Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Climax: Simon Edward's Arrival

alternatively titled
Giving Birth after Trauma

I still never anticipated that it would take me over a month to write Simon's birth story. Crazy how my mind has resisted writing the details, which somehow would cement in the truth of the experience I had versus the experience I had so long imagined. It's also a little different to write a story that can honestly be completely and accurately summed up with the statement, "I had a c-section." But we want the details, so the details I'll write.

We left our story off at the decision to have a c-section. Simon was transverse, firmly and solidly planted with head in my ribs and no indication of moving again.

Chris and I woke up around 4:30 the morning of Wednesday, August 20. I had been instructed to fast from all food and water after midnight, but I cheated just a little bit and drank a small glass of water. We got dressed, grabbed the last few things that weren't already packed in the car, and headed north towards the hospital. In the car, Chris made one comment of regret at missing out on the adventure of driving me to the hospital while in labor, and I admitted to some nervousness about having surgery, but other than that, conversation was light and excited for baby Simon to finally be here. We did acknowledge the possibility that, like Ben, he could have turned head down during the night and we just didn't know it yet, giving the ever so slight a chance of still trying for the VBAC. But that conversation was more a formality than an actual possibility.

We arrived at the hospital and the nurses set us up in the first bay of the Triage room in Labor and Delivery. I changed into my own gown that I had ordered online. Between that and the french braids Mom had put in my hair the night before, I looked pretty darn cute while giving birth. I received a lot of complements on that gown from the hospital staff.

My doula Brandy arrived about 45 minutes after us, which was perfect. I was already changed and mostly settled, but then she was there to provide surprisingly helpful comfort while I was poked multiple times with a variety of needles.

As per usual, the worst part of the initial hospital preparation was getting the IV. I really liked the nurse we had, but she struggled to find a good spot. She tried just above my left wrist, which didn't work, so she tried again nearer my left elbow. That failed also and resulted in a burst vein and a lovely bruise that only just now went away a month later. She called it at that point, declaring that she refused to stick one person more than twice and said she would find someone else to get the IV in. In the meantime, some guy showed up to draw blood, which he did from the back of my left hand. Another nurse came in and gave me the IV on the side of my right wrist. It was a rather awkward location, but at least it worked this time.

I had been nervous about being the hospital knowing that I would be in situations that required certain amounts of physical exposure, which I am exceptionally uncomfortable with following a certain failure during Ben's birth. The medical team was more cautious already, and after I told them what had happened before, they were exceptionally conscientious about preserving my modesty. They were very clear to me about what they were doing and why, they directed any extra people to leave the room anytime I was uncovered without me needing to ask, and they worked quickly and efficiently to get me covered back up as soon as possible. I couldn't have asked for better respect in that area.

There was a funny moment in the very beginning, when they were trying to hook up the fetal monitors. The nurse had already placed the contraction monitor right at the top of my belly and was now looking for the baby's heartbeat. She couldn't find it. I wasn't worried because he was wiggling like crazy so I knew he was fine, but the nurse was concerned. Turns out that she had to move the contraction monitor because his heartbeat was right at the top of my belly--not a normal spot for a mom about to give birth. I chuckled a bit...and let out a breath of acceptance that we really were set to have a c-section.

Once the IV was in and I was basically ready, Dr. Fredrick came in to talk to us. We went over the surgery procedures and at any point that there was an option for something, he let me pick what I wanted. I never felt pressured to choose anything a certain way. He would mention that one thing or another was easier or more convenient for him, but then he would unquestioningly agree to what I wanted regardless of his personal convenience (like when I wanted sutures rather than staples). I felt very comfortable and confident going into surgery with him as the surgeon.

The one and only thing that I REALLY didn't like about how these events went down was the fact that Chris was not allowed to come into the operating room at the very beginning. I walked myself into the room (that was a little weird...I suppose I had just assumed I'd be wheeled in on a gurney) with two nurses, but without Chris.

This was where things got a little tricky for me. It was the first time I'd set foot in an operating room since Ben's birth. The operating room had been the location of the worst part of the trauma, and I knew that being back in that environment was likely to be a strong trigger. I was right. It required a lot of serious mental concentration to keep myself relatively calm and present. The worst moment for sure was getting the epidural.

I'd had an epidural with every previous birth, but in those three instances, I was in labor at the time. Getting the epidural was still painful, but it was a willing pain knowing that it would bring relief from the intense pain I was already in. This time, I wasn't in labor and hadn't experienced any pain other than the brief discomfort of needle pricks. The epidural needle was a much, much bigger leap on the pain scale than I had experienced the last three times. It was also a lot worse because Chris wasn't there. The anesthesiologist's nurse placed her hands on my shoulders and let me lean on her. Having that counter-pressure was enormously helpful, but it definitely wasn't the same as leaning on Chris and holding onto him.

I remember one moment in particular when the thought occurred to me that this was the time I had to use all those tools and techniques that I have spent so much time learning and practicing. I could use the tools or I could succumb to the bubbles of panic threatening to rise up and take over. So, I anchored my physical self down to that operating table, concentrated my sight in on the blue dot of an i on a poster on the wall, and focused my mental energies into silently repeating phrases like "I'm safe" and "This is exactly what is supposed to happen now" and "Chris will be here in just a second." I knew he was out there somewhere, just waiting to come in as soon as they let him.

It was harder than I wanted it to be to not give in to that panic and run screaming from the room, but I'm happy to report that I succeeded. No panicking here. The nurses were fantastic. They kept a running commentary on exactly what they were doing the entire time. The most critical moment was when they stripped away my gown in order to sterilize me before placing the sheet that would cover me during surgery, and they handled that moment perfectly. The shield was already up so I didn't have to see anything, but the nurse explained exactly who was doing what and repeatedly reassured me that they were almost done. The second that I was completely sterilized, the sheet was pulled up and I was fully covered from then on out. Excellent, and as it should be.

Chris did finally make it in, after waiting something like half an hour. And surgery began. Ironically, this was the only part that no one told me. I was just hanging around waiting for them to get the show on the road...it seemed like it was taking a long time so I asked, and it turns out they were already in and about to pull out the baby. For some reason, that was funny to me.

I would describe those moments as peaceful anticipation. I had already passed the hard parts of being in the operating room, getting the epidural, and getting sterilized. Now we just had to wait for that baby.

The first comment I really heard from the doctor was, "Wow, this is a big baby!" It took a little more pulling and a little more muscle than the usual c-section, given both his size and how far up inside me he was. Dr. Fredrick did in fact get him out, though, and they immediately held him up and pulled down the curtain so I could see him right away. That was perfect. Chris jumped up to go see him, and came back within moments with the nurse and the baby. It was then that I met my son for the first time, and that was perfect, too.

Hello, Simon.

After our little bonding moment, Simon was whisked away to the nursery while my surgery was finished. Chris left with Simon, and I had a quiet moment to consider what I had just been through. I was extremely proud of myself. I had knowingly and willingly placed myself in a situation that I knew would be extremely difficult, putting myself at the mercy of strangers and trusting that everything would be ok. And it was. And I cried, but this time in a good way.

The nurse commented at one point that she generally gave moms a sedative so they could relax while getting closed up, but she didn't think I needed any since I seemed completely calm and relaxed already. I said I was fine, and I really was. So much so, in fact, that I just fell asleep anyway, without any help. One of the best naps ever, even if it was only for a few minutes.

I came to consciousness again when the baby nurse came back with a declaration of, "Any bets on how big that baby is?" I thought that was a rather unceremonious way of announcing it, especially since she wasn't talking to me at all, but whatever. I was too content to really care. The verdict of 9 pounds 15 ounces was met with gasps and chuckles of surprise from most everyone in the room. I was certainly surprised--that was nearly a two pound jump from Ben's size, who had been my biggest baby thus far. And, seriously, how on earth did a nearly 10 pound baby do so many somersaults in utero?

The rest of the story is mostly a blur to me now. I was taken out of the OR and back to the Triage room, where Mom had arrived and was waiting with Brandy. Chris came back with Simon, and we all posed for pictures while soaking in the joy of it all.

This isn't the story that I had hoped to tell, but it is the story that I have, and it's the best that this story could be. And it has the best ending.


Brenda said...

Laura you are an amazing woman. I've never been what you have been through, but I've had panic attacks before and they are frightening. I'm glad that the hospital staff was aware of you and that is how it should be always. I'm excited to see you guys in a couple months and sure hope and Jack isn't going to be almost 10 lbs ;)

Liz, Karl, Madison, Brooklyn, Aubrey and Zachary said...

So so glad things ended well! Little simon is adorable and oh so lucky to have you as his mom. And I must say, I love that you bought your own gown. ��

Tannie Datwyler said...

Laura, can you guess what I'm doing now? You know we well enough to know I've got the tears running down my face. I miss talking to you. I know it sounds weird to say this, but I am proud of you. I am proud you are my friend and I am amazed by how much you have gone through and accomplished. YOU BRAVE WOMAN!!

Michael and Amanda said...

I'm so glad this was a good experience for you! And I'm really glad they respected your modesty completely. How weird that they didn't actually tell you when the surgery started when they were so thorough with everything else! I've been wondering why you didn't get the VBAC that you wanted and after reading this, I think I have a better idea about it. You are such an amazing example of what it means to take control of your life. You fully recognized all the triggers you would encounter and mastered them effortlessly, or at least seemingly so. You accomplished something great here. Something that can never be repeated. I know this wasn't the story you wanted to tell, but what you told was better than that! I know that by looking to your example, the example of hard work, searching for answers, and being brave when it seems impossible, I know that I can follow after you and create the experience I want. Thank you for sharing this.

Chrissy said...

I enjoyed your amazing story! Congratulations!

Raylyn said...

He is adorable, and you did it!! What hospital did you deliver at? I've had 3 C-sections. The last two were elective and Ian and the baby have always been able to stay with me the whole time. Crazy how hospitals have different procedures.

Raylyn said...

Oh, I just remembered you live in a different state. So that's probably why things were different:)