Elective C-section: a blow by blow account

We arrived at the hospital in time for our 7am check-in. We were first on the surgical list that day, scheduled at 8.30am, and I was glad. I was feeling nervous enough without having to wait for an uncertain length of time for the surgery. The nurses called my husband to put his blue scrubs on. Things were starting to get real.

Now it was my turn. I had to put on two hospital gowns, as you can imagine both were hideous looking, one doing up and the front the other at the back. I was asked a number of questions by the nurses and the anaesthetists – what did we want to do with the placenta? did we want baby to have a vitamin K injection? was I allergic to any drugs? was I unwell?

Finally I was walked into another room and lifted onto a hospital bed.  There I was greeted by an anaesthetist with a Star Wars headscarf. Time for the spinal tap. I was anxious as I bent over a couple of pillows. Three doses of local anaesthetic followed into my lower back. The pain was sharp. And then the spinal.

I was wheeled into theatre and at that moment my emotions overtook me. I broke down. I was overwhelmed, worried, and finally having to face up to the occasion that I felt I had denied for so long. It was confronting. I wanted a hug from my husband as the theatre staff fussed around me. All I could do was look at him from a distance and try to regain my composure. After a while a senior nurse gently told me I needed to pull myself together otherwise they would have to consider me as distressed. I gathered that meant that the surgery couldn’t happen until I was calm. I got there eventually.

I was lying on my back, the green curtain between me and my soon to be sliced open tummy sat in front of me. My arms were outstretched, a drip in one hand, monitors on the other hand. The anaesthetist stood by my head and my husband sat behind me.

I didn’t react well at all to the initial dose of anaesthetic. My chest felt like it was being crushed, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” I said to the anaesthetist. Thankfully, a friend of mine had the same experience and I knew, or at least thought, that it was due to slightly too much anaesthetic too quickly. The feeling wore off fairly fast.

The next period was probably the worst. I suddenly felt extremely unwell and as though I was going to faint, even though I was already lying down. Everything was spinning, I felt nauseous, there were black spots darting around in my vision. I was sweating and shaking. I overhead the anaesthetists talking about my blood pressure. My husband was asking questions. The anaesthetist was telling me, “you’re fine, you’re OK.” Well I wasn’t. It was awful.

Thankfully, they managed to fix the issue. I had reacted badly to the drug that stabilises blood pressure. They had to quickly find an alternative drug and swap the IV over. My husband said that my vitals dropped really low – my heart rate and my blood pressure, and that the anaesthetists were visibly stressed. I’m glad I didn’t see that. It must have been hard for my husband to watch.

Then began the surgery. I could feel pressure on my abdomen, so I knew it was happening, but felt no pain. After a while, I felt the senior nurse putting a lot of pressure on my chest and ribcage – it made sense, I could feel the baby had squished itself right in there. Two more attempts at squishing her out and then it happened. That first cry. She was here. I bawled tears of relief and happiness.

She went off to get weighed and have her vitals checked. 4.19kgs, yikes. I had some relief that I had the c-section. I didn’t realise it at the time, but the surgeon had to cut through my placenta and I was losing a lot of blood. 1.5 litres it turned out. It would make for a difficult post-birth recovery.

But from that moment on, I went from being in denial to being completely in love with our new girl, and so happy. I looked in my husband’s red eyes as happy tears welled up. It was if the pain of the past three or so years was washed away instantly. We had finally done it.

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The third trimester – the reality begins to set in…

It was really happening, we were entering the third trimester for the first time since my son was born. We might actually be having this baby!

I had a further scan at 32 weeks, more for sanity reasons than any medical need. Oh wow, our little girl was a whopper. She was already measuring at 2.3kg and was sitting off the charts in terms of her percentile. I wondered whether I might have gestational diabetes so I sat through the two hour glucose test. No, she was just a whopper!

Because of her size, and our history, we elected to have a c-section. The obstetrician who was at my son’s delivery had suggested that I might consider an elective as, “these things tend to repeat themselves”. So, our plan became that unless a natural birth happened fairly promptly and without issue, we would have a c-section at 39 weeks. A date was finally set.

I was getting very sore, and was not even walking much. My ankles were getting larger and my belly button was now a series of stretch marks. I described the feeling to my friends as having a spikey bowling ball in my lower abdomen. It turned out she was also lying in the breech position, poking her toes out my sides.

I was leaving work to take all my annual leave before the baby was born. It was a disappointing time. Despite my boss knowing what I had been through, nobody organised a lunch for me, like had been usual in our firm. I tried to focus on the larger picture – I was having a baby finally, a work lunch was hardly important. But it did leave me feeling fairly unhappy. On my last day, I was sick, which spelled a strange start to my annual leave / maternity leave. There it was, I had finished work for over a year.

In those final weeks, I painted our baby’s room (something that’s not that easy when you’re that big!) and hurried around getting things ready., like buying a bassinet. I felt like I had no relaxation time at all, really. But I didn’t mind. I was hoping that she wouldn’t come early, and there were many times I nervously thought that we wouldn’t make it through to 39 weeks. We had no real back up plan if she did. Both our families lived outside our city, and we had friends, but I was nervous about having to rely on them to look after our soon for days.

The eve of the c-section finally arrived. My mother in law had come up to stay with us. There was no worry now about if the baby came that night. We finally packed our bags. It’s a strange thing preparing for an elective c-section, knowing that you leave in the morning for the hospital and you’ll be most likely coming home with a baby. What a journey and a momentous moment.

The anatomy scan and the gender

Although we’d passed the 12 week scan with flying colours, fears still remained that we would discover something awful at our 20 week anatomy scan. I think part of this fear came about because of posts I had read on a Facebook support group. Lots of the members of the group had received heartbreaking news at their anatomy scans. Heart issues, brain issues, spinal issues…

I held my breath as the scan started. The sonographer methodically began to examine the different parts of the baby. The baby’s head, it looked OK… was it OK? Yes, it was. The baby’s heart. The obstetrician said it had four chambers was that enough? Yes, it was. the baby’s spine. We’d seen it on an earlier scan, was that OK? Phew. Ok so those were the main issues, right? It seemed like things were going alright. The sonographer continued and it gradually dawned on me that we were going to get through this scan just fine.

“Would you like to know the sex?” she asked. “Yes, please”, we nervously replied. “You’re having a girl.”

And with that, my months and months of denial hit me quite hard. This was real, it was actually happening. It was upsetting feeling the weight, the pain and hurt, start to lift off my shoulders. I also felt a strange sense of anxiety. Our son’s needs seemed so simple, a girl seemed like such a big responsibility. I panicked a little. I had just assumed that we would have another boy, again I think because I was in denial about having any baby. I thought of all the challenges and issues I had faced growing up as a girl and freaked out. So much to navigate.

Everything hit me like a lightning strike that day. What would be a really wonderful occasion for most people was quite a shock for me. It was as if I had just been told I was pregnant for the first time, and I was 20 weeks pregnant. And we were going to have a baby girl. My husband asked if I was happy, but I couldn’t say that I was at that moment. I was anxious and in disbelief and it overrode the underlying feelings of happiness that I had.

My husband said that I ruined the day for him because of that. That really upset me. While the feelings of anxiety and disbelief faded quite quickly, we wouldn’t have that moment again.

Telling work that you’re pregnant

I spent so much time in bed in my first trimester feeling unwell that it seemed quite bizarre that my nausea stopped at around 13 weeks. It was like the nausea switch turned off overnight. Of course it made me nervous, was the baby still alive? I was having weekly appointments with the obstetrician at that point, so I would anxiously await the scan to see that baby was still alive and kicking. Everything seemed fine.

At around 16 weeks I felt the baby’s first kicks. Very soft at first, but then distinct. It was  really important development for me, because from then on I had an internal monitor to tell me that the baby was still alive, that its heart continued to beat.

Meanwhile at work I couldn’t bring myself to tell my boss that I was pregnant.

It was as though telling my boss would make the situation more real and I would become a lot more vulnerable to accepting that good or bad things might happen. If I didn’t say anything I suppose it was a form of denial and self preservation. I waited until I was about 16 weeks pregnant, when I really couldn’t hide the bump anymore. In the meantime I snuck out in my lunch hour to my appointments and kept slowly counting down the days.

By 16 or 17 weeks the comments began. An older woman at work joked that I had baby brain. She couldn’t possibly know I was pregnant apart from looking at me, so I felt that her comment was fairly dangerous and, to be honest, plain rude. One colleague hauled me into her office and asked me straight up. I laughed and I appreciated it.

A male colleague saw me in the lift and said, “hey you’re pregnant! You are pregnant, aren’t you?” That was a risky move. I still remember how devastated I was when a man in a parking lot pointed at my tummy and said, “you’re pregnant!” I wasn’t. I was gobsmacked and fled the scene before getting upset. You should never ask a woman if she’s pregnant!

 

 

The 12 week scan… a lot of tears

The last time we had a 12 week scan our hearts were crushed. There was a large amount of fluid behind the baby’s neck, indicating possible Down’s Syndrome or significant heart issues. I remember crying and saying, “why does this keep happening to us!” before we were ushered into a small tea room out the back of the practice so I could regain some composure.

So, fair to say that reaching the 12 week scan was a huge milestone for us. Because we had screened our embryos we knew that it wouldn’t have a trisomy, but that didn’t stop me imagining any number of problems the baby could have. We went into the sonographer’s small dark room and I was quick to let her know that we were anxious and would need reassurance as soon as she was able to give it to us. I cried, it was becoming pretty standard for me to do so at every appointment!

The sonographer was really amazing. She quickly found the baby’s heartbeat. OK, so it was alive. The sonographer then measured the fluid at the back of the baby’s neck. It was around 1.2mm. For our previous 12 week scan it was 3.8mm. It was a sobering feeling considering what a huge difference that was and how at that previous scan we had no real appreciation of just how significant that reading would be for our baby and our future.

Even when it became clear that everything was just fine I continued to feel so anxious. After all that we’d been through there was such a large element of self preservation and protection that it all felt like another tick alongside a long, long list of milestones. But we’d got past this hurdle, it was an immense relief.

Will our embryo have a heartbeat?

Once the elation of discovering we were pregnant had set in, so did the familiar feeling of anxiety about what could go wrong. Our previous positive pregnancy test fizzled out as a chemical pregnancy a week or so later. The month before, our successful embryo transfer was stopped in its tracks because I caught parvovirus. Earlier that year we’d had another chemical pregnancy and an unsuccessful embryo transfer. That was just last year! It felt like an almost insurmountable barrier existed between us and our goal of a sibling for our son.

Being summer time we had lots on. I flew to a wedding a few days after we found out we were pregnant and nursed my one glass of rose the whole day and night, tipping some out in the bushes when I hoped no-one was looking. If my friends were suspicious they didn’t let on. We had another wedding the following weekend. All of a sudden I had  morning sickness all day. I was only just over five weeks pregnant, so I was surprised I was sick so early on.

Being at work the next few weeks was hard. I sat at my desk staring at my computer a lot. I tried going for walks to escape the office but found myself nearly fainting after only a few minutes in the sun. I spent a bit of time sleeping in the sick room and at home and lived off yoghurt and jelly, not feeling like anything else because of the nausea. When I caught the train to work I’d have to focus at someone’s shoes on the ground because if I looked out the window I thought I’d throw up! I survived though, bar one bus trip where I had to leap out the door about two kilometres from our house.

At eight weeks we had our First Big Scan at the fertility clinic. This would tell us whether our embryo had a heartbeat and was growing to the right size for its gestation. It was a big day for us. I lay down on the bed and my husband sat beside the screen. Our specialist said he could see the heartbeat. I cried. We had somehow made it this far. We had graduated from the fertility clinic. Our next appointment would be with an obstetrician.

 

My first post in nearly nine months…

I guess some things have happened since I last posted.

I had my embryo transfer on January 20. The same day that my husband had organised his mate’s stag party as best man. “Don’t worry sweetie, I can do this on my own and I don’t want you to feel guilty for not coming along,” is what I told him. And it was completely honest. I had been through it before and I knew what to expect. I knew he would much rather be with me, but it was ok that he wasn’t.

I dropped my son off at a friend’s house and drove to the clinic. I was early, so I sat in the car and tried to distract myself. I played upbeat rock songs to sort of hype myself up, and ended up trying to fight back anxious tears. I remember reading an article which suggested that women who went into an embryo transfer feeling more upbeat and positive tended to have more success. So I watched some videos of people doing stupid stuff. And then I went in.

Everything was familiar and went fine. My bladder felt like bursting, as usual. They showed me an image of the little embryo and told me everything looked great, as usual. They told me the transfer was a success, as usual. I didn’t hold any unrealistic expectations, but it felt positive.

Soon after, we went on holiday for nearly a week. It was hot, super hot. At a friend’s wedding we sat in the open in 35C heat and baked for half an hour as we waited for her to come down the aisle. Sweat trickled down the back of my legs. I hoped that this wouldn’t end our hopes of the embryo sticking. I grabbed water after water after water.

As the holiday wore on, I wondered more and more about any “symptoms” I was feeling. It didn’t seem like much was happening. I felt a bit dizzy and nauseous a few times, but it was so hot why wouldn’t I? My boobs felt a bit sore… but I had been squeezing them to check that I’d probably made them sore myself! I was feeling fairly flat about the situation. I didn’t feel pregnant.

We arrived back home on a Monday night. On the Tuesday morning I was scheduled in for a blood test and a phone call from the clinic to tell me “the news” – was I pregnant? I had a pregnancy test sitting in my drawer beside my bed. I knew that if I was pregnant, it would tell me. So I decided that it was better to find out now, good or bad, rather than receiving the news at my open plan desk.

The result came up immediately. Holy shit. I was pregnant. If everything worked out the due date would be 9 October. Here we go again.