the previous post left off at the moment i decided to get an epidural, but before i begin the last half of my birth story i need to make a shout out to my husband michael, aka mr. doula. i know that i could not have made it through contractions for as long as i did without an epidural if it hadn't been for my man. he was the most amazing birth partner and the way he cared for me made me feel so unbelievably loved. i believe him when he tells me he loves me but man, feeling it as this level was absolutely insane, in a really really good way. so good that maybe when we argue about who's turn it is to unclog the drain, i'll let him win. maybe.
back to my birth story!
once the anesthesiologist set up her station and prepped my back for the epidural, i curled into a ball as best as i could so she'd have a clear path to direct that huge needle where it needed to go as quickly as possible because i. hate. needles. even getting the iv in was agonizing for me so the idea of an epidural was pretty terrifying but hey, when you've been enduring contractions for 36 hours, you gain a little perspective and a few minutes with a needle seems fairly tame in comparison.. unless you've had an epidural incorrectly placed. technically, you're not supposed to feel anything once the needle/catheter reaches the epidural space, but for whatever reason, every time the anesthesiologist thought the needle was in the right spot, i felt the most unpleasant, cringe-inducing pinch in my spine. those pinches were brief, but it was like accidentally biting down on tin foil and listening to nails on a chalkboard at the same time... in your spine. after a few tries the catheter was finally placed into a less cringe-worthy spot and firmly taped onto my back. now all i needed to do was lie down and wait for peace and painlessness to come.
only it didn't. at least, not on one half of my body. once the epidural has had time to take effect, a nurse will test numbness by running ice along your body in order to figure out just how far the anesthesia has reached. in my case, my right side felt the majority of the ice which was a concern because it meant that the epidural didn't take properly on my right, and my left side was numb up to my neck, which ended up being an even bigger concern as it apparently meant that my respiratory system was at risk. this meant that they had to reduce the dosage so that the anesthesia on my left half would recede to only the correct areas that should be numb, but this also meant that i would be feeling more of my contractions on my right side. still, some anesthesia was better than none and i did get a few hours of reprieve from full on contraction pain.
a few hours and a couple progress checks later, the ob came in for another measurement to see how far along i was. since monday (it was now 5 am on a wednesday) i had been slowly dilating and had reached 7cm at the last check. feeling optimistic, my nurse and i jokingly placed bets on how far along i would be this time (8? 9?) until we looked over at my ob and noticed her frowning. she took her gloves off, placed her hand on my leg and told me that i had regressed to 4cm and instead of being effaced, my cervix was now swollen. my baby was too big to pass through and while we had a few other options, our best bet to get him out safely would be a c-section. talk about heartbreaking. to come this far (43 hours), to endure this much pain, only to end up with a c-section.. i cried. i cried a lot. we asked for some time and privacy to think it over and i cried some more. ultimately though, i agreed to the c-section and they immediately wheeled me to the o.r. for prep while michael waited in the waiting area. alone in the o.r. with the delivery team, they explained that since the epidural had not worked, they would be administering a spinal block, which meant that my legs would be completely numb, and i would be feeling zero pain.
but that didn't happen either.
once they laid me back down on the operating table, they tested the incision area by pinching my skin to ensure the anesthesia was in effect. again, my left side was completely numb, but my right still maintained sensation. they asked me if maybe what i was feeling was pressure, and not pain but no, it was definitely pain. they tried waiting for the meds to spread. they tried tilting the table head down to allow gravity to push the meds to where it needed to be. nothing was working, and time was running out. eventually, they explained that they would be injecting another local anesthetic directly into my right side and while they could guarantee that the first layer of tissue would be successfully numbed, they were not sure about the subsequent layers and that if i started to feel pain that i should let them know and they would put me under (general anesthesia). all i could think was "how much time would pass from the time i felt pain from being cut open to being knocked out?" it was terrifying, to say the least. and did i mention that michael was still waiting outside? i was alone and frozen with terror, but i must have given some sort of affirmative signal as they ushered michael in and started with the surgery.
|that's my baby! all 8lbs, 12 oz of him|
the pain i felt from my c-section was 100x worse than all of my contractions combined. when they remove the baby from your uterus during a c-section, you're supposed to feel tugging and pressure. after all, the incision isn't very big. but i felt very sharp, very strong, very real, pain. all i remember is screaming "is it over, is it over" repeatedly because each second was more unbearable than the next. once sj was out and getting checked/cleaned, the doctors told me to look over and focus on him, presumably to take my mind off the fact that i was being operated on and i could... feel it. and as much as i wanted to look at my newborn son and feel that euphoric wave of bliss hit me i couldn't, because of the constant, searing pain and the horrifying sensation of parts of my body being stitched back together.
the happy tears came a few minutes later, when they placed sj on my chest and he wrapped his little hand around my finger while i stroked his cheek. i remember looking up at michael and thinking how amazing it was that we were now officially, a family of three.