Hello! This is the first blog post I’ve written since I had my second child, Koda, in mid-December. It’s taken me awhile, because honestly, one’s birth story is an overwhelming thing to write. I do want to share it, though, so I’m just going to jot down everything and hit PUBLISH without worrying if I’m upsetting anyone or over/under sharing.
***I’ll start by saying: If you’ve read my FIRST birth story, written about a year and a half ago after having River, you know that I was (and remain) deathly afraid of childbirth. It is WAY deeper than “yikes–thinking of delivering my baby makes me feel scared.” What I experienced was a crippling case of tokophobia that was driving me into a depressive state and was preventing me from properly bonding with and preparing for my unborn baby. All of this to say: it was and is absolutely the best decision for my family and me that I choose to have babies via c-sections.
I wish that I could say that some people didn’t judge me for my choice, but many did. In addition to a substantial amount of people unfollowing me on Instagram, I received some pretty harsh DMs and emails about my birthing method. I honestly wasn’t even upset by this… I was SHOCKED. I know that especially in the vegan community, natural/unmedicated/home births seem to reign supreme… But to me, judging another woman’s deeply thought out, very personal decision to have her child the way she felt most safe seems odd at best, and, frankly, anti-woman at worst.
Regardless– I’m moving on! Wanted to get that bit out of the way, but Koda deserves his own story 🙂
After what felt like a 5 year pregnancy (a sentiment which is most likely the result of having two children so close in age– I truly feel like I’ve been pregnant or nursing for YEARS now without a break), it was December 11th. The day before “KODA DAY!”
First off, here is a brief summary of how we prepped (skip this part and scroll down if you only want the birth story):
- River was ready. We had a bag full of toys, books, pjs, snacks, and essentials for River. In case you missed it– Matt and I made the decision to have our 18 month old, River, with us at the hospital for the 4 days/3 nights following delivery. Unorthodox, I know. And a lot of people have asked:
- WHY?? A) Matt and I have always been the type to take our kid everywhere with us. Maybe we are weirdos, but we like it! Team Tranchin! In the year and a half he has been alive, River has been with me on every trip we’ve been on (12 major cities, both in and out of the US), including my best friend’s bachelorette party and multiple FashionVeggie press trips with brands; he’s been with us on our date nights and the majority of my work meetings… you get it So it felt really weird and unnatural to think that he wouldn’t be with us during such a life-altering time where we are adjusting to and welcoming a new baby, his brother. B) River has never spent the night away from us, and I felt that it would possibly be too jarring if his first time away from us overnight would be for 3 nights in a row, and then he’d come home to a whole new freaking kid in the house. It just felt like way too much to throw at him. C) I know myself, and I am very emotionally impacted by hormonal fluctuations. Right after you have a baby and begin breastfeeding, your hormones go absolutely HAYWIRE! I knew that if River weren’t with me, I would likely be super sad and anxious, and maybe even have some feelings of “who the heck is this new baby, and where is my River?!?” I wanted this time to be as purely joyful, stress-free, and special as possible, and for us, that meant having Riv with us in the hospital for a slumber party! His grandparents were a huge help- they came to see us every day and would take Riv on walks around the hospital, to the cafeteria, etc. etc.
- BUT WHERE WOULD HE SLEEP??? To put it simply… In the bathroom! This is what we do when we travel to NYC and stay in teeny tiny hotel rooms, and it actually works out beautifully. Its very dark in there, which obviously is great for his sleep. Plus, I figured that having him in our bathroom would motivate me to walk down the hall on night one to use the public restroom. After much research, our travel crib of choice is this one by Baby Bjorn. It packs into a little bag so you can travel anywhere with it, and LITERALLY (we’ve timed it) Matt can assemble and disassemble it in under a minute and a half!!! WE LOVE IT. Great purchase. We bring along his white noise maker, which echoes in the bathroom, and VOILA: he’s asleep immediately and slept 14-15 hours straight while we were there, plus naps! (If you weren’t blessed with a toddler who likes to sleep– you probably hate me right now. I’m sorry. I didn’t have any tips for you, I seriously think it just depends on the baby and is simply luck of the draw.)
- We were ready! We of course packed the essentials– comfy pjs, slippers, toiletries, etc… But we also:
- Made a playlist for the operating room
- Packed a whole season of Killing Eve DVDs (tip: call ahead and ask your maternity ward what their tech set up is in the rooms!)
- Packed vegan snacks like granola bars and fruit. We also brought bread and peanut butter and jelly for us and for River.
- Packed a Polaroid camera to take pics of baby with family
- We had the dog sitter booked and ready to arrive first thing in the morning
- We had 2 huge baskets filled with goodies (cans of cold brew, gum, candy, fruit, cookies, vegan protein drinks) to give to the nurses; one for the day crew, and one for the night crew! Stationary affixed to the front of the basket had a note from us, with our room number on it. In addition to being a sweet thing to do for the people who take care of you at such a delicate time, it ensures that you’ll be treated extra kindly!
OK, THIS IS HOW IT WENT DOWN:
We had a great big feast the night before “Koda Day”… vegan grilled cheese sandwiches, milkshakes, nachos, the works. We went to bed around 11, and I woke up at 4:30 am with contractions. No big deal, I thought, as they weren’t super close together and regular. But by 6am, when Matt’s parents arrived at the house (they had kindly agreed to watch River while we were in surgery), I was bending over, moaning, and pretty confident that I was in actual labor. Matt missed a turn on the way to the hospital and I could have killed him. We made it to the hospital at 7am, and they hooked me up to a monitor to watch the contractions and make sure I could make it to my 9am surgery without giving birth on my own (which, please keep in mind, is an INCREDIBLY terrifying concept for me!) Matt was keeping me calm, and the super sweet, very “crunchy” nurse assigned to me was telling me to “lean into it” and “honor your body” in a zen yoga instructor-y voice. I kept saying “Ok YES I am honoring my body but please don’t let me have this baby on my own!!!” Poor Matt looked VERY concerned. Finally, it was time for surgery! It was happening!
They wheeled me into the OR, and they turned me onto my side for the epidural, which last time had not been painful at all. Unfortunately, this time was a different story. The anesthesiologist made 3 failed attempts at “getting it right” before finally hitting the right spot. Those first 3 attempts were a little painful, but more so just FREAKY– it pinched, and felt like a bolt of electricity shot down my whole body each time! Because it was so different from my first time getting an epidural, it scared me, and I started crying. The anesthesiologist seemed super defensive and annoyed at my fearfulness (I think he was embarrassed that he was having such a hard time in front of his colleagues), and I’m thankful that Matt was able to hold his tongue in the name of not having a dramatic issue in the OR right before having a baby! Regardless– the 4th time was the charm, and I was numb. The curtain went up to block our view of the operation, Matt put our tunes on, and that’s when I got VERY VERY SLEEPY. Much sleepier than last time… I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open while on the operating table! I looked at Matt and said “I need you to make sure that I stay awake for the whole surgery, babe. I’m falling asleep.” So Matt started asking me questions about what I thought he was going to be like, what he was going to look like, how River was going to react when they met each other. He made silly faces at me and sang along goofily to our playlist. Our doctor kept giving us updates, letting us know that everything looked great and the surgery was going well. I didn’t feel the intense chest pressure and tugging like I had with River… The actual surgery seemed much quicker and smoother, I really felt nothing at all. After a couple of minutes, at the exact moment that Cake’s version of “I Will Survive” came through the speakers, my doctor said, ok, this is it, are you ready?! Matt and I looked at each other and said YES!!! And… A mighty cry. They lifted him up for us to see him and… in my drug-addled state, all I could think is that he looked JUST like River! He was a few ounces heavier than Riv had been, and was a little longer, but Matt and I realized in that moment that together, he and I make a very specific-looking child. I felt really happy and calm and peaceful. They brought Koda over to a nearby table to give him a quick test and wipe him off just a tiny bit, and Matt asked if he could go over and be with him. I said OF COURSE! Matt went over to Koda for a couple of minutes, and then brought him to me and placed him on my chest. I felt a little bit different this time around, staring at this new little baby. I didn’t feel any fear or doubt, and I immediately felt a sense of loving him– because this time around, after going through the past year and half, falling more and more deeply in love with River with each passing day– I KNEW what Koda would become to us. How big this was, how I was about to watch his soul come to life in the coming months and years, how I would do anything to protect him.
We stayed like that for awhile– Matt, Koda, and me, huddled together and wondering at his little fingers and toes and nose– until they wheeled us into recovery. Koda immediately started suckling, which was different from River, and then fell asleep on my chest. I had the hardest time keeping my eyes open, but I wanted to be there for Matt– to chat with him and marvel at all of this– so I forced myself awake, and I laid there holding his hand with our new babe on my chest. Koda’s hair was so soft and downy, it felt like a teddy bear.
After about 2 hours, they wheeled us upstairs and our family was waiting for us. In with them, Matt’s parents brought River, the two big thank you baskets for the nurses, River’s little bumbo seat for mealtimes, and River’s travel crib. While the grandparents met River (and fed poor Matt, who now hadn’t eaten since 6am… neither had I, but I had no desire to eat post-op), I examined River to see how he seemed to be handling it all. Honestly, he seemed blissfully unaware. I think that it probably depends on the maturity of your specific child, but I think 18 months was the exact sweet spot for us where he had no jealousy or even capacity to understand at all what was going on. He just played on the floor and on laps and occasionally looked over at Koda but didn’t seem to register anything at all, even curiosity. Matt held River up to look at Koda at one point, and River seemed to think… “what even is this?” It was funny, but I of course hoped that it would pass (6 weeks later, he is curious and even affectionate sometimes, but I still don’t think he understands what is going on, really!). My mom took River for a walk down the hall and then Matt’s parents took him downstairs to look at a cool statue in the lobby… and then it was 5pm, time for him to go to bed! They brought him back upstairs and we changed him into pjs, kissed him, and put him in the bathroom for night night. Matt dimmed the lights and turned on Killing Eve for us to watch, and crawled into my tiny little hospital bed with me. Predictably, I immediately passed out. We were woken up by a nurse around maybe 8pm. She said it was time to take my catheter out, and that she wanted me to try and walk. This is where things got weird. Last time around, getting up to walk and go to the bathroom for the first time was BY FAR the most painful part of my post-op experience. This time, I slung my legs over the side of the bed, basically hopped up, and said “ok let’s go.” The nurses and Matt were all visibly startled. We walked down the hall at, honestly, a decently quick pace, I went to the bathroom (since River was in our in-room bathroom, we used the public one down the hall), and then got back into bed. The nurses said they were stunned and had very rarely seen someone behave that way a few hours after major surgery. They brought Koda in from the nursery (like we did with River, we had them watching over Koda in the nursery and bring him to us every couple of hours for feedings) and I breastfed him (MUCH LESS PAINFUL this second time around) and then we did “skin to skin” snuggling with him in bed while watching our show. One of my friends sent dinner to our room via Grub Hub, so Matt and I ate, snuggled with each other and Koda some more, and fell asleep.
The next day, I was in pain. I think the night before had been a fluke– the pain meds working overtime– but at this point, I was feeling pretty sore. Still, I was able to walk around and even pick up River in all his chunky, 30 pound glory. Which I should mention– don’t be like me, don’t do that. It really is ill advised, but I couldn’t help myself. Anyway– The hospital sent us a “vegan breakfast”… which was a piece of bread. After we had a good laugh about that, Matt called down to the kitchen and reminded them that last time we were here, we had several vegan options to choose from, and they said they’d send another vegan meal up right away. It arrived and I was so so so excited… It was toast with jam, fresh fruit with oatmeal, and OMG even vegan bacon!!!!! I put it on my instagram stories to show what a vegan hospital meal looked like. A bunch of my IG friends immediately responded with “Don’t eat that!!!!! That looks real!!!” I had Matt try a tiny little bite, and the moment I saw his face I knew it was real bacon. Even though he hadn’t had animal bacon in years, he said there’s a noticeable difference in texture vs. vegan bacon. We called downstairs AGAIN (I’m sure they LOVED US), and Matt asked to speak to the manager. Basically– it was real bacon, put on a vegan meal tray, and no one knew why. I had a bunch of IG followers tell me that they had the same thing happen to them when they were staying at my hospital (Baylor, in downtown Dallas. Aside from the food issues, I would highly recommend them!), so I honestly have no idea what the disconnect is, and why they put bacon on vegan meals. Usually I would have gone downstairs and helped them figure it out and put an end to it once and for all, but I was obviously in no state to do so, and I also didn’t want the entire hospital staff to dislike me for being a pain, so I decided to table that issue until later.
For the duration of the time at the hospital, we got to know Koda, fed Koda, saw family and hung out a bunch with River, got amazing meals sent to us by thoughtful friends living all over the country, took the dang pain meds, slept, watched Killing Eve, repeat. It was like a fun vacation plus a sweet new baby and some soreness, honestly. Like last time, we really loved our experience and look back on it with a really warm and fuzzy feeling– and having River there with us made it all the more special. When it was time to go, I was genuinely sad to leave some of the nurses (they loved us because of the thank you baskets and because River had kept them entertained for a few days).
I love my family of boys, and I loved my birthing experience. I hope everyone knows that the way that they choose to have a family is very personal to them, and is valid. I get asked a lot if we will have another baby, and the answer is “probably not, but who knows.” STAY TUNED! And thank you for reading!
Molly, Matt, River, and Koda (and the dogs!)