March 28, 2015
I don’t know why I’m having so much trouble writing this post. It’s been five weeks since my C-section, and for some reason, I just haven’t been able to write about it. I don’t know if it’s because of the haze of emotion surrounding it or that if I put it to paper it will stop being real. Anna is lying next to me right now. I know it was real.
Whatever the reason, I’ve just kept putting it off and putting it off. And now it’s five weeks later and I still haven’t gotten around to it. (If there’s one thing that all writers excel at, it’s procrastination. And now my excuse is completely gone — my mom just arrived to watch Anna while I take a nap, which I usually do around 2… It’s 1:24.)
I’ve repeatedly said that my care was exemplary. I’ve raved about Lori and Dr Winter and all of the nurses and medical assistants and the front office staff. The surgical team was no different. (I hope Paula was taken care of at least half as well as I was; everyone should be this lucky!) There were two pediatric nurses for Anna – Meghan and Amy, and a nurse for me – Deb, but the person I am most grateful to is my CRNA – Brian. (I’d list everyone on the team, but I didn’t get all of their names at a time or place I could remember them. Amy was my nurse when I was discharged, and she kindly made a list of the people she could remember who’d been there.)
It was -11 when my parents picked me up at 5 am on February 20. I was very ready to go and have a baby. Unlike the rest of the week, my contractions didn’t wait long to start up again after I got up. They still weren’t bad, just early labor contractions, but that didn’t make them fun. And since I’d been in early labor for about a week with Sofia, I was scared that I’d go into proper labor before the surgery. It was too early for my dad to drop me off at the atrium, so we had to go in through the ER entrance. Nicki beat us to the sixth floor and had already started checking me in. (We laughed as my dad pushed the wheelchair from the ER to the elevator. It was the fastest I’d moved in months.)
We were taken to a triage room. Nicki and I got best-friend-baby-bump pictures taken before I changed into the hospital gown and was hooked up to the monitor. I hadn’t imagined the contractions — they showed up just fine on the monitor. One of the first things Dr Winter said when he arrived and checked the monitor was “I see you’re having contractions.” Yep. And please make them stop!
They asked who would be accompanying me. I said my mom. (This was a surprise to her. She was sure Nicki would be with me. Nicki, on the other hand, was sure it would be my mom.) They gave her her special suit, which, frankly, made her look like an Oompa-Loompa.
And then there was my IV… It took two tries at two different sites. I had a bruise from the first site almost longer than from where I actually wound up with the IV. It was bad. It was so bad that my mom was wondering how she’d be able to handle seeing me in surgery. The second site didn’t hurt nearly as much. (I should point out that I was having contractions while this happened. The first site hurt so much that I didn’t notice that I was having contractions during the process.)
The appropriate paperwork was signed. Dr Winter prepped me for the onslaught of people who would be coming at me when we got down to surgery. Meghan and Amy came in to meet me. And off I was whisked to surgery.
The amazing thing is that everyone already knew my story. I shouldn’t have been surprised. I’m sure Dr Winter had prepped the team as well as he’d prepped me. I met the anesthesiologist who described the spinal block procedure. I met Brian and the student who would be shadowing him. I met Deb. And people asked how I was. And I said I was scared and cried. Meghan gave me a paper towel and apologized that there weren’t any tissues in the room.
And then I was whisked to the operating room. It was yellow. I don’t know if this is normal. Before this, the only surgery I’d ever had was getting my wisdom teeth removed. I’ve only ever seen ORs on TV. Honestly, it looked like it had been painted in the ’70s and never redone. (This may be because my parents painted the nursery a similar yellow when my brother was a baby…)
They lowered the table as far as it would go. And then they got me a step stool. Yep. I’m short. And as pregnant as I was, there was no nimble hopping onto the table. Deb helped me relax while Brian administered the spinal block.
“So,” she asked, “do you have a birth plan?”
I laughed. “Um, to have a C-section? This is my birth plan.”
As expected, the anesthesia made me nauseated. But Brian was amazing. He kept checking with me. How are you? Is it better? What do you feel? Are you doing okay? “We have plenty of tissues for happy tears. I think there will be a lot of those in this room.” And he wiped my tears. And never once did anyone say that everything was going to be fine. They just assured me they’d do their best.
It took forever for them to be ready, and yet it went so fast. I really don’t remember everything that happened between getting the spinal block and them running the roll call to make sure we were all there for the right procedure. That did go really fast. They called out my name, the procedure, and checked that everyone agreed that was what we were there for. Each person on the team called off a “yes” before they finally turned to me to ask whether or not I agreed with what had been stated. “Yes,” I said as emphatically as possible.
And then they got my mom. And they began. Dr Winter had said there were two parts of the procedure that I might feel. 1) I might feel when his assistant pushed down on my abdomen to push the baby out. 2) I’d feel something when the peritoneum was sewn up. I felt neither of those things. My legs and feet were tingly. But my abdomen was completely numb.
And then there was a baby. And the baby was crying. And so was I. And so was my mom. And I’m pretty sure that most of the other people in the room were crying, too.
And then, finally, someone (we can’t remember if it was me or my mom) thought to ask, “So, what is it?”
Dr Winter held the baby up. “So, Grandma,” he asked, “what is it?”
“It’s a girl,” my mom gasped.
They put her on my chest. I held her for as long as I could before I started to feel sick again and then gave her to my mom to hold. My mom texted Nicki and my dad to let them know that everything was okay.
Then she got a text message. From my 7-year-old niece. “Any news?” It was after 8 am. There was a snow day in Virginia, so she wasn’t at school. That was the only reason she’d be allowed to use her iPad at that time of day.
And because my mom is working to encourage my nieces to be good communicators, she responded promptly. “Anna is here.”
Shortly thereafter, she received a text from my sister-in-law. “So I hear I have a niece?”
And then a message from Nicki asking what flavor of baby it was.
Yes, my 7-year-old niece was the first person to get the news.
And Dr Winter didn’t wait until he got up to the clinic. He simply called from the OR to tell them that it was a girl and we were both okay.
Meghan and Amy stayed with us until I left recovery and went to my room on the third floor. Anna traveled to recovery in the isolette, but she spent most of the time there lying on my chest. (My mom, in fact, was the one who got to wheel the isolette to recovery.) And when we were transported to three, she rode on my chest all the way there, including as I was transferred from the gurney to the bed.
They said that it was Brian’s last day. I’m grateful that he was still there for me. And they’ve lost an amazing CRNA. Listening to him teach as he treated me was… Well, let’s just say that he was clearly a wonderful teacher.
I’ve probably forgotten a ton of things that I would have said if I’d written this post back in February. And maybe those stories will appear in future posts. NPR had a recent story about how C-sections are so terrible, how mothers feel so disconnected from the birth process, how they don’t get to hold their babies right away. This was not my experience at all. And my understanding is that my experience was pretty normal for Borgess. Which is amazing. And it reconfirms that choosing to stay there after Sofia died was the right decision to make.