Fair warning–This is a birth story. There will be discussion of girl parts, bodily fluids, and as it was a c-section–abdominal surgery You have been warned. Non-birth story of Rhiannon’s first days will follow if that’s what you’re interested in.
On October 13th I wrote the post “I’m have a baby…today” in which I explained why the baby had to come about five weeks early (technically 4 weeks and 4 days early); I had developed a potentially dangerous condition called “pre-eclampsia” (older readers may have heard it called “toxemia” as well) which is characterized, among other things by very high blood pressure (mine reached 147/103), protein in the urine, and in my case headaches, sporadic dizziness, and that my abdomen was extremely sore to the touch. We had gone to daily monitoring in an attempt to push the pregnancy as long as we could. At 35 weeks, the baby would be fine, but would still benefit from as much time in the womb as possible….35 weeks is still premature (37 weeks is full term). However, by Thursday it was clear that I had at best another 48 hours before we would have no choice but to take the baby, possibly in an emergency setting. So we elected to have a scheduled c-section that evening to have the best possible outcome for both the baby and myself.
I gave birth to Elanor vaginally. Elanor’s birth included 20 hours of labor, which was a very obvious build to a climax. It was uncertain how much longer from any given point the delivery would take, but there was the clear progression of dilation, and then the pushing.
Contrasting that with a c-section where you are told “you’ll go into the operating room at 5, and the baby will be out by 5:15/5:30” is somewhat surreal. I was told around 11am that I would have a baby in six hours. Six hours, no labor.
My condition was stable enough that I could go home for a few hours to organize a few things, recheck my hospital bag, and wrap up loose ends before reporting back to the hospital at 2:30pm.
This pregnancy was characterized by weight loss, not gain, and I had not felt as though I looked pregnant. Subsequently I had next to no pictures of me looking pregnant, or that emphasized/showed off my pregnant figure. So my first priority upon getting home was taking just a few so that I would have something to show Rhiannon when she was bigger.
After taking the pictures (which also ensured that I knew the camera had a working SD card, and a fully charged battery in it) I reviewed my hospital bag, adding and subtracting as I went. For example, I had packed both newborn and 0-3 month size clothing, unsure of how big Rhiannon would actually be. Knowing she’d be a preemie and small, I didn’t bother with the “bigger” sized clothing.
I tried to cuddle with Elanor for a bit of time, and to explain to her that I was going to the hospital to have the baby. She was more interested in whether or not she’d be allowed to watch another episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse than our conversation.
At about 2/2:30pm, Ravi and I headed to the hospital. We spent about 10 minutes doing insurance/admission paperwork, and then we were escorted to a room.
I was very confused by the room we were escorted to. The maternity floors are two specific floors and I was escorted to neither of them. So at first I thought I was in a staging room of some kind. We passed a sign that said “VIP Suites” and I became even more confused. What we eventually learned was that the single room type I’d booked had been unavailable and rather than downgrade me to a multi-person room, I’d been moved to the next level of room type-an “executive” room.
The room was your basic hotel room, minus the desk and with a hospital bed. High quality window treatments, nice HD tv with blu-ray player, fridge and safe in the room, large bathroom with a hairdryer…that sort of thing. It was certainly physically a beautiful room, but eventually I would come to realize that not being on the maternity floor would come with some major drawbacks (but that’s not part of the birth story).
Several nurses came in and we walked through my medical history several times. I got my bracelets, changed into a hospital gown, and did a lot of “hurry up and wait” as the saying goes. At this point I would occasionally tweet or make a comment on facebook. There wasn’t much of anything else going on, so I might as well share, right?
The clock was steadily moving towards 4:30, when I was told I’d be taken down to the operating room staging area. But it was still a shock when there was a knock at the door and there was THE gurney. Which is when it hit me–I was having a baby…NOW. I think I began to tremble a bit when I got onto the gurney, pregnant, knowing that when I returned to the room in a few hours, I wouldn’t be pregnant any longer. I clutched Ravi’s hand as we walked down the hallway toward the elevator.
I was wheeled into a prep bay outside the Operating Rooms where we again reviewed medical history. Then the anesthesiologist came by and it was time to officially decide if I wanted a spinal (which would allow me to be awake for the c section) or general anesthetic (which would have me asleep). Ravi had asked me to consider the spinal because it would also allow him to be in the room, something that is not allowed when the woman is under general anesthetic. I had been thinking about general because after everything with Elanor, the idea of actually giving birth again was quite traumatic for me, and there was part of me that just didn’t want to be present for it. However, I was able to find my bravery, both for Ravi and for me (because deep down, I really *did* want to be awake) and requested that we try the spinal.
Ravi was taken somewhere to put on scrubs while I was wheeled into the operating theater. Ravi wasn’t allowed into the room until the spinal had been done, so it was a good 15-20 minutes before I saw him again.
I was moved from the gurney onto the operating table. I started to shiver again, partially because the room was super cold, but also because the enormity of what was happening was overwhelming. Like I said before, with a vaginal birth, there’s this long lead up to the climax of pushing the baby out. In a c section it’s pretty much just climax without build up and that’s hard to process…or at least I found it to be so.
The first thing they did was insert an IV. I got fluids, antibiotics (having had a child who was septic means you’re treated with preventative antibiotics in any future births), and eventually other meds through the IV. The anesthesiologist then had me lay on my side and pull my legs as much toward my chest as I could (with a nurse supporting them). He gave me a local anesthetic, which stung, but was not that big a deal. Then they began to try to insert the spinal. The first few tries did not work, and on the third try I began to contemplate that after deciding I wanted the spinal how disappointed I would be if I had to get the general instead. But the third try worked.
At some point during this, they put up the sheet between my chest and my stomach. I’m not sure exactly when it happened.
The experience of the spinal taking effect was one of the weirdest feelings I’ve ever had. The best analogy I can come up with is to imagine the sensation of a novacaine shot, much like you get at your dentist…that same sensation working it’s way down your legs and up your chest. It is unpleasant, but not painful. For me, my brain got stuck on the notion that I couldn’t wiggle my toes even though I knew they were there.
It was around then, as we were letting the spinal take its full effect that Ravi was brought in. My anesthesiologist told me that he looked like a garden gnome, and I have to say the sight of him brought the first smile to my lips in a while.
Ravi sat by my head and held my hand. The anesthesiologist was at the other side of my head, next to my IV for reasons that would become immediately apparent.
I could feel “things” happening, but didn’t have much time to ponder what they might be because I began to have a very common reaction to the spinal. Basically your blood pressure drops and you become extremely nauseous as a result. All I knew at the time was that I started to dry heave and felt like I was going to throw up. At the same time I couldn’t feel my stomach muscles, so I couldn’t tense them to successfully throw up. Which made me feel like I was just scarily gagging. The anesthesiologist had a nurse hold a dish by my head in case I *did* successfully throw up and she stroked my chest just below my throat to help bring up anything while he quickly gave injection after injection into the IV. After what I want to say was at least 4, the nausea began to abate. It came back a few times, and each time he acted fast to try to counteract it.
I know Ravi was saying encouraging things throughout, but I’m not sure what they were.
I remember turning to him after the first wave of nausea had passed and remarking “Nausea has been the dominant theme of the pregnancy…why stop now?” in a slightly bitter tone.
Then things began to get interesting. I was told that the anesthesiologist would push at the top of my fundus to help my OB get the baby out. The act of them getting the baby was incredibly strange for me. I could feel the pressure from the anesthesiologist pushing and a sensation best described at “rummaging” down by my pelvis, but nothing concrete…all accompanies by that novacaine sensation unabated.
I didn’t know at the time, but apparently they had some trouble getting the baby, and had to use forceps.
All I knew is that they were going to get the baby and every time I heard a sound I asked “Is that her? Is the cord around her neck?” I was obsessed with knowing where the cord was in relation to her neck. For Elanor, everything scary began with the cord being so tightly around her neck that it was cutting off her oxygen. I kept hearing them suction things and wondering if they were suctioning the baby’s mouth.
Finally I heard a cry.
“The cord is nowhere near her neck” my OB assured me.
At that point I totally lost interest in what my OB was doing because the baby had been handed off to the pediatrician, who was also in the room. Ravi went over to watch them do her APGAR scores (9 and 10, thank you very much), and clean her up a bit. I couldn’t really see anything beyond a shape in the warmer and the doctors moving around her. However, I could certainly hear her. Unlike Elanor, who was eerily quiet in the delivery room before she was rushed to the NICU, Rhiannon was screaming like a banshee; expressing to everyone exactly how pissed off she was to have been evicted from my uterus.
Rhiannon Arcadia was born at 5:29 am on October 13, 2011 (I thought 5:30, but I just looked at the card in her bassinet and stand corrected). She weighed 5 lbs 9oz and is just a smidge under 19 inches (Ravi will tell you 18 and 7/8ths).
I had hoped they would bring her over for me to look at, and was thrilled when what I was asked instead was if I wanted to hold her. ABSOLUTELY.
My arms and hands were a little pins and needley, but I could easily hold her, and I loved every second of it. Meanwhile my ob is doing stuff–Placenta, stitching, blah blah. Who cares. BAYBEE!
After I had to stop holding her (my arms were getting tired, as they were a bit weaker than normal because of the spinal), Ravi got a chance to hold her and then he went with Rhiannon and her pediatrician down to the nursery for all that new baby stuff.
This is when things got boring. I could tell that they were sewing me up (just the pattern of sensation), and sensation was beginning to slowly return to me. First I felt my toes, then my feet and so on. Don’t worry, I didn’t feel anything at the incision site. I had another bout of nausea, which the anesthesiologist rectified along with giving me a dose of morphine for the pain.
Things took some amount of time…I don’t know how long. Time gets really funky in that situation.
At one point the anesthesiologist remarked that most moms are texting by this point. To which I responded “Wait! I could have had my phone?? No one told me!”
While I would not have been the mom who tweeted her c-section, I would totally have loved to have been texting with Ravi to hear how Rhi was doing and what they were doing to her.
Instead, I ended up having a conversation with my anesthesiologist where I explained what Twitter was, and how it was different from Facebook. Yes, while I was being sewn up. It’s only now, as I recount the story that I realize how bizarre that sounds.
I was moved back to a prep bay to finish recovering to the point where I could go back to my room. I was there for about 20ish? minutes. There was a clock on the far wall, but I didn’t have my glasses so I couldn’t quite make it out.
I got back to my room around 7pm and my phone was buzzing away with texts from Ravi trying to find out where I was.
Rhiannon had low blood sugar and they were trying to figure out where I was to see if I wanted to try to breastfeed her before they gave formula. Ravi had consented to the formula (which is the same decision I would have made…I was not ready to try breastfeeding yet, and at best I had only a few drops of colostrum to give her…not nearly enough to have helped matters along) and although he knew I would have no problem with that, he was frustrated that there had been enough of a communications breakdown that no one seemed to know where I was to involve me in the discussion. At the time I was so worn out that I had no opinion other than low blood sugar bad, cup feeding her some formula good.
For the first 12-24 hours I was to be in bed. I still had a catheter in from the surgery, and they put dvt (deep vein thrombosis) stockings on my legs and thighs, and pressure cuffs on my feet to keep my circulation going and to prevent clots from forming. I could feel discomfort at the site of the wound, but nothing beyond that, thanks to the morphine.
We had our first breastfeeding attempt that night around 10, and got off to a ok start, mostly because of the awkwardness of being stuck in the bed and not being able to fully sit up made finding a good position tricky. She did end up needing one more cup feed of formula the following morning due to low blood sugar, but my milk began to quickly come in and we’ve managed to figure out the whole breastfeeding thing. At this point she hasn’t needed formula since 12 hours after her birth and her weight is stabilizing, so we are officially “exclusively breastfeeding” which is a lovely accomplishment for us both. It’s been a struggle at times, and we still have a lot to learn but I’m really happy with how things have turned out in that department.
I tried walking for the first time the following day before starting my supplementary pain medications. That was a mistake. Best advice I can give anyone who is having a C? Start the pain meds as soon as they offer them–don’t wait to need them, and take them religiously. It makes all the difference in the world. Also, the first time you’re going to walk, just transition to sitting on the bed and don’t try to stand for about 5 minutes…give your blood pressure a chance to stabilize. I was encouraged to stand and start walking…and my blood pressure dropped fast, causing me to feel dizzy and hot and to end up flat on my back for another few hours before I was able to try again. Also, every shuffled step was like a thousand knives…seriously, take your pain meds. The second time, because I was able to try sitting for a while, and because I’d been taking my pain meds, was far more successful. Later I tried a third time and was able to do laps around my room no problem.
I waited to have the catheter removed until the next morning, though because I wanted to be confident enough that I could get to a bathroom without peeing myself. I think if I’d had a more successful first attempt I would have gotten rid of it the first day because I was certainly in good enough shape that night to not need it any more.
Having had babies both vaginally and via c-section, there are several differences, although to be honest…I can’t say I really recommend either. After my two experiences, I’m a big fan of adoption and surrogacy (said only partially tongue in cheek).
Things that were easier with the vaginal delivery
- Recovery, while initially super painful (sitting was excruciating, the first poop after birth involved tears) was only about 10-14 days and then I felt fine
- Had Ellie not had issues, I could have tried bfing in the delivery room
- Not major abdominal surgery
Things that were easier with the C-section
- Personally I’ve had significantly less lochia (the post delivery bleeding) and will likely be done bleeding far faster than I did with the vaginal
- Being able to sit comfortably (thanks to pain medication, I feel only mild discomfort at my incision site, but from what I know from my friends, this is a highly individual thing) and because I’m not trying to do anything I’m not supposed to, I think I feel significantly less discomfort/pain at 3/4 days out from my delivery than I did after the vaginal delivery. However, we’ll see what I have to say when my pain meds get downgraded.
- There is definitely something to be said for not going through labor. I’m not into the whole “joy of passing a child through my vagina” thing…I found it very painful and difficult. The c section was certainly easier.
Personally, I’m not planning on another. Given an objective choice, I’d still go with the vaginal delivery because the easier recovery is what matters in the long run. It’s going to be really tough to not pick up anything heavier than my baby for 2 months (or more). But so far, I’m happy to say that my c section experience seems to be one of the more positive ones, and not one of the horror stories people have tried to scare me with.
I’ll post again later with a more general update about how everyone is doing, how things are going and Elanor’s impressions of Rhiannon.
But in the meantime, here’s a picture