Throughout my pregnancy, I refused to even say the words “cesarean section” let alone actually consider the possibility of having one. To me, that was just about the furthest thing from what I wanted. As someone who had never been a patient in a hospital before and really, never experienced much worse than a broken finger, I just could not get over the idea of someone cutting me open and stealing my baby out of me. Stealing my childbirth experience. Preventing my baby from receiving the benefits of a natural childbirth. Preventing my baby and I from sharing those first minutes of skin-to-skin time.
With that said, I have to admit, when we were discussing a c-section and finally agreed upon it as the next step, I barely felt an ounce of anxiety surrounding the surgery. My only concern was the skin-to-skin time, which unfortunately, I was told was not a possibility. However, the nurse agreed to bring the baby up to my face so I could kiss her and meet her. So, how did that anxiety magically disappear? I’d say 20 some hours of crazy ass labor and the fact that the contractions and pain were still very much a battle until I received the spinal. The only anxiety I could hold onto was the worry that I would contract as they were putting a needle in my spine.
The plan was for me to go in with a nurse, the anesthesiologist, my doc and maybe a couple others and that once I had the spinal, Mark would be allowed in. He was worried about me. He held onto me and said, “Don’t worry. If you get scared, just look at Sarah. She’ll be in there with you.” Me: “Who’s Sarah?” Mark: “She’s the nurse who has been with us for the past 12 hours…” (as he points at her.)
I literally did not recognize her at all. My eyes had been shut for a solid 15-20 hours. I think MAYBE I opened them 5 times, very briefly, during the entire experience. Sorry, Sarah. (Honestly, I don’t even remember if that was her name??)
Anyway, I survived the spinal and was finally able to relax a little. However, the anesthesia was making me very shakey. It was as if I was freezing. My entire body was quivering uncontrollably. They assured me this was normal. Then, Mark was by my side.
They strapped my arms down to the table so they made a “T” with my body. Thinking back, I’m surprised this didn’t make me uncomfortable. Somehow, I just wasn’t able to think of anything but my baby. This was it. The pain had finally stopped and I was going to meet my girl.
Now, we had skipped the class about C-Sections and I truly didn’t really know what to expect. The doctors started the surgery and everything seemed to be going fine. Then, there was a ton of movement. My whole body was moving and it felt like a lot of pressure and tugging. At one point, the entire table moved, at which point I heard my doctor snap at someone to lock the table down.
Things started to seem as if they weren’t going well. I heard them discussing options. Let’s try to dislodge the head by pushing up from the vagina. (I was so zoned that somehow this didn’t send me into a panic. I just looked at Mark and he seemed calm, so I stayed calm). Somebody step in, I need backup! Let’s try pulling her by her leg!
So much was going on and it felt as if it had been hours.
After what felt like a long while, she was finally out… but there was no crying. I instantly became alarmed. I started asking “everyone” why she wasn’t crying. (Mark informed me that while it felt like I was asking many people, I just kept asking the anesthesiologist who would walk out and back into my view.)
They took Charlotte to a table behind me. I was desperately trying to look over my shoulder to see what was going on, but couldn’t see. I’d look at Mark, he just kept saying everything was okay.
I swear it felt like 20 minutes, but finally, I heard her. Her sweet cry. I was so excited! I kept saying, “she’s crying!” After however many more minutes, they brought her over to us. We kissed her face. It was totally unreal. They said that they had to clean her up and take her to the NICU. I clearly was not fully understanding the severity of the situation, because I asked them to bring her back over before they took her to the NICU. Mark said that they had to take her right to the NICU. We would see her after. Then, he told me that he was going to stay with me instead of going with Charlotte to the nursery as we had planned.
I was still so incapable of actually thinking through things, I agreed and said that he’d go there after. The doctors continued to put me back together for the next hour. Then, finally it was over.
The room looked like a total blood bath. There was this weird hanging organizer that looked like one of those over the door shoe racks. Each clear pocket was filled with what the doctor informed me was bloody gauze. Gross.
I was wheeled back to my room where we were informed that I would have to stay for the next couple hours. Charlotte was in the NICU. I was in my room. I started to freak out. Through tears I begged my doctor to just wheel me over to the NICU so I could be with my baby. It was pretty heartbreaking. Not only were we not able to have our skin-to-skin moment, but I wasn’t even able to be with her. It was so crazy to me. I had experienced nearly 43 weeks of pregnancy; this crazy, intense, unimaginable labor; a VERY intense surgery… and now, I was supposed to just sit in an empty room? Charlotte was born at 5:17 am and at this point, it was around 6:30.
They said they’d come back at 8, but I would need to be able to get up for them to take me there. Of course, I immediately start hitting my legs in attempt to get feeling back.
I sent Mark to the nursery and I stayed with our doula-in-training, Jennisee. It was really helpful to have her there. In the moment, she was driving me nuts because she kept talking about stupid stuff that I had no interest in (aka: it wasn’t about the baby I had just birthed), but in hindsight, it kept me distracted.
Once Marky got settled in the NICU, I was able to FaceTime with my sweet girl. Mark took the iPad and put it in her NICU bassinet and I used my phone. Talk about an Apple commercial waiting to happen.
Finally by around 8:30, I was cleared to go see her. Yes, just 3.5 hours after major abdominal surgery I was walking. Crazy what a little motivation will do to a person.
We spent the next 1.5 hours in the NICU with our girl. The lactation specialist came by and using a little colostrom that I had pumped while trying to induce labor, I was able to get my sweet little princess to latch (we dripped some colostrom onto my nipple). It only took 15 minutes of trying and from then on, she was a pro. We got our skin-to-skin time. I kissed her face and her fingers and her toes. Everything was so quiet. Just Marky, Charlotte and I. It was what I had been longing for for the past 10+ months.
Finally, we were all together.
So, it turned out that our sweet girl was stuck in my pelvis. Typically, it takes 30 seconds to deliver a c-section baby. They simply slip a hand/finger under the baby’s head and deliver head first. However, the tiny lady was stuck. They tried everything to get her out and finally were able to dislodge her by pulling her out by her arm. In fact, once delivered, they x-rayed the arm to make sure there was no damage. Thankfully, none.
It took them 6-10 minutes to deliver her (compared to the average 30 seconds). The trauma of the c-section was a lot for Sweet Charlotte. When she was born, the only thing she had was a heartrate of 50. In anticipation that she would not be breathing, they immediately hooked her to oxygen and began the process of resuccitation. It took them 4 minutes to bring back our girl, and once she was back, she was great. They took tests and monitored her in the NICU, and thankfully, everything was perfect. Our girl is a fighter. Later, our doctor would tell us that our surgery was one of the most difficult she’s experienced in many, many years. They did a little extra cutting on me to get her out, but all in all, it was a great success.
By 10 am, they released Charlotte from the NICU and let us take her back to her room. Finally!
As a whole, our journey was pretty crazy, but when I look back, it somehow still seems beautiful. I was able to experience the craziness of pitocin, the beautiful rhythym of natural/unmedicated labor, and the partnership bond with my amazing husband and my beautiful girl… More importantly, we were staffed with an amazing group of individuals who took care of my baby and me. I wouldn’t change our experience. It is ours and I cherish that.