Earlier in my pregnancy, I imagined this post to be about laboring at home with our doula before going to the hospital for a natural childbirth. Our reality of brining our baby into the world was very different. Instead of a natural childbirth, I was scheduled for a c-section because our baby was breech. This meant our doula wouldn’t be able to be there for my delivery, as only one person is allowed in the OR.
We were still planning on having her come to the hospital for support before and after, until, of course, the Bay Area went on a mandatory shelter in place because of COVID-19. On top of this, hospitals put restrictions on the number of visitors that could come to the hospital. One support person (obviously Mike) was allowed to be there with me. No one else; doula, family, or friends!
Like I said… a completely different birth experience than I imagined BUT I am happy to report, an overall positive one nonetheless.
The morning of my c-section, Mike and I woke up early so I could capitalize on my last hour of being able to drink something before the 2 hour NO FLUIDS rule before surgery. I got a decent amount of sleep the night before, all things considered, but still had a big cup of black coffee in bed while finishing season 2 of The Crown. We were scheduled for a 1pm surgery with an arrival time of 11am, which meant time for one last short walk before going to the hospital. I didn’t know how my recovery would go, and when I would be able to get out and walk again, so taking a stroll was definitely something I wanted to do. I got a little emotional on our walk because – as corny as it may sound – I started thinking about all of the strong women and mamas that I know. I actually began listing their names, one by one in my head, and just knowing that their thoughts, love, and strength was with me that day brought tears to my eyes.
When we got back to the house, we packed up the car* and headed to the hospital. What a different experience it was than going into labor naturally must be! The morning, and the car ride, were both pretty calm and controlled; none of the “drive faster!!!” or “grab the bag, it’s time!” stereotypical birthing scenes we see in the movies! Instead I had the chance to call both of my parents on the drive (which again, made me a little teary eyed because I know they were both nervous for me).
After dousing our hands with sanitizer and walking down eerily quiet hallways (birth during a pandemic), we checked into Labor & Delivery. Through mild small talk and anxious half laughs, we were led to a small room. For the next ~2 hours various medical staff came in, checked on me, introduced themselves, took my vitals, inserted an IV, shaved my legs (not joking), answered my questions, and tried to console me when I started to cry. It was all very emotional and a bit overwhelming for me (!) but everyone was calm, patient, and very kind.
At 1:30pm it was go-time. We walked to the operating room but Mike had to wait outside while I got my spinal tab. The OR is as bright, cold, and sterile as you imagine it would be. I was sat on a table that was way smaller than I expected and (you guessed it!) started crying. I could see Mike sitting outside from the window and it made me EVEN MORE emotional. I didn’t like that he could see me because I imagined it had to be hard watching your partner get prepped for a major surgery and there was nothing you could really do from outside the room.
Luckily the team who performed my c-section was AMAZING (and all women, which felt pretty badass!). They continuously comforted me in between doing a round robin of introductions. There were about 8 medical staff, who introduced themselves via their name and their role during the procedure. I found this to be a little amusing (although I know it makes sense for them to do it) because it reminded me of an office meeting – like, okay… let’s start with a round of introductions, shall we?
I particularly loved my anesthesiologist, which was comforting given she was sticking a needle in my spine. I forgot her name now but she expertly walked me through each next step – what to expect physically but not going into too much detail, because …gross. My spinal tap was done before I knew it. I was instructed to lay down and put my arms out into a T. I was suddenly so cold, I started shivering uncontrollably. I actually read about this happening to a lot of women so was prepared for it but was still thankful when they put a blanket to cover my arms that had warm air shooting through it. Nothing better than feeling nice and cozy in the operating room, amiright?
Next Mike got to come in (yay!) and there were a lot of questions on what I could and could not feel. And yes, it is as freaky as you expect to try to move your legs and not have them budge. That was probably my one moment of real panic. I quickly gasped “is this normal?!” and was reassured that it was. My catheter was put in place, something that I had been dreading but obviously didn’t feel at all, considering I couldn’t even move my legs… Although I will say there are some poorly designed lights in hospitals that are rimmed with a mirror. Not great for an abdomen surgery that you are awake for.
At some point, while I was avoiding glancing up because of the small, but very-much-so-there mirror, my abdomen was cut into.
Overall I didn’t feel much pain but could feel slight sensations. I think my physical pain tolerance is actually much higher than my emotional tolerance for these kinds of things. There was some pressure here and there but nothing unbearable. It did take a little longer than I anticipated for him to be out but then finally … his little cry!! Ah, hearing his voice for the first time was the best; it brought tears to both mine and Mike’s eyes; “our baby!!!!!!!”
The doctor held him up over the curtain so we could see him and then he was quickly whisked away to be checked out by the pediatrician. Mike was able to go over with him and “cut the chord” – which was more of a ritual than necessity since it wasn’t actually attached to me anymore.
I remember being so full of joy and pure bliss during all of this. They were still tugging on me and stitching me up, and our baby was wailing, but it was such a relief having him delivered and knowing that Mike was right there by his side.
The pediatrician asked if I wanted to do skin to skin with him next and OF COURSE I DID. She put him on my chest. He was still crying and wiggling all around. Mike was snapping some pictures. We were both instantly in love.
When I was finally fully intact again, we were wheeled out of the OR to the recovery room. We stayed there for a few hours and soaked in our little guy until it was time to go to our room. Our very tiny room. Here we stayed for the next 2 nights. For 6 meals, vital checks every 3 hours from nurses, visits both mornings from the doctor who performed my c-section, multiple pediatricians checking on and testing our baby to be sure he was healthy, HGTV on loop, endless pictures of our precious little one, many phone calls and text messages updating our friends and family, broken hours of sleep, sore nipples, … and the purest, rawest love I’ve ever felt.
Typically c-section patients are in the hospital for 3-4 nights but since I was recovering well, and COVID-19, we were able to leave after 2 nights. On the way home, we uncharastically stopped at Jack in the Box for curly fries and a Dr. Pepper. There was a cute Welcome Home sign from our neighbors** attached to our door that made me cry big, juicy, feeling-loved-on tears. We did another round of updates to family and friends, “we’re home!” and settled in as a family of 3.
*I packed WAY too much stuff, from multiple cozy outfits and fluffy socks to face moisturizer, a book (hahah), and makeup (hahahahhahahahhah). I’m not exaggerating when I say I only needed to bring snacks and drinks, an outfit to go home in, a robe, and my cell phone charger. I didn’t even need underwear because I wore the giant ones the hospital gave me.
**On top of the sweet sign, we have a neighbor who graciously made us lasagna and dropped off diapers on our front porch. Another neighbor made us banana bread that we ate for breakfast for 3 days. Multiple times during those first few days, the mamas of the neighborhood and others texted me to make sure I was doing alright. I am so, so thankful for the outreach of support in our little community, particularly because we only bought our house ~1 year ago and still felt all of the love. I’m glad our little babe will be growing up in such a supportive, loving place.