As I mull through images in my brain, not one of these images is comparable with the birth of my children. Both girls were born healthy. Both girls were born by cesarean-section.
The difficulty of having a cesarean section, better known as a c-section, greatly depends on whether it was planned or not. My first c-section was not planned. I was induced into labor early in the morning with a drug called Pitocin. The doctor came in and broke my water with a long instrument that I do not care to remember the characteristics of. The contractions were evident according to the monitors strapped to by enormous belly, but I quickly received an epidural which dulled the pain beautifully. The nurse came in the room about every hour to check on me, often checking how dilated I had become. After fourteen long hours of labor, I was told I was still having some contractions, but they were not accomplishing anything. I was told that I should have a c-section before I started to get a fever. Reluctantly, I consented.
I received a higher dose of anesthesia and I remember having a mouth so dry you would have thought I had been in the Mohave Desert without water all day. A plastic shower cap was placed over my head as I begged to be allowed one more ice-chip. The liquid sensation was fleeting as it quickly dissolved from the heat of my breath. My husband scurried around the room gathering up cameras and placing my things safely away in cabinets. The doctors and nurses transferred me to another bed on their count of three and rolled me down the halls to surgery.
A blue sheet resembling a shower curtain was set above my chest to prevent me from witnessing the surgery through site. I was told I may feel some tugging which correlated to what I had read in my pregnancy books. My husband stood beside me with his matching shower cap and gown, gazing beyond the curtain. I wished secretly that I could see the birth-I was not squeamish about a little-or a lot-of blood. I knew it may be different to see that much of my own insides, though, so on second thought maybe it was best not to see it. I took a gulp of air.
I vaguely recall hearing my doctor remarking that some piece of my insides was just like “pudding.” What part of me was she referring to? Was I dreaming that? I gulped some more air. I waited. I gulped some more air, but no matter how I tried to fill my lungs, it felt as if they wouldn’t expand to hold the air. I whispered to my husband that I was having trouble breathing and he repeated my statement, but the doctors simply kept working.
In a matter of minutes, I heard my daughter’s cry. She was shown to me and then taken to be measured and weighed. My husband left my side to go see her. When they took her from the room, my husband went with her. I was left alone with a bunch of doctors late at night as they sewed my organs back inside me. Then, I was moved to a recovery room that appeared to amount to an end of a dim hall with lots of machines and monitors.
Although warm blankets were placed on top of me, I could not stop shaking. I remember my body trembling so badly that it began to hurt. I was in recovery for at least three hours shaking as the nurse on duty waited for the beeping of my monitors to normalize. My husband had already called the family and friends to tell them the news. Finally, the nurse took me to a new room in which I would be staying for three days. I was still shaking, but not quite as violently. I eventually fell asleep, but woke up early in the morning asking the nurse where my daughter was. I had planned on breastfeeding and I knew I was to start as quickly as possible after her birth in order to have a higher rate of success at it-it had already been over six hours.
My daughter was brought to me and she started to nurse almost immediately. She was tiny and beautiful, just as every child should be in her mother’s eyes. I was still shaking a little, but it was gradually decreasing. I was still very thirsty and drank as much apple juice as the nurses would bring to me. I was told to take medicine for pain, but I was reluctant to do so. I couldn’t get out of bed yet, so my husband had to change the first few diapers. After the second day, the nurses told me I really had to get up, but when I did I walked like a cavewoman-my back was arched so far that I could almost touch my feet with my hands. The pain of the gas in my stomach was terrible, but it eased greatly with the pain pills. I remember one of the nurses helping me into the shower and myself freely giving into the help. My modesty was gone and the pain was great.
When I was released from the hospital, I still required help in doing minor tasks around the house. My entire body had swelled up terribly after the surgery, but after a week the swelling went away. After three weeks, the pain had mostly dissipated, but I was told to still take it easy. The only problem with that advice was that I now had a three-week old to watch-nothing was easy about that!
My second c-section was not planned, either. I had done much research and even switched doctors because I wanted to try having a vaginal delivery with the second baby. I was told my chances weren’t very high, but because there was a chance, I held on to it. I remember a friend telling me after she had her second baby vaginally following a c-section the first time that it really made her feel like a mother. I wanted to feel that same sense of accomplishment. Or maybe I just wanted to try everything once. No matter, I was going to try having this baby vaginally.
At my 38th week, according to the doctor’s office, my baby weighed eight pounds ten ounces-a large amount for a mother wanting to have a vaginal birth after c-section. My doctor brought their specialist to me who informed me a c-section would be much better in my case because the baby weighed so much and her head was still high. Both doctors left the room and I recall sitting with a fetal monitor attached to my belly as I cried silently. I didn’t realize until that moment just how much I wanted to have my baby vaginally. After a few more minutes, a nurse came in and asked me if I knew I was having small contractions. I told her that yes, I knew, but they were just little. When the doctor came back in, the nurse showed her the monitor but the doctor said they weren’t very big yet and they weren’t that close together. She then told me her schedule and when she would be available to perform the c-section. My husband and I told her we would think about it over night and call the next day.
I prayed about the situation and went to bed that night still thinking about it. I woke up at 2:30 a.m. thinking even more about it because I was having very forceful contractions. I couldn’t get comfortable no matter how I laid in bed, so I left the bedroom and went out to the sofa. Around 4:30 a.m., I called my mother and told her I wasn’t sure if I should call the doctor or not because I didn’t go into labor naturally the first time and was unsure if this was it. I did know that I couldn’t breathe during the contractions and that they hurt terribly. At 5:00 a.m. I decided to call the doctor and I was told to come in. I woke my husband up and told him we had to go to the hospital. He asked why and then slowly got up, took a shower and proceeded to get ready while I huffed and puffed on the sofa. We still had a 45 minute drive ahead of us to the hospital during morning rush hour.
When we arrived, the nurse told me I was at 5 centimeters and said I was doing a good job. I told her my last birth was a c-section but I wanted to try vaginal this time. She responded with an “oh”-like oh, she’s really going to try that? She later told me the doctor didn’t recommend it, but he would let me try for a little while.
After a few more hours of labor, being hooked up to more monitors, and a visit from the anesthesiologist, the doctor informed me that the baby’s head still hadn’t lowered and that I would need a c-section before it became an emergency because the cord could rap around the baby’s neck easily at this point. I finally consented and was rolled away to surgery for the second time in less than two years.
This time the blue sheet went up and I expected not to be able to breathe, but air came easily into my lungs. However, my eyelids would not stay open. I thought to myself what a horrible mother I must be because I couldn’t stay awake for my daughter’s birth! Once again, I felt no tugging but suddenly there was a little human being crying and being measured across the room. The nurse quickly came over to me and told me I wouldn’t have wanted to have the baby the other way-she was almost ten pounds!
Just as before, the baby left the room and my husband followed. I was shaking, but not nearly so badly as the first time. I was taken to a recovery room with several other beds surrounded by blue curtains. We remained there for over four hours as we waited for a room to become available. I was very thirsty and was able to hold down some liquid as we waited. The shaking had stopped in only a couple of hours, but not before my jaw ached from clenching it to control the shakes. I was taken to my room and given something to eat, but it didn’t stay down very long-a hazard of abdominal surgery. This time I took my pain pills and was able to get up and move around before long, taking showers completely unassisted.
Both surgeries were experiences similar and yet with their own qualities. They both sound horrible if you have not had a child, but it is amazing how much our bodies can accomplish, even if they are assisted by a surgical team. And when I remembered my friend’s words about vaginal deliveries, I decided that I felt like a real mother no matter the birthing method because I continued to look out for the safety of my child.