Trying to find the good in a tough situation.
The birth of my child was hard. Nothing went the way I had planned, and it seemed like problem after problem kept popping up. As a nice cherry on top I ended up having an emergency C-section, which was not a pleasant experience. I’m going to share my experience, so be warned; this isn’t a fairytale. I’m going to be honest about how I felt, and it might be freaky to hear. But I promise, there is a happy ending.
If you’ve read some of my other posts, you probably know that I was in labor for 55 hours. And that it was all back labor – which hurts, like, a lot. The reason for this was that my daughter was facing sunny side up (her spine was against my spine). You can still deliver baby this way, but it makes things more difficult and a lot more painful. I was in labor for so long because baby wouldn’t drop, so my cervix wasn’t dilating. It took my body 55 hours to get around 8 cm dilated. At that point, my baby had moved into a weird position and was squishing the umbilical cord a little bit, so whenever I would have a contraction her heart rate would drop and stay down for a little too long. That’s when the doctor decided it was necessary to preform a cesarean.
Hearing the words “we’re going to have to preform a C-section” did not sit well with me. I felt so disappointed. I had planned to have a water birth. I was looking forward to the moment when, after all the hard work of labouring and pushing, I got to hold my baby girl and think to myself “we did it.” I also felt scared. I hadn’t prepared myself mentally for a C-section, and was a little less than comfortable with being cut open on an operating table. I will admit that I ugly cried as soon as I had a moment alone with my fiancé.
So, fast forward to the actual surgery. I’m laying on the operating table, my fiancé is next to me and trying to pretend that I’m not squeezing the living hell out of his hand, there’s a ton of people in the room (two doctors, two nurses, and two anesthesiologists), and I’m on the verge if having a full blown panic attack. The anesthesiologists keep telling me I need to calm down or they’ll have to put me to sleep. I’m being told that I won’t feel any pain, just a weird tugging sensation. Well, that’s bullshit. True, I didn’t feel any pain when they made the incision, but as soon as the doctor got his hands inside my body and started moving things around, it hurt.
I’m laying there, crying hysterically and telling the doctors “I feel pain!” Over and over again in a voice that is embarrassingly squeaky. I’m crying to my fiancé and telling him how scared I am, and I must be thrashing around because at some point my hands were tied down. I see one anesthesiologist look at the other and say “any suggestions?” The other guy’s suggestion is fentanyl and ketamine. Before I can wrap my head around what’s about to happen, I’m given a heavy dose of both. The last thing I can remember clearly is the feeling of my fiancé’s fingers crunching together as I held on for dear life.
I know some people do ketamine recreationally. I cannot for the life of me understand why. As soon as that crap hit my blood stream, I was gone. I literally felt myself exit my body somewhere out of the back of my head. I can tell you for sure that I did not go to a nice place. I was stuck in this weird grey limbo, certain that I had died and feeling horribly guilty that my fiancé was now a single dad. I remember thinking “what the hell is taking so long?” Referring not to the surgery, but to the fact that my soul was taking forever to reach it’s final destination.
When I came to, I remember briefly feeling relief that I hadn’t died. After that (in the recovery room), my mind was completely blank. I couldn’t move, couldn’t think, and couldn’t feel any emotion. There are brief snippets in my memory of seeing my fiancé holding our daughter, trying to breastfeed her, and being rolled down a long hallway.
When the drugs wore off and I had gotten some rest, I was so full of guilt, sadness, and fear that for quite a long time afterwards I had a hard time remembering anything else. Whenever people asked me about the birth of my daughter, I always told this horrible story about how scary it was. I became so obsessed with how bad it was that I totally forgot all of the good moments.
I had a recent conversation with someone who helped me realize this. She helped me push the bad stuff to the side and dig for the good moments. She described the good moments as a rope I had to hang on to, even if it was all slippery and caked in mud (AKA the bad moments). So I did that, and now I can re-tell that story without it sounding so devastating.
When I was ugly crying after being told I was going to have a C-section, my fiancé was there holding me and telling me it was going to be okay, reminding me that “hey! At least you won’t poop when you’re trying to push her out!” My mother and my father were there, reassuring me and telling me “you can do this,” and “your baby will be okay.”
On the operating table, I was surrounded by medical professionals who are good at their jobs. I was in amazing hands and the lives of my daughter and myself were never in any danger. My fiancé, who was also very much afraid, never showed me anything but strength, support, and love. He held my hand throughout the whole procedure. His was the first face I saw when I came to – he was giggling and telling me I was not, in fact, dead.
In the recovery room, I got to witness my fiancé fall completely in love with our daughter as he held her for the first time. I watched him turn from young man to father in an instant. Although I was having a hard time focusing my vision, I locked onto my daughters ears and remember thinking how perfect and tiny they were. I remember touching her fingernails and being amazed at how little they were.
In the days that followed, yes there were moments when I was overcome with guilt, sadness, and fear. But there are literally hundreds of other moments that filled me with joy, pride, and love. Now that I can remember all of those things, I don’t look back on the birth of my daughter as a scary thing – I now realize it was beautiful. Somebody told me once that it’s human nature to remember the bad over the good. I don’t believe it’s human nature, I think it’s just where the tired mind goes. So, for all the moms who had a “bad” birth experience, wake up. Search for what was good and don’t let the bad take over. For all the soon-to-be moms: when it gets tough, and believe me it will, focus on everything that’s going right and hold onto that. As Helen Keller once said: keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.