I knew I would write about Caroline’s birth, but I needed time to process everything that happened as part of our planned c-section birth. There is much more to the story than what David and I have written about here so far. But we decided to give ourselves a little time before I attempted to write about all of it on my blog.
Our Planned C-Section Birth Story Background
If you are looking for a wonderful, natural birth story… you won’t find it here. If you are looking for one of those magical, no medical intervention stories where the baby arrives assisted by a midwife at home after a brief labor and a few pushes and the mother and baby magically bond the second the baby is put on the mother’s stomach… well, you should probably surf on. And if you are looking for assurance for a non-complicated c-section story… well, you might want to surf on, too. But, if you would like to read an honest planned c-section birth story of God’s providence and graces in the midst of difficult circumstances… you might be blessed and encouraged by something here.
Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
He abstained from going, not because He did not love them, but because He did love them. Divine love could alone hold back… until the angel of pain had done her work.
Streams in the Desert, September 28
The verse and quote above is the entry on my Streams in the Desert calendar for September 28 – Caroline’s birthday. I found it after we were home from the hospital and thought it was such an appropriate thought for that day. If you have never read about our experience with childlessness or the discovery that we were expecting a baby, you might want to read those first in order to understand the story behind this birth story.
The Night Before and Morning Of My Planned C-Section
The day before my scheduled c-section I had my last NST and OB visit. While at the appointment, I discussed with my doctor what would happen if I “crashed” while I was fasting for the surgery. (I had diet-controlled gestational diabetes with my pregnancy.) Usually if I started to crash I would drink a glass of grape juice and that would quickly remedy the problem. But with no food or water for before the surgery, that wasn’t going to be an option. He told me to eat a big meal just before midnight with lots of protein and fat (so it would stick with me longer). Then just before 3:00 a.m. I could have some water. He told me to monitor my readings and if they started to head south, I could go to the hospital early so they could monitor my levels and start me on some sugar via an IV if necessary.
It probably goes without saying that doing all this did not make for a restful night of sleep. We got to bed around 1:00 a.m. and once I was awake at 3:00 to drink my last water it was basically impossible for me to sleep again. I was so concerned about my glucose numbers that I finally gave up sleeping and just found things to do. My numbers fell at a safe but steady rate until around 7:00 a.m. At that point they were getting low enough that I called the hospital to tell them I would be coming in an hour and a half early just to be safe. So we headed to the hospital and checked in just after 8:00.
There were several things I prayed about specifically before the delivery and one of them was that God would put the right people on at the right shifts so we would have really good nurses and staff members. Starting with the OB triage nurses, we had wonderful care. God abundantly answered that prayer. The two nurses who took care of me before, during and after the c-section were both great. They were in and out to check on me, but mostly David and I just had to wait around from 8:30 until my scheduled time at 11:30. I dozed off and on and David tried to read, ate an early lunch, and just generally kept me company.
Around 11:00, the anesthesiologist’s nurse came in to consult with me. I expressed my greatest concern regarding the c-section – that the spinal would take too well and my hyper-sensitive body would be so drugged that I would not be mobile very soon after the surgery and/or that the numbing would come up too high and I would have a suffocating feeling. She told me that they could not use less medication and explained why. (I don’t remember now, but it seemed plausible to me at the time.) So I still had some misgivings about the whole spinal thing, but trusted that they knew what they were doing.
Planned C-Section Complications
When it was time to start, the nurses walked me across the hall to the operating room. David stayed behind in the other room to get his scrubs on and wait for the nurses to come back for him once I had received my spinal. I hopped up on the table and met the anesthesiologist, a very experienced doctor who has been doing this for over 20 years. He seemed very nice and I was comfortable with him from the start. It should have been apparent to me rather quickly, however, that something wasn’t right because my spinal insertion was taking too long. The anesthesiologist worked on me quite a while, longer than I know it should have taken. His nurse kept assuring me that I was doing great. My OB even came over at one point to see what was going on. Finally, he declared me ready and they had me lay down. At that point David came in and things started moving very quickly.
Several times the anesthesiologist poked me at various points and asked me if I could feel this or that. I could, although at times it was not very strong. Finally they decided to start and I was glad because we were very anxious to finally meet our little girl! David kept me updated regarding what was going on. I had read tons of c-section birth stories and articles online so I was very educated about what to expect, how long things would take, etc. I did notice that it seemed to be taking longer to get Caroline out than I would have expected based on my reading (something that would make more sense later on).
Unfortunately, my concerns about the spinal taking too well were the least of my worries. What happened in reality was that my spinal did not take well at all. While my OB and the resident were working at delivering Caroline, I began to feel discomfort. I remember them telling me that she was here and someone announcing the time of birth. I also remember looking over at the table and seeing Caroline getting cleaned and such. David went over, took pictures, and gave me a report. By the time he got back, however, I was in a lot of pain. I remember asking David to pray for me and I remember him praying although I don’t remember anything he said in his prayer. I remember my OB saying something medical that was obviously meant for the anesthesiologist. At that point I was in so much pain I was crying out and, apparently, moving quite a lot.
I don’t remember anything after that until I woke up in the recovery room. David told me that I was moving so much because of the pain it was making it difficult for my OB to put me back together. At first they gave me the gas where you are awake and can communicate but you don’t remember anything afterwards. Even that was not sufficient to make me stop moving so they eventually had to give me a general anesthesia. David had to leave at that point and wait in the maternity waiting room until the nurse came to get him and took him to the recovery room where Caroline was ready and waiting. David was in the recovery room for a while with Caroline until they brought me in.
I’ve had a previous surgery with a general anesthesia so when I woke up in the recovery room I understood at least on some level what had happened. It was really hard for me to talk because they had put a tube down my throat when they put me out and my throat was raw because of it. David was there with Caroline and a short time later when I was a little more awake my parents and my in-laws came in to meet their new grand-daughter. I remember bits and pieces of that time, but I was still fairly drugged so parts of it are blurry. I’m thankful David took pictures of that time because it helps me to remember what happened.
C-Section Recovery and Ileus
My recovery went pretty well at first. The pain was very well managed between shots and a patient activated morphine drip. I was in no pain, just discomfort. However, my stomach was still extremely bloated a day and a half later. I literally looked like I was eight months pregnant. I knew it was normal to go home looking five months pregnant from the swelling and such, but I was still huge. My OB determined I had Ileus, a complication when your intestines basically shut down. It can happen after surgeries, including a c-section, but it is not a common complication with c-sections.
Because of the Ileus, I was put on no food and no water for 24 hours. I was also given other treatments to help resolve the issue. The no food part wasn’t a big deal, but the no water was really hard. I was on IVs for my fluids so there was no risk of dehydration or anything, but it was really hard to not drink anything for that long. Thankfully the 24 hour rest did the trick and I only had to stay one extra day in the hospital. It can take up to two weeks to recover from Ileus so it was a tremendous blessing that my situation resolved itself in only 24 hours. Once I had eaten two meals and did ok with those, I was cleared to go home.
God’s Grace is Evident
There were many ways we saw the grace of God in our birth experience. Our prayer for good nurses was abundantly answered. In particular, we had two nurses on twelve hour shifts over the weekend so we had the same two nurses a number of times. They were so kind and helpful with all of the situations I was dealing with and we were thankful for them.
I was also very grateful that I had the OB I did. I had switched doctors when I found out I was pregnant because I wanted to work with one doctor through the entire process, not work with a group practice and end up with potluck when it came to the delivery. My OB was a blessing in that he took seriously my concerns and looked out for my best interest each step of the way. This included strongly recommending a c-section because of the high probability I could not deliver normally. His advice was accurate as he was able to determine during the c-section that I would not have been able to complete a delivery, especially in light of the fact that Caroline’s head size was in the 90th percentile. So that was a choice well made.
I am thankful that I had wrestled through the breastfeeding issue beforehand and had decided to formula feed from the beginning. With all of my complications it would have been very difficult to even try breastfeeding. I was glad that choice was already made and I didn’t have to wrestle with that decision when I was exhausted from the complications and highly hormonal like all women after a delivery.
I had also prayed that I would have a room with a nice view. That might sound trivial, but I did not want to spend four days looking out the window at a brick wall. I was put in one of the corner suites with a large picture window with a beautiful view of the south end of the city and the sky. I was so thankful that God answered this prayer with this room.
I had asked people to pray that Caroline would not have any complications because of the gestational diabetes. God graciously protected her and she was born without any complications and required no interventions.
So there were many, many reasons to be thankful in addition to just making it safely through the delivery and having a beautiful daughter to love.
On the other hand, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed by parts of our birth experience. Yes, the most important thing is that we had a safe delivery and that Caroline and I were both fine in the end. I am truly thankful for that. However, there were things that did disappoint me.
One in particular was because I had had the tube down my throat during the delivery, my voice was not normal for about a day and a half. I had so looked forward to talking to Caroline after the delivery and seeing her recognize my voice. I had spent a lot of time talking to her while she was in the womb, telling her some of the same things over and over. It was well into the second day before she even showed any signs of recognizing my voice. This is in contrast to the fact that she recognized David’s voice right away. I am thankful Caroline knew her daddy’s voice, but it was a great disappointment to me to not be able to bond with her immediately after the delivery. I missed all of her quiet alert time immediately following the birth. I think in some ways she is bonded more to David than she is to me and the selfish part of me is disappointed by that. It makes sense because he spent far more time with her in the beginning, but it is still disappointing.
It was also disappointing that I don’t remember so much of what happened surrounding the birth. Even now, a month later, I am still asking David questions about different aspects of the delivery, trying to piece together the things that aren’t clear to me. I am glad we have pictures of a lot of it, but they still don’t replace the actual experience of being awake and involved with the delivery. So this is disappointing.
This Will be our Little Family
But by far the hardest part of our birth experience has been coming to terms with the fact that I should probably not seek to have another baby. David and I have spoken twice with my OB regarding this – once when he came to discharge me from the hospital and again at my four week follow-up appointment. Although my OB said I can certainly have another baby and he will treat me if I do get pregnant again, he said that he felt it would be the wiser choice to add to our family via adoption rather than another pregnancy.
I don’t take this advice lightly. My OB is a very prolife Irish-Catholic. He values every baby and believes that babies are a blessing from God. However, he also believes as David and I do that God gives us common sense for a reason and common sense would tell us that another pregnancy would be very hard on me. I would be older by the time I would have another baby (into my 40’s), I would probably get diabetes again, I would be at higher risk for all the complications I didn’t get, I would be at greater risk for genetic abnormalities in the baby, I would have to have another c-section, and my anatomy is very challenging. My OB said it was very hard to put me back together and the anesthesiologist also commented on the fact that I was a challenging patient.
So although David and I would like Caroline to have a sibling, I know that she needs a mother more than a sibling. I simply cannot shake the idea that going through another pregnancy would be an unwise choice for our family.
This has been hard for me to come to terms with over the past four weeks. It has been the hardest part of my recovery. Even though there were times during the pregnancy that I thought I definitely did not want to go through pregnancy again, I always thought that once I had my baby I would feel differently about the challenges of pregnancy and would want to have at least one more child (God-willing, of course). This is true. There is a part of me that does want to have another child and the challenges and complications were worth it now that we have Caroline. However, when David and I look at the whole pictures, we are in agreement that the best thing is to be satisfied with our little family of three and not put me at risk with another pregnancy.
We haven’t completely dismissed the idea of adoption, but at this point we aren’t ready to even think about that, nor do we have the means to explore that option. Right now I just want to focus on enjoying Caroline. If God chooses to move us toward an adoption in the future, that will be up to Him.
So I am thankful that I had a strong commitment to enjoying my pregnancy. I knew there was the chance that I would only be pregnant once and I made it a priority to relish all of the good parts on a daily basis. It does make me profoundly sad to think of not carrying another baby. It truly is a miraculous experience to feel a baby move within you. I will miss not feeling that again. However, I also know that I am extremely blessed to have even one beautiful, healthy child and to have experienced a pregnancy and delivery at all, no matter how challenging it might have been. I know there are many, many women who would trade places with me in a heartbeat and I don’t take lightly these blessings I’ve experienced.
Our Pregnancy and Birth Story Comes to a Close
So that is our birth story. Nothing about our story has been “normal” yet we can see God’s hand in every part of it so that makes it as “normal” as it needs to be. It is what God has had for us and we are thankful for His grace during the waiting, during the expecting, and now during the coming to terms and moving on to the next phase of our life. He has truly done abundantly beyond all we could ask or imagine. To Him be the glory forever and ever.