Read Part I of my birth story here.
Sabine was allowed to stay on my chest the entire time the surgical team stitched me up. Sadly, I was not able to hold her for that long. Halfway through I started to feel nauseous and did not want to risk hurting my baby so I handed her to the Professor, who was still seated right by my head. In her place the anesthesiologist put a barf bin. Lovely. But my baby stayed right by my side in the Professor’s loving hands the entire time.
The actual removal of baby was really fast, however, putting me back together again seemed to take an eternity. Once I was sewn up I was rolled onto the recovery bed. I could see this in the reflection in the lights and man was it humbling – a bloody unshaven bush as my legs were spread into a frog like position. But birth, no matter how it happens, does strange things to the most vain women and I found myself not caring that a room full of people could see my messy world.
The Professor and Sabine followed me into recovery and she was placed back on my chest and we began breastfeeding. My doula coached us, but Sabine really seemed to know what she was doing. This kid came out ready to suck and went to town noshing on the colostrum that had been leaking into my bras for months prior.
Things start to get foggy after this. During the surgery the anesthesiologist switched shifts and another came on to finish my care. I had assumed he had been briefed on my wishes to not receive any pain medication that might interfere with my memory of the day so when he came in to give me a final dose of pain medication via the epidural that would keep me comfortable for a full 24 hours I did not object. I’m a tough lady, but even I am not ready to fight my way through abdominal surgery without any pain medication. I was given Duramorph in my epidural which did a wonderful job relieving pain and a lousy job keeping me lucid and sane.
A few hours after the dose I started to itch all over. I itched so bad I started to draw blood and leave cuts behind. By night fall I was an absolute mess, sobbing in the bed, clawing at myself, foggy headed and unsure where I was. I was not able to care for my baby. The nurses gave me a bag of medication given to drug addicts to help them come down. It did nothing. I was given multiple doses of Benadryl and they did nothing By 10 p.m. sweet Sabine was screaming and I was crying. My anguish was so great they had to take her from me so I could try to sleep it off. I sobbed uncontrollably for the next hour and eventually passed out. It was a horrifying experience.
The next day I was speaking to a nurse and she said that the drug they gave me is either a wonder drug or a nightmare for new mamas and that it really seemed that more people than not had this reaction. I was floored that this had been given to me after I very expressly explained that I am extremely sensitive to narcotics. I warned them what happens to my grandfather when given heavy pain medication (after knee replacement surgery he tore himself from the recovery bed and started walking down the hall having war flashbacks and looking for the invaders. A second surgery had to be done the next day to repair the massive damage he did to himself.)
I am ashamed of my first night with Sabine. So ashamed that I considered not sharing it here but it was part of my experience and something I want to retain in my memory – hard as it is. My baby still loves me even though I had a bad reaction to a medication. She will not remember that first night and, in time, my embarrassment and sadness will wear off. I hope. To women facing a planned c-section: make sure someone is ready to tell any new anesthesiologist your wishes should there be a shift change. If you don’t want drugs like this you need to be prepared to take a real stand, because everyone will look at you like you are crazy when you say you would have rather felt the pain from surgery than what you felt that first night.
That was pretty heavy. Despite the bad first night, the rest of my recovery was very good. The nurses who cared for Sabine that first night were great and abided by my wishes to not give her any formula or pacifiers. She hung out in the arms of a nurse for several hours, sucking on her finger and waiting, albeit impatiently, for mama to come out of her nightmare. When they brought her to me several hours later for a feed she was crying and famished. We had a very hard time latching because she was so hungry and upset but with the help of a lactation consultant and no more than three drops of glucose water (two in her mouth and one on my nipple) we were able to guide her back to the breast where she has stayed since. If I were to put a silver lining to this story it is that I learned from the very beginning how it is critical to not miss a feeding with your newborn. No matter how tempting that fourth hour of sleep is at night, I am able to wake up to feed my baby by remembering her frantic cries after going too long the first night.
So this was all Monday. Monday was amazing birth experience, holding my baby for the first time, breastfeeding triumphs and happy grand parents day. Monday was itchy, crazy drug reaction, peeing myself through a tube into a bag, legs being squeezed randomly by these terrible blood clot preventing beasts, cheap chicken broth and juice drinking hell. Monday also brought two of the most embarrassing opportunities to be cleaned and “changed” by nurses. I made the Professor turn around and look out the window for this – no one, not even my sweet husband, was going to watch two strangers wash my bloody vagina with warm wash cloths and then pull bloody pads out from under my ass. No one. I didn’t even watch. Instead I closed my eyes and pretended like this was some bad dream, all while apologizing profusely.
This is getting long so I’ll post the final two days of my hospital stay, which were much better , as a final Part III and then we’ll be done with my long birth story and ready to return to daily life. Stay tuned!