Of course, this post should come with warnings and disclaimers in bold neon: I am not a doctor. Yes, I know the risks associated with a Caesarian section. I do not judge your labour decisions. This is a personal account.
And so on. Because, you know, we judge. Speaking of, can we stop the judgment? Let’s. Just. Stop. But perhaps that’s best left for another post….
Read more: A beautiful C-section
Some context: My first pregnancy and labour were more or less ‘normal.’ I barely met my doctor, because there really wasn’t a need. Labour started, as it often does, with contractions and leakage, and after 27 hours (OK, maybe not so normal) I gave birth vaginally to my beautiful, healthy daughter. She was on the smaller side at 6lbs 12oz, but I had to push for four hours so trust me when I say, she did not feel small to me. TRUST. She had jaundice, holding us new-parents hostage to worry, and chained us to the hospital for four days.
Breastfeeding was excruciating and, because of the jaundice, I had to feed every 1-2 hours around the clock and then pump, too. Every time. For a month. I didn’t sleep for five days straight. And my physical recovery was ROUGH. The squirt bottle became my frenemy, as I hated using it, but the alternative was worse. Walking hurt, sitting hurt, laughing hurt, sneezing was terrifying and stairs were a new form of torture. “Will I ever physically heal?” played over and over in my head, almost rhetorically, because the answer was an obvious “snort, unlikely.” But after several months—yes, several—I felt more or less back to normal. You know, the NEW post-baby-out-of-curiosity-what-actually-signifies-incontinence normal.
18 months later I got pregnant with my second. A boy this time. And he was off the charts in weight. All of a sudden everything was different. I always met with my doctor. When it came closer to my due date, we were left with some big decisions. Schedule a C-section, or try vaginally? Remember my first delivery? A hard recovery? And she was so wee! In the end my decision was based on doctors’ (yes, that’s multiple “doctors”) recommendations and my old faithful: Better the Devil you know.
Induction was the plan; I’d be monitored closely, and would be taken to surgery in a stress-free manner if it seemed he wasn’t going to cooperate. All the doctors knew me as the small 5-foot 4-inch woman carrying a big baby; the anonymity of that first birth experience, gone. At my fourth ultrasound, about three weeks before I delivered, he was weighing in at an already-impressive 9.5lbs.
We packed the car, got our daughter settled and left for the hospital—wasn’t this civilized! No contractions. No pain. No puddles of leaking amniotic fluid scattered throughout the hospital.
Read more: Hospital checklist
The induction started smoothly; I progressed, they checked on us regularly, we tried to rest. But then his heart rate started dropping. The nurse would emerge from her secret nurse station, change my position and assess things. Maybe it was his positioning? Then the baby’s heart rate would settle and she’d leave again. And this went on and on. We tried not to obsess over every beep and blip on the monitors, over every facial expression she made at those beeps. After a half dozen times or so, the doctor came in. And then another. And another. Until there were about 10 people in the room. I thought my husband might throw up.
“We need to get him out,” the lead doctor said to me. “Now.”
And then, just like on TV, all hell broke loose. “OR 6!!” They yelled as they ran my gurney down the hall. The lights were so bright and stark compared to my quiet, dark, safe room.
“I’m scared,” I whispered pitifully to the lead doctor. “I know,” she said. “Don’t worry, we’ve called a pediatric specialist in from Sick Kids.”
She had to read the consent forms to me, and held my shaking hand to sign. Everything was happening so fast, my poor husband wasn’t even allowed in the operating room.
He thought one of us might die, and he hadn’t been given the chance to say goodbye.
They put me on the table.“I CAN STILL FEEL MY LEGS!” I screamed, stories of people being awake during surgery flooding my brain. They topped up my drugs. The lights were so bright. They cut, then pulled him out. The force of this vacuum was so shocking I screamed again.
I reacted poorly to the drugs and the adrenaline of the surgery. They had to knock me out, but I started choking on my tongue. For the second time in less than an hour, my husband thought I might die.
And then I came to, and held my son. He was perfect! Healthy and beautiful, and without the battle wounds my daughter had. Breastfeeding was a cinch. He slept well, didn’t cry, no jaundice. We left the hospital in two days—so quickly that I had to hit a clinic a few days later to remove my staples. I felt like myself! I could walk! I could sit! I could take the stairs! Good riddance squirt bottle! Of course there was pain, but it was manageable, way more so than when my daughter was born.
Read more: C-section recovery
In the end, the emergency surgery had lasted half an hour, max. And yes, it was terrifying. Even writing this and remembering it in closer detail has me shaken. Was he going to be OK? Was he even going to survive? For minutes not a single person in that operating room knew. But he did and he’s healthy and after the delivery, everything went perfectly. A far cry from the challenges with my first, not to mention the months and months of recovery. Would I opt for a C-section birth again? In a heartbeat.
Oh, and my son? He was 11-pounds.