Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My C Section Experience

My Caesarian Experience

It wasn’t what we wanted, but it was a medical need, due to my chronic high blood pressure turn severe preeclampsia (according to the hospital discharge notice).  We could have opted for induction, but because it was so early in the pregnancy (37weeks), Dr. Wild said it wasn’t a good environment to attempt induction (i.e. my body and the baby weren’t ready for labor and if forced on either of us, my blood pressure could spike or the baby could be put under duress).  Those situations during induction would then require an immediate emergency caesarian.

It was good that we did the scheduled c-section instead of induction, because the baby was too high up into my ribs and the cord was wrapped around his neck.  But I’m getting ahead of myself…

The surgery was scheduled for noon on Feb 18, 2013 at East Jefferson General Hospital.  The night before, no food or water from midnight on.  We arrived 2 hours (10 am) prior to surgery, as required by the hospital.  We walked into the labor and delivery, and Greg said, “We’re here to have a baby.  Literally.” 

The nurses confirmed our names and walked us into the prep room.  It was large, plenty of space and it’s where we stayed until the surgery was to take place.  The nurse gave me the hospital gown to put on and Greg put on his Daddy scrubs that I bought for him for Valentine’s Day.

The baby monitor was put in place – basically it’s the NST machine – two straps go around the belly, with one strap monitoring the baby’s heart rate and the other monitoring any contractions.  As typical, the nurse had a difficult time getting the baby’s heart rate in place, because the baby was moving so much.

I have small veins and only once before needed an IV, which was not a pleasant experience.  I looked at the nurse and said, “This is going to hurt, isn’t it?”  She looked a little sad and nodded her head, “Yes.”  I closed my eyes and she dug into my hand.  She did better than the IV I had years ago, but it did hurt.  Why don’t they give a shot before having to dig for a vein?  Because she had to dig, it was a bloody mess on my left hand. 

And then the chills came.  With high blood pressure, they need to pump you full of fluid, to keep the pressure at a constant during the surgery.  For me, the fluid sent chills, the type that I couldn’t stop my body from shaking and feeling an intense cold.  I didn’t know if the shakes were from being so nervous or not.  Then I realized that when the drip from the IV bag ended, I wasn’t shaking… and when another IV bag was added, I started shaking again… I understood it was the fluid causing the shakes.

Though we were reassured constantly that the surgery would start on time, Dr. Wild didn’t show up until 12:30.  I was almost expecting this, because I knew she had a surgery earlier that morning and I imagine, nothing starts or ends on time when one is in the hospital.

While we waited for Dr. Wild, the anesthesiologist doctor came in to introduce himself as the one who would give me the spinal epidural.  Unlike the epidural given during labor, the spinal epidural would be one shot and no tubes would be taped to my back for additional pain relief (because they have a good approximation of how long the surgery should last).  We also were introduced to two other assistants to the anesthesiologist doctor.

Honestly, it was a little scary to meet three people who would govern my critical life functions through surgery.

When Dr. Wild arrived, things went into motion fairly quickly.  I was wheeled into the surgery room.  My husband was not allowed to be in the room while the anesthesiologist gave me the spinal epidural, because the hospital requires sterilization for the process.

I was told to sit up on the hospital bed.  A nurse stood in front of me and told me to put my head (front of head, my face down to the ground) into her chest and to curve my back in the worst possible posture (the kind your mom would fuss at your for).

I felt the anesthesiologist clean my back three times with a cold towel of sorts and then put that square paper in place on my back.  He warned me of the burn before he did so and yes, it did burn, like fire going into my body.  And it wasn’t just a “ok, that’s the shot.”  It was the burn and then “just a little more” – pressure and burn. 

The nurse helped me lay back down on the table and the tingling in my legs and feet started within seconds.  I think I told the anesthesiologist, “I can feel my feet tingling, as if my feet fell asleep, but I can feel it” at least four times.  I guess I didn’t want them to start anything until I knew I couldn’t feel anything.

The blue sheet was put in front of my face and I heard Dr. Wild say, “I see you waited for me.”  (Saying this, because we had a blood pressure scare a week prior to the scheduled c-section and the doctor was out on vacation.)

Nurses explained that they were putting the catheter in, fortunately the epidural was in full swing and I didn’t feel that.

Then I heard Dr. Wild ask the anesthesiologist, “How is her blood pressure?”  He made a face, looked away from me and I heard Dr. Wild reply, “That happens when she’s nervous.”  So, I imagine the blood pressure was high.  I remember thinking to myself, “I’m making my blood pressure spike with being nervous.  Close your eyes and think calm thoughts.”  I don’t know if that helped, but soon after, Dr. Wild said, “Alright, all we need now is the Daddy.”

It was a relief when I heard Greg’s voice.  I was nervous, but he was there and it would be OK.  I knew when they started, not because I felt pain, but because of all of the tugging.  I felt as if someone was trying to pull my body through a wall on the other side.  This lasted for a while, come to find out from some nurses, basically the doctor has her hands and arms up into the body, moving organs, stomach etc out of the way, because the baby was so high up (as into the ribs as he could be).

(When we went to the prenatal classes, the instructor makes it seem like the baby is right there at the incision point and the baby is quickly born – this is typically not going to be the case!)

At various points, I have to admit that the anesthesiologist assistants were really good, because they would ask how I was feeling.  If I felt sick to my stomach, then they did some type of adjustment and asked if I felt better, which helped.  The nurses were very spot on with caring for my needs during the surgery.

When Dr. Wild announced, “Do you have the camera ready?  The baby is coming out.”  Greg asked if he could video it and there was a slight hush.  Hospital policy is “no videos.”  But Dr. Wild was really cool.  She said, “Go ahead, I have nothing to hide.”  If she hadn’t said that, I never would have been able to see our son being born.  At the beginning of the video, you can actually see the doctor unwrapping the cord from around the baby’s neck and then pulling him out by his head (which weirds a lot of people out).  It’s a bloody video, but isn’t that life..

Gregory Patrick O’Brien Jr was born as 12:58pm on Feb 18th, weighing 6 pounds 12 ounches and 20 inches long with a head full of blond hair and grey/blue eyes.

On the other side of the blue sheet, I cried when I heard our son’s cries.  I knew he was OK.  I was waiting for his first cries, to reassure myself that he was alive and well.  It was a beautiful sound.  The sweetest I’ve ever heard.

The nurses took the baby to the other side of the room.  Greg watched as they wiped the baby off, took his weight and footprints.  The nurse at my side moved the blue sheet to the side so I could watch as our baby was weighed, etc.  I heard him crying and when Greg carried him to me and we took our first picture as a family, Gregory stopped crying.  It was a magical moment.  One of the best experiences.

If I could stop the caesarian experience at this point, it would be rainbows and unicorns, but it goes on… 

My husband went with the baby to the nursery while Dr. Wild finished up with the surgery… which does take a while longer than the actual birth part.  She talked about her skiing vacation and other things.  She said everything looked good.  Then she told me, “Because you have high blood pressure, we’re going to put you on magnesium fluids for 24-36 hours.  Magnesium is a preventative that will stop you from having any seizures or strokes.”

It’s nasty stuff, all that fluid.  The doctor also warned me that magnesium would make me very bloated and very sleepy.  She was right on both those aspects and both of those things later contributed to some negative baby blue issues.

When the doctor was finished stitching me up, the nurses told me that they would move me to another bed.  Fortunately they warned me first with these words, “It’s going to feel weird.  It’s going to feel like you are going to fall off of the bed, but trust us, we have you.  You won’t fall.”  I’m glad for the warning, because I would have freaked out otherwise.

For the first 36 hours of our son’s birth, I was not fully aware of what all was going on, because I was being given percocet and motrim around the clock for pain, along with the magnesium and additional fluids.  My blood pressure was being monitored as well as kidney functions, once both were confirmed to be stable, after the 36 hours, then I was taken off of the magnesium and catheter. 

But during those 36 hours?  My husband was incredibly happy, holding the baby and changing diapers, etc.  For me, I had lactation nurses come in, asking, “How are your nipples today?”  Of which my husband laughed and said, “Not something you usually get away with asking!”  Unfortunately, because of a c-section and magnesium and fluids and hypothyroidism, my milk was slow to start.

But not for the lactation nurses trying… good grief, I saw at least 10 different lactation nurses and it HURT having someone pinch and squeeze you like that over and over again.  My breast did manage to produce some colostrums, which is very important for a new born, so at least that happened.  But as our son’s weight went from 6.12 to 6.5, the nurses suggested formula feeding and to use a breast pump in the meantime.

It was disheartening.  And while I was being shown how to pump, my husband was given instructions on bottling feeding our baby.  Again, this made for some baby blue issues to work through when we got home.

When I was on the magnesium, the nurses would come in and press hard on my stomach to make sure the uterus was going back down.  Want to know what pain is?  Yeah, when you are so drugged up with 3 different pain medicines and STILL feel pain, that’s pain.  So much so that I was gripping my hands into the side of the bed from stopping myself from hitting the nurse kind of pain.

Oh and when they have to “check the blood flow” – embarrassing… They are looking at the pad and when you still have a catheter in and they move the pad – that hurts!  It was a relief to get the catheter out, but warning, when the nurse tells you, “I’m going to count to three and on three, I want you to take a deep breath” – do as she says, the deep breath helps with removing the catheter.

The recovery nurses up to this point were very caring and attentive, but then we were moved to the post partum room, which was much smaller and the nurses not only had the post partum maternity, but also any surgeries in recovery to take care of.  Needless to say, too many patients and not enough staff leads to not as solid care, but what can be expected with budget cuts?

Before we left the hospital, one of the nurses was very helpful in saying, “These are the things you paid for with the hospital bill, take them home.”  That included the formula, Johnson&Johnson bath supply, nasal thingie, breast pump pieces (insurance paid for the pieces because it was a medical need as our son did not latch), diapers, etc.  It was helpful to bring these things home, even though we had a starter with a lot of products from the baby shower.  It was still good to have the formula, to know what our son was used to and hospital approved.

People think that c-sections are great, because you don’t have labor pains (if it’s scheduled and you don’t induce first), but they forget that this is major surgery and the recovery is a lot harsher on the body than natural delivery.  I wasn’t able to get out of bed until we were in post partum and when I stood up, it was more like the hunchback.  It took all of my energy just to stand up straight and my gosh, it hurt like you wouldn’t believe.  I wondered if I would walk straight up again!  Greg was on one side helping me and the nurse on the other and I had to take the smallest baby steps ever just to get to the bathroom.  Walking the shortest distance in the room was a huge milestone for me and I was still on pain medicine at the time.  Crazy insane to think c-sections are easier.  I don’t recommend it unless it’s a medical reason.

It’s two weeks and a few days since the surgery and I still feel the pain in my stomach and my back.  I’m not on pain medicine though.  I tried to get off of those two prescriptions as soon as I could, because people get hooked on that stuff.  But I will admit, I probably tried to get off of the pain medicine too soon.  I think I could have handled the baby blues a lot better if the pain wasn’t so bad and the medicine does help you to sleep… and I know I was sleep deprived (still am unless family members take a night shift to help).  So, if someone would ask, I’d tell them to take the pain medicine at least the first week home and decrease what you use for the second week.  I wish I had done that and maybe the baby blues would have been a little more on the foggy side.

Not being able to drive for 3 weeks stinks.  Total recovery is a minimum of 6 weeks before normal activity.  Not supposed to lift anything more than 10 pounds in the meantime.  You still have to deal with bleeding with a c-section.  Supposed to feed a baby 8 times a day and pump and stay functional.  Lots of changes in life and all while trying to recover.  No, I’d say go natural if possible.  My doctor did a great job with the surgery and she even called me one night at 7:30pm to see how I was doing and recommended anti-depressants (which I didn’t take) for the baby blues. 

I sound like it’s all complaining towards the end, but the recover is the worst and I’m still in the middle of it.  So, that’s the end of this perspective.  I’m sure there’s a silver lining in the distance.  Family support has been so incredibly important and appreciated.  Once our baby starts to sleep more hours, it will be another blessing to count.  My husband is overjoyed about being a Daddy.  Though I do have to admit that I crave and cry for our alone time and snuggle time.  I’m sure the future will find a way for that as well.

So, that’s my honest review of the c-section.  The surgery isn’t the scary part.  If you know you’re going to have surgery, get your family and friends lined up to help you for recovery.  Never, never turn away help with a new born baby.  Know that you might miss out on some things depending on what type of medicine you need, just be prepared for it emotionally and accept that with time the body heals. 

That’s the best advice I can offer.  I know it seems that I’m being incredibly negative about the experience.  But I’d rather be honest.  For the purpose that if a woman who is about to have a c-section reads this and has similar reasons for the c-section, then she can be better equipped physically and emotionally for what she might experience.

All that said… I wouldn’t change doing the c-section.  It was the healthiest option for our son’s birth.  We made a good call in doing so for his well-being.  Our son is healthy and beautiful and it was worth whatever recovery and baby blues brings.  I think that’s the strength of a parent’s love.


Laurel @Let's Go on a Picnic! said...

It's odd how they didn't allow Greg in the room for your spinal. My husband was in the room for mine. Same hospital. Ironically, he was not in the room for my epidural at a different hospital and that's the one that I actually got a serious infection from.

That magnesium is nothing nice! I got mine almost immediately after I was admitted. You're not allowed to eat for 24 hours, but somehow they tried to make an exception. That was not a good idea, because mag cause nausea. I can only imagine how hungry you must have been after having to fast for the surgery.

I actually figured it out and my sister had her c-section a couple days earlier in her pregnancy. (they were trying to do a version for breech) They didn't even try the version until 37 weeks when a baby is considered full term.

Eleanor Grimball said...

This was beautifully written. I'm sure it will be helpful for many new mothers. I'm totally amazed with you. You didn't mention that you are 43. You went through a difficult procedure for a very young person. Love you

Celeste Newbrough said...

I know from the experiences of several women close to me that C-sections suck. But as you acknowledged, it was the only way. It must be very hard to be recovering from a major operation (yes, MAJOR) and nurturing a child. Thanks for your strenth, and thanks to those who love you for supporting you!