Friday, November 24, 2017 – a day I will never forget because at 2:48p.m., our baby girl Riese came into this world! Meeting her for the first time was the most incredible and surreal moment of my life.
I wanted to make sure to take the time to write out our C section birth story while everything was still really fresh in my mind – I know that Matt and I will love having this post to look back on years from now when we can hardly remember how little she was, and what first meeting her felt like. Even just typing this now makes me cry – the love I feel for her is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced – it’s so powerful that even thinking of her makes my heart swell and my eyes tear up.
As you guys know from my recent pregnancy update posts, we found out at our 36 week ultrasound that our little lady was in Frank breech position. We considered doing an ECV (external cephalic version, where a doctor will try manually to move her from the outside by pressing on the belly), but in the end our gut said we shouldn’t do it, and I don’t regret that decision at all. We tried all sorts of at-home turning methods (peppermint oil on my upper belly, warm baths with an ice pack on my upper belly, prenatal chiro visits, moxibustion, inversions, pool handstands… the list goes on), but she never turned. I was sad to not have a chance to give a vaginal birth a shot – but I accepted that Riese had other plans, and that it was out of my control. A scheduled C section it was! All that mattered was getting her out and into the world safely.
Picking our baby’s birthday was strange – we debated between two options (either Monday, November 20th – which would have been 39 weeks and 4 days – or Friday, November 24th – 40 weeks and 1 day). In the end we decided we felt better about gambling a little and doing the later date – she was measuring on the smaller side and by 39 weeks I still hadn’t felt any sort of pre-labor anything, so we felt it made sense to give her a little longer to bake.
As I shared in my Thanksgiving recap/whirlwind post last week, I started having some period-like cramps on Thanksgiving day – 40 weeks exactly – which was the day before the scheduled C section. They ramped up a bit overnight, but not enough to go to the hospital early, and then slowed again by morning. It seemed we were lucky to have timed things well – and we were able to have one last adult only Thanksgiving with my family, which was the perfect way to spend our final day before her arrival.
As I said previously, the morning of Friday, November 24 was totally surreal – the scheduled nature of the birth felt so weird compared to what we had imagined in our minds when we thought of her birth day. Matt woke me up at 4 a.m. with breakfast in bed (I wasn’t allowed any food or drink for 8 hours before the scheduled C section at noon), and after snoozing a little longer (as best I could, anyway, given the early labor contractions I was feeling) we took one last “just the two of us” walk that morning, finished packing up our stuff, and headed to the hospital for a 10 a.m. arrival as instructed. Eek – this was really happening!
“Hi… um… we’re here to have a C section?!” <- so weird
I remember the woman at the desk in the Women & Infant area first asking who we were there to visit (guess she missed the big belly!), and then when we said we were there to have a C section, asking if I was okay to walk back to Labor & Delivery on my own. I was surprised she was asking that – and then I remembered, duh, most people are probably in active labor when they arrive and in tons of pain! After signing some forms, we strolled calmly back to our pre-surgery room and the nurses got me set up on various equipment to keep track of my vitals, the baby’s heartbeat, and also any tightening/contractions. It was neat to see the contractions part of the screen registering the spike when I started feeling a period-like cramp coming on. Cool – guess I was having some actual contractions!
They also got me set up on some IV fluids – ironically, they pumped 3 bags worth of fluid into me over the next couple hours and I STILL felt crazy thirsty. It was weird that I was technically hydrated but my mouth never got the memo! I swished water around in my mouth a few times just to try to wet it a bit – sooo dry.
Around 11, our doula arrived – we hired her way back when we were hoping for a vaginal birth, and by the time we found out we were having a C section it was too late to cancel. To be honest, though, I actually ended up being really glad to have her there anyway – she was a calming presence, and we were actually able to convince the doctors and operating room team to let her come into the OR with us, which was AMAZING because she got a ton of photos that I know I will treasure forever.
I call this the “hurry up and wait” portion of the morning – our C section was scheduled for noon, but around 11:45 someone needed an emergency C section and we were told it might be awhile. Obviously we were happy to wait – we didn’t envy the person having the emergency C section and hope everything turned out okay for them. <3
Matt, our doula, and I hung out (and they had some food – I was so jealous) and the nurse and the rest of the team came in to check on us and give us updates every once in awhile. The extra time actually made me less nervous than I was originally because it didn’t feel rushed at all anymore – we were a bit impatient, but it wasn’t a bad thing to have some time to relax and wait. See the Christmas lights behind Matt in the photo below? Our doula brought those – such a good idea! It made things feel more like a party, which it was – a birthday party! 🙂 She left the Christmas lights with us and we had them in our room for the rest of the hospital stay – soft light was so much nicer than the harsh overhead lights. Everyone who came in complimented us on them!
I ended up standing up for awhile during this time, which was nice – I figured I should take advantage while I could still stand!
Around 2 p.m. (ironically, this was our originally scheduled C section time, but they called earlier in the week that the person who had the noon slot had gone into labor early, so they moved us up – oh well!) it was officially go time. Oh man – this was it!
It was completely surreal walking into the operating room. I’ve never had surgery or stayed in a hospital overnight before, so this all felt very new and pretty scary.
Matt and our doula waited in a small room across the hall while the doctor, anesthesiologist, and support staff administered my spinal block. This was… not fun. The team had me sit on the edge of the bed with my legs over the side, and I had to hunch forward and try to stick my lower back out (not easy with a huge baby belly in the way). My OB stood in front of me and held my hands in my lap while the anesthesiologist did her thing in my lower back. It took ages – probably 10 minutes – of them poking around in my back before they found the right spot, and when they did it sent a weird current of pain down my left leg that made my leg jerk and me scream because I was so surprised – ouch. I don’t think it normally takes this long, but I found out during my prenatal chiro sessions that I have some very mild scoliosis – I wonder if that’s what made finding the right area harder? Or maybe it’s normal it takes that long – who knows!
Shortly after, they had me lie down on my back and I could no longer feel my legs – at all. It was so crazy. My understanding is that with an epidural you still have some sensations in your legs (not pain, but you can still feel them a little and move them a bit? I may be wrong here though), but with a spinal your legs are completely dead weight. It was totally bizarre to have no idea what was going on down there. At this point, they also inserted a catheter (which I didn’t feel at all obviously).
I had been warned beforehand that a spinal block will numb you up to just below your breasts (I could feel some pressure when they pushed on my stomach area, unlike my legs, but it didn’t hurt at all), and that this can sometimes cause you to feel like there is an elephant sitting on your chest. Well, that’s definitely how I felt. I remember really starting to panic and saying “I feel like I can’t breathe”… it was terrifying. Obviously your body is breathing just fine on its own, but you have the sensation that you aren’t because you are partially numb up to your chest. I believe this is partly why people are usually given anti-anxiety meds during C sections… not sure if they added some to my IV cocktail or if I just got used to the sensation, but either way it was a relief when a few minutes later Matt and our doula were brought into the room. Matt immediately started stroking my hair and they put a phone right by my ear with calming music on (I think it was a Jack Johnson pandora station).
They weren’t able to do a clear screen so I could see what was going on, but maybe that’s for the best. Once Matt came in, things went pretty quickly – I felt some tugging and pushing on my belly but no pain at all. Matt looked over the screen a couple times to see what was going on, and I remember hearing a sort of wet vac type noise (it sounded like the water sucker at the dentist’s office) – that must have been them sucking up my amniotic fluid since my water hadn’t broken by the time we went in for the C section. Then, a few minutes later, at 2:48 p.m., Riese arrived in this world. <3
The doula captured some amazing photos of her just as she was being pulled out, but I want to keep those private. I’m so glad we have them, though – they are incredible.
A minute or two later, after they cut the cord (it sounds like it was a bit tangled/wrapped around her – I bet that’s why she stayed breech… definitely made me glad we didn’t try the ECV), I got my first glimpse of our baby girl. I’m so grateful I was completely lucid and remember this really well – one thing I was worried about was that I’d be totally out of it from the meds and not remember anything, but that wasn’t the case at all. Seeing her for the first time was so incredible – they held her up next to us and I immediately started crying tears of joy.
I wish they could have brought her to us right away, but with a C section in the OR they first take the baby to get cleaned up and to do some preliminary checks and tests – and they also wrap them up a bit because it’s chilly in the OR. It didn’t take more than a few minutes although it felt like ages at the time, and I remember starting to feel nauseous at this point but they must have given me something for nausea because it went away before I got sick, thankfully.
We quickly found out our girl had a strong set of pipes – I heard her start crying, which I knew was a good thing because she was alert! Check out that blonde hair – one of the doctors said she had never seen such a blonde baby right at birth! My hair was dark when I was born and went blonde later – that must be more common.
Matt went over to meet her as soon as she was cleaned up and assessed (with flying colors, which was a relief) and he got the go ahead. 6 pounds and 5 ounces, and 18 and 3/4 inches long! Our little peanut. <3
The team got her diapered and swaddled (no skin to skin while in the OR sadly – only a small part of my upper chest was not behind the screen so it would have been too awkward logistically anyway, plus I’m sure they didn’t want me jostling around while they were trying to sew me up) and then brought her over and gave her to Matt to hold so I could meet her for the first time. My heart swelled up to about 10 times the size the minute I saw her. I couldn’t believe that this tiny human was OUR baby – the one who had been inside me all those months growing and kicking and hiccupping and coming along on all our adventures, just waiting to join us in the world. It was so, so surreal and amazing.
They let her stay with us for almost the entire rest of the time in the OR while the team stitched me up (this actually took awhile – probably about 30 minutes from start to finish compared to only about 10 minutes to get her out of me!). I remember Matt holding her and me just stroking her head and her face. Her skin was so, so soft and she was pretty calm and snoozy.
Right before we left the OR they took her to do a couple more tests, and then it was time to head to the post-surgical recovery area in the post anesthesia care unit. This is the same room where we were before surgery, which was nice because we were able to just leave our stuff in there while we were in the OR. The medical team wheeled me out in a bed, and they did an impressive maneuver where they rolled me onto it using a blanket under my body, since I was still completely numb – I remember when they removed the divider sheet and I saw my legs they were bent – and I was like, whoa, in my mind I thought my legs were straight! So weird to have absolutely zero idea what the bottom half of your body is doing.
Matt wheeled Riese along with us in a little bassinet. <3
Once we were back in the room, it was time for skin to skin! We got Riese stripped down to a diaper and they immediately put her on my chest. I was so happy to finally be able to really hold her for the first time! Wow – this was my daughter, and I grew her in my body! How insane was that?!
This was when having our doula there was also amazing; she stayed with us a couple hours after the birth while we were in this recovery area, and since I was feeling good – lucid and not nauseous – and was up for it, she immediately had us start working on getting Riese to breastfeed. I think this really helped to get my milk production going ASAP – I was worried because I know sometimes with a C section your milk can take longer to come in, but mine actually came in pretty quickly (within a few days), and I think this early sucking had a big part in that!
It was also just a nice way to start to bond with her right away. 🙂 It’s amazing to me that babies are born already knowing what to do to get food – as soon as she was on my chest she started rooting around for my breast. We had an eager feeder on our hands, apparently! I’m glad our doula was there to help us work on latching properly, because otherwise she probably would have done some serious damage to my nipples given how enthusiastic she was about the whole thing! (Sidenote – if you’re local and interested, our doula’s name is Mari Smith, and I’d highly recommend her – she was amazing and is such a lovely, kind person – I liked her the instant I met her and felt really comfortable having her there for such an intense and personal life event.)
They kept us in the post-surgery recovery area for a couple hours, until my legs started to regain a tiny bit of feeling. In the meantime, we hung out and snuggled, and I feasted on some ice chips (amazing as I was soooo thirsty still) and, once the ice chips went down okay, some apple juice. I don’t think Riese left my chest at all during this whole time. It made me so happy to have her there on me, and I am sure hearing my heartbeat and feeling my skin and warmth was calming to her, too.
It still feels crazy to me that this was only a little over a week ago – in some ways it feels like a lot longer, or like the whole thing was a dream! Despite the fact that there were some parts of the procedure that were scary and intense, overall I’d say we had a positive experience with the C section. We delivered at Virginia Hospital Center and found their entire medical, nursing, and support staff to be incredible – everyone we encountered during our stay there was so nice and helpful and kind, and they took great care of us from when we arrived right up until we were discharged. I would certainly have loved to have a vaginal birth, but there were definitely some positives to the C section, too, like knowing exactly when we’d get to meet our baby, being able to plan ahead and be calm and freshly showered when heading to the hospital, and the fact that my undercarriage is pain-free and not torn up. How quick the whole thing was from start to finish was also a big benefit – it was definitely helpful to not be meeting Riese and trying to take care of her after 30+ hours of active labor – the whole procedure was fast and they made us as comfortable as they could during it and afterwards. And even though I didn’t actively push her out of me, I don’t feel at all that I didn’t truly “deliver” my own baby – it was just a slightly different delivery than we had imagined. And she’s here with us now, which is really all that matters. <3
I’ll be back soon to share more details on how our first week/couple weeks with Riese have been going – stay tuned! And as always, thank you for sharing in this special and exciting time with us, and for all your advice and support along the way. <3