Disclaimer: Look, I am a super anxious person. I told Rob that if I was a rapper, my rap name would be Defrost because I have no chill. The absolute last adjective someone would use to describe me is “relaxed”. So, if you’re a person who over-analyzes, over-googles and over-reacts, this is probably a great story for you to read ahead of your impending c-section in the sense that I survived and so will you. If you’re just curious about birth stories like I am, rest assured that I skip anything gross.
If you haven’t already read the story of my placenta previa journey, go do that. I’ll wait.
So, as a result of my diagnosis, we were told pretty early on that I would have a scheduled c-section. It’s important to note that I spent the past eight years telling everyone how empowering my birth experience was with Austen and that labor is such a cool experience and yada yada yada–sorry to all of you who had to endure that. This is my karma. My hang-up with the surgery was mostly that I am terrified of pain. And I feel like the pain of labor is “productive” pain, which I can tolerate. I am working towards a goal. The pain of the c-section seemed like it would just be inflicted upon me, something I would have to endure. I wasn’t entirely wrong–but luckily, it wasn’t as awful as I anticipated.
Waiting on a scheduled c-section is the reproductive equivalent of being stuck at the top of a roller coaster. You’re going down and you know it but like, you gotta wait for someone else to hit the gas. It’s the worst. Anticipation is not my friend. Every time I think of those weeks of waiting, I think of the time I got my tongue pierced in Daytona on Spring Break in college. It seemed like a super awesome idea until I changed my mind. I was adamant that I wanted my money back and I wanted to leave. But the guy refused a refund and wouldn’t let me leave until I did it. Despite lots of tears and swear words, I totally got my tongue pierced. This was exactly the same. Except after all the tears and swearing, I had a baby. Way cooler result.
Anyway, the day of surgery I woke up and felt a gush of fluid. They never actually tested me because I was there to have a baby anyway, but the nurses agreed it looked like I broke my water. Because of this, we had gone to L&D a little early. They took us straight back to the prep room that is attached to the OR and we ended up spending about an hour there being monitored. I am not sure if this is normal or was just because we came early but it was really surreal to hang out outside of the OR, watching Friends reruns on the TV, and hanging out with my husband like the demise of my abdominal muscles was not imminent. Somehow, I managed to stay pretty cool and calm during this portion of the program.
Because we were early, and it was a relatively slow day in the baby delivering business, we actually started surgery a bit ahead of schedule. The anesthesiologist came in and explained everything, despite me telling him that I would rather know nothing and be clubbed over the head than experience what was about to go down. Somehow, they convinced me to walk into the OR. This was by far the scariest part. Rob was left to put on his little scrub suit and I was alone with the anesthesiologist, the nurse anesthetist, a handful of nurses and my OB. This is the part where being “relaxed” would come in handy. But that’s not me, friends. So, instead I started loudly proclaiming that I could not do this, did not want to do this and would like to go home. I am sure they see this sort of thing a lot so they were really gracious and lied and said I was doing great. Turns out, a temper tantrum is a good way to pass the time because before I knew it, they laid me back and Rob came in.
At this point, they started testing to make sure the epidural was working. The anesthesiologist kept asking if I could feel stuff and I kept saying “YES!” to which he got kind of annoyed because he was like “Remember when we discussed that you could feel it but it wouldn’t hurt?” and I was like “Well, it doesn’t hurt but IT MIGHT START TO HURT”. I am a real peach. At that point, I guess they figured they only way to get rid of me was to get started and so they began.
Everyone told me the “get the baby out” part would be super fast and I guess….all things considered…that’s true? But in my heightened state, I honestly felt like it all took forever. I kept crying and just saying I wanted it to be over. I know lots of mamas talk about how they were so excited to meet their baby in these moments–and I mean, I was super excited to know if I was having a boy or a girl and to meet the tiny person–but just not right then. Right then, they could’ve pulled the winning power-ball ticket from my uterus and it would’ve been irrelevant to me. Please, remove yourself from my insides.
Rob, because he is a saint, asked if music would help. I enthusiastically said yes and asked him to play Luckiest Man by The Wood Brothers, the song that we danced to for the last song at our wedding. That song has such powerful meaning to me and all jokes aside, I am super grateful that Mae was born while it played. However, because its us, it couldn’t go off without a hitch. When he pulled it up on YouTube, we were all treated to an ad before the song began. I think my exact words were, “You cannot be serious right now”. The comic relief was much appreciated, however.
After what felt like forever, my doctor asked if we were ready to meet HER and my mouth dropped to the floor as she brought Mae around the corner. I was so shocked we had a girl! Rob had admitted he thought it was a girl moments before she was born so we were doing lots of laugh-crying about him being right and the secret finally being revealed. A girl! Our sweet Baby Mae!
One would think I would be overcome with joy and emotion and unable to stress about the remainder of the surgery. WRONG! I was super happy she was here and okay and encouraged Rob to go check her out. But once alone, I became fixated on how all these strangers could see my naked body and my insides. For some reason, it just really bothered me to be so exposed. So, I laid there imagining what everyone else in the room must be thinking about me. Truly, my insecurity never takes a day off.
After what seemed like forever, they brought her over to my chest which I had really stressed was important to me–and I AM glad we did that skin to skin. However, it was kind of stressful to feel them still tugging at me, feel kind of weak and vulnerable, and also feel like I had to soak in my fresh new baby. It was… a lot. I felt guilty because part of me wanted to say “Can we bond here in a minute? Like, once I am out of this OR?”. I think its important to acknowledge that its okay if you’re not a multi-tasker in this regard. I held her a whole lot. Still holding her now. We are fine. It just took a few hours for that warm, fuzzy stuff to kick in.
Eventually, it was done. They wheeled us into the recovery room and I remember thinking how bizarre it was to be hanging out back in the same room with the Friends reruns. Only now, I had my baby. The nurses did lots of checks on me and Mae. The pushing on my uterus elicited more angry words. Nursing felt cumbersome and hard due to all of the wires. I was anxious to be in a real room and to get up and moving. The whole scenario left me feeling a bit claustrophobic. I honestly still get cringe-y when I relive the surgery and the moments after.
Now, if you’ve made it this far, I want to offer some redemptive pieces to the story and also some things to be aware of if you’re headed for a c-section. Aside from the above depiction, the actual recovery was NOT THAT BAD. To be quite frank, a baby is not exiting your body without some damage. So, having done it both ways, I feel like its just a matter of where you hurt. I stayed on top of my pain meds and by the time I went home, I really only needed them for a day or two. My incision still feels uncomfortably numb and I do get tired more easily but I am also getting up with a newborn all night so that part isn’t entirely the surgery’s fault.
I am super grateful that I asked lots of questions of friends and Dr. Google ahead of time so that I knew to get up and walk and to hold a pillow to my stomach before I coughed or laughed. I wish someone would have warned me that the swelling is INSANE. I have beautiful pictures from the day of delivery but like–who is the girl with the four chins? They said it was a combination of the fluids they give you and blood loss but regardless, that part was really uncomfortable for me. I also wish I would’ve just ordered the granny panties from the get go. Just get them, trust me.
Ultimately, I feel just as bonded with Mae as I did with Austen. Turns out, the exit route isn’t really what makes you a mother. Its not always a hallmark moment when you meet one of the loves of your life. Especially if you’re an anxious ball of nerves, its okay to give yourself some grace in the hard times. Eventually, you’re holding your baby and watching The One With All the Thanksgivings in your recovery room and saying things like “We did it, kid” to your new little gal. So, I might be a wuss but I learned am also kind of a bad ass.