i recorded this birth story almost a year ago, right after my baby girl was born. as cliche as it sounds, it's incredibly hard for me to believe that a year has already passed since her birth. i wanted to share this story on my blog for anyone who finds themselves in my situation – your baby is breech and for whatever reason, either she won't turn or your doctor advises you against an attempt to manually turn your baby, you end up having a c-section. i realize that so many people have negative experiences with c-sections, and i think it's because the majority of those cases are emergency, after the poor mother has labored intensely for hours and is disappointed with the news that after all that effort, the baby has to come via c-section. for me that wasn't the case, and i was lucky to have an extremely positive experience with my daughter's c-section birth.
i abbreviated this version a little because the original was 3,662 words! i know, you'd be here until next week. there's also a youtube video at the end of this post with the beautiful birth story photos taken by christine olson photography.
if you have a friend who's preparing for a c-section, please feel free to share this with her. or pin it for later in case someone you know encounters this scenario. i knew for a couple weeks i'd likely have a c-section and after searching the internet, i had a hard time finding any helpful detailed accounts of positive c-section birth stories. plenty of beautifully detailed vaginal birth stories, yes, but not c-section births.
i had several people tell me, before and after anabelle's birth, “oh i'm so sorry you had a c-section,” and even things like “i'm sorry you didn't get to experience real birth.” i felt disappointed, afraid, and like i was cheating or doing something wrong. i'm here to say that no matter what way you bring a child into the world, it's a miracle. birth is a miracle.
Anabelle's birth story: a stream-of-consciousness style journal entry of the best day of my life.
The night before she came, we were up late. Neil was finally packing his hospital bag. Mine of course had been packed for a couple of weeks ha ha. I took one last shower with my big huge belly and we got to bed at about midnight, knowing that we'd need to get up around 5 a.m. I think I slept for maybe 3 hours, which was more than I expected to sleep. I woke up at 4:45 and was like a little kid on Christmas morning. I was SO excited to meet my baby girl that it was impossible for me to even consider going back to sleep. So, I got up out of bed and got ready for one of the biggest and most important days of my life. I took one last belly shot on instagram and at 5:45 a.m. before Neil and I headed to the hospital to get all checked in and ready for my 7:30 a.m. scheduled c-section.
We drove over to the hospital listening to Taylor Swift's new CD “Red.” It came out the week before Anabelle was born and I bought it on Saturday when I was at Target buying all the last minute little things I thought we HAD to have. I wasn't allowed to eat anything after midnight (mental note #1 – if I have another c-section, first a.m. case was the WAY to go. Nothing to eat after midnight > nothing to eat for an entire day) so I was feeling a little queasy when we got to the hospital. I pretty much had morning sickness every single day of this pregnancy. Anyway, I think the very first thing I did was ask for Zofran in my IV. An ultrasound tech came in to make sure, one last time, that baby girl was bum down. Sure enough, she was perched in the same position as she had been “since conception” Dr. Terry joked. Dr. Terry came in shortly after to give me a pep-talk, ask one last time in his jolly green giant voice, “what questions do you have for me?” with an enormous grin. I told him in complete seriousness that I was terrified I would be able to feel him cutting into me. He assured me that he and the anesthesiologist would do several tests just to be completely sure the spinal block worked. Then Dr. Myers, the best anesthesiologist on the planet, came in and talked me through what the spinal block would be like. Once again, I told him – just like I had told Dr. Terry – that I didn't believe that the spinal block would work. He was extremely patient and understanding and told me that he'd test me at least three different ways to be absolutely sure I wouldn't feel any pain. They also explained to me that I would feel tugging and pulling and pressure. They said, “you won't get it until you're there, but we'll tell you, ‘here comes the pressure,' and you'll get it.” They were right. No pain, just pressure, tugging and pulling. Weird but cool. But mostly weird.
My nurse that morning was awesome. Her name was Corene (pronounced Cor-een) so every time someone said “Corrine” or “Corene” we both turned our heads because we are both so used to having our names mispronounced. Pretty funny. Anyway, she wheeled me into the OR and Dr. Myers got right down to business with the spinal block. Meanwhile, Dr. Terry introduced me to another doctor, whose name I can't remember, who would be assisting with the surgery. It seemed like at least a dozen other people were in the room too. I didn't really mind; it sure seemed like a lot of people though. Dr. Terry was his funny, happy self and he kept saying “we're going to meet a little Southern Belle today,” and “great day to have a Southern Belle baby.” Dr. Myers applied the spinal block and at first it was very uncomfortable and somewhat painful. Then I felt REALLY awful for a few minutes there. Maybe five minutes. Which sounds like a short time, but it felt like a really LONG time. I felt like I was going to throw up and pass out at the same time. The room was spinning. Dr. Myers explained that this was because my blood pressure was dropping, a LOT. Neil felt bad and kept asking if I was okay over and over until Dr. Myers finally said, “no, she's not okay. She's feeling pretty crappy.” It seemed like forever but finally that dizzy sick feeling went away and my blood pressure went back up. Dr. Myers and Dr. Terry both did their tests to be sure I was numb. First Dr. Myers used a very cold cloth and put it on my arm and asked if I could feel cold, and then put it on my leg and asked if I could feel cold. At first I couldn't tell the difference, but by about the third time, I could feel him placing something on my leg but I couldn't feel it was cold. Then Dr. Terry (apparently) pinched me REALLY hard with this instrument that had “teeth” on it, but I didn't feel it at all. The next thing I knew, Neil started describing them cutting and I was like “no thanks! Just want to know if everything is going good or bad.” Ha ha. I am NOT one for blood and guts. Luckily he stands in an OR every day for work so it was easy for Neil to watch the whole thing. Oh, that's another thing, they asked me when they were prepping if I wanted to watch the surgery. I immediately said “NO THANKS.” Ha. Absolutely ZERO desire to see that!
So anyway, Neil kept reassuring me that everything was going well and suddenly, so quickly (literally within 10 minutes of starting the surgery) I heard the most beautiful loud cries! Dr. Terry said “it's a girl! And she has LOTS of hair!” I have never felt a surge of joy like I did in that moment. One of my only complaints about my c-section, and something I'll ask for differently next time, is that I didn't get to SEE Anabelle for a good 15-20 minutes. They took her over to clean her up, weigh her, and make sure everything was okay. This is when Dr. Myers and I had a “moment.” Tears of joy were streaming down my cheeks and he was wiping them away for me. Neil was across the room observing everything happening with little Belle. Dr. Myers asked at least three times, “can Mom see baby now?” and “hey guys, can you show Mom the baby please?” before they finally brought her over to me. Neil thinks maybe they were training a new nurse that day because the one nurse was explaining every little thing she was doing to the other nurse. Next time, if I do a c-section, I'll ask that the doctor lift the baby up so I can see him/her right away.
Neil had to hold her and bring her to me since the OR is a sterile environment and they were closing me up. I didn't care at all though. It was so incredibly magical to just look at our little angel. I couldn't believe how beautiful and perfect she looked. It was truly the best moment of my life.
As soon as they had everything closed up and we were just about to roll out of the OR, they placed sweet little Anabelle in my arms. I got to hold her as we were wheeled into my recovery room. I was so excited for my mom and dad to come meet her. My birth photographer was right there to shoot photos of those first few minutes of me holding my new baby girl, and I love and cherish those photos more than I can possibly explain. There are so many tender moments that she caught of Neil and me with baby Anabelle. I loved that we could both experience and soak up those memories and not worry about missing anything special or having him catch all the right things on camera. It was one of the best things I did for her birth.
My mom and dad came just a few minutes after we were out of surgery. They loved holding little Anabelle and meeting their first grand baby. We stayed in the recovery room for maybe an hour, and then moved to my room upstairs on the maternity floor. I actually ended up moving rooms one more time since they were doing construction right outside that room. I barely remember that detail though. That whole first day was a blur.
Another one of the BEST things I did was follow the advice of my nurse Corene, Dr. Terry, and Dr. Myers who all said “DO NOT EAT OR DRINK ANYTHING FOR THE FIRST SIX HOURS AT LEAST.” They all said if I just took ice chips instead, that the spinal block would wear off just fine and I wouldn't throw up. I hate being nauseated so I followed their advice just like they said, even though (just as they warned me) the nurse on the maternity floor wanted me to eat and drink right away. I waited until maybe 2 p.m. before I had just a little bit of jell-o. And then that evening I started drinking fluids and eating a little. I was amazed that I really didn't feel sick at all! They also gave me an anti-nausea patch to wear behind my ear. This is going to sound really funny, but I've had one of those once before when I went on a cruise and I remember it made me SO thirsty. I actually didn't mind this because, as a result, as soon as I started drinking fluids I drank TONS of water. I think this helped a lot with me feeling better. I also was extremely careful to stay on top of my pain meds and ice constantly. All of these things helped me have a pretty easy recovery, all things considered. Dr. Terry said to me several times, “you'll be surprised how quickly you bounce back. You'll be up and walking the next day.” I kind of didn't believe him and thought maybe he was just saying that since he felt bad that my baby was breech and I had to have a c-section. But he was right! I stood up (with help) the same day as my surgery, and I was up walking the day after. I mean, I'm sure it's easier if you DON'T have a c-section, but since I don't know any different, it wasn't bad at all. That night is hard for me to remember too, since I was still kind of in the “blur” phase.
Dr. Terry came to visit me the next day to make sure I was doing okay. He told us that, just as he had suspected on several ultra sounds before she was born, Anabelle's umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. I was so glad we didn't do anything to try to manually “flip” her and that we followed his advice.
I ended up staying in the hospital from Tuesday morning until Friday afternoon, the minimum stay if you're a c-section patient. In retrospect, I wish I had just stayed the extra day. For some reason I felt so rushed to get right home and tough it out myself. Like maybe I'd be so much happier in my own bed? And I felt like a wimp staying in the hospital. But oh man, that first night at home was HARD. I was at the very hardest part of nursing (the cracking, bleeding part – nursing moms you know what I mean), and to top that off, I got mastitis. Yes. Awesome (NOT). How I wished I had stayed in the hospital where nurses could have helped me!
Now I have to add a tribute to Neil here. I didn't know exactly what to expect from him since, truthfully, he hasn't been around tons of babies. I grew up the oldest child, six years older than the next sibling, so I had more than plenty of experience around babies. I babysat my way through junior high and high school, and I was even a nanny for two summers. Neil, on the other hand, was the youngest of six boys. He said he changed a diaper once before we were married, but I never actually “bought” that – ha. But I have to say, he went way above and beyond exceeding my hopes and expectations of loving, caring for, and bonding with our baby. It was almost a little blessing in disguise that I was down from the c-section because he had to pretty much do everything for little Belle. He changed every one of her diapers in the hospital. It was pretty funny, the very first time he changed her, we called the nurse in on my on-call button and he asked her to walk him through it. He wore gloves (ha ha) but, I mean, he does work in a hospital every day where you wear gloves for EVERYTHING you do. I tried not to laugh but to just smile and be grateful he was willing to help out. He loved and cared for that little baby girl, and me, so perfectly. I will forever be grateful for his attentiveness and care during that first week of her life on this earth. He stayed every night in the hospital overnight with us and slept on the pitiful “bed” that they provide the dads. It's pretty much some really crappy hospital cushions from their crappy “couch.” But he soldiered it out and didn't complain at all. He got up with Anabelle and me every time she needed to feed or needed her diaper changed, just to be sure we were okay. I think my love for him grew one million times what it was before we had her because of that hospital stay.
Anabelle was a beautiful little baby from the moment we got to see her. I guess that's another unfair advantage that c-section newborns have. Beautiful round little heads! She was so tiny and cuddly and wonderful at 6 pounds 7 ounces and 19.5 inches long. Poor little thing actually dropped down to just 5 pounds at one point, which I'm very glad no one told me about until we were ready to come home and she had gained enough to be back up to about 6 pounds.
I loved having bows and headbands to dress little Belle up in while we hung out in the hospital for several days. I loved having my own clothes to dress her in, and super soft, yummy smelling swaddle blankets to wrap her in from home. So many people told me to not bring that stuff because the hospital would have it, but my instinct told me to pack it anyway, just in case. And I was SO glad I did. Surprisingly, lots of people recommended bringing MY own clothes to wear, but I hardly did this. I found the hospital gowns much more convenient for feeding and I didn't care if I got them all dirty from … um, post surgery yuckiness if you know what I mean.
Oh, another thing I'd try to do differently if I were a first time mom in the hospital is not wait until the LAST day you're there to take the breastfeeding class they offer. I kid you not, I slept through the whole thing. You know those times in college when you were so tired your notes were illegible because you were nodding off while the professor lectured? That's exactly what my notes looked like from that breastfeeding class. I remember NOTHING that the teacher said. Ha. And – word to the wise – breastfeeding sucks (no pun intended). It's horrible at first. And then after about 3 weeks it's not so horrible. And now I love it, and I'd never do it differently.
One more mention about the hospital stay – the food. It wasn't as horrific as I had anticipated. But it certainly wasn't my favorite. I did LOVE that I could get unlimited diet coke, apple juice, whatever I wanted, the whole time I was there. I think the nurses probably grew very tired of seeing my call light on for as many times as I requested my water jug or ice pack get refilled. But oh how grateful was I for those ice pack and water jug refills! The food people were pretty intense about me getting my meals picked out for the following day and I always, always put it off. Ha ha. I'd end up picking stuff on a whim. Luckily Neil, my mom and my sister were all really nice to bring me lots of alternative food so I didn't end up eating the hospital food too many times.
Anabelle's birth was a dream, completely free of complications, and the best day of my life. Neil agrees that it was the best day of his life, too. We love our little girl so much more than we ever could have possibly imagined loving someone. I am already looking forward to doing this again, someday. Not anytime soon! But, someday.