It's been a while since I last had a cesarean procedure. Actually, it was five years ago almost to the day, since my youngest just had his birthday. As time goes on I find that certain aspects of pregnancy and childbirth are becoming harder and harder to remember (this must be how subsequent pregnancies happen, right?), but thanks to some postpartum note-taking, I have some pretty vivid memories of how that C-section felt.
Now, I wouldn't recommend a C-section -- it's no fun to recover from major surgery while taking care of a newborn -- but as we all know, sometimes they're unavoidable. And despite what you may have been told, they're not always awful. They are, however, weird. REALLY weird. Whether you've got one scheduled, you're just kind of curious, or you want to swap memories of your own time on the operating table, here's what I remember as being the 5 craziest things I felt during my C-section birth.
The epidural. The worst part about having the epidural put in had nothing to do with the needle (I remember it stinging, but no pain), it was the fact that I was hunched forward on the table with my gown pulled open in the back. I don't want to think about what my squashed butt looked like under the fluorescent lights, is all I'm saying. Anyway, the first thing I felt when the meds kicked in was a wave of warmth running through my lower body, and a tingling in my legs before they went dead.
But later, as the surgery got underway? There was a cold sensation of running water that slid down my back from the inside. This was not unpleasant, just extremely strange. (Horribly, some women have reported similar symptoms associated with arachnoiditis, a PERMANENT condition that can be associated with epidural steroid injections.)
The pulling. I had this idea that a C-section involved surgeons cutting a giant incision, then easily lifting the baby out without even touching the edges of the body, sort of like that game Operation. Yeah, it's NOTHING like that. It's almost violent, actually. I remember being rocked back and forth while all sorts of movement and pressure was happening around my midsection.
The barfy part. I asked the anesthesiologist ahead of time what I could do to help keep any nausea at bay, and he said they'd do their best but that the surgery involves manipulating the uterus -- and in some cases, taking it all the way outside of your body -- and it often makes people sick. As it turned out, I only felt queasy for a little while as they were patching me back up and it wasn't bad. If you're worried about this, talk to your doctor, because some will do prophylactic doses of anti-nausea medication like Zofran.
The itchiness. Oh god, the ITCHING. That's the histamine reaction of morphine for you, and I had it something fierce in the recovery room. They treated me with a dose of Benadryl pushed into my IV, which helped almost immediately. Weirdest of all was the feeling of the Benadryl instantly kicking in: like a big whoosh of allergy-medication-brain.
The moment when you see your baby. This is the part that makes everything else not just okay, but absolutely magical and perfect. Here's what I wrote about the moment when my baby emerged:
One of the anesthesiologists suddenly said something like, “Okay, here he comes!” A surgeon peeped over the drape to tell me the baby was almost out, and asked John if he wanted to see. “Um,” John said, looking totally freaked out, and I whispered, “Do it!” So he did, he stood up and looked over the drape and then there was a lot of movement and the unbelievable, indescribable sound of a baby crying.
Dylan was crying in big lustful wet gasps and so was I, the tears ran straight down my face and puddled in my ears and I was sobbing and asking if he was okay and one of the anesthesiologists said he was fine, they were just taking him to be suctioned and checked on. John stayed with me for a few moments, then he was allowed to go over to the pediatrician’s station where Dylan was being attended to.
Soon John was back, holding Dylan close to me, and Dylan was crying and still sort of goo-covered and absolutely, unbelievably beautiful.
Yup. It may not have been the birth experience I'd originally hoped for, but I wouldn't change a thing.
If you've had a C-section, what's the weirdest (or best?) memory you have?
Images via Linda Sharps