That’s right, Tom Petty, there ain’t no easy way out.
There will come that fateful moment when your fetus needs to be evicted from your body’s cozy B&B, and when that moment arrives there are only two routes out.
Neither is pleasant, although one is more scenic.
And yes, while it’s true that you have probably been waiting for this day with anticipatory joy, that’s only because mother nature has provided you with self-delusional hormones in epic quantities.
I really, really wanted to have a natural birth. And by that I mean a vaginal birth with lots of drugs in a sterile and impersonal hospital setting, with no less than four medical professionals at my bedside and a vacuum, extra forceps, and a SWAT team on standby.
I realized that I was not going to get my wish sometime around the 8th month of my pregnancy, when it became apparent that the bulge jutting out of my side was not, as I had hoped, a giant misplaced goiter, but was instead my baby’s head.
Nolan, it turns out, was in the transverse position, meaning he was horizontal in my stomach.
This is fairly rare, and so I felt pretty badass about it. I was all, yeah, no big deal, my baby isn’t interested in the normal positions.
He’s his own man. He’s basically saying, “what up breech babies, that’s all you got?!”
Nolan’s position would have been really awesome if he was competing in the high jump. Turns out it was less awesome for childbirth due to the fact that my vaginal opening is not as wide as the state of Kansas.
Nothing against my vaginal opening, yours isn’t that wide either. If it is I would like to hear from you.
The reason I wanted to deliver vaginally, I realized, was a little bit different than the reasons other moms cited for wanting this.
After reading many online forums, I learned that women often feel strongly about wanting to push their little bundle out the southern exit because they want the experience of childbirth and they do NOT want to feel cheated out of this.
I can understand that, although this experience sounds downright horrific based on every friend of mine who has ever delivered vaginally.
Women, it seems, want to feel this primal connection to their child and, moreover, to the act of birthing.
For some reason pregnancy brings out a very “we are mammals” sentiment in the masses, and people who would never consider wanting to feel, say, a root canal, suddenly want to feel something much, much worse.
It’s a strange but common phenomenon.
I had friends say to me, when it was clear that the Nolan train wasn’t leaving the station via the preferred exit, “It’s ok, Liz, having a c-section won’t make you any less of a mother.”
Huh. That thought never even occurred to me!
I wanted to give actual birth because I am competitive and like to pretend I’m tough! Not because I thought it would make me a better mother. I just like overzealous challenges that I can later brag about.
My upset over not getting to “compete” in the labor and delivery unit was real, but it was a little like the time I went skydiving – I had no interest in actually jumping from a plane, I just wanted to be able to say I did it after the fact.
Also, I had trained. I had taken the prenatal classes. I had paid actual money for them.
And I had practiced my breathing techniques! Techniques that did not appear would ease much more pain than that of a bee sting, but still.
I had practiced swaying on a giant ball to coax my baby out with my rhythmic bounces and periodic hip swivels.
I had even bought a tub of olive oil, ready to slather it onto my nether regions! (For those of you who have not prepared for birth, this nifty little trick is called a perineal massage.
It helps reduce the risk of tearing during delivery, and as a side bonus you can use the surplus olive oil for many tasty Italian dishes).
All of this intense training was for naught. A c-section was our only viable option, and so c-section it was.
Yes, I would not experience the birth of my first child the way I had hoped, but we are lucky to live in a place where safe alternatives exist.
Also, and this is no small thing, a c-section meant an automatic five day stay at the hospital.
As we all know hospitals are like hotels but with catheters and adult diapers readily available. So better! And also I LOVE hospital food! The hospital where I delivered Nolan makes an excellent Coq Au Vin. Things were looking up.
Photo credit: Christina McPherson Photography
The big day eventually arrived and things started out smoothly.
Brian was asked to wait outside while I was “prepped.”
He was excited and anxious, dressed in scrubs, hat, and booties, like an extra from Grey’s Anatomy.
I was busy having my spinal block administered, and quickly felt the lower half of my body go pleasantly numb.
The plan was for me to be awake during the surgery, but totally numb from the waist down. I remembered a good friend saying she found her c-section to be “a very civilized way to have a baby.”
This is civilized, I thought.
By the time Brian was let into the operating room the surgery was already in full swing.
He had barely gotten seated when the obstetrician exclaimed, “I see the baby’s butt!”
This was jarringly fast for Brian, who had anticipated more of a build-up to the main event. It was like going to a movie with no coming attractions. It throws a viewer off.
And with that, Nolan was out, via the express train. It was kind of amazing and kind of gross.
And then shit got real. Just as Nolan made his big debut – at the very height of emotion at this whole disgusting miracle – I started to feel stuff. Like, a lot of stuff. My spinal block wasn’t so much “blocking” anymore. Well, damn.
What’s the good of a spinal block without the block?
Very, very little, that’s what.
This was rapidly devolving into something decidedly uncivilized.
Remember, getting the baby out is only the first part. After you evict your tenant you still need to close up the apartment, you see. Lock the doors behind you and all.
“I can feel this!” I was trying to keep the panic down in my voice. Perhaps I sounded too un-panicked, because the anesthesiologist was surprisingly nonchalant.
“Like tugging and pulling?” he asked.
“No, like I can REALLY FEEL this surgery!” I could feel tugging 5 minutes ago. I felt SURGERY HAPPENING now. If I’m not being clear, those two feelings are different.
“Oh, you do? Hmm….Looks like you metabolized the medication too quickly!” His tone was breezy. “Next time you have a surgery you should make sure to tell them that your body seems to metabolize meds too fast.”
Um, yes, noted. Next time I’m having major abdominal surgery I’ll be sure to tell them. Too bad I’m in surgery RIGHT NOW.
Brian could see the panic in my eyes.
Oh, did I mention that I was tied down to the table? I was tied down to the table.
I had kind of forgotten I was tied down to the table until the part of the story where the spinal block stopped working and I panicked and tried to free myself.
Good thing I was tied down, actually.
Brian was in his own type of bind.
Unbeknownst to me, he had just been told that he needed to leave the surgery area to accompany Nolan to another room, where I presume they make sure he has all of his most important bits. Nolan, not Brian.
Brian’s bits were already accounted for.
Not wanting to cause more panic, but clearly seeing that I was losing my shit, Brian approached me cautiously, the way one might approach a skittish but rapidly angering beaver.
“Ok, I’m gonna go now…” His voice was soft. He was trying to appear calm so that I may be calmed. Which is not possible when you are actively being operated on with very, very little medication.
Uh, ok. That’s cool. I’ll just stay here and fight off my captors alone. My eyes pleaded with him but he was quickly led away.
After about five minutes Brian was sent away from Nolan’s room, too. Poor guy.
He ended up wandering through the halls, full scrubs, without either his wife or baby.
He was hoping, I think, to be with at least one of us during this most critical time.
But then I was hoping to not feel my surgery, so that made two of us who didn’t get what we wanted.
And that is pretty much how it went down.
Yes, I had “missed out” on the chance to be tough by laboring with my baby, but I was fortunate enough to get the chance to be tough by having abdominal surgery with meds that ran out part way through the operation.
Which would you prefer, c-section or natural childbirth? How was your labor and delivery? Let’s hear it. Be descriptive. I want to picture your baby crowning.
This is both hilarious and terrifying at the same time!
Yes, exactly! Just like birth is both beautiful and horrifically disgusting. It’s a strange hybrid.
That’s unbelievable Liz! I can’t even imagine.
Labor with my first (Maeve) was the only somewhat eventful one. I had to be induced because I was at 41weeks. I went in on Thursday night to start the process, and she wasn’t born until Saturday evening. I finally delivered her naturally…I was very glad to not have a c section. I was worried about the recovery afterwards….and even though the food IS fantastic at South Shore Hospital, I HATE being in hospitals (I requested to be let out early with my next two babies).
My labor took so long with Maeve that my brother later told us that he was planning how he would raise her with Stephen (my husband) because clearly I wasn’t going to make it. Matthew kinda went off the deep end…..
Debbie – Ha! That would have been nice for Matt and Stephen to jointly raise your girl. It seems fitting. I don’t think I would have done well with a super long process like yours – don’t they not let you eat the entire time? That’s a big concern. The not eating part would really get me. Mama needs a feed.
I think I was in too much pain to even notice. I don’t have the memory of wanting food. I felt bad for Stephen though, after I relaized he didn’t really eat either.
I thought I was the only one without a vivid memory of holding my baby(ies) for the first time. Thank you for validating my own experience with a welcome dose of humor, Liz! Loving the blog…
Glad I could help. I feel kind of bad for the whole amnesia-during-the-best-moment-of-my-life thing, but at least someone snapped a photo for posterity.
Liz, I had a C-section with Ella because she was breech and I stayed in the hospital for 6 days and pretty much did not want to leave. I loved ordering whatever I wanted off the menu and at any time. I pretty much ate like I was on vacation. With John, I did a VBAC so there is still hope for you yet to have that vaginal delivery but you will miss out on the extra 3 days of room service! 🙁 They also assume that you know what your doing with your second even though all my newborn training went right out the window!! Love your blog!
Exactly Amy, it is like being at a hotel! Yes, a hotel where you have a catheter and need to wear adult diapers, but a hotel nonetheless! I am undecided on trying for a VBAC next time. Any thoughts on this are welcome..
I can imagine how frightening that would be with arms strapped out to the sides and no way to escape! I had C-secion, vaginal, c-section. During labor with Josh (2nd child), it looked like he wasn’t going to come out the traditional way so we signed papers for another c-section. I was upset about it and the nurse said something similarly ridiculous to me, implying I might feel it makes me less of a mother. Hell no! I was upset because I had a little one at home and my mom could not come and help me! lol After Jim prayed by my bedside, the little bugger turned enough to go vaginal which I regretted as the 9+ pounder destroyed everything in his path! I’ve been thanking Jim for years now for that prayer. When he was 19 months old I had more surgery to fix everything and the doctor said that my next child could come out vaginally. I laughed and said, “Not on your life!”.
Joanne – I love “destroyed everything it his path”! Ha! You are a veteran of child-birthing, I have to hand it to you..
Liz- this is what came up as a related post to your article on Facebook: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/25/san-diego-zoo-baby-gorilla_n_5029060.html
Ha!!! That is amazing!!! It looks just like Nolan and me 🙂
I had an unmedicated delivery and still don’t remember shit. Also, I was scared of the idea of a c-section mainly because I had heard a horror story of some chick waking up with no arms and no legs because she got flesh eating bacteria (WTF!) and somehow I convinced myself that would happen to me. Which is ridiculous, I know, but I’m pretty sure I’m a hyphochondriac.
Jess, it probably would have happened to you. You were smart to play it safe. I hear that flesh eating bacteria during c-sections is on a steady rise…
On behalf of the women who chose not to have children, I want to thank you for your contribution to proliferation of the species. Us aging baby boomers are going to need a strong, caring, gentle and reliable generation of (handsome) men and women to help us stay in our homes, when supportive services are needed. Thank you for your service.
I am very pleased that I could create a human that can, hopefully, provide supportive services to you and me both at some point. That goal will be the sole focus of his upbringing.
That is pretty scary, I am loving your blog though! My worst delivery was when I got induced, it took a while to get things rolling but when it did even the epidural and the bowline of additional drugs couldn’t keep up with the happenings. We went from 8 to crowning in a couple of mins. The nurses didn’t believe the pain was real until they lifted the sheet to check how dilated I was all they did was stare and say “Wow, he has a lot of hair…” We almost delivered Dr-free, I don’t think that would have made it any more cost efficient though. I think I’ll pass on induction net time because I want my drugs to work.
Emily – thanks for the vivid details! I COULD picture the crowning, just like I hoped to!
This was excellent and so dead on! I had an emergency section with my first and my block also wore off. Not cool block, not cool. Everyone was ogling the baby, two doctors were discussing football and I was doing my brave little soldier. I (literally) feel your pain!
I’ve had two VBACs since and I really do prefer them. For me anyway, having to not lift anything for a few weeks after giving birth was just not an option once I had a toddler – how would I explain? Like you, my “natural birth” dreams included epidurals and a full hospital staff. I felt great immediately after both times and only spent 24 hours in the hospital after my third (double edged sword there of course). It’s worth looking into, although friends who had RCS’s said their experience was just fine too.
Yes, NOT cool, block! I wonder how often this happens? The anesthesiologist was seriously so nonchalant, like, oh, that is kind of inconvenient that your meds are ceasing to function while you are still wide open. I am happy to hear the VBACs went better. I think I might give that a go, although I really want an extended hotel (hospital) stay..
Happened to me, too, except mine never actually worked. They tested me, I didn’t feel it, but then they started cutting AND I FELT IT. Basically, they got the baby out and stapled me up as fast as possible, but it was essentially one of the most traumatic things that’s ever happened to me.
Oh no that is way worse! At least I got partway through. You’d think they would have this down by now, no?
It happened to me too. The block disappeared about the same time the dr nicked a pumper vessel and sprayed (literally) the entire OR with my blood (some landed in my eye – from the other side of the curtain – my husband was covered in streaks of it and most of our pics are spotted because we didn’t realize it was on the lens) and the dr sliced my daughter’s cheek in the mayhem. She was sunny-side up and apparently I have a thin uterine wall… Who knew?
Eventually I was pumped so full of drugs that the anesthesiologist’s face was melting off like the human suit in Men In Black. I wanted to pull on it and see if it was real but my husband said “no” (party pooper). It was very funny to me and I snort laughed the whole way back to our room. Classy!!