I am a twenty year old first time mother, two weeks postpartum. This is my birth story.
I was thirty-six weeks and one day pregnant – which basically felt like an eternity. After breezing through the first and second trimesters with little complications, I was diagnosed with gestational hypertension (high blood pressure during pregnancy) at 33 weeks. At 35 weeks, my OB put me on “light bed rest,” which meant that I was allowed to move, but I had to do so with the urgency of a sloth. On a Saturday night, I had such an intense migraine that would not subside with Tylenol. I was in tears from the headache and I knew that my blood pressure must be sky high. My partner and I headed to the hospital without taking our suitcase or anything, because who would expect that we would leave with a baby after going in for a headache?
After checking my blood pressure and having an ultrasound, my doctor had decided to induce labor by putting capsules into my vagina to help me dilate, and then giving Pitocin to start contractions. However, because of the high blood pressure, I was given Magnesium through an IV (often referred to as “mag”). This drug made me feel like total garbage, and I was unable to move at all. My muscles were so weak, it made me feel so hot, and I was not allowed to eat anything. The first night was so long. I was uncomfortable as hell, huge and pregnant, being hooked up to so many machines, unable to move. I’m pretty sure I was the most difficult patient on the floor that night because I felt like a miserable beached pregnant whale, and I hated everybody for it. I began having intense contractions the following morning, and I was getting my cervix checked every 4 hours. For some reason, the women I’ve spoken to did not seem to have such an issue with the cervix checking like I did. I thought it was way more intense than contractions, but I think that’s because my cervix was not dilating at all.
Nothing was working to induce vaginal labor and the doctor warned me that I was at risk for having a C-Section regardless. Once I heard him say that, I practically begged him to just cut me open, because I was so tired of it and I wanted my baby to be out of my failing body. Within 10 minutes, I was being prepped for surgery.
I was nervous – shaking, looking at my partner getting suited up, feeling like I was on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I was not ashamed to have a C-Section at all and I had done tons of research throughout my pregnancy about both vaginal and cesarean delivery, but I can truthfully say that no amount of article reading could have prepared me for what was ahead.
My partner was instructed to wait briefly while they finished prepping me for surgery in the OR. There I was – almost completely naked in front of at least 5 or 6 strangers, being rubbed on and touched and everything went so fast. I had to sit up and hold onto a pillow to receive my spinal anesthesia, which was extremely difficult because the magnesium made my muscles feel nonexistent. I hardly remember receiving the spinal at all, I do not remember the pain if there was any. The surgery had started before I had any clue that I was even being cut open, and my partner was beside of my head, holding my hand. I looked at him as much as possible and I felt hands inside of me, rearranging things and searching for the baby. It felt like my body was a boat, rocking violently on ocean waves. I was shivering and my teeth were chattering. I heard my baby boy crying and I just burst into tears. His cry was smaller than I expected, and so was he – 6 pounds and 15 ounces. I couldn’t see him because of the big blue sheet blocking my view, but my partner could. I kept asking him if the baby had hair, if he was okay, what was going on. They handed the baby to my partner first, and then he put him beside of my face to admire.
My recollection of the actual birth seems very clouded. I only have fleeting images in my head that are unreliable. For example, I remember my baby’s face looking absolutely flawless and clean and perfect, while my partner remembers him being covered in gunk.
The staff moved me to a post-surgery room and I was shot up with pain medicine for the rest of the night. I was still on magnesium, so I could not move. I was told that my baby would be brought to me in two hours. Time kept passing slowly as I drifted in and out of sleep throughout the night, bleeding and unable to move a muscle. I kept wondering when they would bring my baby as every hour passed and I tried to get answers from the nurses. I was told that his oxygen was just a little low, so they wanted to keep an eye on him in the nursery for a while. That night feels like some kind of nightmare when I reflect on it. I kept waking drowsily every couple of hours, completely dazed, longing to hold my baby and get to know him. I just kept crying myself back to sleep.
Morning came and many people were coming in the room to handle the business parts of having a baby – the paperwork, signing things, an over-enthusiastic lactation consultant. I was still very out of my mind and emotional over not having held my own baby yet.
Finally, the nurses rolled in my sweet baby boy. This was the happiest moment of my life. I held him and felt so relieved to finally be with him. Quickly, however, I began to realize what recovering from a C-Section really meant. I was unable to do anything for him at all for many days to come. I could not get up at the hospital because of the magnesium, I could not change his diapers, I could not properly breastfeed him because I was hardly able to sit up or adjust myself. This made me feel like an inadequate mother.
The first time I had to stand up after being bedridden for so long, it felt like my organs were dragging the floor. The pain was absolutely breathtaking. That night, it was a huge accomplishment that I was able to limp to the bathroom all by myself and take my own underwear down to sit on the toilet. Previously, my partner had to assist me in these things, which was sort of dehumanizing.
I was discharged rather quickly the following afternoon. The next few days were frustrating, as I was still unable to fulfill my baby’s needs. I cried out of frustration many times because I wanted so badly to be the mother I knew I could be.
By the end of the first week, I was able to function as a human again. I’ve never been so grateful for my independence. Maybe I was being dramatic, but I thought for sure I would be traumatized from my birth experience forever. I’ve heard some people say that they forget about the pain with time, and I am beginning to see that side of motherhood. I am beginning to feel like myself again, and it feels so good.
Pregnancy, birth and motherhood is a journey that cannot be understood until it is experienced. It is always best to be informed, but no amount of preparation could have prepared me. Who goes to the hospital for a headache and leaves with a baby? My advice for the expecting is to lose those expectations, because almost nothing will happen the way you imagine.