Because I had some major GI surgery for my ulcerative colitis, delivering vaginally was not recommended. Some people who have had my surgery do ok with it, but months or years down the road end up incontinent, which wasn’t really a risk I wanted to take. I’ve had surgery, I knew I could deal with that; dealing with incontinence, not so much.
Because of my previous surgery and my age (would be 40 when I delivered), I was considered high-risk. I not only had a high-risk OB but had a colo-rectal surgeon assisting with the surgery just in case anything went wrong with my abbreviated plumbing from the earlier surgery.
I had visions of trying to be very Zen about the surgery; that this was the date my baby would come into the world and that I should look forward to it, but as the date grew closer I just felt nervous and scared. What if I died on the table? What if the spinal paralyzed me? What if I was so incapacitated afterwards I couldn’t bond with or care for my baby for weeks? What if something went wrong and I ended up with a bag the rest of my life? It was hard to focus on it being a good thing, and hard to focus on the baby and not on myself. I felt selfish for being worried about ME, but I couldn’t help how I felt.
The morning of the surgery, we were escorted to a comfortable room and the nurse took vitals and went through a long series of questions; health history, do you have a living will, what do you want or not want to happen procedurally (e.g. will Dad cut the cord? NO.), etc. Because this was a scheduled C, I was going to have a spinal and not an epidural. I would be taken in and given the spinal first, and then they would come back and get DH and proceed with the section.
Due to my high-risk status and previous surgeries and everything, my C was something of an event that day. They asked me if I would mind having different people observe and I said no problem, and it ended up being a ton of people. I had THREE anesthetists. They were setting up 3 sets of instruments and going through and counting them when I walked into the OR. If you’ve never had surgery, or been awake when in an operating room, let me tell you what it’s like – imagine wearing a paper napkin and walking into a deep-freeze cooler, the kind that they keep frozen foods inside at a restaurant. Then imagine like 25 people in masks and gowns in the freezer, and light so bright that you’re squinting, and you’ll be getting close. They walked me over to the “table” and told me to “hop on.” Ok, first off, women who are 9 months pregnant do not HOP anywhere. Secondly, the table is about the width of a cracker, I swear. It’s like a long, Club cracker and they want you to get up on it and not roll off. Amazing. So the nurse who was escorting me walked me in and I immediately grabbed her hand in a panic. She led me over to the table and helped me get on, and then helped me get into the position to receive the spinal, which is NOT FUN and even MORE NOT FUN with a giant pregnant belly – sitting up on the table with your legs hanging over the side and you slumped forward with your head down as much as you can stand it, and now DON’T MOVE. I just sat there holding the nurse’s hand and she told me I could squeeze her as hard as I wanted and I squeezed pretty hard, and was sitting there crying. Thankfully, it was over relatively quickly and went completely without incident, and the next thing I knew they were laying me down and putting up a drape just below my neck. They put my arms out straight at my sides so now you feel really weird because you’re laying there like Christ on the cross, hoping you don’t fall off the table because you can’t really feel it anymore because your legs feel like lead. Meanwhile, I can feel that they’ve started rubbing me with Betadyne and draping my stomach, so I asked the anesthetist where my husband was, and she said they were getting him. Then I felt some weird stuff and asked what was happening and she said, “They’ve started already.” and I was like !!?! I heard the doctor say the baby would be out in just a few minutes and I was like, “WHERE IS MY HUSBAND?!” and the anesthetist yelled at this nurse, “Somebody needs to go get her husband, NOW.” I think what happened in retrospect is that when they took me in for the spinal, he thought it would be a few minutes so he stepped into the lobby to tell my Mom that we were getting started now, and when they went to get him, he wasn’t there. But when they came back a 2nd time, he was there and they rushed him in, apparently in full view of my now open, bloody stomach. He quickly looked away and let them lead him up to my head where he sat down on a little stool next to me and stroked my arm and face. He tried to hold my hand but it had the IV in it and I couldn’t hold his back.
He wasn’t in there 2 minutes and they were like, “Do you have a camera ready?” and I was like, “for what?” and they said, “THE BABY, he’s coming out NOW.” I was just completely out of it but DH was on the ball. I remember them saying, “Ready, here he comes!” and then I felt this horrible tearing and pulling and then I heard this really wet “WAA, WAA, WAA, WAA!” BANG, from the other side of the drape comes this bloody, squirming baby, the nurse was holding him up and SNAP, DH got the picture, then they whisked him away to the other side of the OR to clean him up and suction his lungs (C-section babies do not go through labor so they have some liquid in their lungs that would have otherwise come out through the laboring process). But I could hear him crying good and strong and tears of relief just ran down my face. When I saw him, I quickly took this picture in my mind – toes, fingers, proportion, everything looks great. I will never forget that snapshot, my mind took one that will last a lot longer than the one the camera took.
Meanwhile, they are continuing my surgery. Now comes the GI surgeon, and together, he and the OB took out some organs and were exploring how things looked and removing some old scar tissue. I was just lying there listening to my son scream and feeling pretty glad about it. I whispered to the anesthesiologist, “What’s the APGAR?” and she yelled out, “MOM WANTS TO KNOW THE APGAR!” “9!” they yelled back. WOOOO!!!! At this point, I remember thinking, ok, if I have to die now, I can. Baby is ok and DH can take care of him if he has to.
They cleaned up the baby and brought him over all swaddled up to DH and the nurses took the camera and took a couple of pictures. I remember him leaning way over and trying to show me the Fry but I was just like moaning and not with it. I remember waving him away and saying, “I can’t right now, you have to take care of him” and seeing him gently bouncing him up and down. Meanwhile, I started to feel really pukey and I whispered to the anesthesia chick that I was feeling really sick. I pictured throwing up into my mouth and choking on it, tied down like I was. “Feeling sick here,” I managed to whisper, and the chick was like, “Ok, we’re going to take care of it, hang on,” and then she was talking to the other 2 and meanwhile, I’m now sweating and feeling really awful. I remember hearing someone say how low my BP was and that’s why I felt sick and then I really, really felt sick and I said, a little louder, “I’m feeling REALLY sick here, can you help?” and finally they did something and immediately I felt better.
I was asking repeatedly how the surgery was going and the anethesia chick was doing her best to keep me posted. Now they’re doing this, now they’re checking that. Finally, I heard the two doctors talking about the one guy’s wife, who is also a doctor, and where she went to medical school and oh yeah, I’ve been there, that’s x/y/z and I knew I was ok, because once they start talking about casual stuff, the patient is out of the woods. The doc said something about staples and I whispered up to the anesthesia chick, “no staples, I have a nickel/metal allergy,” and she’ s like “MOM SAYS NO STAPLES, SHE’S ALLERGIC TO NICKEL, IT’S IN HER CHART HERE!” and I heard my OB go, “No staples, RNR?” I’m like, “NO, no staples.” Ok RNR, we will sew you then, ok?” “Ok” I said, and then he said he was going to get his assitant to do it, she does a great job closing. I remember him stepping up to my head and saying that there was a slight brusing on my bladder but he thinks it’s nothing, still, he was going to stick around for awhile to monitor me in post-op before leaving (he was going out of town). I remember the assistant closing me and it seemed like it took forever and thinking that was good, because it meant she was being careful and taking really small stitches.
I don’t remember being taken to post-op recovery at all. I remember being in there and thinking, I’m supposed to try nursing right now, but I just couldn’t figure out how I was supposed to do that, I just felt sick and exhausted. I remember them squeezing 3 bags of Pitocin into me in rapid fashion and thinking, “that’s going to HURT,” but it didn’t because the spinal was still active – that was to make the uterus contract and quit bleeding.
I remember my Mom and DH being there, and the baby being brought to me briefly and me taking a picture of him with my phone and texting my sister the picture with his name, but I don’t remember much else. I remember the girl in the curtain next to me seemed really sick and she didn’t have a baby, and wondering if her baby died or if they were just keeping it away because she wasn’t well. But then they were talking about her going home, which was weird, because even if it did die, wouldn’t they at least keep you overnight for observation after delivering? No idea what went on there.
I remember them asking me what drugs I wanted post-operatively, was Percocet ok and I was like no, I don’t want anything. And they’re like, you HAVE to take something, you’re going to be in a lot of pain. We finally agreed on xtra strength Tylenol and a drug called Toredol, which is an NSAID like Advil. They thought I was nuts.
They took me to my room, which I remember thinking was really nice and comfortable and that I was glad I delivered at this place since it was a pretty nice birthing center. Unfortunately, between the spinal and the awful hospital bed, my back got completely thrown out of whack and I was in excruciating back pain the whole time I was in the hospital. My back hurt way worse than my incision ever did, except for the day after the surgery when I threw up (OW!). I was just in agony. By the 2nd day there was almost no way I could sit or lay anywhere in the room where I wasn’t in excruciating pain. It was impossible for me to pick up the baby from the bassinet, let alone lay back with him to try to nurse, so people had to hand him to me.
My milk didn’t come in the whole time I was there, which was 5 days, counting the day of surgery. The baby lost so much weight they were threatening me with starving him if I didn’t let them give him some formula. I tried to hand express some colostrum, but all in all I maybe got a teaspoon into him per day and it was just not enough. I felt really guilty for starving him and really worried about him. He was really sleepy and would not latch on. The lac consultants kept saying he’ll latch when there’s milk, but I couldn’t get the milk to come without him sucking, so it was a bad, vicious circle. Finally, another lac consultant said we either have to give him some formula or we can bring you a pump and you can try to pump out some colostrom. WHY DIDN’T ANYONE OFFER THIS BEFORE? I didn’t even know you COULD pump until there was actually milk there, it never dawned on me to ask for a pump to help activate things. If it had, perhaps I wouldn’t have had to stay so long (they wouldn’t release me and the baby with the baby losing weight).
Pump was brought and blammo, plenty of colostrom. I fed it to him in a bottle, he gained an ounce and they let us go home.