the birth diaries, Victoria Jelinek



“A very small degree of hope is sufficient to cause the birth of love.” Stendhal


I had my baby. His name is Sebastian Leo and he weighed 4 kilos. He’s healthy (passed some post birth test with flying colours which measures and grades signs of health, such as number of fingers, toes, lungs, breathing, organ functions, on a scale of 1-10). 

For my caesarean, they wheeled me on a gurney through a maze of hospital halls and left me outside the operating theatre for a bit. Then I went in, and nurses spoke to me from above as I lay on my back, like a David Lee Roth video, which was disorienting, especially as everyone spoke French and I was having trouble concentrating. 

They gave me an epidural then lay me back down and pinned my arms to my sides like Jesus on the cross. That freaked me out. I could feel the surgeon performing the C-section, which was bizarre: a sponge across my belly, cutting slowly and surely, pulling the baby out of my uterus and through the small incision as though pulling a sleeping bag from its storage sack. 
But it didn’t hurt. When Sebastian was born, one of the nurses held him to my face (I was still pinned) and he was mewling. I didn’t feel that love at first sight thing that many have said they feel. 
Instead, I kind of distractedly looked at the little baby and spoke softly to him, telling him it was okay and not to be afraid. I remember being charmed that he immediately responded to my voice by quieting. 
Then they took him away to my husband and wheeled me into a recovery area. The French strongly believe in skin-on-skin after birth, so when the mother has had surgery they give the baby to the father (or grandmother, or sister, or brother, or whomever is there to support the mother), have him take off his shirt, and instruct him to hold the baby close to his chest, speaking softly and caressing him. 
It’s really quite a beautiful and sane idea. That said, when my husband took Sebastian into his arms, the little one immediately tried to suckle him (“Not gonna find anything there mate!” my husband quipped). Meanwhile, I was lying prostate in an area in which I was separated from other patients by a provisional curtain, and slowly feeling my body come back to a sensation other than complete numbness. 
My good doctor told me I wouldn’t be hungry for about 24 hours after I had the surgery, but I was starving! After an hour or two in the recovery area, I started asking if it was possible to have some food. The nurses got exasperated with me and I could hear one of them place a call and I heard her saying to the person on the other end “The American is hungry! I know…should we move her up to her room?” 

Being given Sebastian once I was ensconced in my private room (maybe 25 euro per night, the rest is covered by the Carte Vitale – so civilized) was marvellous and scary. I didn’t think he was mine ‘cause his eyes were slits and he looked Chinese. I actually entertained the idea that I’d been given the wrong baby. 
Luckily, after a day or two his eyes opened and then he was the spitting image of my husband. Apparently, new born’s look like their fathers so that the father will have empathy towards them, own them and protect them, rather than leave them in the woods or discard them as they might have in ages of old. 
I think that newborn babies are akin to vampires in the sense that they are designed to attract: they look adorable and they smell good, for example. It was very strange to nurse him. Particularly as I had 3 sage-femmes (midwives) instructing me at the same time on how to do it, standing very close to my breasts, and intermittently squeezing my nipple or massaging my breast rather abruptly and roughly! 
I thought it was strange how this little creature cannot move, yet to get to my breast he’ll wiggle and move like a wee worm to get there.   

OMG, the C-section hurts! I can’t believe that I actually wanted one and said I’d opt for it electively if my doctor didn’t order it (as 25% of women in the UK and USA do). I can’t move. I have to have a bedpan and it hurts to get on and off the pot. There’s a bandage and goo on the cut and they come and clean and change the dressing. I take 2 pills every few hours for pain and infection. I have to raise my bed all the way up and the back rest straight up in order to get to the top of the baby’s hospital crib (which rolls and is like a plastic bubble square), then sort of reach into him and roll him/move him onto me and then up to my chest. I have no stomach muscles. Never quite realized how much I used them now that I don’t have them to use. I dread going to the toilet or walking, but apparently that’s on the cards for me tomorrow! 

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