Grace Elizabeth Welsien was born at 8:38 am on Thursday, February 26, 2009 at The Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya. She weighed 3.3 kg (about 7 lbs. 3 oz.) and was 50 cm long (about 20 inches). Grace, the baby formerly known as Simba, is beautiful and perfect in every way; we fell madly in love with our daughter from the moment she was born. Even though most people thought we were having a boy - Kristoffer included - we are so, so happy that it was Grace growing inside me the whole time :)
Wednesday night we checked into the hospital around 9 pm. I had blood tests and an EKG and was visited by both my obstetrician and my anesthesiologist; we were very anxious for the morning to come. They came to get us around 7 am for my 7:45 surgery and we were definitely ready for Simba to arrive.
Kristoffer got changed into his “scrubs” (blue doctor’s clothes) and I was prepped for the operation. The spinal block, which I had before for my 1993 knee surgery, was just as I remembered it. It is definitely a strange sensation to lose feeling in the lower half of your body over the course of a few minutes. Before we knew it, we were behind a draped curtain with the anesthesiologist on our side, and my obstetrician and Grace’s pediatrician were on the other side beginning the surgery.
Kristoffer was holding my hand and we were talking to each other; I was also saying the Hail Mary (as I had been doing all morning) alternately to myself and aloud. A C-Section is an interesting surgery because while I couldn’t feel any pain, I could feel a lot of pushing/pulling/tugging as the doctor operated on me. Very weird! After about 10 minutes they started to indicate that the baby was coming out. Normally the anesthesiologist would push down from my upper abdomen but my doctor asked her not to; as it turned out the baby was in a very bad position and needed to be removed in an extremely delicate manner. Kristoffer started to peak on the other side of the curtain and said, “I can see a leg!” and just as I prayed, “Hail Mary, full of Grace…” the doctor said, “It’s a girl!”
As it turned out, she had been folded up in a “U” position with her bum down and her feet up by her head; additionally, the placenta was wrapped around her neck. All we can say is thank God that we opted for the C-Section because if I had gone into natural labor and had tried to deliver her there would have been complications even more serious than we feared.
When Grace came out, she was totally blue/purple. The pediatrician and nurses instantly brought her to the room next door with Kristoffer following closely behind; I still had at least 45 minutes of surgery left in front of me. Grace didn’t cry right away…it took almost a minute for them to clear her lungs and for her to cry out. Believe me when I say it was the longest minute of my life and when she did finally cry I thought it was the greatest sound I had ever heard.
After the doctor checked her out and assured Kristoffer that she was perfectly healthy, Kristoffer was alone with Grace for the first 90 minutes to 2 hours of her life. They really bonded in this time and it is still very clear that she knows her father! Sadly for me, I only got a small peak at her face once while I was still being operated on, and then I had to wait almost two hours for them to finish up, bring me to recovery and then eventually to the maternity ward so I could see my husband and daughter. I just kept saying, “Let me see my baby….I want to see my baby!”
Since then, we have had a wonderful four days with Grace. Several of our friends and colleagues visited us while we were in the hospital, which we loved, and we were also very grateful for time alone as a family of three. It took three days for my milk to come in so Grace had to receive a little bit of formula supplement until I could nurse. But let me tell you, since it has come in she is eating like a champ and I truly love nursing her! She is also a good and regular sleeper, as most newborns are.
Kristoffer and I have had a few moments of parental panic and sadness so far, particularly when Grace received vaccinations for tuberculosis, polio, and hepatitis B (hep B is a very painful shot!). Grace stopped crying after only a few minutes (if that), but I didn’t stop for nearly twenty more minutes. It was very traumatic! My hormones are certainly raging and I admit that when I am holding Grace and looking at her or feeding her, I often just start crying because I am so happy and because I am so overcome with love for her.
We were finally able to come home from the hospital this afternoon (Monday) after I had two really good days of nursing Grace, recovering from my surgery, and after Grace was cleared to go home despite a little bit of jaundice. The doctors at the hospital were wonderful throughout, our accommodations at the hospital were rather hotel-like (food was pretty good…but after 5 days we were ready to GO!), and there were a few nurses who we thought were really outstanding with all three of us. All in all, we had an excellent experience having a baby in Nairobi!
We have quite a few videos and pictures that we would like to share, but we are also getting adjusted to our new life here and my parents will arrive tomorrow morning (their flight from Boston was delayed due to a snowstorm and they missed their connection in London so they will not arrive tonight – sadly!). We are very, very grateful for everyone’s emails, phone calls, and text messages and we promise to respond and share as much as we can of our little girl as soon as we can. Thank you for all of your best wishes – Grace is a lucky little baby to have such a supportive and loving network of family and friends throughout the world welcoming her home. Below is just a sample of what the last five days have been like for us:
Grace and Mama on Day 2:
Grace is all ready to come home from the hospital:
Grace and Far are sleepy tonight:
We feel nothing short of completely blessed to have a healthy, beautiful, amazing daughter. She is a miracle and her birth is, by far, the greatest thing that has ever happened to us!
p.s. While watching episodes of Seinfeld on our laptop in the hospital, we discovered that laughter is NOT the best medicine when you are recovering from a C-section (along with sneezing, coughing, and blowing my nose, which all aggravate my pain)!