Warning: some images may be too graphic for some (but not really…just a little bit of blood, nothing out of the ordinary for the birth of a baby).
Technically, March 6th started at midnight…but my husband and I had been frantically packing (last minute—who’s surprised?) the previous day, and then all that day and night once we were home from the preregistration appointment at the hospital. We didn’t get to sleep early; in fact, we finally turned in for the night once the car was mostly packed at about 3:00AM. At 5:30AM, we were awake again, and our son’s birth day began.
It took all of about five minutes—in other words, about the time it took for me to get out of bed, pee, get changed, and return to the bedroom where my husband was—before I started crying. I buried my head in my husband’s shoulder, telling him I was scared, nervous, anxious, excited…too many emotions to handle all at once. I couldn’t stop the crying. It wasn’t hysterical sobbing…just a constant flow of tears. I cried as he got dressed and grabbed my pregnancy pillow to pack in the car, I cried as he ran around grabbing last minute things, I cried as I emptied my purse of anything nonessential. By 6:15AM, we were in the car and on our way to the hospital. I cried the whole way there, too.
When we got to the hospital, I pulled myself together enough to stop crying. Even though I was shaking from head to toe with emotion, I refused to keep crying—I’m not the kind of person who likes to cry in front of people, and if I can control it, I won’t. We left 90% of the things we brought (way too much stuff, by the way) in the car, since we knew we wouldn’t be in the postpartum ward until early afternoon. Up to the maternity floor we went, checking in at the front desk and moving back to triage.
They brought me to Recovery, a large room with four patient areas separated by curtains. I was presented my oh-so-flattering johnny and socks by the nurse assigned to my case; I had worn lucky socks a fellow IFer had sent me the month before (seen in the photo on the right), and was sad when the nurse told me I had to change into the hospital socks with the grips on the bottom for safety. I changed and returned to my area, where my husband and I waited to be monitored. I realized that in all the hustle and bustle earlier that I hadn’t taken a final bump shot, and asked my husband to take one.
The nurse returned and instructed me to lie back on the bed. They put the pulse-ox on my finger and the blood pressure cuff on my arm, then hooked up the NST monitors to check in on baby boy. As with every other NST we’d had, he was not in the least bit cooperative—moving around, kicking the monitors, burrowing deeper into my uterus so the nurse could hardly hear his heartbeat. She ended up having to do what every other nurse had had to do in the past and sit there pressing the monitor to my stomach while she ran through all of the boring and repetitive medical stuff on her computer that I had gone through the morning before.
My IV was placed, fluids started, the registration stuff was done, baby boy behaved long enough for the NST to finish and for me to be unhooked. I met the anesthesiologist and his assistant, the other nurses that would be in the room, my OB’s assistant. My c-section was scheduled for 8:00AM—the time seemed to drag and fly by at the same time.
At about 7:40AM, someone came back into recovery and asked who had the room I was supposed to be going into (I forget what it was called). Since I was the first one scheduled for the day, it was obviously me. The new person then said there was an emergency c-section rolling in at that very moment; we were being pushed back. At this point, one of the nurses asked my husband if he’d eaten yet that day. (This would probably be a good time to mention that my husband pulled into the local gas station on the way to the hospital, thinking he could grab something from the Dunkin’ inside—to which I promptly told him “Hell no!” and asked that he keep on to the hospital, as I was afraid we would be late and was also anxious to just get there.) When he said he hadn’t, the nurse told him to go to the cafeteria and get something since we would be delayed probably a half-hour or so. He changed back into his clothes from the scrubs he’d been given and left to eat.
My OB showed up at around 8:00AM, and I was relieved to see a familiar face. She reassured me that everything was going to go smoothly, asked if I had any questions, and let the nurses know that she would be in the lounge working on charts until the room was clear.
By 8:10AM, I got nervous that my husband wasn’t back yet…and then it dawned on me that my mother and brother’s girlfriend had shown up earlier and would’ve been in the cafeteria. I mentioned to the nurse that he was probably talking with them (I was right, by the way!) and that I hoped he would get back in time. She reassured me that they wouldn’t start without him (although he didn’t return until almost 8:30AM—pain in my ass!—and I could tell she was starting to be concerned about keeping her word). He got back, changed into his scrubs again, sat down next to me, and pulled out his phone to access the list of 19—yes, 19!—names we had picked out for our son. I think we narrowed it down to about 10 (with some help from the nurse…any name I hesitated on for more than a few seconds, she said to nix) before we were given the all clear to head to the OR.
My husband wasn’t allowed in the OR until my spinal had been administered and everything was more or less ready to go, so he stayed behind in the recovery room while they wheeled me into the OR. I was fighting hard against the urge to cry…my entire body was once again shaking. The anesthesiologist (loved him, he honestly kept me sane throughout the entire morning) kept trying to talk to me, keeping the conversation light, and I struggled to maintain my end of it because I could hardly focus on the words I was hearing. The OR itself was bright, white, and cold. They transferred me to the OR table, covered with an inflatable mattress for easy transfer post-surgery (I’ll get to this in a bit, but so cool).
This was the part I was dreading. The spinal. I’d seen enough episodes of ER and Grey’s Anatomy and other TV/movie births to know that epidurals and spinals hurt. I “assumed the position” as best I could. (And I’d like to take a moment and ask, seriously, isn’t there a better way to do this? For crying out loud, my belly was ginormous! And they want me to arch my back “like a cat”?! Yeah, okay, sure, whatever.) They gave me a pillow to hug and the anesthesiologist got to work (wiping my back with betadine, administering the local, and so on). The nurse helped hold me in place, trying to help me in making my body, for the love of god, stop shaking for five seconds. She tried to talk to me, and I tried to talk back, but every time I opened my mouth my voice broke and the tears lept to my eyes. At this point, my OB—bless her—crouched down in front of me (because I was hunched over and staring with terrified determination at the floor) and told me I was doing great. Earlier, before I had assumed the position, I had mentioned that I would be able to use the deep breathing I’d learned in prenatal yoga after all…during the spinal. My OB reminded me of this, and I started. The shaking became less violent, the tears stopped falling, and I tried to clear my mind. My OB told me she’d stay right there in front of me until it was over. She reached out her hand and took mine; I squeezed it with all I had.
The local stung, and then the numbness set in. I couldn’t tell you how long it took for the anesthesiologist to get the spinal done, because it probably seemed longer than it actually was, but holy shit—it felt like forever. Funny thing: the spinal doesn’t hurt, necessarily…not like you’d think a giant needle or whatever it was would. It just doesn’t feel right. I physically felt the needle poking around in my spine, and felt pressure, and it just didn’t feel good. It was probably the second worst part of the whole OR experience.
Before I’d gone in, my OB had told me that everything would move really fast once the spinal kicked in. They would get me onto my back, get my legs up, put up the curtain, the anesthesiologist would test the effect of the Duramorph (morphine) by poking and prodding me, the doctors and nurses would “sound off” (state my name, DOB, reason for surgery, allergies, and so on and so forth), they would prep my belly and get ready all of the surgical tools. She likened it to a NASCAR pit crew. And she was right. The spinal clicked, I felt the warmth in my legs and groin and said so aloud, and down I went.
From here, things move quickly. Moments blur together.
The second my back hit the bed, I held my breath and expected the instant telltale sign of my blood pressure dropping from the sudden onset of the anesthesia—nausea. It never came. The anesthesiologist talked to me over the hustle and bustle as the docs and nurses did, indeed, sound off. The curtain went up. He told me what was happening. What seemed like a few minutes later, I told him I was feeling a smidge nauseous. He’d seen it in my blood pressure already and had administered medicine to help; I felt relief in seconds. A nurse called from the other edge of the bed and told me she’d be inserting the catheter. I winced and hoped I wouldn’t feel it. The numbness spread to my chest and I told myself to relax. The anesthesiologist had mentioned before I would feel like I wasn’t breathing because the morphine would make me unable to feel my own diaphragm moving. I’m still thankful he told me ahead of time, as this freaked me out the most. I remembered what he said: “If you can talk, you can breathe. Also, chances are I’ll know you’re not breathing before you do, because it’s my job.” I focused on breathing, speaking to myself in my head: “Breathe in. Breathe out. Say something out loud. You’re still breathing. You’re okay.”
My husband was brought in, and I knew it was almost time. I asked if the catheter had been put in yet, and the nurse laughed and said it had been done ages ago. I laughed and smiled with relief. I hadn’t even noticed. I told my OB if my son came out 7lbs, I would get up off this table and punch her in the face. She laughed. My husband sat next to me, in his scrubs and cap, and smiled as he took my hand. He asked how I was, I told him I was nervous. He asked if I wanted to go over the baby names, as I had asked him to ask me, and I said I was too nervous. I told him how I felt instead. I told him I was able to use my yoga breathing after all. I told him I loved him. I told him I was ready. I told him it was time.
Again, the anesthesiologist in my ear: They’re already cutting; see, you can’t feel anything painful. You’re going to feel pressure and pulling. (I did.) Are you feeling nauseous again? (I was.) Here’s some more medicine. Shouldn’t be long now. Okay, there’s going to be a lot of pressure here…
The moment Joseph Matthew was born was surreal. My whole body literally felt like it sighed. There was a big amount of pressure—not painful, but forceful—and then a sigh. Like my insides fell back into place. The doctors rejoiced. One of them laughed. Joseph cried. My OB said he was definitely not 7lbs, and she thought easily 10lbs. They held him briefly over the curtain. He was here.
My son was born.
They brought him to the warmer, and called my husband over to see him. From what he tells me, he was so in awe of his baby that the nurse had to remind him to take out his phone for photos. He cut the cord, watched as they took his APGAR (1-minute score—8; 5-minute score—9…couldn’t ask for better numbers than that), and waited until he could bring him over to me. Meanwhile, I was still behind the curtain, dumbstruck over the quick sighting I’d had of my baby. I think one tear escaped, which was strange. I’d always thought I would sob when he was born. Instead, I was overcome with a sense of calm. Of closure. I heard his cry and I knew he was okay. It had really happened. My take-home baby was finally here, safe and sound and screaming his head off.
While I was waiting for my boys to come to my side, my right shoulder started to hurt—I mean, a lot. I mentioned it to the anesthesiologist, scared I could be having a heart attack or stroke or something, and he then told me about this funny thing human bodies have called “referred pain.” The short of it is basically this: my abdomen was cut open, my organs were being shifted and things were going on inside, and my body wasn’t responding to the pain. So my brain sent the pain somewhere else. Nifty, ain’t it? Only, you know…not. (I was prescribed pain reliever to help, which it eventually did.)
My husband brought our baby over, sitting down next to me, and I couldn’t get over how happy I was. How cute he was, how soft his skin was, how sweet his face was…as god-knows-whatever was going on over the curtain on the surgical side of things, I was enveloped in love and bliss and a quite literal high on life as my husband bounced our son on his knee next to me, as his cheek was rested against mine, as I touched his nose and lips and cheek with my fingertips. For several minutes, I’m sure, it was absolutely wonderful. And nothing else mattered in the world.
And then that wore off. The shoulder pain was back. My right arm and hand, which had been strapped down as it was the one with all the monitors on it, was aching as the pregnancy-related carpel tunnel began to act up in a serious way. My head was throbbing, and suddenly the inability to feel myself breathing was making me a little claustrophobic. Certain that the closing up was almost complete, I asked how much longer it would be.
“About fifteen minutes.”
And that right there, ladies and gentlemen, was the worst part of the whole surgery. Those ever-so-slowly crawling final fifteen minutes of stitching me back up. Of trying not to have a panic attack over my numb chest and diaphragm. Of the urge to rip everything and anything off my right arm and hand so I could just move it already. Even the amazing sight of my son beside me was struggling to make the endless minutes on my back worthwhile. (And apparently the bliss was wearing off on my husband, too, as his arms and hands began to ache from holding our son in such an awkward way so that I could be close to him!)
Finally, it was done. I was stitched up and ready to be moved. (By the way, for all the complaining, my OB did an amazing job stitching me up. I’ve googled scars and also saw a friend of mine’s scar several months after the fact and mine looks sooooo much better than all of them!) They inflated the air mattress beneath me, which was quite literally soft as a pillow, and gently moved me from OR table to transfer gurney—I felt like I was floating, it was that smooth and jostle-free. Once the air mattress was deflated, it was finally—finally—time for me to hold my baby, as we were wheeled to recovery.