Nearly 6 months after Xiola took her first breath, I am writing about my C-section experience, or what I can remember of it anyway. It feels like it was forever and a half ago. Yep. That’s how long I have been procrastinating on blogging. But I wanted to put this down for posterity. Because it was the most incredible experience of my life. And the weight of the importance of that day has only increased with every minute I spend with my daughter. Maybe it’s good that I’m writing this only half a year later.
I also, in my anticipation of the Big Day, amidst the excitement and the nerves, found solace in reading about other people’s childbirth experience. Maybe that doesn’t work for everyone, but somehow the shared experiences helped me make light of my own, or at least, helped me know what to expect, because I do not like surprises.
So here’s my story.
If you didn’t already know, I had a scheduled C-section because Xiola was breeched. I never found out why she was breeched, but for some reason she was.
My C-section was scheduled at noon on 11 Aug 2009 and I was told to go 2 hours earlier. I had no nerves at all that morning while I was writing this blog post. I just wanted the baby OUT! My dear friend and massage therapist Liz, who was supposed to be my doula but wasn’t because they didn’t allow anyone else other than baby daddy in the c-section room, came with us to help out however she could. We all jumped in the cab at about 9am and off we went! It was the strangest feeling in the world. Everything else seemed so normal. Everyone was going about their day in the streets and cars like it was any other day, but it was NOT. I just wanted to tell the world “gosh darn it! Don’t you know this is the most exciting day of my life??” I think I told the cab driver about 3 times that I was going to the hospital to have my baby, because he just kinda nodded whenever I told him and somehow I expected him to dance with joy (he never did). When one is obscenely HUGELY pregnant, yes, the world revolves around you because I could not think beyond my HUGE belly. Thank god I had Liz to be squealingly excited with me in the car. And of course, baby daddy, whose enthusiasm was more muted because that’s just the way he is.
We got to the hospital by 930am and it was when I was in the elevator that the nerves hit big time. My teeth started to chatter uncontrollably. I felt like I was walking on air as I got to the Triage. When I announced to the receptionist “Hi, I’m here for my C-section”, once again, I expected her to bring out the confetti and balloons and go “OH MY GOD! YOU ARE HERE FOR THE BIGGEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE!! EVERYONE! KELLY’S HERE FOR HER C-SECTION!”. Instead, she looked up, blinked, and said “ok, have a seat” and then said to the nurse “Dr. Paka’s twelve o’clock is here”…like it was a routine doctor’s appointment!. Well. At least I found some relief that it was so routine to them. Routine is good. It meant that many have come and gone the same way and was fine, therefore we’ll be fine.
Within seconds, a nurse came out and told me to go inside the Triage (where there were about 10 beds lined up and where women get checked out or wait during early labor. I was there at about 27 weeks to get an IV drip) to get ready. I felt strangely unprepared. I thought I’d get some time to sit outside and get my mind straight. Silly me, like my head could ever get straight for something like this!
In the Triage, I undressed and put on the hospital gown and was told to lay down. A nurse came in and tried to find a vein on my hand for the IV drip. She tried twice (OUCH and OUCH!) and failed. After the 2nd time, she laughed and said “oh boy, you aren’t liking me very much now are you?” (NO SHIT WOMAN! I thought. But of course I just nervously smiled). Thankfully, she asked another nurse to help and she did it on the first try. What I didn’t know then was that it would be the ONLY pain I felt that day. I’d have thought nicer thoughts about the first nurse had I known that.
Someone else came in to do an ultrasound to make sure that the baby was still breeched before they sliced me open. I have to admit that I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that she still was. I’d have hated to, after all the anticipation, and readjustment of expectations that I wasn’t going to have a natural birth, be sent home and wait it out while being enormously pregnant. I just wanted to see my baby already.
After a while, I was told to walk out to the operating theatre, which was kind of a shocker. I had never been into an operating room before (thank god), so I thought I’d be wheeled in, you know, like in the movies. But I just walked out wheeling my IV drip next to me. Pat joined me while Liz waited outside to the reception area outside all the labor rooms and the OR. He got all his scrubs put on (he even had scrubs for his shoes!) and we just sat there. It was quite odd. Us just sitting there. The biggest day of our lives. Side by side, in our scrubs, waiting to go in, while everyone just marched on about their jobs. I heard a woman moaning in labor and was all, phew! I don’t have to go through that! My doctor came up in her scrubs and gave me a hug. I got a picture taken with her. And one of us in our scrubs too. One for the photo album.
We were called in a couple of times then told that someone or something wasn’t ready yet. False starts. Finally, we were called in for real. Actually, I went in first and as every account/website has warned, it was COLD in the OR. I felt like I was abducted to an alien spaceship. The bright lights. The table in the middle of the room. The computers. All very bizarre. There was a surprising number of people, about 6-8, whom I don’t know in the room. Finally it was time for the spinal injection. Ugh. The moment I was dreading. I sat up on the side of the table and my doctor held my hand. They cleaned my back and and I braced for the prick of the local anesthesia (which came before the spinal injection) which never came. I don’t know why but I didn’t feel the local go in.
We waited for a while, then it came time for the spinal (not epidural, which is different for reasons I don’t really know). I was shivering from the cold and nerves by then and I was told to hunch over so my back made a ‘C’. I asked my doctor if she could hold my hand and she, dear Dr. Paka, opened her arms and held me in a hug instead. I sat nervous and bracing for the pinch and the pressure I read I’d feel while Dr. Paka whispered in my ear “relax. Relax.” Amidst the clinical-ness of the florescent lights and the uncompassionate hum of the computers, her human touch meant so much to me and till this day, I will always remember and be grateful for Dr. Paka’s hug.
And then I heard, “ok, lie down”. That’s IT?? I did not even feel ANYthing! No pinch. No prick. No pressure. I don’t know how or why I didn’t feel anything, but WOOHOO! I laid down and everyone in the room started to get busy again.
Then I was told to spread my legs open and make a diamond shape with my legs. Ugh. It was embarrassing. I know no one in the room cared because they have done this a thousand times, but it was still embarrassing to be spread wide on the table naked from waist down with a bunch of strangers, OKAY? A nurse put a catheter in which felt like I was peeing. I wish she did it while I was numb. Icky.
Then they clipped up a curtain from my waist so I couldn’t see anything anymore. I think Patrick came in at that time and he sat on the left of my head. Everything is a blur in my memory now. I started to get numb and I was surprised out not-weird it felt. You know when you have one side of your mouth numb at the dentist, and that side of your cheek feels like it swelled up 10 times bigger? I expected the whole bottom half of my body to feel like that, but nope, I just felt NOTHING from pretty much chest down. I think a nurse tested me by putting a cold instrument on my chest and asked if I felt that, and I did. And she moved it down and down and down and I simply didn’t feel anything beyond my ribs.
And then I just heard a lot of clicking and clanking. And here came the most intense 15 minutes of my life. All I remember were Pat’s face and the big clock behind him. It was about 11:35 when I got numb. And for the next 10 minutes or so, I just heard the doctor and nurses talking about bringing this or that instrument, and Pat and I were just looking at each other incredulously. I kept asking him “can you believe this is happening??”. Like a dream. Then I started to shake. I was shaking for a while from the nerves, but this time, my hands were rattling constantly from the spinal which I was told could happen. Pat just held my hand tight and then I felt tugging. SOOOO BIZARRE! It felt almost like my organs were held with strings like puppets and people were pulling gently on them. It wasn’t pain or even uncomfortable one bit. It even felt kinda nice…like an organ massage. I couldn’t believe how comfortable I felt. Oh I love anesthesia!
And then the tugging got stronger and I knew SHE was coming soon. My heart felt like it was going to explode. All the emotions that I experienced since I found out I was pregnant just boiled into this climax. We just locked eyes and for some reason, we started to chant in unison “healthy, whole and complete. Healthy whole and complete” over and over and over until WEEEEEEEHHHHHHH!!! The most beautiful cry in the world!! Pat peeked above the curtain (he was allowed to look during the operation but didn’t want to because he really did not want to see his wife’s guts) tentatively because he wanted to see our baby but not my guts and burst out laughing. Apparently, she pooped right after she came out. That’s my girl! And then he said “OMG. You gave birth to an ang moh baby!” because her skin color was not Asian yellow-toned, but white.
I burst out crying. Best cry of my life.
The next few minutes, however, were agonizing for me. Xiola remained in the same room, but she was brought to the other corner of the room blocked by the curtain. Upon hindsight, I wished I had insisted that I get to SEE my daughter first before they weighed her and all that. Now, I have been at peace with my decision to have the C-section and am very pleased with my overall hospital experience at St. Luke’s Roosevelt. I just wished a simple thing like letting the mother SEE her baby right after she comes out, goo and all, was default. I heard Pat talking to her and laughing and taking pictures and I was just laying there and trying to talk to Pat over the curtain “what does she look like??” And I know those first few minutes of her life are inconsequential in the bigger scheme of things, but particularly now that I know the joy of motherhood, I lament that I couldn’t touch her right from the start. A couple of months ago, I took a bath with her and as she laid down on my chest, both of us wet, slippery and naked as the day we were born, I felt a deep pang…this was what I’d have wanted in the first few minutes of her life.
But oh well.
So I laid there getting stitched up, or as Teddi put it, putting humpty dumpty back together again, while I heard Xiola cry. Then calm down. Then wail again when they gave her a shot. Then finally, someone told me to look and I turned right and there she was, MY BABY! They laid her on a table next to me to swaddle her, and then Pat carried her to my face. God, she was beautiful.
This is where my memory gets real foggy. I can’t even really remember what happened between then and when I was wheeled to the recovery room. The drugs must have been taking effect by then. We took some pictures, I remember. And then I was wheeled out to someplace and I kinda laid there. I don’t remember the sequence of what happened next. I remember the nurse bringing Xiola in so that I could nurse for the first time. I remember being on the phone with my mother while we tried to get Xiola latched on and I remember the nurse scolding me “you should not be on the phone while trying to nurse!” and me sheepishly saying, or thinking, I don’t remember, “but..but it’s my mother!” But I don’t remember if I nursed her before or after I had the BEST MASSAGE IN MY LIFE!
The best massage ever. So I was laying there in the recovery room and they had taken Xiola away to do whatever doctors do with her with Pat (I think). And Liz came in to see me. And I just remembered thinking “oh man, I’m so freaking HIGH right now!”. Apparently, I had texted a bunch of friends saying “WHEE!! I’M HIGH!!!”.(it’s true). And when Liz came in, I asked for a massage and man, it was AWESOME! I was tripping out. Mildly, but wonderfully so.
How weird is that?
Everything was a blur in the recovery room. I remember Pat and Liz alternately coming in (because they only allowed one person in at a time even though the whole room was empty). As I am recalling, or being unable to recall, those initial moments, I am feeling real sad that I was in such a medicated blur. That’s what they warn happens when you have a medicated childbirth. After having, and still having, such beautiful moments nursing my daughter, it’s sad not really remembering the first time I nursed her. I see why people choose to have home or unmedicated or less-medicated births where they insist on holding their babies and nursing right away and leaving the miscellaneous stuff for later. Because really, whatever they do with the baby, the weighing, the shots, the footprinting (yes, we got little footprints for keepsake), are merely administrative. They CAN wait.
And yes, I am well aware that I am romanticizing the other side because I did not experience the brutal pain of labor.
And, again, in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter, nor does it make any less of the amazing moments I have experienced and will experience with her.
But it still sucks ass anyway,
ANYway, finally, after god knows how long, I was pushed to my room with Pat and Liz carrying all our bags and stuff next to me. Xiola, for some reason, wasn’t there. Thankfully, I had the window bed (there were 2 to a room, and that was a life saver since I had the world’s WORST hospital roommate. That deserves another blog post altogether. But in short, she and her whole family were rudely LOUD, she blasted her TV all day and night, watched Jerry Springer, talked loudly on the phone after the lights were out complaining about her Baby Daddy (right after he left our room), and about how she can’t wait to smoke a big fat joint. I digress).
I remember laying in the hospital bed with Pat and Liz there for a while, wondering where Xiola was, before they pushed her in her clear bassinet, now really cleaned up with the faux-hawk and all.
Thankfully, it was then when the medicated fog cleared and I could enjoy Xiola for the rest of my life.
The C-section recovery was rough (another blog post) for the next week or so, as expected. But the following days, and weeks, and now months, will be a joy that I did not expect and couldn’t have even imagined.
All of it. The awful first trimester constant morning sickness. The discomfort of putting on 40% of my original body weight. The pain of recovery. It was worth every minute and I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.