Nez was born nearly three months ago and I feel like I’m finally at a place where I can mentally process her birth and all that’s happened since. Everyone’s experience is so unique and as helpful as it was to read interviews and articles about c-sections and childbirth, nothing could have prepared me for what I went through…
After trying to get her to flip from her breech position with no luck, we scheduled a c-section. Having never experienced any sort of surgery, I was terrified of what was to come as the morning drew closer. When the day finally arrived, we woke up at 5am to get to the hospital by 6am for our 8am surgery. We sat in bed and talked excitedly, and my sweet husband gave me a beautiful gift to help commemorate the moment. We added the last additions to our hospital bags and headed in for intake. I was calmer than I expected- probably because I’d gotten all of my panic attacks out of my system already. Prior to a c-section, you aren’t allowed to eat or drink (even water) for 12 hours, so I was parched and dreaming about pizza, bagels and/or pizza bagels by 8am. Sadly we found out that we were going to be pushed to 11am due to an unforeseen emergency c-section that needed to take place, so we spent the morning in a waiting room watching The Office on my phone while an IV drip kept me hydrated and curbed my hunger-nausea (is that a thing that anyone else deals with? Just me?). At 11am the anesthesiologist (the fact that I just spelled that right on the first try is a miracle) came in to walk me through what I should expect and get me ready. Just as he said it was time to head to the OR, the nursing team got a call about another emergency and we were told it would be at least an hour. More of The Office, more of the IV drip. Finally at around 1:30pm, it was time.
Unfortunately partners are not allowed to join patients while the spinal block is being administered, so I said a temporary goodbye to Tommy and waddled in my giant purple robe into the operating room. The room was blindingly bright and so frigid I could swear I saw my breath. I sat on the edge of the operating table while the anesthesiologist prepped me and my amazing OB stood in front of me talking me through everything one last time. She held my hand as the spinal block kicked in; a truly bizarre feeling. My lower back and butt, then legs, grew warm and tingly. The nurses grabbed my legs and swung them onto the table so that I was flat on my back. At that point, they pinched sections of my stomach and legs to make sure I was completely numb. Once I was ready for surgery, they let Tommy back in to come sit up by my head (I had a strict ‘no going below the curtain’ policy because YIKES). And then it began…
Everything I had read and heard about c-sections was true. It’s genuinely not painful during the procedure, but I did feel immense pressure and pushing on my belly. Within 20 minutes we heard a cry and saw a baby floating above our heads. It was so incredibly surreal to see her after all the speculation and to us, she was perfect. They quickly cleaned her up, weighed her, and brought her over in a tiny blanket and hat. For the rest of the procedure, Tommy held her next to my head so I could look at her. I didn’t feel comfortable holding her at that point, as I was shaky and focusing on staying as relaxed as possible through the last portion of the surgery. After about 30 more minutes, I was done with the discomfort of closing everything up and they rolled us into a recovery room, holding Nez on my chest along the way.
I started downing ice chips and quickly graduated to the best popsicle I’ve ever had in my life, helping me feel a bit more like myself. Soon after, my parents and in-laws came in to meet Nez. I was still loopy and groggy from medicine, but it felt amazing for them to meet her. It was a moment I will never forget. After about an hour of resting and recuperating, we were moved into the room that would become our home for the next four days.
To tell you the entire story would take up too much of your time, so I’ll summarize here. I had an allergic reaction to the Oxycodone on day 2 and was itchy all over, as well as hallucinating. I woke up from an hour long nap and didn’t remember that I’d been in surgery or had a baby, nor did I have any idea where I was. A minute later I understood what had happened and started sobbing. Later on, I felt that I was underwater with a buzzing pressure in my ears, and I lost my spacial awareness. When my husband was 10 ft from me, it felt like 50 yards. We then realized that the reaction was to the pain medication, and I quickly stopped taking it.
Beyond that reaction and my inability to move easily post-surgery, I had a bizarre breastfeeding experience. Nez latched quickly and easily, and Tommy and I celebrated the fact that it was so effortless. This quickly took a turn for the worse when I started overproducing to the point that I felt like I had cement strapped to my chest. The pain of my surgery felt insignificant compared to the engorgement I was dealing with, in addition to painful clogged ducts. No matter how long Nez ate for, nothing seemed to relieve the immense discomfort I was experiencing. The worst part was that none of the lactation consultants or doctors seemed to know what to suggest. Some said to pump to relieve pressure, others said not to pump in fear that it would trigger more production. Ultimately I ended up pumping just enough to feel a slight bit of relief. This lasted for two weeks before my supply started to regulate and I felt somewhat human again.
While there were of course moments of bliss and happiness, as well as amazement at this tiny little being that we created, there is no way around the fact that it was not the experience I had been expecting or hoping for. I cried because of the pain from engorgement and my surgery, but what made me the most sad is that this intense pain had me thinking that I could never possibly go through any of this again, and that Nez would likely be the only pregnancy and birth I’d be willing to put myself through.
After four nights in the hospital, we finally packed up and went home. I was feeling marginally better and was both excited and nervous to be in our own safe and quiet space again. Being comfortable at home, having our bed and a clean shower, and all of the amazing support from our community with meal drop offs was so helpful in normalizing all of this newness. As I mentioned, after two weeks my production started to regulate and while breastfeeding would continue to present challenges for me (more on that later), the initial pain did subside. After four weeks I felt like I could move relatively freely without pain from my c-section.
Now I look back at our birth experience and while it’s going to take me a long time to not be terrified of the breastfeeding pain, I know that I can handle the rest of it if I need to have another c-section in the future. I believe we will have another kid. The pain now feels so distant and it’s circled back around to excitement and joy with each development we see Nez make.
I spent countless hours leading up to her birth reading every book and blog, and watching every YouTube video I could get my hands on. Some of the information I read about felt relatable and ultimately helped me, while other bits fell to the wayside. Here’s a short list of things that stick out to me as being important in making the transition to parenthood:
*Set up (or have a friend set up) a Meal Train for you. Having delicious food available whenever you need it and not having to cook? Game changer.
*Don’t worry too much about your hospital bag. I ended up using facial cleansing wipes, moisturizer, dry shampoo, a hair brush, toothbrush/toothpaste, chapstick, my phone charger, flip flops and slippers, and a mini speaker to play music. That’s literally it. I was in too much pain to wear anything but the hideous hospital gown and I did not care.
*Make sure your house is ready for your return. Clean sheets and towels, a well stocked fridge, and anything you need for your recovery.
*Give in to letting people help you. This was tough for me, but having my husband take charge on everything revolving around the house/meals and not feeling guilty about it was important and took time to accept, but when I did, it made life so much easier.
*Buy more diapers than you think you’ll need. You will use them all. And then some.
*Stock up on nursing pads. I don’t care who you are, you will need them.
*Buy your pump ahead of time. You can get them using insurance so that it’s either free or close to it. I went with this portable one by Spectra and would highly suggest it.