My son is seven months old, which means seven months ago my husband and I were at the hospital for my third trimester fetal non-stress test. It was a routine appointment that we had expected to be in and out of, just as we did for our last ultrasound the day before…where we had received the seal of approval that our baby was developing right on target. This time though, things were vastly different.
Two vanilla Haagen Dazs cups later (an attempt to “wake” our son up) and his heart rate still wasn’t reaching high enough levels. My mom had called to check in on us…we had been in the office for two hours now and she was concerned about why it was taking so long. While, I did have a nagging feeling, I wasn’t worried just yet because I knew how active my baby normally was. I thought that maybe he was having a more relaxed day, as I had experienced lulls such as this one throughout my pregnancy.
My obstetrician happened to be on call at the hospital that afternoon and ordered another sonogram just to make sure everything was okay. Mind you we had now been at the hospital for three hours. Myles and I were both exhausted and all I could think about was the cheeseburger I was going to have after we got to see our son and show the hospital staff that he was doing just fine in there. I started to get a sinking feeling though when the nurse called the doctor in to show her an image on the screen — I heard her mention something about “looks like he’s not getting oxygen.” They then showed us the flow of oxygen and how in one section of my umbilical cord there didn’t seem to be any movement. My mind was racing, what did that mean for our baby? Was he okay in there?
Things began moving in what felt like hyperspeed, but slow motion all at the same time. My OB was called to take a look at the umbilical cord and we were then told we’d need to have an emergency c-section. My husband was the first to respond, and asked when we had to schedule it, not realizing they meant immediately. I started crying — I was scared and this was not how I had pictured my delivery going. I had a medicine ball. I wanted to try for a natural birth. I also didn’t know what to expect from a c-section. As a first-time mama, it never crossed my mind as a possibility during my pregnancy…so I hadn’t researched it. I knew all about the natural birth process and epidurals though.
We called my parents, who had just dropped my sister off at the airport and were pulling up to the driveway of their home in Long Island. (We were in Connecticut.) My husband called his mom, who had just boarded a plane to Paris (she’s a flight attendant). Thankfully, she was able to deplane before the cabin doors closed. And when my sister got the news, her flight was just about to take off.
A wheelchair was brought for me and I was wheeled to another room to prep for surgery. There were so many thoughts racing through my mind. Also, I had to pee. I mentioned this to the nurses, but was told they were going to insert a catheter because they didn’t want to keep me disconnected any longer from the sonogram machine that was monitoring our son. My husband called my best friend and we both cried on the phone.
Myles and I said a prayer and I was wheeled out to get my spinal, something I was terrified of. I’m not a fan of needles and I had heard this was a big one. I also didn’t like that Myles wasn’t allowed in the room with me while it happened. But, my anesthesiologist and nurses were really kind and talked to me through the entire thing. I didn’t feel a sharp pain as I was expecting, but rather a dull pain that wasn’t too awful. Myles, my OB, and another doctor, who would aid in performing the c-section, came into the room after. A curtain was then placed, separating me from the doctors and the bottom half of my body.
I remember telling my doctor to let me know when they were going to make the incision, so I could prepare myself as I was worried about what that would feel like. Turns out, in the minutes before when we were talking, he had made the incision. I didn’t feel a thing. It was a surreal experience. I felt tugs and pulls and then we heard the first cries from our baby! I think from the moment I was wheeled to the prep room to when Logan was delivered, only 60 minutes had passed.
Looking back on this time there were a lot of things that took me by surprise. I talked to three other friends (ranging in age from 25 to 35-years-old) who also recently had c-sections to get their perspectives and see what we had in common and what differed.
How quickly Logan was delivered from when we first heard that we needed an emergency c-section to birth — it all happened within an hour. On the other hand my three friends labored for hours before a c-section was necessary.
I was terrified of getting the spinal and it ended up being not too bad. It wasn’t painful in the sharp, pinching pain I was expecting to feel, but it did feel weird. I wish I had a better way to explain the sensation…you could definitely feel the needle, but it didn’t hurt per say.
Because Logan had complications that required him to go straight to the NICU, I didn’t get to hold him when I was out of recovery (which takes a couple of hours if you don’t need extended monitoring) and the only person who was able to be there with me was my husband. I saw my family after I was transferred to my room. My friends on the other hand were able to see their babies after recovery.
Peeing after removing the catheter was an experience. I knew I had to go, but had to force my body to actually follow through with the action and even then sometimes nothing would happen. I ended up drinking a lot of water to get to the point where I had to pee and couldn’t control it. One friend suffered severe constipation as a result of the pain meds, however, nurses do offer a stool softener to help you go.
The group was actually split evenly on how quickly we were able to get up and walk after our respective c-sections. I was up and moving the morning after my surgery (I was in recovery around 9:30pm-10pm the night before) with mild pain. Another friend was up and moving the same night — she delivered around midday and also experienced slight pain when moving about. Two others felt severe pain when trying to move in the days that followed.
After surgery I was ravenous and ready to eat a burger, especially since my husband and I didn’t eat before the stress test appointment as we thought we’d only be at the hospital for an hour or two. I had my meal of a burger and Cajun fries already planned out. Unfortunately for me, I was on a broth/Jell-O/ice cream/Cream of Wheat diet for a day and a half. Another friend had to wait a day, while another was able to eat a normal breakfast the next morning.
Obviously all that extra blood your body has been pumping for the last eight-plus months has to go somewhere…I just didn’t realize how long you bled for. I think my bleeding was one of the longer lasting of the group. Most were done after six weeks, while I bled for eight to nine weeks. I must have called my doctor in a panic twice in one weekend thinking I was bleeding excessively, but he assured me that it was all normal. Also, you’re not supposed to use tampons and as someone who stopped using pads after grammar school, this took some getting used to.
Seven months later and I still don’t have 100 percent feeling back in that area. In the weeks right after delivery it felt numb, like the sensation your gums feel after the dentist gives you a Novocain shot. You slowly begin to regain some feeling, but I think it takes a while to get it back fully. And for one friend, her c-section scar still itches even though it’s been almost two years since she had her baby.
I’ve read a few comments regarding c-sections and how having one makes you less of mom. I call bullsh*t. I don’t think experiencing one way of birth makes you any better (or less) than someone who did it another way. At the end of the day we all experience the joy, pain, and overwhelming sense of love that comes with finally meeting the tiny human you’ve been growing for the greater part of the year.
Story photos provided by the author.
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