We arrived at the hospital at just after 6am, for our c-section scheduled for 8:30. M and I both remarked to each other as we were driving over how it still didn’t feel real – not being in labor, and having those hours to really feel the anticipation of Phred’s delivery meant that the idea that we would be holding a baby – OUR baby - in our arms in just a few hours still seemed very surreal. And it continued to do so when we were at the hospital.
They brought us right into a room in the labor and delivery suite, and had me change out of my clothes into a hospital gown. I was expecting not to change for a while yet, as I thought that we’d talk to the anesthesiologist and go over everything while I was still dressed, but apparently not! We took a quick video of the last minutes of Phred inside me, and then I got into the Johnny.
The baby and uterine contraction monitors were strapped around my belly, and we settled down so that they could get a good trace on the little one and make sure that everything was okay. The nurse also checked my vital signs. Then came the IV, into my left arm. I have really big veins, so usually there’s no problem whatsoever with putting in an IV or drawing my blood. This one felt a bit more painful than they had before though, and the nurse said that my skin was tough. Shortly after she put it in I started feeling light-headed and warm, as if I might faint. I mentioned it to her, and she had me roll onto my left side to relieve the pressure on the vein running down the back of my abdominal cavity. I felt immediately better. She said to the nurse relieving her that I was “vagal” (I think).
The anesthesiologist (Dr. G) then came in to talk to us as well. He had an accent I couldn’t place (eastern European?) which made it a little hard to understand him. He asked a bunch of questions about previous surgeries, reactions to anesthesia, that kind of thing, then determined that since this was a pretty straightforward case and there were no contraindications, he would do a spinal. He told us about how that would work, the possible side effects / complications, had me sign the typical consent form, and then went away for a bit.
The nurse then shaved the area where they would make the incision. She said that they usually use an electric razor, but those all seem to have walked off, so she was using this really awful disposable. It was so scratchy! It looked like the kind my dad used to use years and years ago, with a blade on either side of a convex middle. She also gave M the scrubs to wear into the OR.
He and I had both brought books with us, anticipating that we’d be doing a lot of waiting around in the 2.5 hours between when we arrived and when we were scheduled for surgery, but we found that we actually didn’t have any time to read! There was always someone in there, doing something or other. They also had breakfast brought for M, and said that even though it was mean to have food in front of me (I wasn’t allowed anything to eat or drink since midnight the night before), he was required to eat something. So that he wouldn’t faint in the OR. I guess they must have had problems with that in the past, and have found that having food in the partner's stomach helps prevent it. They had a muffin, banana, and something el se – as I walked by I only saw a bite taken out of the muffin so I thought he didn’t eat much, but apparently he ate the whole banana and the something else which neither of us can remember anymore.
After all this was done, it was time to head to the OR. To our surprise, they had me walk in there. It was also only about two doors down from the room I was in. I was also surprised when I got in there at how much stuff there was – cabinets lining the walls filled with supplies, equipment everywhere. I always thought of ORs as much more sparse than it actually was. I think I arrived in the room at 7:49 – at least that was the time according to the notes one of the doctors or nurses was making.
They had me go in and sit down on the edge of the operating table – fortunately they had a stool for me to use to climb up onto it with, because it was higher even than a normal table (I think), and I was definitely wondering how I was going to do it! The head anesthesiologist (Dr. L) talked me through exactly what I would do for the spinal – curve my back like a C, rock my hips backward – as Dr G, who was apparently a resident, started prepping me. He started by “washing” my back three times using (I assume) swabs with soap of some description on them. Then he spread a plastic sheet with a hole cut in it at the place where the needle would go, and adhered that to my back. That actually felt quite nice. I was in the C position already at this point, with my nurse standing directly in front of me, so that I wouldn’t be worried about falling over.
Next came the needle. The nurse was really sweet, and held my hand as the needle went in. I think they numbed the area first with some lidocaine, then came the spinal. It was painful, quite a sharp pain, but not unmanageable. I did appreciate having her hand to squeeze, and just tried to breathe through it. After that was done, they helped me swing my legs onto the table and lie down.
Catheter insertion was the next item on the agenda. They were already putting up the sheet, just above my breasts, so I couldn’t see what was going on, but it felt as if two people lifted up and held my two legs. I could feel a tingling going down my body, and my legs felt quite warm – the spinal taking effect. The last thing I felt was tingling in my feet, with my legs still up in the air.
Then, they supposedly put my legs flat down on the table so I was lying flat on my back (with a wedge under my right side). The reason I say supposedly is that I absolutely 100% would have sworn that my legs were still being held up in the air. Apparently your brain remembers the position the legs were in when the anesthesia takes effect. I also felt as if I could still feel tingling in my toes for a good long while. To check that the anesthesia was working, Dr. G used something sharp, and was poking me (gently). I had to tell him when I could feel the prick, as opposed to just pressure, which was at about the level of my breasts, or right where they had the sheet. I was “numb to the T4”, which I believe is the name for a particular vertebra in my spine.
Very shortly after this, I seemed to have some kind of negative reaction to the anesthesia – again, the docs were calling it “going vagal” or something like that. I heard the anesthesiologist say that I was “in the 40’s”, so I asked if that was my pulse, and she said it was. They gave me ephedrine and atropine, which I’ve certainly heard about on the hospital shows! They also put an oxygen mask on my face, which really helped. They stabilized me quite quickly, so I wasn’t worried about it. They were all amazed that I was still smiling and seeming happy!
One other potential issue that Dr. G had warned me about was that some people can feel as if they have trouble breathing with a spinal. The diaphragm is controlled by your brain, so is unaffected by the anesthesia, whereas the muscles around your ribcage are controlled though the spinal cord, so are affected. He said that your brain doesn’t get the same feedback that it’s used to, and that might manifest itself as feeling like having difficulty breathing. I actually felt a completely opposite sensation. I felt as if my breathing was so light and unimpeded. It was such a pleasure to breathe. Another really interesting sensation to add to my list.
My doc, Dr. F, was in the OR by this point, and made the incisions. Then M was allowed to join me. He was sitting up next to my head, behind the sheet. I noticed as he joined me that I could actually see what was going on on the other side of the sheet by looking at the glass front of the cabinets that were lining the wall. I had asked at my last appointment whether I could have a mirror so that I could watch, but Dr. F had said that they wouldn’t do that in case it affected me negatively. But I could actually see quite clearly despite not having a real mirror. I was really glad that I could in fact see. Not everything, because every now and again a body would get in the way. But, I could see a lot! And I pointed it out to M (very quietly so they wouldn’t know), so he could watch too if he wanted to.
I saw them using the retractor to lift up my abdomen and get inside the opening. Then there was a bunch of stuff I couldn’t really see as they had their hands in there and were in the way. Then there was all of a sudden a lot of sucking. Dr. G had been talking to me about what was going on, so I asked him what that was. Suctioning out the amniotic fluid! M said that he could hear the whoosh of fluid as they broke the bag, but I hadn't noticed that. I Dr. G then told me that I would start feeling a lot of pushing and pulling, like someone tugging pretty hard on my shoulder, but I really didn’t. I was very comfortable throughout. Perhaps it was that the pushing and pulling was so minor in comparison to the attempted version! I kept watching, and the next thing I saw was them pulling Phred’s little bum out. One of my friends also had had a C-section, and her DH had said that their son was basically a bloody alien mass when the doctors showed the baby to him, but I really didn’t see much blood, just the little bluish-white bum. Then they pulled the rest of Phred out, and said in a few seconds, “It’s a boy!!!”
Just before we started, Dr. L had been asking me if I had a feeling one way or the other, and I said I thought it was a boy. Throughout the pregnancy I hadn’t really had a sense, but somehow over the last few weeks I really started to think it was a boy. I didn’t cry when they made the announcement, but it definitely brought tears to my eyes. Getting more and more real by the second!
They took him over to the pediatrician, and then Mark heard someone remark “Oh, that explains why he was breech!” He mentioned that to me, and then asked over the sheet if that was what he had heard. They said yes, that the cord was wrapped around his neck 3-4 times! With the bulk of my placenta at the top front of my uterus, it seems like a very good explanation for his position, and why the version attempt didn’t work.
After a couple of minutes, they let M go over to see him, and he took a couple of pics of Antony being weighed. He then brought over the camera to show me the pictures. The first time I got to see our little guy! Gotta love digital cameras! The rest of the surgery gets a lot hazier for me. After they had checked Ant over, they brought him over to me so I could see him, and give him a kiss. My arms weren’t tied down, but they were spread out on either side of me, and had the IV, blood pressure and oxygenation monitor attached, so I couldn’t reach up to touch him. M went over to see Antony again, while the docs sewed me up. I watched some of that, and saw my uterus out on my stomach while they stitched it up, then stuffed it back inside me again. Then M came back over again, and was sitting with me. He was there until they started really cleaning up, taking down the sheet and everything. He said that he saw me all laid out, with blood and amniotic fluid all over. When they realized that he was watching, they had him leave the room again, I guess because it was pretty gory. I do remember being rolled over from side to side as they cleaned me off, and joking to the docs “you’re making sure I don’t roll off the table, right?” because I felt as if I was really close to the edge! Then they used one of those white carry things to move me off the operating table and onto a bed to move me back to the recovery room. I did get a look at the suction receptacle they were using, there were 1.1 liters of fluid in there! M and I were trying to figure out together what happened next, we think that they gave Ant to me right there, before they wheeled me back to the room we were in before.
When we got back, I couldn’t feel my legs at all, and there was no movement when I tried with all my might to send signals to them to move. Gradually I started being able to feel things again, a bit of pins and needles in the toes, got the ability to move my right thigh / knee, then the right toes. I still felt odd – the signals I was sending to my foot were to wiggle my toes, but in fact the whole foot was moving. My left side came back more slowly than my right, but eventually I was able to feel and move everything again.
I think we tried breastfeeding for the first time while still in the recovery room, and it went relatively well. I had been leaking since 19 weeks, so I was primed, and Antony seemed to get the hang of his end without too much trouble as well. After Dr. G had come in to make sure I wasn’t feeling any negative effects from the spinal, I was able to move, and Ant was stable, we got moved to the postpartum floor. My delivery was over, and resulted in a sore mom, but healthy baby boy, which is key!
All in all, despite my disappointment that I wasn’t able to have a natural birth, the experience was really quite special. All kinds of new feelings and sensations to remember. And we have a beautiful son!