When I first came home, I mentioned that I was planning to do a post about how I came to have a C-section, since I knew a couple of people would be interested. So much time has passed that it seems a little silly to do it now, but I did say I would.
So SteelyKid was born at 10:13 a.m. on Thursday August 7th, at 41 1/2 weeks. I'd been having non-patterned, non-regular, flat/constant contractions for a while before that, mostly in my back, and not very often and not very painfully. Around 11 p.m. on Tuesday the 5th, I went straight from one of those contractions into a contraction that was in front and very emphatically built to a peak. After several of these I started timing them, and was astonished to find that they were at least two minutes long, ten to fifteen minutes apart. I know I have no time sense, but everything says you start with 30 second-ish contractions that build in length. Nope, not me, *bang* into two-minute contractions.
No sleep that night, then. In the morning I stayed in bed as long as I could bear it, trying to at least rest, and got up around quarter of nine. And as soon as I got up, the contractions changed: only about a minute long, mostly in my back, less regular, and further apart. I ate very lightly, dithered for a while, and finally laid back down: yup, that brought back the long contractions. I called my doctor's around 11 and was told to come in right away.
The doctor confirmed that I was in early labor, 3 cm dilated. Via an ultrasound, she determined that FutureBaby was head-down but "sunny side up," that is, with her face towards my front. Which is suboptimal because then bony back-of-skull meets bony pelvis and makes labor more difficult. She gave me the option of going home or going to the hospital, and I chose the hospital so I could get pain medication, allowing me to rest.
Unfortunately morphine did not touch the contractions and, as a bonus, made me dizzy and sick to my stomach. (Umm, I guess I'll never be an opiate addict?) So I spent a while lying down waiting to feel able to walk around, and then a while walking back and forth hoping that would help labor progress, which made me a whole lot more dizzy and sick to my stomach . . . I was getting a bit weird in the head by 6:30 or so, when the doctor came to examine me again. (She'd been getting updates from the nurses. One of them had relieved me, weirdly, by confirming that yes, they were actually really long contractions, or as she recounted her response to the doctor's question about how far apart the contractions were, "Well, when she stops contracting . . . )
My doctor accidentally broke my waters during the exam, while she was asking me if I wanted her to do it on purpose: "Okay, we're having a baby!" She ordered an epidural, but anesthesiology was really backed up (the hospital was ridiculously busy almost all the time we were there) and I didn't get it until just before 9. I'd gotten into an even worse head-space in the interval; though I'd had something for the nausea, every shift of my body seemed to set off pain, and I was shivering with exhaustion. When the time came for me to sit up and scoot back on the bed to get the epidural, I froze: whether for physical or mental reasons, I just could not move. Chad and the nurse ended up moving me, and Chad held me up during the placement of the epidural.
(If this post is generating any sympathy, now would be an excellent time to spare some for Chad.)
Anyway, after that I was able to sleep. At some point during the night I was examined and told that I was 6 cm dilated, which was good. Unfortunately, in the morning I was only another cm dilated, my contractions had gone irregular, I'd had Pitocin already, and FutureBaby hadn't rotated face-down. My doctor (a different one, they work on an on-call system) recommended a section since it appeared labor had stalled out and there wasn't really anything else to do to get it started again. I was reluctant, but after talking with Chad we decided that since the odds in favor of just waiting and hoping were poor, we might as well.
I shut my eyes as soon as I was brought into the OR, on the theory that what I saw might not upset me, but it was better to be safe than sorry. As soon as they moved me onto the operating table, I started shaking all over uncontrollably, despite being under a big heavy heated jacket. I think it was some combination of the medication, fatigue, and stress; the staff treated it as entirely normal, and were only mildly taken aback when I asked for some way to keep my chattering teeth from biting my tongue (a piece of gauze). It took a while for me to be numbed up enough for them to proceed, which is my standard reaction to *caine drugs (I think they were using lidocaine), but I was relieved that it did eventually work: I could feel tugging and pressure (which was weird and freaky) but no pain.
They brought Chad in to sit by my head just before they were ready to pop FutureBaby out, and I do mean pop—I was told, okay, a lot of pressure now, and then *pop*: "It's a girl!" My first thought, seriously, was "Everyone was wrong"—everyone who expressed an in-person opinion was sure I was having a boy, to the point where complete strangers would look at me and say, "So, you're having a boy" as a conversational starter. Chad alerted me in time to open my eyes and see ActualBaby when they held her up over the (very low) surgical drape. Then the staff did her Apgar scores (9 and 9), cleaned her up a bit, and gave her to Chad to hold. She was just looking around with those huge dark eyes, and it was amazing: not an instant drowning in love, but the start of a slow, inevitable upwelling of joy and contentment that eventually flooded me.
Which was a nice distraction since the rest of a C-section takes forever, much longer than the part leading up to the birth.
Anyway, in recovery I got Demerol to stop the shaking, which made me all floaty and non-twitchy while waiting for them to bring SteelyKid from the nursery, which they did around 2 p.m. (they were getting and keeping her warm). I had a remarkable lack of pain—admittedly, no-one told me that I'd been given a 24-hour morphine derivative at the end of the surgery (or if they did, I lost it), and so I thought I was just getting something related to ibuprofen in the IV, but still, when those stopped, I just took Tylenol. (Granted I didn't know I could have narcotics because I wasn't offered them, which made my doctor unhappy, but I really didn't need them. I did need some help sleeping later, and was given Ambien, which worked great for me.)
We stayed in the hospital four days, the standard. I was technically cleared to go home at three, and was tempted, but everyone from my doctor to Chad recommended against it, and it was a good decision, just to get a little more rest. But, yeah, easiest recovery from major abdominal surgery ever: basically no pain, incision healed up a treat (still a bit sore, but that's all), and all systems recovered well.
And that's the medical side of things.