Sunday, January 24, 2010

A baby story

The brachiopod is nine days old today, as impossible as that is for me to believe. I know birth stories aren't everyone's cup of tea, but mine doesn't have any scary bits and I wanted to have it written out before I started to forget things. In a way, I also hope it might provide some comfort to anyone else who ends up in the position of needing a Cesarean after planning for a natural birth.

Our appointment was at noon and we were supposed to arrive at 10:00 to begin prep. I couldn't eat anything after 4:00 AM, and the last thing I dreamed about before waking up around 8:00 was going to a wedding reception with an all-you-can-eat pancake bar. We finished packing our last-minute things, I took a long hot shower, and we took Indy over to my parents' house. I woke up calm but grew increasingly nervous as we approached the hospital, and was downright jittery by the time we got there. After checking in, they took us to what would be our recovery room, did an ultrasound to confirm that the baby was still transverse, got an IV started, and hooked me up to monitors for contractions and the baby's heartbeat. Once all the prep procedures started, I actually felt better. I guess because everything was fully out of my hands and I was at that point involved in an organized process that was pretty much routine for everyone else involved? Or something? Our labor & delivery nurse gave me some kind of horribly sour lemon-flavored antacid to drink and they put two other anti-nausea drugs into my IV which made me sleepy. She described what would happen during the surgery, which was nice even though I'd read about it.

Around 11:30, my OB stopped in and told us there was another patient who would be needing an emergency C-section, so we'd be pushed back just a little bit. I didn't really mind since obviously the other patient's situation was much more pressing, but the hunger and the nerves did start to get to me after that, and I started to get cold. The anesthesiologist popped in and explained the spinal block to me, then popped back out, our nurse had MB change into his scrubs, and I decided I'd try to get a few minutes of sleep. It seemed like as soon as I settled in to rest, it was time to go. They wheeled my bed down to the operating room, and we had to leave MB at the door until after the prep was done. He later told me he was waiting in the hall for fifteen minutes, but to me the prep seemed to go by in just a few minutes.

My nurse had me get up and walk from the inner corridor into the OR, which I thought was kind of funny. When we went in there was only one other person inside, but before long there were at least half a dozen, maybe more. The anesthesiologist arrived and I sat on the bed and hunched my back the way the nurse had explained while he gave me a numbing shot and put in the block. It was crazy cold in the OR and either because of that or the nerves or the meds, I was shivering. I remember trying to hold really still while keeping my spine curved over and my head tucked down. At this point I discovered I would have a use for all that deep yoga breathing I'd practiced for months, and it really did help. The nurse stood right in front of me with her hands on my shoulders, and though I usually don't like strangers in my personal space, it was very comforting. They'd told me that once the spinal was in, my toes would go numb right away, but I didn't realize they meant instantaneously, and before they even got me all the way onto my back, I felt like I'd been Novocained from my toes to my hips. It was a slightly disconcerting experience -- I could still feel my toes and legs, I just couldn't feel any pain or move them at all.

They put the drapes up and the anesthesiologist explained that I wouldn't feel any pain, just pressure, especially during one part of the procedure, and that he'd warn me when that part was about to happen. At some point he put an oxygen mask on my face, and told me it was more for the baby than for me. I don't know if that was true or not, but it did help to take deep slow breaths through the mask. I was still freezing, but after they had my arms positioned on the arm rests sticking straight out from my sides, they draped a warmed blanket across my arms and chest, and it felt wonderful. My OB came in and joked that she'd taken it easy at the gym the night before because she knew she had a transverse baby to lift out the next day. I remember the anesthesiologist saying "Let's have a baby!" and hearing one of the nurses ask "Should I get the husband?" The anesthesiologist told me cheerily, "They've actually already started," and I remember simultaneously knowing they wouldn't get to any of the good parts before MB got in there and wanting to ask them to wait for him.

They told us before we went in that the delivery itself would probably take five to seven minutes, and I'd be surprised if it was any longer than that. MB sat on a stool near my head, so I could turn to the side and see him, and I'm pretty sure he held my hand. My OB said, "Your water broke!" and I said, "Hooray! We've been waiting for that for how long now?" I heard the OB say, "We've got boy parts!" and then "Oh, look! Strawberry blond hair!" and then I heard the baby cry. Oh, he was angry. We had asked to have the drape lowered as the baby emerged but that didn't happen. I wasn't upset about it, but it was a strange experience lying there seeing only blue paper and hearing my baby squalling in the corner off near my feet out of my sight. MB was called away and I could hear the nurses telling him to take photos of the baby and the numbers on the scale. Later I found out he got to trim the cord and put on the baby's first diaper. At some point he came to me and held the digital camera up so that I could see this photo of the baby:

I remember thinking that he looked like a total stranger to me, not familiar at all. MB left again, but before I knew it he was back, and the nurses were slipping the baby inside his scrub shirt to lie against his skin, and then I saw him for myself.

He was squirming and rooting around and making nursing motions with his mouth, and I remember being relieved because I'd read that some C-section babies have trouble with their nursing instincts. After a few moments, his breathing started to sound funny, sort of snorty and fast. It worried me but I also realized that if I was noticing, the medical staff was surely noticing, and right about then our L&D nurse came back and mentioned his breathing. A few moments later, they had MB take the baby back to the invisible corner again. I heard them say he had some mucus in his lungs, then the crying stopped, there was a suctioning noise, and then the crying came back, but way more pissed off than before. MB would tell me later that they'd put "like three freaking feet of tube" into the baby's lungs to suck the gunk out, so it's probably for the best that I couldn't see that part. Then the baby and MB were back, and before I knew it, the whole thing was done. The most surreal part was near the end, when I could hear one of the surgical assistants counting, and I knew they were counting clamps and scalpels to make sure nothing had been left behind.The anesthesiologist unfastened my arms and had me lay them on my chest. They rolled me onto my side, which felt REALLY weird. I felt like a mummy or something, all heavy and stiff. Once they'd moved me to the gurney again, someone asked "Do you want to hold your baby?" and I said, "Yes, please!" and they put him on my chest under my hospital gown and tucked a baby blanket across us both. I couldn't really see him, but I could feel him there.

Physically, the worst moment of the whole thing was when they wheeled me out and down the corridor toward the recovery room. It felt like they were sprinting, and I got extremely nauseated. I don't know if I said it out loud, but I recall promising the baby that I wouldn't throw up on him. More yoga breathing, which saved me from puking, and then we were in the recovery room and done. The baby was checked again and swaddled and brought back to me and I got to nurse him, and it felt like the most right thing in the world. All of a sudden, I was his mother.

Now that it's all over and done, I don't feel any lingering resentment or deep sadness over the way our birth turned out. Of course I'll always wonder what I missed and be a bit disappointed, but under the circumstances it's hard to be upset. The facts are that our baby couldn't be delivered naturally, and I feel lucky to live in an era and a country where the medical staff was fully equipped to deliver him safely and competently. Our hospital experience was overwhelmingly positive, and even the birth itself was really not as scary as I feared it would be. Best of all, now I get to hang out with this guy all the time:


  1. I never felt resentment over my c-section, just a vast amount of happiness for the kids I am honored to mother.

    Congratulations again. He's such a lovely baby.

  2. So glad the section went well and you feel good about the experience! :)

    Your little ginger nut is gorgeous!

  3. Yay! These pictures make me happy!

    In retrospect, I think my c-section was the first of many times the experience of parenting was the complete opposite of what I had imagined it would be. It taught me to expect the unexpected.

    He's gorgeous.

  4. Anonymous7:49 AM

    As they were finishing stitching me up after my caesarean (with my baby perched across my upper chest and neck!), I heard this horrible howling outside. The midwife patted my hand, and said 'That baby's in trouble, and as soon as we've got you whisked away, we'll get her in. They're just using forceps on her as a last-ditch measure before surgery.'

    I listened to this poor cow screaming as you would expect somebody with an episiotomy and giant pair of salad tongs shoved up them to scream, and suddenly, I stopped feeling QUITE so sorry for myself... There are certainly worse things than a calm, planned section.

  5. So glad all went smoothly, and your baby is adorable.
    Thank you for sharing the birth story. It was fascinating.

  6. awww... he's turning into a total looker!

  7. Girl, you make cute babies. :) Congratulations!

  8. He's so big and alert! And handsome!

    I'm really glad to hear that everything went as smoothly and well as it could. I know it must've been a huge disappointment, needing a Cesarean -- but it sounds like you and your medical staff worked together really well to make the experience a positive one anyway. Congratulations again. :)

  9. Kristin10:19 PM

    Doesn't matter how they come out. All that matters is that at the end, you have a beautiful baby. As a friend told me once, you can't pick the c-section kids out on the playground. Congratulations.

  10. Damn, that is a cute baby. And the look on your face says it all.

    hope you're having fun!

  11. What a great story. And what a gorgeous baby. Enjoy your time home with him.

    I guess it makes me a geology geek, but whenever I read 'the brachiopod' on your blog, I immediately think Mucrospirifer Thedfordensis, which is the only brachiopod I learned to identify without a diagram.

  12. i'm glad it went well. what a cutie!

  13. De-lurking to say... I'm glad everything went safely - cuddling that adorable little redheaded boy must be so lovely! Congratulations!

  14. Oh my goodness - he's gorgeous. Well done you!! I'm all weepy-happy now. You have a truly beautiful baby who does not look like a prune or Winston Churchill, which is remarkable because all new babies look like one or the other. I hope you're recovering okay from the C-section, and enjoying this amazing time. I can't wait until this pregnancy stops and gives way to that magical first week of a new life.

    Lots of love to your new family! A x x x