We did it! It has been 22 days since our little miracle Bean was born, and yesterday would have been her “due date”.
Honestly, these past three weeks have flown by in a blur. I can’t believe we have her, this little precious miniature human being. A little tube that poos, pees, cries and sleeps. Our little Évelyne Sophie.
I also am a bit in awe that I made it through the scariest medical procedure and the worse of the recovery… a caesarean. I am forever thankful that I was informed and prepared. Interestingly, though, I’ve found that despite being very common (1 in 4 births), csections are even less talked about than vaginal births. In the spirit of honesty, here is Évelyne’s birth story, the good, the bad and the ugly. (note- this was MY experience, and not meant to represent all csections).
July 14th 2016 was the day of the planned section. One positive: Andrew could plan for taking time off work and going into the surgery we would be calmer and have time to prepare. Weirdly, I found myself having to explain why we were having a planned section… and although no one came out and said it, there was definitely a sense of judgement when I told people her date of birth was planned… As if csections were never medically necessary.
Leading up to the surgery there was blood work that needed to be done within 72hrs. Unfortunately the nurse threw out one of the two bottles of blood in the sharps container, so I ended up getting stuck again in the other arm. Sigh.
Predictably I barely slept the night before and we were up that morning at 4am, (over)packed and ready to go by 5am, at the hospital by 6am. Our amazing Doula met us there and the next hour and a half was a blur of meeting the surgery team members: two surgery nurses, the anesthesiologist, the two medical student residents, the doctor…and well, others that I don’t remember.
Honestly, it was frightening, overwhelming and so very medical.
We did have time to go through our csection plan requests with the surgeon, whom approved the two I wasn’t sure about: they would lower the curtain as much as safety permitted (shoulder height) to show me the baby being born as opposed to a baby appearing on my side, and they would milk the umbilical cord (since delayed clamping with an open wound isn’t feasible). Immediate skin-skin was already a given at the IWK (hospital) while they stitched me up and during recovery. We also had time to chat about my increased risk due to the location of the placenta for hemorrhaging and treatments. I felt fully supported and listened by all team members every step of the way, which was phenom.
Afterwards Andrew the Doula and the team and I we walked together to the OR. Unfortunately it looked exactly like an OR, so medical, and everyone was wearing scrubs (myself included) and face masks which upped my anxiety through the roof. I climbed up on the table, and tried not to panic or burst into hysterical anxiety tears as they hooked me up to an IV (which was painful, more so than the spinal tap), and administered the spinal tap (especially stressful since it was VERY important I not move a muscle to avoid incorrect insertion. This was tricky since I was on the verge of tears the entire time, but the anesthesiologist was so amazing and it all went well). The spinal tap didn’t hurt since they had numbed the area, but it definitely felt weird and disgusting. I could FEEL it in my spine….
Once that was complete, I lay back, my arms in a T with a curtain between my breasts and the rest of my body. Within minutes my legs started feeling heavy and soon I couldn’t feel anything from my breasts downward, which impressed the anesthesiologist to no end. Hey, I get it, we all have our things that we geek out on. Andrew and the Doula were on my left and either the anesthesiologist or a resident doctor were on my right.
Once it was clear that I was all numbed up, the show got started. They painted my belly and upper thighs with disinfectant that was bright pink (important they told me that, cuz afterwards it looked slightly like my body was stained with blood…), then the incision…
The actual initial surgery stuff are vaguely a blur, since I could feel tugging and weird internal pulling sensations. I was trying not to panic, and interestingly both Andrew and the Doula’s attempts at distracting me weren’t going over well. It was the anesthesiologist, talking about her work, her hobbies, that I focused on. Poor Andrew was kinda left in the lurch.
Then…. they lowered the curtain and my little daughter was lifted up! At this point I burst into tears, part relief and wonder that I was looking at this tiny version of myself and Andrew, part horror that this little baby looked blue and almost like a zombie baby- “is she alive???” was one of my first thoughts, which was quickly followed by relief at her cries and the doctors’ announcement of her health. And finally tears for myself, that I had to go through this awful, scary thing.
Although I couldn’t see anything, the curtain was low enough that Andrew later said he saw my incision, which he found a bit frightening… He held all that together though, and was the most supportive person throughout.
The most magical moment was when I got to announce her name to the world (ok the OR room), it felt momentous and so very special. Évelyne Sophie. Named after my grand-mère (who had passed away a few years ago).
The first few minutes she was brought to a table with a team of neonatal docs to check her vitals, milk and cut the cord. Andrew went over, and having the Doula and other super supportive team members meant I felt ok with this. Andrew even cut the cord, which he said was disgusting, but I am so proud and glad he did.
After she was cleared health wise, she came right back to me, all 5lbs 11oz, and was laid directly on my chest. Honestly, although it was a beautiful moment, I couldn’t see anything but her tiny purplish head, and I was struggling not to panic or vomit as the team started sewing me up. The tugging, pulling and pushing were INTENSE and I could hardly focus on anything else. On top of this, the surgeon announced that I had had a “slight” bleed and that they would be putting in a balloon device, like we had previously discussed, to put pressure on the bleed and a vaginal catheter would collect the extra blood. Thank goodness we had previously discussed this as being a possibility, so I was prepared.
Who knows how long that lasted, it felt like forever, and then they transferred myself and baby onto a stretcher and off we wheeled to recovery… where we stayed for double the typical time… almost four hours. Mostly because of her slightly low body temperature (she spent some time in a little incubator) and because the nurses were negotiating my stay to be on the birth recovery floor. It would appear that the ballon device is typically reserved for emergencies and the nurses on the birth floor weren’t sure whether they could manage.
Within minutes of being in recovery, Andrew was able to hold his new daughter and give her some skin to skin. I was immensely relieved that this was suggested, a) because I was feeling so nauseous and shaky that I just didn’t want her on me and b) I didn’t have to request it- my feelings of relief and guilt could be (temporarily) kept a secret.
When they finally wheeled us up to our room it was weird that we had a few minutes alone with our new little girl. Surreal almost.
So you’d think this would be the end of our birth story… except really the hardest part would be the new 72 hours and really upcoming week. I was floored at just how little I could move, with TWO catheters and the announcement that the “minor” bleed was actually fairly significant and the resulting blood loss meant that my recovery would be even more difficult than a regular csection.
The following two and a half days were painful, uncomfortable and included moments of pure bliss as I stared down at our gorgeous new daughter. In the first 24 hours I could only get up to hobble to the bathroom with a nurses help twice. The frequent checks on my bandages, catheters and even vaginal blood flow (which was painful as they pushed on my belly) were mildly humiliating, even though the nurses were super nice and professional. I’m just a private person. Removing each medical appendage was traumatizing and painful. I won’t lie. Even though it was a relief to have one less medical hook up.
Breastfeeding was actually somewhat positive, and definitely a whole other post for another day.
That first week back at home was ridiculous. I was so not prepared at just how little I could actually physically do. I could barely get up or sit down on my own, breastfeeding involved at least four (if not 10) hands, and don’t even get me started on the bowel movements. At the hospital on discharge day I needed a mild dose of oxy AND to be wheeled down in a wheelchair just to make it to the car.
Things I was thankful I had prepared for: Having a “csection” tv tray with my meds, water, snacks etc while I sat on the couch. Having underwear with a lacy top (from Joe Fresh) so it wouldn’t hurt my incision. Sleeping on the couch instead of in our bed- I couldn’t physically climb into our bed until week two. So, Andrew and I camped out in the living room that first week and Évelyne slept on my chest amid a fort of protective pillows and blankets so I could get some sleep as well.(She’s since slowly transitioned to the bassinet for sleeping, although this morning we still had a chest-nap…).
Things I didn’t consider:
- Just how difficult it would be to prepare and eat fruits and veggies. People brought fresh fruit and veggies, but most of it went in the compost since I couldn’t actually do more than hobble to the bathroom and the couch let alone wash, cut and prep fruit.
- Just how much I would need Andrew for everything. Which meant that he wasn’t able to do regular stuff like household chores, or even prep our meals. When our friend M came over and cleaned the kitchen and prepped our lunches we both could have cried we were so grateful.
- The heat. It has been SO hot that all those frozen “slow cooker” meals seem ridiculous. We’ve eaten two in three weeks.
- Clothes… Due to the lochia, I didn’t feel like wearing any dresses for that first week and a half… but my legs and feet were so swollen that jeans were out of the question (let alone the heat). So leggings were the solution, except just trying to dress myself was almost impossible. Twice I had to get Andrew to help me put on my leggings. I also have mostly warmer weather looser clothing, and dresses all meant to show off a bump, that I no longer want to show off.
- The time it takes to breastfeed. That first week most breastfeeding was at least an hour affair, since we both were learning. Then, we’d have one hour before we’d have to start the process all over again. It really meant we had minimal time to do much else.
All that and after the first week I really did start to feel more human and by week two I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Now at week three I feel pretty darn close to normal, with some twinges and extra fatigue due to my blood loss. Andrew has gone back to work and I’ve survived two whole days of solo-mama with only one moment of tears. Some positives so far:
- I am so loving our little ÉvieBean. Even though she likely has reflux, has pood, peed and barfed on us and keeps me up all night. She is beautiful and my love for her grows every single day.
- Breastfeeding has actually not been as weird or awful as I thought it might be (more on this in another post).
- The scar is really no biggie. And my belly really did shrink considerably from hospital to three week mark. Oh sure I still have one
, but it’s now more like pudge and less like I’m pregnant.
- I am managing the sleep deprivation surprisingly well. Yesterday was probably one of the hardest days since that previous night I only slept maybe 3 hours in broken segments. Most nights are sleep chunks of 1- to 1.5hrs with breastfeeding time taking between 30-45min. Since I have nowhere to be in the morning, we nap between morning feeds and only “get up” around 10am for the day. Also, having Andrew take her in the evenings and allowing me to nap has been essential.
- We’ve managed to baby wear out in public twice and we’ve been out several times. Possibly too early since I am more easily exhausted (again, blood loss). But still, we are DOING stuff.
- I am accepting help and being ok with having less household chores done. This is a BIG DEAL for me.
- I seem to have missed the postpartum depression train, for which I am eternally grateful. I have moments of tears, which I think are a normal part of hormonal fluctuations and sleep deprivation, but no extreme blues.
- The Twitter mom community has been unbelievably supportive. I was so surprised at the outpouring of support from my Twitter peeps and I’m excited that there will be real life connections from lovely local people. Both Andrew and I were so touched. It’s pretty amazing what an online community can offer and how it can really make the difference.
- Support from several friends and my family have been so essential and amazing. I don’t know if we could have done it without their help. Regular touching base via text or phone calls from a few special friends and my parents really has made all the difference with my mental health.
- Awesome breastfeeding support from our Public Health Nurse (next post!)
- Our Doula- she’s been so supportive and helpful postpartum. I highly recommend a postpartum Doula.
Every day I spend a few minutes gazing down at her beautiful little face and feel wonder that Andrew and I MADE this tiny little human. That she grew from our effort and struggles, from our love and commitment, from a tiny little blastocyst in a petri dish, to a little wiggly 8 week old bean to a miniature combination of our love and selves.
We feel so lucky. So blessed. So much love. I can’t wait to see what the future will bring and how she will make our lives richer, more complicated and more filled with love. All of the scary was worth having her. Bring on the Baby Adventure!