Do you remember the scene from the first episode of House of the Dragon where the Queen was going into labor? If you’ve seen the show, I’m certain you haven’t forgotten the visual. If you haven’t seen it, it was a preview of what an emergency c-section must have looked like hundreds of years ago. Spoiler alert: it sure wasn’t pretty!
I am happy to report that Cesarean sections are done quite differently these days. My own experience was a painless incision, no longer than five inches above my abdomen. Some days I don’t even notice the scar, but there are also days when I do and I remember how my daughter was brought into this world. Today is one of those days. I remember heading to the hospital so psyched I was finally going to meet my daughter. I was confident in my birth plan. I would deliver her normally, without an epidural. Fast forward 12 hours, she was delivered via emergency c-section and the rest is history. Want to hear some more of the details? One unplanned birth story coming right up!
I guess you could say my pregnancy was textbook. I experienced the common pregnancy symptoms. I saw my OB-GYN once a month. I passed all the usual tests. I thought I was on track to having a “normal birth.” That is until my water broke at 37 weeks. I wasn’t even sure that my water broke. It was nothing like the movies—no gush of water, no puddle at my feet. It was in the Emergency Room that they informed us that my water did break and I was already 4 cm dilated. I wasn’t feeling any contractions yet, so my OB-GYN started me on Oxytocin to get things moving.
I started to feel the contractions after a couple of hours. It was painful but also exciting at the same time. About 12 hours passed and I was only 7 cm dilated and the baby has barely descended into my pelvis. My OB-GYN came in and delivered the news. The fetal heartbeat was getting weaker with my contractions and she said it would be safer for the baby if we proceed with a C-section. My husband and I agreed immediately, although I had a hundred or so questions running through my mind. What happens to my birth plan? Will I be able to hold and feed her immediately after birth? How will my body know to start producing milk? The list goes on.
I was introduced to the Anesthesiologist and he patiently and clearly explained the process to me. I was wheeled to the Operating Room where they prepped me for surgery, while my husband was prepped separately before he joined me in the OR. It was honestly a blur, mostly. I was given the epidural, which worked like magic quite quickly. I could feel so many hands moving me and moving around me, but I couldn’t feel what they were doing exactly. I didn’t read up on C-sections prior so I truly did not know what to expect.
To my surprise, the surgery was done in less than an hour and I heard my baby’s first cry! The doctors and nurses did their usual routine of measuring her and cleaning her up and then my little girl was finally in my arms. Somewhere along the line, my husband cut the umbilical chord, they delivered the placenta, and I was stitched back up.
More than rest and recovery, all I wanted to do was call my mom and tell her all about my experience. However, no cellphones were allowed in the recovery room, so I spent the next few hours just staring at my newborn baby and catching some z’s in between. The nurses guided me with breastfeeding techniques and encouraged lots of skin-to-skin contact. Once I could feel my legs again, they asked me to try and sit-up on the side of the bed. I followed their instructions and they gave the go signal to to be moved into our room.
As the anesthesia wore off, so did my adrenaline. I just wanted to sleep all the discomfort away, but of course, how is that possible when there’s a newborn baby to feed every 2 hours? Luckily, I married someone willing to step up for the both of us when I needed him. He took charge of diaper duty, assisted me while breastfeeding, and was my literal shoulder to lean on for everything else. I think the pain was at its worst the day after delivery, then I would feel a little better and help out more every day after.
Recovery was slow and steady and now I feel stronger for it. I knew that rest was important, but equally important was gentle movements and nutrition. I started moving and walking around the hospital room as soon as I was able. I added as much fruits, vegetables, and lactation-boosting ingredients into my postpartum diet. Ten months later, I am back to my routine pre-pregnancy plus all the new responsibilities of a being mom. Our unplanned birth story definitely did not take away from the experience. If anything, it showed us that things may not always happen as we planned them, but we can be just as happy, if not happier, with how things end up.