Surviving a Cesarean Section

I have been desperately trying to find the time to write this post, because with any traumatic event, the emotional and physical severity is fading with the passing weeks. Our natural instinct to keep calm and carry on requires us to forget a lot of what happens in these trying times, focusing instead on the “silver lining” (and there is a BIG one in this story). I’m not writing this to scare anyone, I’m writing this to remember. I want to remember exactly how I felt while I lived and survived a Cesarean Section.

I’ve written about what happened in the delivery room and how I felt my son being wrangled from my helpless, beaten body. What happened in the first few days that followed are blurred by a fog of narcotics and sleep deprivation. Those stories I can only really tell second-hand through my husband’s experience. My glimmers of reality are like a dream, pictures splashed with emotion, very brief, sometimes unclear. What I remember, I remember well. I remember the constant stream of nurses, delivery personnel, administrators, wanting anything from my temperature to my mailing address. There was discomfort with every movement. My skin crawled, the effect of pain medications. I remember my mind filled with anxiety about my new role as a mother, my heart bursting with a love so unlike anything I’d ever felt before and my maternal instinct to protect with my life, this being I brought into this imperfect world. I remember my heavy eyelids, oh, my heavy eyelids! I remember my body, so desperate for rest, that in the brief moments when I found sleep, I believe it was dreamless, pure exhaustion had taken over, and every cell in my body slept… like a baby.

We left the hospital on Saturday, May 5th, Cinco de Mayo. I only mention Cinco de Mayo because we came home to an amazing spread of chicken mole, enchiladas and rice from some VERY GENEROUS neighbors and this is ONE of the crucial components to my survival the first week home, but I’ll get to that later. The three of us arrived home around 10pm and slept in our own beds, it felt amazing.

The next day we struggled to get into a groove. My husband and I came up with a method for tracking Beckett’s eating, peeing and pooping schedule, hand written columns on white paper. We changed diapers, learned quickly how to swaddle, rocked, burped, walked… We tended to our son’s every need, while ignoring mine. I was in pain, pain when I sat down, stood up, tried to get out of bed. My posture protected my incision and my back ached. I couldn’t laugh, sneeze or cough without feeling scared my wound might burst open. By far, the worst of all my symptoms was gas. The gas that moved through my bowels was so painful it brought me to tears, I’d put it up against contractions any day, and I thought those were pretty darn bad. We had let my well-being slip to the back burner in that first evening and next day home. We didn’t pay close enough attention to when I was taking all of my pertinent medications and we failed to buy the over-the-counter drugs I had been administered in the hospital until day two… BIG MISTAKE! I will not sugar coat how I felt those first two weeks, I thank God for that beautiful baby boy I held in my arms all day, because without him, I was in hell.

When you have never experienced something like this before, you’re scared it may never end. And not knowing when the light would shine at the end of the tunnel weighed on me every day. That light started to shine, come week three. I had pushed through and persevered. I survived. Mothers are marvelous creatures, and I am so proud to count myself among them. What we do for our families cannot be calculated or properly described by meer words, and I cannot thank my own mother enough for all the things she has surely sacrificed for our (her children’s) happiness. “Thank you, thank you, thank you, momma.”

I sit here, six weeks postpartum, feeling really great. I am not taking any medications, except for my prenatal vitamins and a DHA supplement. My body is heading back towards normalcy. I am NOT in pain when I sit, stand, get out of bed, walk or when I laugh out loud when Beckett makes a new silly face. I can cough, sneeze and go to the bathroom without worrying my guts might burst through my abdomen.

A friend asked me if I’d schedule a C-Section my next time around, and I told her, having only known this, I wouldn’t be afraid of it. Time, truly heals all wounds. And looking back, I’d gladly live through two weeks of hell all over again to experience a lifetime with Beckett (I told you there was a silver lining). He is worth every tear, every pain, every fight for survival!

Here is my MUST HAVE survival guide:

1. HELP in the form of a human that can not only take the babe when you need them to, but also one that will cook, clean, do laundry, drive you around, run errands, walk your dogs, rub your feet, back, etc. and most importantly someone who will wipe your tears and pat you on the back and tell you everything is going to be ok. “Thank you, thank you, thank you momma.”

2. Home cooked meals, ready to be warmed up and enjoyed. Matt and I are so fortunate that our amazing friends provided us with weeks of food. If you are on the giving end of this necessity, don’t forget breakfast… we received a breakfast casserole that was awesome!

3. Vicoden, Peri-Colace (stool softener), Simethicone (Gas X). I can not stress how much pain I was in, these three drugs got me through the day. DO NOT skip a dose, do not play a super-human, after all you are already a super-HERO!

4. Loose drawstring pants you can pull up over your incision. You will not feel sexy but you should feel as comfortable as possible, get at least two pair.

5. Steal the hospital underwear, as many as you can. Yes, the huge, unattractive, mesh granny panties… they will fit above your incision, won’t be tight and will be comfortable.

6. A massage therapist that will give you a side-laying massage as soon as you can stand it. Clear it with you doctor first and then get one every week for the first couple of months. Trust me, your back will have never felt worse after giving birth, walking around bent over and learning to hold and nurse your baby. You NEED to find the time to be pampered!!

I hope this helps, it has really helped me to write it! Good luck and God speed!

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They Don’t Call it Labor for Nothing!

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Beckett Michael Sherrill was born on Wednesday, May 2nd at 10:06pm, a healthy weight of 8lbs 11oz and 20″ long. My husband and I can not be more proud of what we’ve created and are basking in all the glorious things parenting has to offer.

It started like this…

5/1/12

12:00pm: My mother arrives into town, scheduled, for the day after my due date, May 1st. When I pick her up from the airport we have a good laugh about how my baby boy is not here yet, and that my doctor jokingly told me the week before that my cervix had only began to dimple and the baby’s head was only slightly further down the birth canal from the previous week. He mentioned something about mid-May that I tried to ignore, and that was that! This baby was taking his sweet time. I brought mom home to get settled in.

3:00pm: We decide to head up to our local Burger Lounge for an early dinner, and as we’re finishing up I head to the restroom to relieve myself. OMG!! I lost my mucous plug!! I run out to share the news with my mom who was super excited (lol). We hurry home to do some research. Turns out my elation could be premature, the mucous plug can come out anywhere from two days to two weeks before birth. I try not to be discouraged, after all something was happening!

5:00pm: My mom and I head out for a walk with my boys, Brody and Tate. This is something I have grown really fond of, enjoying time outside with my pups, in one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in San Diego. It is really amazing how much you can appreciate the little things in life when you are forced to slow down. We walk, walk, walk hoping for headway.

11:00pm: CONTRACTIONS!! “Yooooooooow, Kelly Clarkson!” I quickly check the clock over the next few hours, contractions are around twenty minutes apart. I think labor is happening…

5/2/12

2:00am: I move myself into the living room as contractions are getting closer together, no need for my husband to suffer a horrible night’s sleep, I need him on his A-GAME today. I fumble around on my iPhone until I find a suitable app to manage my progress, I use Contraction Master.

7:00am: My husband wakes up and I update him on the situation. “We’re gonna have a baby and it’s going to happen soon!“My mom wakes up and she’s excited to hear that things are moving along. Panic sets in for my husband who quickly downs a cup of joe and starts getting things together for our hospital stay. My bag is packed and there is a checklist taped to the door. Contractions are approximately seven minutes apart, I shower and struggle to put myself together.

9:00am: We are packed and ready to go. My contractions are still all over the board. One seven minutes, then four, then three, then seven, then five… they are averaging five minutes apart though, so I call triage at Mary Birch Hospital for Women. The nurse I speak to on the phone suggests I stay home for a couple more hours and see if my contractions get more consistent. I’m stressed out (to say the least), in pain and sleep deprived. This was not the answer I had hoped for.

9:15am: Against the nurses advisory, we are heading to the hospital. I was prepared to be sent home if I was being too cautious, but piece of mind is what I needed right now. What I failed to mention to the nurse, was that I was concerned about how much fluid I was losing, clear-ish, stained pink. Hours earlier I had read in What to Expect that you can experience what they call a bloody show and that this was normal. What was described in the book looked like what I saw in my soaked maxi pad, so I guessed everything was par for course.

9:30am: We check into triage and low and behold that fluid I was losing was my water bag that had broken. The nurse described to me that the situation was likely that my bag had broken high in my stomach (instead of low, where it would have gushed out) and that essentially, my water was only spilling over every time I had a tough contraction. NEVER EVER doubt your intuition, you know your body and you’re probably right! Go to the hospital when you’re ready!

11:30am: Matt and I are checked into our labor room and I receive my epidural within the hour. Life is good better!

1:00pm(ish): A handful of nurses rush into the room, without explanation I am spread open, my doppler heart rate monitor that was placed across my abdomen is replaced by an internal heart rate monitor that is inserted and placed on the top of my baby’s head (yes, while still in my womb). I look to Matt to explain what is happening in my haze of drugs and delirium. Searching his face provides no answers, it shows only the same worry and fright that I am feeling, tears stream down my face. Something is wrong. Bradycardia, my baby’s heart rate dropped below the acceptable range of 110-160 bpm and something was depriving him of oxygen. As the nurses hustle around and get things under control, in what seemed like the longest three or so minutes of my life, they explain to me what they believe to be happening was that his umbilical cord was either knotted, wrapped around his neck or he was simply laying on it when I turned to my left side.

2:00pm: My cervix is dilated to 5cm and completely thinned out.

3:00pm+: The next several hours pass by slowly, we wait for progress. Several different levels of Pitocin are administered to help dilate my cervix. I try without success to turn once more to my left side and we experience the same bradycardia as before, cementing in the fact that I can not move off my sore right side. For nearly seven hours we wait, and nothing good is happening. In the end, I dilate to 6.5cm before my cervix begins to swell, closing my cervix slightly. There are no guarantees in childbirth and any expectations you may have, you better be willing to throw out the window for the health and safety of your baby and yourself. Birth plan or no plan, your way will be mapped out as you travel it.

9:15pm: Twenty three hours in labor and the doctor informs me that it’s time for a Cesarian Section. I had to know it was coming, I knew the (lack of) progress as the day wore on. Exhausted, sleep-deprived and uncomfortable, I break down, defeated. Tears fly out of me with wild abandon. Matt tries to console me and tell me I will be fine. I know that these surgeries happen all the time, but logic was not something I could find in this situation. I sign the documents.

9:30pm: I am prepped, drugged and ready for surgery. This is truly all a blur and seemed to happen in an instant. I am afraid, shaking, unsure of how this will pan out. There is a sheet literally two inches from my nose and my husband sits beside me. They call for the incision. I do not feel pain. What happens next can only be described as someone wrestling an alligator out of my stomach, tugging, pulling, resistance, so much pressure, SO MUCH PRESSURE you can’t breathe, and then, release. Twenty or so minutes and my baby is brought into the world.

10:06pm: My son is pulled from my abdomen and we wait, wait to hear his cry, wait to know that he is breathing… we wait thirty to forty seconds, and there it is, the sweet sound of success. I will survive this, and so will my son. Happy Birthday Beckett!