I’ve never written a birth story for any of my kids. I generally have a great memory for important events in my life, and it never ceases to amaze my husband how I can remember tiny little details from an event 10 years ago. The births of my children, despite all being surgical, were all different in subtle ways. As this was/is my last child, I feel the need to document it and what better way than on my own blog.
So, here goes.
Monday, September 16, 2013 – 39w3d gestational age. I was booked for a repeat, elective, c-section at 1:45pm. That morning, I woke up at 4 am, very hungry, and couldn’t fall back asleep. So, I got up and had a little snack. Now, I know you’re not supposed to have anything to eat after midnight before any surgical procedure, but my OB told me I could eat something very early and continue to drink clear fluids up until 3 hours prior to surgery. New rules, apparently. Thank goodness. How is it fair to keep a term-pregnant woman NPO for hours on end?!
I ate a piece of toast with peanut butter and honey, and a huge glass of milk. I went back to bed and slept another hour or two before my eldest woke up at 7am. We kept her home from school that day. Husband woke up with the kids and got them breakfast while I stayed in bed until about 9am. I was surprised to feel a little bit nervous. In fact, my “nervous tummy” started acting up, something I hadn’t experienced since finding out I was pregnant back in January. My parents arrived around 10am and we enjoyed the morning watching the kids run around, excited to be home. The eldest knew I was going to the hospital, the younger one I’m not sure understood really what was happening, but I could sense that he knew something was about to change.
Husband put the youngest to nap while I got my bags ready for the car. Eldest was very clingy and wanted to come to the hospital but we explained that she would have to come later on after baby was born. We said goodbye, took a final photo of my pregnant belly and left for the hospital.
Upon arrival at L+D and Admitting, it felt like I was checking into a hotel. I don’t have third-party insurance, so I paid for a private room and thankfully there was one available. Our hospital just underwent a large renovation and built two new floors for L+D and postpartum with a lot of private rooms. A nurse led us to an L+D room where I put on a gown, had an IV started, met with the Anesthetist, and had the cord-blood package prepared. Another Anesthetist came in to talk to me about participating in a study. It was a randomized controlled study of ultrasound vs no ultrasound prior to spinal anesthesia. Apparently, the hypothesis is that ultrasound-guided spinal anesthesia is better than manual palpation for placement of spinal anesthesia. I agreed to participate mostly because I remembered with my second c-section that the Anesthetist had to poke me a few extra times before he got the needle in the right spot. The next day, I would have an ultrasound of my back to look at the site and confirm how many “attempts” were needed to initiate the anesthesia. I presume they would then compare whether I had the ultrasound or not in the operating room and how many attempts were needed. I am always happy to participate in research studies, it’s important to the advancement of medicine and really, it’s not onerous as I’m already there and need the procedure anyway.
About an hour later, we were told it was time to head to the operating room, a bit earlier than expected, but I was glad not to have been bumped by an emergency as I was starting to feel a bit hungry and light-headed. Husband put on hospital scrubs over his street clothes and away we went. While I got prepped in the OR, husband had to wait in the surgical waiting room. The nurses told him it’d be about 15-20 minutes. It was a little longer than that. Inside the OR, I got up on the table and assumed the position on the table for the spinal – sitting with a pillow across my hugely pregnant abdomen, head flexed, chin tucked in, shoulders relaxed and lower back pushing out as much as I could to open up the vertebral space. The Anesthetist palpated my hips and chose the L3-L4 vertebral space, from what I could tell.
The distinct burning sensation of the topical was next. I was told repeatedly it would hurt, but really, it was nothing. What hurt was staying in that position. I was randomized NOT to receive an ultrasound-guided spinal. Instead, I got one the old-fashioned way, and it took about 20 minutes. Not kidding. Twenty minutes in that position and I could feel my neck stiffening up. I counted five attempts at getting into the spinal fluid space. FIVE. Finally, I could feel the final attempt was different and there was a sudden warm feeling down my bum and my legs started getting numb. As I was being positioned onto the table, I suddenly knew my blood pressure was bottoming out. I got nauseated, sweaty, clammy and hot. I told the Anesthetist and she said she was “taking care of it”. Ugh, what an incredibly nasty feeling, seriously. Thankfully it passed quickly. Later on, I asked her what she had given me and how low my pressure was. She gave me phenylephrine as my blood pressure bottomed out at 80/37 (“normal” is 120/80). No wonder I felt like crap.
Eventually once the OR staff had my abdomen prepped and draped, they brought in my husband. I could tell he had been at bit concerned as it was well over half an hour since I’d seen him. I told him about the numerous attempts at the spinal and how my blood pressure had dropped. In retrospect, poor guy probably didn’t need to know that. My OB had already started the c-section and commented on how “lovely” my tissues were. I replied, “I bet you say that to all your patients.” The OR staff laughed. Apparently not. I remember telling her it was probably all that running I had done prior to the pregnancy and then asked when I could resume running again. “Six weeks,” she replied. Yay!! That means by Halloween, if all goes well, I’ll be going out for my first run. I can’t wait!
Suddenly, I heard my OB say, “Dad, are you ready?” Husband stood up with the digital camera and his iPhone and started taking pictures. I didn’t know it at the time, but the iPhone was set to video and he recorded the birth!!! I could hear everyone saying, “Baby is so cute!” Husband said, “It’s a …. baby!!!” Apparently only the baby’s head was out at this point. I could hear the first cries, and then felt this incredible pressure under my rib cage as the OB pushed down on the uterus to deliver the rest of the body. That’s when husband said, “It’s …. a BOY!!!”
And, just like that, my family of 4 became 5 and I had a brand new son.
At this point in the story, I have a confession to make. I knew all along I was having another boy. At the anatomy ultrasound, I asked the tech to write the sex of the baby on a piece of paper and seal it in an envelope. I never told anyone, not even my husband, that I opened the envelope a few weeks later, around Mother’s Day. I knew this was going to be my last pregnancy. I didn’t know the sex of either my daughter or my son, (and I loved not knowing), but I knew I wanted this pregnancy to be different. I wanted to know what it was like to know the sex while baby was still in utero. Husband was clear that he wanted to be surprised. I had to respect his wishes, so I never told him that I opened he envelope. To this day, I am so proud of myself for keeping it a secret, not only from him but also from everyone. It was the easiest secret I have ever kept. I told husband a few minutes after the delivery when baby boy was on my chest for some skin-to-skin time. I worried he might be upset with me, but he wasn’t. I think he was more shocked that I was able to keep a secret. He asked me if I regretted it, not having the surprise at delivery. Without a moment’s hesitation, I was happy to say no, I had no regrets. I wanted to know for this final pregnancy and I was absolutely happy with the decision to open the envelope.
By this time, the OB was working her magic on my reproductive organs, and the Respiratory Therapist took my son from my chest to check him. He was a bit mucusy, so she suctioned him but he received perfect Apgar of 9 and 9. While he was at the warmer, I suddenly felt very strange again. The nausea came back, the sweats and heat and this incredible pressure on my chest. The physician in me considered the possibility that I was having an amniotic fluid embolism, and of course that only made me feel worse. I told the Anesthetist and she reported to me that my blood pressure was totally fine but she said she’d give me some more phenylephrine. Within a few minutes, I was feeling better. I suspected I was about to have another vagal episode as the surgeons manipulated my fallopian tubes. (I told you this would be my last pregnancy!)
Finally, surgery was complete and I was moved to recovery. Once I was settled, husband left to get the kids and my parents. I had some time alone with my brand new son. The recovery room nurses were checking me quite regularly, all seemed to be fine, I put baby on the breast and he started nursing immediately. That familiar tingling of the nipple sent shivers down my spine. The latch wasn’t quite right but baby was swallowing, so he was definitely getting the colostrum. After two separate 25-35 minute feeds, my husband’s parents arrived and met their newest grandson. Husband returned with the kids and they came running into the recovery room. The looks of expectation and excitement on their little faces was absolutely priceless. He didn’t tell them they had a new baby brother – he waited for them to see the colour of the blanket. Daughter looked a teensy bit disappointed that he was a boy. Her daddy told her that new baby looked a lot like her (he does, its uncanny), so she assumed that meant it was a girl. Son was just thrilled, boy or girl, he didn’t seem to care. Up until that moment, I wasn’t sure how much he understood what was going on with my growing belly, but I have no doubt now that when he saw that little baby, he knew he was a big brother and that this was his baby brother. His face completely lit up. It’s a sight I will not soon forget.
To be continued … but first, a photo or two.