I didn’t have time to be devastated. My intended home birth turned into a ‘non-emergency’ cesarean in about 2 hours. My fluid was very low and the baby was barely responding. So we took some deep breaths and down to the OR we went.
She didn’t come out crying and, through my morphine haze, I could tell there was some concern. But then my baby, wrapped snug in her hospital commissioned blanket, was lying on my arm next to me. I spoke quietly to her and she opened her eyes for the first time.
I held on to that.
She may not have come fluidly into the world from between my legs to rest against my naked, intact belly. I may not have used my hands to help her out of my body and into the world. I didn’t even get to feel my womb tighten around her little body as she resided safely inside. But I was the first person she laid eyes on.
And I held onto that.
I spent most of the next few days in the hospital just trying to feed my baby. My first had nursed so well, but this one wouldn’t, or couldn’t nurse, and she just kept falling asleep. I tried nipple shields, special spoons, finger feeding and syringes. My milk came in and I thought she had finally caught on. She gained some ounces and they let us go home.
My baby was so small…so quiet…so weak…so tired. My oldest daughter would rub her feet while she attempted nursing to try and keep her awake. My partner and I tried to understand the reasons; because of the cesarean she wasn’t in her body yet, perhaps my due date was wrong and she was younger than we had thought, maybe she just wasn’t getting enough food to begin with. Every day she lost more weight.
I held her, naked, to my chest, for most of the first few weeks. I slept that way. I was trying to feed her soul with my touch, to awaken her to this world. She slept most of this time, as most newborns do. But there were times that she slept so deeply it took moments of jostling to wake her. I would wake in terror in the middle of the night; afraid she had passed with out my knowing. The times when I was awake I could feel a subtle shift in her being, as if she was slowly just letting go. Those were the scariest moments.
The last moment I remember; I was home alone. Baby was sleeping against my chest as I wandered around the house. Then I could feel it; that slow retreat; the silent, backwards stepping out of a room so as not to disturb those in it. I could feel her spirit trying to quietly remove itself from that body.
But I held on.
I sang to her. I called to her. I jostled and cajoled her. I sobbed and pleaded and frantically paced the hall as each passing moment found her still asleep. Finally, her little body stirred against mine and she fluttered open her eyes. The day was November 1, Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead. I decided then and there that my baby needed a name. She needed a name to let her know that she was in this world now. That she was wanted. A name that I could call to her to bring her back if she tried again to leave.
I would not sleep until she had a name. I could not sleep lest her spirit decide to take flight from her nameless body. We spent hours trying on names but could not find one to fit. We knew her middle name would be Jude, in honor of ‘Hey Jude’ having been played in the OR during her birth. I fell asleep somewhat consoled, with Baby Jude on my chest.
The next morning I woke feeling hopeful. Baby Jude was still with us and had even lost her umbilical cord in the night; to my anxiety ridden consciousness it was a testament to her commitment in remaining with us. That day she got her name.
Freya. The Norse Goddess of love, beauty, fertility, death and war who reigns over her own field in the afterlife, accepting those who do not go to Valhalla.
Freya Jude…a Viking Goddess and a song of comfort.