Anna's Cesarean Birth Story
This is not a pretty story. But it is my story, and I love it. Now.
For at least 75% of our marriage, my husband and I dealt with infertility. We were married for a year, and because of my progressing endometriosis, we moved forward plans to grow our family about a year after we got married. Fast forward three more years, more failed rounds of fertility treatments than I have fingers, a major surgery, three specialists in three different cities, tens of thousands of dollars, a lot of counseling and grief, and we had a successful frozen embryo transfer from in-vitro fertilization on March 25, 2016. A complicated journey to *getting* pregnant must mean I've earned an easy pregnant, right? "Negative, Ghost Rider. The pattern is full..." of migraines.
We knew that one of the triggers for my chronic migraines was hormone fluctuations, with HCG specifically triggering an episode that could last for days. What was the one constant hormone used in almost all of my rounds of fertility treatments? An HCG trigger shot (signaling for my mature follicles in my ovaries to release the eggs that had developed). What hormone is doubling (ish) every 48 hours (ish) during your first trimester? You guessed it. Yeesh. My pregnancy was completely normal and uneventful from the shoulders down. By my third trimester, I was put on temporary disability by my doctors due to the amount of medication it took to keep me (miserably) moderately functional in full time employment. At 36 weeks, I had started to dilate and was 80% effaced. I also started having contractions. If I was up and moving, they were every 10-15 minutes. If I went for a walk, they got closer to 5-7 minutes apart. But as soon as I got still, they slowed to a few an hour. I did this for 3 weeks. Every time my doc saw me at each of my appointments he'd joke "how are you still pregnant??" I DON'T KNOW, OK? We talked about my birth plan. We laughed about it, really. Absolutely nothing that we planned had worked out. Nothing. I hadn't wanted to take Clomid, or see a fertility specialist, or do IVF, or have crippling migraines. So I kept my plan stupid simple. Priority 1: the baby lives. Priority 2: I also live. Priority 3: If I can avoid getting cut open, that'd be swell.
That's it. That was my birth plan. My doctor laughed at me and said we could probably work that out.
We made the decision for everyone's sanity to induce on December 2, right at 39 weeks. I was miserable and more than ready to meet this child that we'd prayed so hard for, waited so long for. I'd loved him forever, but never met him.
My parents came in to town. My in-laws came to the hospital. This was the first grandbaby to be born on both sides. This was a BIG DEAL. I checked in bright and early on the morning of December 2, ready to get this show on the road. My doc was on call, it was going to be great. I was prepared for an all day affair. I even had someone lined up to sneak me a burger around lunch time. I think that "no food" rule during labor is *super dumb*. I know the reasoning. I still think its dumb. Don't tell me labor is "like a marathon". I've done one of those. If you only gave me a popcicle and ice chips while I was running that marathon, I would have passed clean out and not finished. Its dumb.
I was dilated more, so I think I would have gone into "actual" labor that day anyway. Pitocin or no. Doc broke my water (gross) and ordered the Pitocin and we were off to the races. A sweet sorority sister had let me pick which L&D nurse I had since she wasn't working that day, and boy did I pick well. About an hour into the pitocin, it started working REALLY WELL. I barely got 30 seconds in between a 2 minute long contraction that I could hardly breath through. Pitocin contractions are from your shoulders to your knee caps. I was READY for that epidural. Except when they came, the presacral neurectomy I'd had (along with endometriosis excision surgery in 2015) kind of freaked out my CRNA. It took her 30 minutes to place my epidural. It should have taken about 10 minutes. My epidural was also "inadequate". But I didn't know that then. It took the edge off and I could breath. The only medication (outside of the epi, ha) I asked for was some anti-nausea. The intensity of the contractions and the epidural were making me super queasy, and the last thing I wanted to do was lose what few electrolytes I had from that popsicle to a puke bucket. A nice splash of phenargen later, I was able to relax a little. In hindsight, this was 100% God's providence. My nurse quietly came in and asked me to turn on my side. All of the sudden I had that little nose-tube thingy giving me oxygen. The baby was showing some signs of distress, so they wanted to make sure he was getting what he needed. I asked her to define "distress". She told me his heartrate was dipping some, and that wasn't completely uncommon, but if he didn't recover and maintain an acceptable rate, they would "just go ahead and take him" for his safety. Ok, how long does he have to recover? When does that decision get made? "In the next 10-15 minutes, we'll know."
Oh. Y'all, she said this with the calmest tone. This is not something me and my doctor had talked about. He had just checked me about 45 minutes prior, and I was progressing fine. Everything was sunshine and rainbows and pitocin. At this point, I had one of those goofy looking OR caps on my head but I didn't know it. They were *ready*. So I rolled over. Or, I was rolled over. Ha. I practiced my deep belly yoga breathing. I talked to my baby in my head. I told him to CHILL OUT. They cranked my pitocin way down, and the contractions slowed down, and the baby perked up.
That's settled. Good. Let's ease the pitocin back up and see if we can't move this party forward. Makes sense, right? Everyone's got their wits about them now, its great. They turn the Pitocin back on, and I'm rolled away from the monitors. I can't see my contractions or the baby's heartrate. Continued deep breaths. All of the sudden, there are a ton of people in the room. Nurses, a doctor I haven't ever met or seen before, someone is taking my wedding rings off and asking about any metal in my body. I look at my husband confused (blissful phenargen fog) and he's already been dressed head to toe for the OR. They kicked out our family. My nurse gets in my face and says "Whelp, he's in distress again, and it doesn't look like he's going to change his mind. We're going to go ahead and take him out now, ok?" I look at the clock and its 1:11pm.
I call for my husband, and he says he's coming. He's behind me. You know on Grey's Anatomy when they run down the hall with someone on a hospital bed yelling words like STAT and CRITICAL, hollering about o2 levels and BP?
The doctor yells her name at me, says we're going to meet my son together. Cool? Cool. I moved my left leg as we're flying down the hallway. This would have been a big ole red flag, had I had my senses intact. I didn't.
We get to the OR and they're screaming at each other about the Epi Log. They don't have it. They can't find it. They have to have it before they can operate. They can't cut until they have it. Its not here. Where is it? (an Epi Log, I learned, is documentation of my epidural. What I've had, how much, when, etc.) I scream for my husband, and I'm told that he's not in the room. "We'll let him in when everyone is safe." I understand why they did this. I do. But in an emergency situation straight out of my nightmares, surrounded by a team of 7-10 highly trained medical professionals, I felt so scared and so alone.
They still don't know where the Epi Log is. They baby's heartrate had dropped below 50 bpm, and it hadn't come back up in several minutes. They were afraid they were losing him. I am now in distress. I tilted my head back towards the anesthesiologist and said "I am giving you verbal consent to knock me the @#$%& out. You can gas me. Its ok. Do whatever you have to do to save the baby." As I am telling him this, the doctor that I'd never met yells "Hows about I save the baby now and document later. Y'all ok with that? Cutting now." And boy was she. Remember that "inadequate" epidural? I felt everything. They didn't have time to draw the drape up nice and neat between me and the business end, they just kinda tossed it over my head. My nurse gets in my face as I am screaming and asks if I feel pressure or pain. So I describe to her, in detail, exactly what they are doing on the business end. "So, you're feeling pain then. Ok. We're going to get through this." The anesthesiologist tells me he's going to fix it. That woman stayed in my face telling me what was happening, telling me the stats on the baby, telling me I was seconds away from meeting my son. The doctor had to cut twice, because my chunky monkey didn't fit through the first incision. The anesthesiologist tells me he's pushing something more for the pain, as I'm still awake. The nurse told me as he came out. I heard him cry, and the doctor said "Well damn, he's pink. I just knew he'd be blue. He's good, Mama! Time of birth, 1:17."
Six minutes of absolute terror and hell. I'm asking a million questions. Where is he? Is he ok? I hear my doctor walk in and ask "What the hell happened?" He sounded out of breath, but everyone did at that point. My husband appears out of thin air it seems, telling me to look. He's here, he has him, he's safe. We did it. Its over. Its ok. And then he's gone. My doctor closes me up and things get a little blurry after this. The drugs that the anesthesiologist had pushed actually started to work once my adrenaline was wearing off, so my recollection is fuzzy. I was taken back to my room, and no one was there. A few minutes later, my mama rushes in and tells me he's perfect. How great I did, we did. Where is my baby? My inlaws come in, and my mother inlaw kisses me and tells me how proud she is. WHERE is my baby? Finally, my husband comes in with our son, about 15 minutes after he was born, and hands him to me. I resolve right then and there that I am never letting anyone else have him. He latches and gets a belly full of colostrum. I forget the last 30 minutes for a while.
My birthstory is not full of warm fuzzy feelings. It was not a peaceful, serene experience. It was not a powerful "I am Woman" experience. It was stressful, it was scary, it was immensely painful. A uterus ridden with adenomyosis had just had enough. My drama king child decided contractions that often just weren't his jam. My epidural wasn't effective. I would do it again 100 times, exactly the same, for the 16 month old that kicks me in his sleep, still. And hey, I checked off two of my three priorities in my birthplan. Batting above .500, right? Its taken a lot of time to process what happened in the hospital that day. We have another embryo in cryo-storage, and potential plans to do another round of IVF. Should we get pregnant again, I don't know if I'll attempt a VBAC or schedule a section with a spinal block. What I do know, is that The Almighty knew Truitt's birthday long before we did. He knew the day and time and means. He knew that epidural would be bunk. He knew I wouldn't tolerate pitocin. He knew it would be scary. He knew. He sustained. He provided. It was never my story to tell. It was written long ago. He knows the birthdays of my other children. He's already written their stories. One day, I'll learn them. I love my story, because it brought me my son. Because of that, it is beautiful. I fought tooth and nail for him. I fought to conceive, I fought to carry, I fought to have him. He was worth everything I felt on the table. The beauty in my story is reflected in my son's face every day I have him.