Part I is here.
In case you didn’t know, pregnant women are notorious for googling scary crap about their pregnancies.
I’m no exception, so I spent the entire night before my c-section googling birth stories of babies with the cord wrapped around their necks. Drew kept yelling at me about it (‘why are you crying? wait, don’t read that! stop! are you crazy, don’t even talk to me, I don’t want to know!’) so I made him read a few of the stories which of course made him cry (and I used that time to wash my face and blow my nose, I was a sobbing-mess). Eventually Drew just went to sleep despite his failure to get me to do the same.
We rolled into the hospital later that morning, it’s a private hotel-esque space just north of the upscale Puerto Vallarta marina area. We paid for our hospital fees in advance ($1100) and we’d square away our bill with the doctora privately (and she’d handle paying her team from our flat rate). It’s incredibly cheap compared to US hospitals, but for most Mexicans the $500/day it’s prohibitively expensive. So the place caters to wealthy locals and a number of tourists and expats who find themselves in need of medical services. The room was nicer than the room I had for my first birth (in Bend, Oregon). It had a full suite attached, so there was a living room area beyond the standard bedroom and bathroom set up. We had cable and room service and the bed was surprisingly soft with a big white duvet. Drew slept on the couch.
They wheeled me into surgery and the part I dreaded most came: the epidural. The operating room is super-lit and you’re half-naked and a little cold, and they stick a huge needle into your spine. I whimpered a little, even though I tried my best to be silent, but thankfully, unlike my first, they didn’t have to redo the insertion, so I was so relieved when I felt the rush of pain killers going down my legs. I had a charlie horse in my calf for about 10 seconds and I resisted the urge to move — then I felt nothing. That was it. The worst of it was over.
One of the side effects is that you can feel really sick and throw up, and sure enough, I felt the same thing I did the first time, a wave of nausea that hit me so hard I had a hard time speaking up to tell anyone. The strangest part of the experience is hearing your own heartbeat on the monitors loudly beeping in the room and listening to your own heart rate drop precipitously. The nurse came over at last, “Christine, what’s wrong?” and I told them. They gave me oxygen and tilted the operating table to the left to remove the weight of the baby from my inferior vena cava, a major artery that gets squished when pregnant women lay on their back.
Slowly, I felt better. The surgery had started. They brought Drew in. He held my hand and said, “You’re doing so good, sweetie.”
Baby, baby, baby.
The surgery seemed to go so fast. I didn’t even feel it when they flipped the baby around, something I learned about afterwards, because the length of cord was so short that she couldn’t even get the baby out from my belly without untangling the cord around her neck.
There was no way she was ever going to be born vaginally.
When they did pull her out, I held my breath until she let out a scream. It sounded gurgled like she had some fluid in there, which made me nervous. I gave Drew a look that I hope signaled, “go, check her” and without a word he rushed off to greet her. When they brought her over to me, I kissed her messy face and she was whisked away again. She was bright red and breathing fine.
Stella was born! She was healthy! This was going to be alright!
I spent another hour or so in surgery while Drew left with the baby and the doctors chatted in Spanish while they sewed me up. This was the only time I remembered, “Oh right, I’m having a baby in MEXICO.” I didn’t even try to translate, I just dreamt of my baby and looked forward to holding her.
Afterwards, when they wheeled me back to my room, my first question was, “Where’s the baby?”
Lost in Translation
“No, not yet,” the nurse said in broken English.
“Drew, where’s the baby?” I asked again.
“Uh, she’s in the nursery, but they say she can’t come out until three hours.”
“Why? Is something wrong?”
“No nothing is wrong, they just said that’s policy.”
“Well that’s not okay then! Go get our baby!”
So began our battle with the hospital staff.
First, let’s be clear, we picked a bilingual hospital, but we didn’t really expect everyone to speak to us in English. But there are some words that have universal meaning, like the word, “No.”
So Drew runs out to the nursery, talks to the nurses, then the pediatrician about letting me see my daughter. They agree, yes, nothing is wrong, and yes she can see her, in an hour, because, well, because we said so.
So Drew called my OB-GYN and yells at her, and she calls them and yells at them in Spanish.
“Oh! you want to see the baby? Why didn’t you say so! Just let us get her dressed.”
So Drew, to his credit, and my god, can you love a man more than when he’s fighting for your children? He stands outside the nursery, watching through the large glass wall and they go to give Stella a bottle. Drew bangs on the glass and says, “No!”
The nurses nod at him, talk to each other in Spanish and then lift the bottle again.
I actually heard this second ‘no’ all the way back in my room. Do not mess with my husband when it comes to our babies.
Of course, it worked out, they didn’t give the baby formula, and when they put her in my arms, my heart broke a little, and I breastfed her right away, and she latched on so perfectly that the nurses (who were a little touchy over being bossed around) had to admit ‘okay, she’s got this covered’ and left.
It was just me, Drew and our baby. Happy doesn’t begin to explain it. This soft, warm, little baby was so alert and gentle and sweet. You fall in love with your kids when you’re born, but having been through it before, I knew this was just the beginning.
We kept her in our room the entire two-day stay, and although we had many more fights with the nurses (mostly miscommunications because of the language barrier — thankfully our doctor was a rock star, we had her personal cell and she answered our calls day and night and triage issues with the nurses for us — way more than we could have ever had imagined) and I slowly got to know our little bella. She’s very strong, and even quieter than Cole, who was a very quiet baby. She doesn’t cry, she loves to be held, and she nursed every few hours. I had forgotten how truly little babies are, and how utterly divine they smell, especially the crown of their head.
When Cole came to visit, he smiled so much I swear he instantly fell in love with his sister too. He asked if he could touch her and I said yes, to which he jabbed a big fat toddler finger right into her forehead. Yeah, we’re going to have to work on that. Then he licked her. Because, um, why not? So, yeah, this should be interesting…
Then so quickly, we went home. The four of us.
Would I have a baby in Mexico again? Yes. In the end the doctor came to our room to discharge us and we paid her fees ($1600) making the whole thing just about $2700 — which included the failed induction and all the hospital fees and drugs. I had a rough two days after the surgery but I healed faster than last time (my first c-section I was in bed for almost two weeks) but that might just be luck. I will say that the doctor was more than competent and professional. Even though we had a hard time with the nurses (they kept trying to sneak formula to the baby during baths!) it’s really unbelievable that our doctor stepped in and helped us with that. The experience was so largely positive that it actually made me think: hmm, maybe I could do this again.
For now, we’re enjoying our two kids, our children, something we keep saying to each other, “Woah, we have kids. KIDS. WITH A SSS. KIDSSSSSS.” then we laugh at our lives, at how amazing and crazy it is, and try to remember all the little details so we never forget.
I have to give a couple of thank-yous… because while I don’t talk about all the details of our life on this blog (just for brevity’s sake), I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the people who have helped us so much…
I have to give a big shout out to our friend Pam, who flew down from Canada for the month, then changed her flight to a week earlier to accommodate Stella’s early arrival. She took care of Cole the whole time we were in the hospital and it was huge relief to have Cole with someone he knew and really liked.
My friend Shannon also deserves a big thanks for getting a Mexican SIM card so she could be our emergency caretaker for Cole if we went into labor early.
We’d also like to send our condolences to our friends Jen and Randy who also offered to look after Cole, but very tragically lost their two-year old son just two days after Stella was born. They’ve left Mexico and returned to Colorado but they’ve been in our thoughts every day.
And a huge thank you to everyone who has wished us well on this blog or via Facebook, Twitter or email! Thank you! Thank you! We haven’t been able to respond to all the kind notes you’ve sent us, but do know that we’ve read them all and we’re so very touched. Thank you for following along and being part of this crazy journey we’re on.