Our Birth Story: The C-Section (Part One)

And finally here it is, at least part one is, although I am insanely tired and it has taken weeks to get it all down and so I am sure the quality of the writing may be suffering. The focus of this post is the c-section itself (I’ll be posting the recovery part separately) so let’s take it from the top.

We had to arrive at the Constantiaberg  hospital at 6am to check in for an 8am c-section surgery. We had done the full pre-admissions dance already, but when we arrived they couldn’t find our information. Knowing how I feel about hospitals, you can imagine how I reacted to that… Panic and an overwhelming urge to turn around and go home (totally logical right?). Anyway, after some initial anger and frustration, we discovered they had logged me under my maiden name and eventually close to 6h30 we headed to my private room to get settled.

c-section

We met the midwife on duty and some of the nursing staff and Doctor Cloete came to see me too. The anesthetist, Dr Potgieter, was lovely. She came and talked me through the process and discussed the fact that 1 in 4 people suffer from a severe drop in blood pressure; which can lead to feeling extremely nauseous. Since my blood pressure tends to be lower, they suspected I might react this way and so had a shot ready to administer to bring my pressure back up.

I was fine right up until they came and took Brett away to get changed into scrubs, then the tears started for real. I can’t quite explain the panic that set in as they wheeled me out of the warmth of the “guest” rooms through the doors towards the theatres, the “business” part of the hospital. The smells change, the walls change, the sounds change, everyone moves fast and with purpose… And they put you in a “pre-op” room with other people waiting to go in for surgeries. I felt mildly guilty for the panicked crying as I lay among other people, older and probably going in for more serious surgeries that wouldn’t be coming out with a little baby. There was even one sweet man who lay waiting for his surgery telling me everything was going to be alright.

Terror

When Brett and Dr C came to get me to wheel me to the theatre, I was in a right state and not very jokingly asked them if I could please go home. That was my base reaction… More than anything I wanted to go home and take my baby with me as she was, safely inside of me. I moved from this being because I wasn’t ready, to being convinced that Charly wasn’t ready to be born and I was being selfish by getting the c-section. The boys did their job and calmed me sufficiently before wheeling me into theatre.

The theatre itself was a little terrifying, a very big cold room with a very narrow bed surrounded by machines… And then there were the people; the people made all the difference. There were quite a lot of them (though I wouldn’t take this as gospel as I was a little overwhelmed at the time). I think it was Dr C and his assistant, Dr Potgieter and her assistant, Liz the midwife and her assistant, the paediatrician, the trainee midwife and 4 others who I assume were nurses or orderlies. Everyone was warm and supportive and, most importantly calm.

theatre for c-section

After they moved me from my hospital bed to the narrow theatre bed (exactly like they do in the movies with the staff heave-ho-ing me across), Dr P got me to sit up and hunch over into Brett’s arms for the local anesthetic and the spinal block. As many people had said in the lead up to the surgery, this was indeed the worst part. The local burns quite a lot as it goes in and the pressure as the spinal needle goes in is quite unbearable. In my case too much so and they had to give me a second local to get the spinal in properly. I can’t remember now when they inserted the IV into my hand, but that stung like crazy too. I didn’t feel the catheter being inserted as Dr C waited til the spinal block had taken. The prep was far worse than the c-section surgery itself.

With my issues with my knees, when the spinal began to set in it really freaked me out. I kept feeling like my legs were falling off the narrow bed and I was terrified someone would accidentally dislocate my knees trying to push me back onto the bed and I wouldn’t be able to feel it until after the surgery when the feeling came back. Luckily Dr C understood my special brand of crazy and explained my joint issues to the team on hand. Next up, as expected my blood pressure tanked which was a truly awful feeling, I felt very nauseous and faint and Brett says the monitor stopped “ticking” and made a long steady beeeeeeep; which scared him half to death. It felt like only a few seconds to me though before the meds they had at the ready kicked in.

Shortly thereafter, without me even realising it, Dr C made the incision and Charly was being delivered. They said I may feel quite a bit of discomfort as Dr C wrestled her out from inside me, but after 3 months of her ever increasingly strong karate moves while facing outwards, it felt no worse than her doing her usual maneuvers in my belly. In fact, that is exactly what the whole procedure felt like, like the baby was moving around. It felt like a brief pause and then I heard a really loud cry as Charlotte Rose Miller made her appearance into the world.

c-section brand new

Unfortunately, she had jumped the gun somewhat and in her eagerness to let us know she had arrived, she cried before being fully taken out and breathed in a whole lot of amniotic fluid. They held her up for a few seconds for me to see and then Brett went with the pediatrician and the midwife to just next to the door where they would do all their checks and balances. I couldn’t see her exactly, but I could see them working with her and I could see Brett’s face. I could hear Brett asking if she was okay and asking why they were balancing her on her head… And the pediatrician reassuring him that she was fine; but I could also hear concern and see Brett’s expression. We knew something wasn’t right when the Dr sent Brett to the other side of the room to take a photo of the delivery board with her time of birth on it and quickly conferred with the midwife.

Seconds later they brought her to me and put her on my chest. I barely had time to take her in before the pediatrician was talking in a very calming tone, explaining that her breathing was not quite right because of the amniotic fluid she inhaled. They said that she could stay with me for a few minutes but then would need to go to high care to get some help clearing her lungs. He then took some photos of the 3 of us and stepped back so we could spend some time together before they took her away and while Dr C stitched me up.

I must admit I don’t remember much. I was very afraid that something was very wrong and nobody was telling me, so I lay staring at this tiny seemingly perfect human, listening to Brett say everything would be okay. I was watching her closely and her breathing seemed alright to me, though her colour was off at first. As she lay there, her breathing seemed to get more regular and her colour improved as well. When the doctor came back to take her away, he noted that she looked better and took her back to the station by the door and did another APGAR test where she scored a solid 9/10 (I later found out her first score was 5/10 which horrified me). The Dr then brought her back to me again and said she had improved so much with me that they no longer needed to take her away for now. The midwife had agreed to come sit with me in recovery to keep an eye on her and if she stayed as she was, she would not need to be taken at all.

And that is what happened, they never needed to take her away and eventually I felt calm enough to really look at her in recovery. I was not quite able to get my head around the fact that this was the Charly of my tummy. I still can’t get over her shock of thick black hair and how tiny and soft she was. Her perfect little face looked so much like Brett it took my breath away; she has his nose, his shapes in her face, from day one she has shared a frowning expression identical to his and she even has his ears. I could see then already that she has my mouth and my shape face (and it is clearer every day she has my eyes; there are moments where she looks like my sister and she looks almost identical to my niece at the same age). But overall she looked and looks mostly like her daddy. The very first time she latched to feed I saw that she had a huge dimple on her right cheek (she has a slightly smaller one on her left cheek that only became clear a few days later when she first dream smiled) and that is all her own as neither Brett nor I have dimples. And then, as now, her perfect miniature fingernails (you know, the pinkie fingernail that you can’t quite process could be that perfect and that tiny at the same time?) just floored me completely.

IMG_5955

I remember being wheeled back to my room from recovery, holding Charly… With Brett, euphoric, bouncing ahead of me or behind me, helping people clear the way for me and opening doors and moving things around, as he does. I know Charly was in my arms or his arms at all times. But somewhere along the way they had set up the morphine drip, which would be supplemented by 4 or so other drugs as the days progressed… So there is very little else I remember from when we arrived in our room, other than notable quiet after the activity of the “other side” of the hospital.

Part 2 will pick up from right here and will cover the recovery from day one to today. I will also happily include anything you feel is important or has been left out of this post; so feel very free to comment or ask questions here, privately to mandy@pregnantincapetown.co.za, or on Facebook or Twitter.

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  1. […] So, where were we… arriving back in our room and being set up with press-button morphine. Basically every time you start feeling sore, you press the button. I think there is a 10 minute (or so) window between when it will produce the goods. On top of that, every 4 hours a nurse brings you more pills and adds things to the IV. The pain management from the medication side is excellent when you are in the hospital. The rest of my c-section recovery was difficult on every level. […]

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