In honor of Cesarean Awareness Month 2010, we will be filling the blogosphere with stories from real women (and their families) who know first-hand the consequences of a 32% cesarean rate. Each day we will post at least one birth story submitted by these women. Prepare to be moved (hint: grab a box of Kleenex)!
My daughter, Lillian Aurora was born on Saturday, November 3rd 2007 at 9:24pm. She weighed nine pounds and six ounces, and measured nineteen and a half inches long. I went through three days of escalating back labor, during which Lillian dropped all the way into my pelvis and shut down all my bodily functions. The pain during the contractions was so bad that I had to throw my mind into thinking obsessively about whatever crossed it. Example: The word ‘Kellogg’ drifted into my thoughts during one contraction on the second day, and then I couldn’t get it out. The third day the pain became tortuous, and it didn’t help that I couldn’t hold any food or water down. I was completely unable to go to the bathroom, and so it all came back up the way it went in. I became incredibly weak from the vomiting and the lack of sustenance, and could not endure any more contractions. At around 4:30 in the afternoon it all became too much, and I decided to throw in the towel and get this baby out any way I could.
I took a much needed shower, and I remember how good the heat felt on my aching back. Matt sat with me in the bathroom and was talking to me and making me laugh. It was the first time I felt like myself in a few days. Matt and I then slowly prepared a couple backpacks to take to the hospital, not knowing how long we’d be there. My mother kept coming in and out of our bedroom, seeing if I was alright. I hadn’t left my bedroom all day because it was easier to deal with the contractions privately, and I kept sending Matt out to get me food or relay messages to her. She was very concerned, as was Matt, but they never pressured me into making a decision about whether or not I wanted to go to the hospital. Matt even set up the birth pool, in hopes that everything would still progress as planned. Everyone was very respectful and supportive during those last long hours, and I can honestly say that I came to the decision to go to the hospital on my own. I feel very thankful for that. The last thing I needed at that time was more pressure.
Mom, David, Matt, and I arrived at the hospital in two separate cars around 6:30. I attempted to walk to the Labor and Delivery department, but it was located clear on the other side of the hospital from where the parking structure was. I made it over the bridge, and down three hallways before I had a contraction, and could go no further. Mom then procured a wheelchair for me, and we all went up into the 5th floor where I was admitted. The nurses found us a private room, and they began to check everything. I was told to strip naked, I wasn’t even allowed to keep on an undershirt, even though I asked to keep it on. They said that if I had to go into surgery, they would have to cut it off. Matt and I took our time getting me undressed. When the nurse came back in the room, he told me to lay down in the bed, and then attempted to roll me on my side to connect me to the fetal heart monitors. This position proved to be excruciating, and I had to scream and beg to be allowed to lay on my back in a semi-sitting position. The nurse did his best to accommodate me, but his first priority was to find and keep Lillian’s heart beat on the monitor. He was having a lot of difficulty finding it, and had three different nurses come in and attempt to find it. I kept having contractions all through this, some quite painful, and some I barely noticed because of all that was going on around me.
After they finally figured out how to keep her heart on the monitors, they took my blood pressure, temperature, and gave me a vaginal exam. I never learned how dilated I was, or if my cervix ever completely softened. After what could’ve been a few minutes or an hour, one of the many faceless doctors came back into the room and told me that they would send in the paperwork and have me prepped for cesarean surgery shortly. Even though I went into the hospital knowing full well that was the most likely course of action, it still hit me like a brick wall, especially to have it announced so nonchalantly. I could feel the tears welling up as I asked, “So that’s it? There’s nothing else to be done?” The doctor said that with my deteriorating condition and the contractions still coming so erratically, there wasn’t much else that couldbe done. She also said, almost as an afterthought, that my pelvis was probably too small to manage the baby’s large head. She then left the room, and I turned to Matt and my mother, in shock.
At that moment, Erin came in the room. At some point after I was admitted, my mother or David made the rounds calling everyone that was supposed to be there during labor. Erin was all smiles and a bit tipsy because she was just out drinking with her friend Renee. She came over to my bed, and I pulled her into the tightest hug we’ve ever shared. I started sobbing in her hair, and I believe I scared the shit out of her. She asked what happened, and Matt told her that the doctor just informed me that my only choice was a c-section. I can’t remember many details from this point on, but I believe Erin’s expression sobered a bit and she attempted to comfort me. I remember the sheer panic that came over me as she spoke, and I can’t recall how long she was there. Soon, Matt and I were the only ones in the room. I can’t remember why my mother left. I think she kept coming in and out as more people were arriving.
Matt has had to help me remember the rest of this, as I was so upset I let myself fall into an almost catatonic state for a while. After everyone left the room, there were a ton of people that kept coming in and out. Nurses, doctors, people with paperwork… I kept directing all the questions they asked to Matt. I could barely give a yes or no answer to any of them. At some point the anesthesiologist came in and began turning my arms, hands, and wrists into pin cushions. His attempts to find ripe veins left me with gauze bandages on each of my wrists, my left hand, my left arm crook, and my right forearm. He finally put an IV painfully into my right hand, and it was good he did because Matt was about to kill him.
Then came the shaving. I can’t recall if they began to shave me while the anesthesiologist was poking around, but Matt says that they were shaving me throughout that time. All I can remember is how much it hurt to have them lifting my belly to access the place they needed to shave. My contractions were still coming and the pain was so unbearable I kept crying out loud every time they had to lift. Matt snapped at them several times, and I begged for them to be more gentle. The two women didn’t pay us much attention, and kept mumbling that it had to be done. They kept remarking to themselves at what a good job they were doing, and how the doctor would appreciate how clean I was. At some point they even brought out tape to be sure to pick up any loose hairs. Matt was furious, but kept being dragged away by people with never ending paperwork.
At some point, a nurse brought in a white jumpsuit for Matt to put on, as well as a hair net and face mask. I told him to tie his hair back so it would be easier to get it all in the net. My mother had come back into the room and I told her to take a picture of Matt in the jumpsuit because we might be amused by it later.
After Matt changed into the jumpsuit, they began to disconnect me from all the machines so I could be taken into the operating room. I was told to take out my tongue ring, which I was not happy about, but they gave me some bullshit about how the oxygen mask could electrocute me if I left it in, so I just took it out to shut them up. They told Matt that I would go in alone, and after I was given the anesthesia, he would be brought in. I didn’t like this idea, but I couldn’t really argue. I was in so much pain, I just wanted it all to be over with. So they wheeled me out of the private room and into the operating room.
I was taken into the operating room on the rolling maternity bed. The OR was just one room over from the birthing room, so this all happened very quickly. I can’t remember if I got up and went from the bed to the operating table, or if I was picked up and moved by the nurses. I don’t remember getting up, so it was probably the latter. I remember the operating table was very narrow, and wondering how many other huge pregnant women had also noticed this. Then the anesthesiologist came in and had me sit up for the spinal injection mixture of morphine and anesthesia. There was a nice woman doctor flitting around, trying to keep me calm and comfortable. I didn’t know who was doing what, or which doctor would be operating on me, I just knew there was a room full of faceless people during what was supposed to be something special and private.
The nice woman was telling me everything that was going to happen, but all her explanations washed over me, and nothing penetrated into understanding. At some point when they had laid me back down and were prepping me, Matt came into the room and stood at my left side. All I could see were his eyes through the white mask and hair net. Matt says that they put up the blue curtain hiding my lower half before he came in the room. At some point a nurse came to strap my arms down. I protested, asking why it was necessary, and they just said it had to be done with no other explanation. So I let them take my arms and tie them down straight out on either side of me. I remember being told by someone that by body would feel warm and numb from the chest down as the anesthesia took effect. And that’s what happened, but what they didn’t tell me was that the warm numb parts of my body wouldn’t react well with the rest of my body being in the cold operating room. My arms, shoulders, and face began to feel very cold, and then began to tremble uncontrollably in the restraints.
Another nurse came up behind my head to put an oxygen mask over my face. I again asked why this had to be done, and she told me it was just procedural, just in case anything went wrong. I let her put the mask over my face, but the smell of the plastic began making me nauseous so I asked her to take it off because I was going to be sick if it was left on. She then compromised with me and put oxygen tubes in my nose, which were still quite uncomfortable because I couldn’t itch my nose with my arms strapped down.
Matt held my hand during all of this. I remember looking around and just seeing bright white walls, so many machines, and blinding lights. The doctors were talking to each other, and the tears kept rolling from my eyes into my ears. Then there was this pressure, pushing hard and moving my stomach back and forth. Even without pain, that sensation was a very terrifying feeling. I kept telling Matt to look over the curtain to see what was happening because I knew I would want to know later, but when I asked about it he confessed that he couldn’t bear to see what was happening, and did his best not to look.
After endless minutes crawled by, someone announced “The head’s out”, and I could barely breathe. Then another announcement “21:24″ and I looked up at the clock on the wall, and it was indeed 9:24. For a second I mused at how I had no sense of the speed of time all that day, and then I heard a high pitched cry. My eyes snapped back to Matt’s and the amazement of the moment struck us. Our intense gaze was broken by Matt trying to see our baby through the mess of doctors and nurses surrounding us. All I got to see was a blur of pink and red in a nurse’s arms as they took my daughter to the other side of the room.
All I can remember in the minutes that followed was hearing her cry and not being able to see her. This upset me a lot, and all I wanted to do was hold my baby, but I was trapped on the operating table, and terror swept over me. A male voice said, “Dad, you can go over and see the baby.” But Matt said, “No, I’m staying with her, I’ll wait for her.” In my terror I kept saying, “No no, don’t go, don’t leave me.” My arms were shaking worse and worse, and I felt so cold and desperate to see my baby. But she kept crying and I wanted to know what was being done to her to make her cry, so I told Matt to go see what was going on, and if she was okay.
Matt told me later that he didn’t want to be the first one to see the baby, he wanted us both to meet her together. But he went over to her anyway, and he said that they were cleaning blood, amniotic fluid, and meconium out of her nose, mouth, and off her body. They had her under a warming lamp, but she was still trembling. They had hooked her up to several monitors to check her blood pressure and heart rate. After all this they wrapped her in a blanket, and put an ID bracelet on her wrist.
During this time they were sewing me up. The pressure of them pushing came back, and it felt like they were kneading my stomach like pizza dough. This made me nauseous again. It seemed to take a long time for them to finish. Matt says that the total surgery was about thirty-five minutes long. They then told Matt that he was going to leave and go back to the private room, and the baby would stay in the operating room and be wheeled over when they brought me back. I protested, and said that the baby should go with Matt, that I didn’t want the baby to be alone. But Matt said goodbye and left, and it took them about ten minutes to clean me up and move me back to the private room. I was still numb, and it took six people to move me back into the maternity bed.
The baby was already in the room before I arrived. After they brought me back into the private room, every minute that passed that I wasn’t able to hold Lillian made me more upset. The nurses were doing some sort of tests on her, and my mother and Matt got to hold her, but they wouldn’t give her to me for some reason. I became very concerned about us bonding, and I wanted to breast feed her before it was too late. They finally gave her to me, but I was so drugged up, it wasn’t anything magical or wondrous like I thought it was going to be.
The rest of the night is a blur because of the drugs, but it never got any better. The nurses were awful, and I hope to god I never have to go through anything like this again. Despite a healthy daughter which I am very thankful for, it was the worst experience of my life.