I haven’t seen a cliffhanger like that since The Empire Strikes Back, such suspense!
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the first part to this post is here.
So we had decided on an elective c-section as my mental state was worsening with every day I thought about the birth. As I researched (read: scrambled around on the internet looking like the gif below) I realised a trend I hadn’t before.
The justification around c-sections. It seemed each forum and article I read about c-section births, the mothers had a common message, that it wasn’t their choice to have their baby that way, and if they had their way, these women would prefer a natural* birth.
I felt I was wrong for not longing for a natural delivery, and felt that I was planning and structuring an experience that was supposed to be spontaneous and instinctive. But that was what frightened me so much!
Natural labor and delivery, to me, seemed to require the abandonment of control and anxiety, coupled with a natural intuition and deep knowledge of my own body, and I didn’t feel I possessed a modicum of that.
My 32-week midwife appointment arrived and I waddled to my appointment, my tailbone on fire and my bladder annoyingly full. I did the dip stick test like normal and was a bit confused when it came back this colour.
The midwife hid the bp monitor screen from me (as to not freak me out) while she took my blood pressure. She took it a further 3 times over the course of the hour. I went off to the diabetes checkup part of my clinic visit and started to get an overwhelming headache.
The midwife called through to MFAU and I was sent up for monitoring.
I called Adam in a rush, wanting my phone charger and a cuddle (what priorities!). After a few hours of sitting with a trace and having my blood pressure checked every 15 minutes, I was given a bed to stay on the delivery ward.
Saturday went by in a blur of smuggled in snacks and headaches until Adam left in the evening. I’d been given a needle in my thigh for the babies lung development, as it was being said that I’d deliver before 38 weeks.
Alone in my room after dinner, I began to feel really wrong. Like I was going to literally explode. My whole body had swollen so my skin was stretched taut, my headache was only getting worse and I was seeing stars. My whole body was shaking and I wanted to run.
“Somethings wrong, I think I’m going mental, I don’t want to be pregnant anymore!” I told my favourite midwife, Patricia.
After consulting with the Doctor on shift she had more of my blood taken and we waited for results. I managed to squeeze off my wedding ring using a pretty pungent combination of hospital grade soap and antibacterial gel. I messaged Adam to get some sleep. At midnight (the drama never stops around here) two surgeons came and knocked at my door.
“I hear you’re not feeling well?” the older one had asked me.
You’re damn right I’m not feeling well buddy, what’s wrong withme? I shrugged a yes.
“Mrs Shaw, have you heard of pre-eclampsia?” the younger of the two asked as he read out my trace and eyeballed my blood pressure reading.
Um…yes I fucking have, I’ve been Googling it all afternoon! I nodded.
They calmly explained to me that I’d be prepped to have an emergency c-section and it’d be happening in 2 hours time, once the magnesium sulfate had gotten into my blood through a cannula.
Oh so they’ve got the wrong room, that’s awkward.
They walked out and Patricia walked back in, an apologetic smile on her face.
After she spoke to me I slowly began to realise that this was real. I called a family friend and frantically blurted “please pick up Adam, having the baby tonight, can’t do it without him”.
Within the next half hour, I was wheeled around to a room to start the drip and insert the catheter and all the other fun things. Adam walking into the room was one of the most heartwarming visuals I can recount to this day. His eyes were bleary and frantically searching, and even for his British-ness, he had gone exceptionally white.
I remember basically grabbing the anesthetist and making him swear that he would administer the strongest anti-emetics he had. According to me, my life was in his hands, screw whatever was happening below the curtain.
If I’m honest, I’m finding myself breathing too fast and tensing my body as I recall and write this part. I promised myself that I’d write about it even though it makes me incredibly uneasy. If my sentences become circular and I stop making sense, you’ll know why.
Finally, I was wheeled into the operating area (Operating Room? Operating Theatre? My knowledge starts and ends at Hugh Laurie’s House). The room flooded like backstage at a play, people of various medical professions all getting ready for the big event.
I held onto Adams’ shoulder while they gave me the spinal and shook as I looked into his eyes. A warm spread over my body and one of the Doctors asked if I could feel that. Not even knowing what that was, I shook my head.
I was holding the anesthetists’ assistants hand (her name was Fran and she had a hair cover with Garfield on it) almost as hard as I was holding Adam’s.
I remember being incredibly unimpressed with Adam’s ability to navigate a hair tie. I just wanted it out of my face and in the end, felt I looked a little too close to The Flinstones Pebbles.
I recall being convinced that they were using a buzz saw to cut open my stomach. I felt like I could hear a whirring and imagined Dexter levels of blood being sprayed on the surgeons. In the middle of them digging around in the handbag of my stomach (that’s what it feels like, amirite?) I decided I needed to hear some music, and soon.
The Animal Crossing theme music began to play and I snapped no! Jack Johnson’s album In Between Dreams started playing (good choice Ad). It happened so quickly and after a lot of beeping the curtain was lowered and the Doctors revealed their final magic trick, our 4lb-something pink-faced animatronic baby girl, complete with a full head of hair. If you’ve seen the beginning scene of Jurassic Park where the raptor hatches then you’ll have a good idea of what Elliott looked like that morning.
Is she breathing? Is she breathing?!
I can recall frantically yelling while they took her over to give her oxygen and pop her in the incubator.
Adam cut her cord, which was something I remember us discussing as being “gross” and not something he’d want to do. The video I have of him doing it he looks equals parts terrified and excited and that warms my heart. One of many you won’t know until you become a parent moments.
The “sewing up” took a lot longer than the first part of the c-section and in the meantime, Ellie was taken to the NICU, where she’d stay for the next 5 weeks. I was wheeled to a recovery area for monitoring for an hour. All I remember of this was declaring loudly and passionately “You’re all in such a noble profession, I love you all”. I don’t know if it was pain medication or adrenaline or what but I embarrassed myself a fair bit.
I’d be staying in the ICU for the next 12 hours and wouldn’t be able to see Ellie.
I sent Adam up to see our girl and take photos while I tried to stop shaking. Adam managed to swindle a chair to sleep in for the next few hours in the room with me while I listened to the gentle hum of the electronic leg compression boots (best invention ever).
I was having what felt like a marathon panic attack and was still unsure what was happening. I remember bursting into tears when a Doctor asked me how I felt physically. “I can’t feel her kicking me”. I’d been so used to her movements that I was convinced she was still inside me and that something was wrong.
I was wheeled up to see her, still in my bed around 12 hours later. At this point, she was still on CPAP (continuous positive airways pressure). In the photo below you’ll see me looking pretty confused. The first time I ever met her I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t understand that she was Earth-side and “born”. I stayed in the room for a grand total of 3 minutes before asking to leave. I was scared out of my mind.
Slowly and then all at once, after a few more visits I began to realise that this little baby was ours. I was able to finally hold her the next day and we began our NICU journey together as a family. But as you can imagine, that is another story.
*I know some people don’t like the term natural birth as a descriptor for a vaginal birth and prefer to call it “vaginal”. I understand this but tend to disagree. Vaginal births ARE the natural way our bodies are supposed to birth and differentiating between natural and c-section does not, in my eyes devalue a c-section mothers birth.