me know what their role would be during the delivery. No sooner did people start coming into my room than they stopped, and it was time. I kissed Tyson good-bye for the moment and walked (Yes walked. It seemed somewhat anticlimactic.) into the OR.
This is where things got really real. I knew that Tyson would be joining me again soon, and everyone on my team was truly wonderful, but there's something about being in a cold OR, up on the table, quite literally bare-assed naked to the world as my epidural was administered, without anyone I knew...it's lonely. I can't say I was scared exactly (it helped having gone through this once before), but anytime I felt anxious I kept thinking, rushing forward, to the moment that Tyson would walk through those doors to join me. I received the epidural, and was splayed with arms wide open across the table as the activity continued. It is sort of nerve-wracking, and yet calming, to observe the activity going on around you, all to bring your baby into the world. Last time, and even more now, I was struck by how formal and disciplined and organized it all was...everyone has their job and their spot to stand and their task to perform at just the right time. The drape was hung...they announced my name and the procedure and some other formalities...my team was getting ready to start...I had a sudden and momentary panic that Tyson wouldn't make it in time (hadn't they left to get him ages ago?), when he walked through the door. I felt calm again.
Calm and nauseous. The nausea hit almost immediately as they, well, cut me open. There's this weird sort of disconnect as you hear a scissors and other instruments going to work, and know full well what is happening...and yet not be able to feel a thing besides some general pulling and tugging.
It was only minutes, but it felt like ages as I lay there waiting for baby's arrival. Finally I knew -this is it! - as there was one last, long, huge tug, and baby was free. "It's a boy!" Tyson announced to me, and despite the mask I knew he had the same wide, crinkle-eyed grin just like when Caden and Brooklyn were born, and baby was no longer an "it" but a he. HE was here, our little Nolan, at 12:25 pm. (Fun fact, the hospital plays a little lullaby stanza whenever a baby is born, so at 12:25 my family heard the lullaby in the lobby and knew that "their" baby had made its appearance.) They held him up over the sheet, pink and wet and wrinkled and crying, so that I could see him - him! - for the very first time. His nose, that cute little scrunched-up prominent nose, and a swath of dark hair make up my very first memory of him.
Tyson, all gowned up, rushed over to the warming table where they cleaned, warmed (that OR was COLD), weighed (6 pounds 14 ounces), measured (20.5 inches long), and swaddled him before placing him in Tyson's arms. (Also: Apgar scores of 8 and 9. #mommybrag.) I didn't take my eyes off of him, even though my neck was cramping as I strained to see Nolan off to my left. My anesthesiologist tried to get me to turn my head to relieve some of the cramping, but I could only last a few seconds before straining to see him again.
At last, though I'm sure it was only minutes, the nurse asked if I wanted to do some skin-to-skin with him. Um...do people actually refuse this?!? They laid him across my chest where he fit and snuggled right in. I know I keep comparing this time to how it was last time, but I didn't get to do this with Caden and Brooklyn, who were immediately rushed to the NICU due to an infection. Nolan and I cuddled while they finished putting me back together, and then we rode up the elevator, to our recovery room, which is also where we spent the rest of our hospital stay.
I got over an hour of Nolan and me time. I didn't know that giving birth could be like this. Last time I was so lonely in recovery...Tyson went to see our babies in the NICU (which I wanted him to do, but didn't mean that I felt any less alone), while I recovered in a room by myself just off the OR. But now...I got to cuddle Nolan to my heart's content, as Tyson was in and out to announce the news to our families. I can't get over how peaceful, how relaxing this time was, despite the lack of feeling in my legs, having fluids pumped into me, tubes and wires snaking their way around my bed, and a nurse hovering nearby to check my vitals every 15 minutes. I didn't get time to just be and appreciate Caden and Brooklyn. I got Nolan all to myself from the start, and I truly did feel more attached to him because of it. I certainly loved Caden and Brooklyn and felt strongly protective of them, but looking back now, after this experience, I didn't quite have a bond with them right away like I felt with Nolan. He was just so fiercely MINE.
The next part that I really remember, that I was really looking forward to, was introducing Caden and Brooklyn to their baby brother. Tyson collected them from the lobby and walked them upstairs to my room. They rushed in, Brooklyn complete with a stuffed puppy to give to baby brother under her arm, but stopped suddenly before they got to my bed. Their eyes were both huge. I'm sure they didn't know what to think. There was mommy in a strange bed wearing strange things and holding a baby. Brooklyn just stared and stared, but Caden was concerned. He pointed to the IV in my hand and said, in a small concerned voice, "Mommy?", and rushed forward, all protective, as if to rip it off of me. I felt so bad, and tried to reassure him that I was okay. They got over the worst of their shock within a minute or so, and took turns on the bed cuddling with "baby". "Cuddling" mostly involved attempts to literally tackle him with their hugs, squish him and me as they tried to kiss his lips, and repeatedly shove the stuffed puppy in his face as they tried to show it to him.
Later, Tyson's mom was holding Nolan while Caden and Brooklyn were out of the room. When they returned Brooklyn immediately rushed over to grandma saying "Mommy baby! Mommy baby!" and tried to rip poor Nolan out of her hands to give him back to me. She was clearly protective of this little brother, and as far as she was concerned it was mommy's baby, and no one else's.
Fine by me. I was more and more in love with this little guy every time I held and looked at him. He was just so perfect. He hardly made a sound, except when he was legitimately upset (hungry, naked, we dared to disturb him for a diaper change), and was content to just cuddle and sleep.
The following morning we woke up to a perfect fluffy snowfall - Christmas snow. It was so peaceful and beautiful as I watched from my bed, with Nolan just next to me in his hospital crib. And the rest of our hospital stay continued to have this calm over it. I truly cannot explain or overstate the difference between the calm this past week vs. the constant activity of Caden and Brooklyn's birth.
I didn't know it could be like this.
I assumed all births, twins or no, were somewhat busy and chaotic, even in the days that followed. This hospital time was like a mini mommy vacation. A strange vacation, where you don't get to sleep through the night or even all that late in the morning, and maybe the meals aren't quite up to par, but a vacation nonetheless. And this time I had hours at a time with Nolan all by myself, which I absolutely reveled in, and now have stored up in my memory forever. He became more and more mine the more we spent time together, just him and me.
I can't believe it's been a week. I'm not usually so sentimental, but chalk it up to postpartum hormones that I keep tearing up while typing this, and wanting to go back to that peaceful hospital cocoon that we will never have back ever again. Instead we'll soak up new memories here at home, as a newly formed family of five.
And there is this feeling, that of course - of course - it was a boy all along. It was Nolan all this time. How could he have been anyone else?