Caesareans, the so called easier option. I may not of pushed but I felt more pain in those first 48 hours than the whole of the pregnancy combined.
THE WEEK BEFORE
Coming home from the hospital after my 7th bleed, knowing we were having our baby girl the following week, Dalton and I wanted to celebrate. The end was so close and we just prayed that we didn't have another emergency visit before our scheduled caesarean date. The letter came in the mail from the hospital a couple of days later. On the 24th of November 2016 at 6:30am, we were having our little baby girl. Anyone that knows me personally, would describe me as a high maintenance, obsessive compulsive planner. I like to know exactly what is happening, when it is happening and how it is happening. So far, the pregnancy had gone nothing like I had planned or hoped for. Having a set date for delivery, I was over the moon. One thing that I was very excited about was putting the date in my calendar. In this day and age you can book and schedule anything from hair appointments, waxing and beauty appointments to even getting your groceries delivered to your door. To be able to write down exactly when our baby girl was going to be introduced to the world, was truly special to us. In anticipation of her arrival, I had meticulously prepared everything. Her nursery was complete. Her bed was made, her outfits laid out, every parenting book had been read from cover to cover. We were beyond ready for her arrival.
The day before the surgery, I was inconsolable. I was nervous and I was scared. Vomiting was peaking and my emotions were at an all-time low. I was on the phone to my sisters down in South Australia, begging them to fly up and come into surgery with me. I feared losing her. I feared complications. I feared dying. I had felt so much failure throughout the whole pregnancy, it was hard for me to see anything optimistically. Dalton was at the point where he didn't know what to say to me, how to comfort me or even help at all. Anything he tried, I would bite his head off. Sleeping was impossible so I gave up on that idea and pulled an all-nighter. I messaged everyone I knew that had given birth via caesarean. I even found strangers online and asked them too. I googled, researched and read everything I could about the surgery. 5:30am finally rolled around, we were ready to leave for the hospital and I felt confident and relaxed.
thursday 24th November 2016
We arrived at the hospital at 6am and went straight to pre-admissions. You hear so many stories of women having their waters break at home, going into labour, having contractions and rushing to the hospital. Here we were, "checking in" to have our baby. We were sitting in the waiting room with about 20 other people, waiting to be called and sent to Day Surgery.
At this point, Dalton was scared to even look in my direction. As much as I pushed him away and asked him to leave, he never did. Instead, he just treaded extremely cautiously, walking on eggshells, taking each moment as they came and always being there for me when I needed him.
The obstetrician met us right on 6:30am and in my head, I went tick tick tick, we are right on schedule and all is going to plan. I still felt composed and relaxed. Dalton changed into scrubs and a shower cap while I changed into a theatre gown and had my routine blood pressure and scan checks. There were six scheduled caesareans that morning and we were first up. I think I surprised Dalton with how calm and relaxed I was. We were taking selfies, I was still messaging family and friends, cracking jokes with the midwives and OB's. I paused and thought to myself, after everything that has happened, we were finally at the finishing line. The doctors and other mothers all said that as soon as she's out of my body, all of the pregnancy pain and sickness would go away. I was just hanging for that moment.
By 7am I was on the stretcher and getting wheeled into the theatre room. My first thought when I was wheeled in was why isn't it dark? On Grey's Anatomy, all of the surgeries are in dark rooms with lights on. Why are the windows open and why is the sun shining through? The brightness of the room or the dozen doctors and midwives didn't scare me though. The IV line they inserted into my arm, that wasn't anything new. The epidural though, the feeling of being paraplegic is something I'm thankful was only temporary.
I sat upright on the stretcher and the epidural was inserted into my lower back. The needle itself wasn't any different to any other injection I had previously had. After a couple of minutes the anesthetist asked me to lie back down, but I couldn't. Such a simple task but I couldn't work my hips to lie back down. I couldn't feel anything from my rib cage down. This was considered a success and the midwives layed me down. I was told to be as honest as I could when they did the ice test because if I lied they would need to up my dosage, meaning a longer recovery. A piece of ice was placed on my toes, shins, thighs and belly until I could feel the cold. I wanted a quick recovery, I didn't want any extra unnecessary pain relief that could result in a longer recovery, so I was honest. I couldn't feel the ice cube until it was just under my breast. A urinary catheter was then inserted and I was transferred from the stretcher onto a theatre bed.
It was 8:40am. I know the exact times and I remember exactly what happened that morning because I did not take my eye of the clock. A sheet was placed vertically across my chest, acting as a barrier between us and the team of surgeons. My obstetrician asked if I was ready and assured me our baby girl would be here by 9am. My eyes did not leave that clock.
Between staring at the clock and looking at Dalton, I tried not to think about what was happening behind that sheet. I could hear them and I could feel them working around my belly but there wasn't any pain. Dalton sat right beside me, stroking my hair while I still continued to watch the clock.
It was almost 9am and I called out to the surrounding nurses asking where our baby girl was. Immediately, after the words came out of my mouth, the obstetrician called from over the sheet, “Are you ready? We are about to pull her out”. I squeezed Dalton's hand as I felt a tug and pull from within my abdomen. I immediately started to vomit. I was told to fast for 8 hours the night before so nothing was coming up except for stomach bile. Because of the epidural, I couldn't sit myself up so I lay their vomiting bile onto my face. I hadn't heard her cry so I started to panic, vomiting harder straight back on to myself. The anesthetist was vacuuming it off my face but it kept coming up until finally she let out a cry. I looked into Dalton's eyes and we both lost it. Finally, the sound we had waited 9 long months to hear.
Eve Chara was born at 9:01am.
We hadn't seen her yet but the sound was music to our ears. The pediatrician and midwives were checking her over and then proceeded to give us our very first glance of our baby girl. It was like something out of the movie Chuckie, if anyone has seen it. They were holding her in the air by her waist whilst she was screaming. She was covered in my insides, white and scary looking. Dalton and I glanced at each other and both thought, what we have created!
Dalton was able to go over and watch them clean her up and cut the umbilical cord. She needed some lung support, which was going to take 20 minutes with a CPAP mask and my wound still needed closing up. In those 20 minutes, waiting to meet her, seeing her so close to me and yet so far away. I was panicky and anxious. It's common during C-sections that babies can still have fluids on their lungs and most need help breathing. Natural births put pressure on the lungs, as the baby is pushed through the birth canal, squeezing the fluid out. I lay alone in tears blaming myself for being too weak for a natural birth, having to have a caesarean. I felt blame for putting her in the position she was in now. Dalton was torn between the joy of meeting his daughter and the pain and suffering his partner was enduring, he was juggling his time between the two of us.
Once her breathing was sorted, we were able to meet skin on skin. Placing her on my chest, whilst this was a treasured and unique moment, I was still vomiting. The tugging and pulling that was still happening in my abdomen was causing me to continually bring up bile. I wasn't able to give her the body contact and heat she needed so they placed her in an incubator next to us while they finished my surgery.
Looking over at her and looking at the sheet that was acting as a shield in front of me, it felt surreal. We had 9 months to prepare for her arrival. I had thought about it every day and the morning had gone so smoothly and yet I felt oddly disconnected. I was still vomiting and what was at the forefront of my mind wasn't the joy of giving birth but that I had been lied to. I was still nauseous, I was still vomiting, she was officially out of my body and yet I was still severely sick.
After my wound had been stitched, the three of us were taken to recovery. I was told in my earlier midwife appointments that recovery should take about 45 minutes for the anesthetist to establish pain relief whilst breastfeeding is first introduced. For us, we were in recovery for 4 hours. My epidural had worn off and I was in agony. To describe the pain, would be impossible. I was pumped with pain killer after pain killer but nothing softened the blow that was raging from my abdomen. Vomiting was continual and when asked to describe the pain from a board of smiling faces I just screamed number 10. Whilst trying to manage the pain, the midwives were trying to latch her to my nipple. I was in between vomiting, trying to sit in a curled fetal position to protect my stomach but unable to move from the after effects of the epidural. I had the shakes and chatters and the drugs were making me dazed and confused. I had this baby that was screaming for food but I couldn't hold her. This continued for 4 hours. Pain, try and latch, pain, vomit, try and latch, shakes, pain, vomit and so on. I was finally given straight morphine with a self-administered button and wheeled to our private room by 2pm.
The rest of the day was a blur. I was so drugged I couldn't keep my eyes open for longer than 5 seconds at a time. Just enough to push the morphine button and pass out long enough to then wake up and press it again. I lay naked on my bed so Dalton could bring her over to me, latch her on, feed her, take her off, burp her, change and nurse her. In my 5 second awake times throughout the day I would open my eyes and she would either be on me or I would look across and she would be sitting with Dalton. I was still unsure who this little person was that was causing so much pain. Come dinner time I was still unable to function for long enough to try and eat. Visiting hours were ending soon and Dalton would be asked to go, leaving me with this tiny human that I needed to care for. It was an out of body experience. I was there in the flesh but my mind was so very far away and I simply had no control. At 8pm, the doctors came around and after assessing the state I was in, they made the decision to cut off the morphine. At 10pm Dalton was asked to leave. A midwife stayed and nursed her for me, taking over the latch, burp and change process that Dalton had been doing all day. By midnight, I was slowly coming back to earth. I was coherent enough to make the decision that I wanted to go cold turkey off all pain medication. I had lost day one with my newborn daughter. I hadn't looked at her, held her, bonded with her and I didn't want to lose any more of that precious time. I stayed awake all through the night just watching her. I still needed help to get her out of the bassinet and to latch her but I didn't want to miss any more amazing experiences with her.
The Next day
Dalton arrived back at the hospital at 8am. I was completely and utterly physically and mentally exhausted. I tried eating for the first time, but was still unable to keep food down. I still had uncontrollable shakes and the pain was back but I was fighting so hard to resist the option of pain relief. The midwives wanted to take my catheter out but were unsure whether I would be able to make it to the bathroom and back. They tried sitting me up but the pain was too much, I needed to go back on pain relief. The list of all the medication that hadn’t worked in recovery was very long. I didn't want endone and morphine either so we needed to call for a pain specialist. By lunch time, the doctor came around and prescribed a pain relief that would still keep me coherent and a nausea medication that would hopefully stop the vomiting. I asked for minimal dosage and we went from there.
We had family visits on Day 2. I still to this day, cannot tell you when they came or how long they stayed for. Day 2 was a personal battle for me to fight through the pain and to try and stay awake. Pain had won this round and we needed to up my dosage and I was out again. I had lost yet another day with her.
Saturday the 26th of November, the day I call the happiest day of my life. The day I could finally hold my daughter, truly look into her eyes and call her my baby girl, my baby Evie.
My pain was manageable and the vomiting had finally stopped. I was eating again, the catheter was out and I was slowly becoming mobile around my room. I was able to feed her myself, change her and be the mother I had waited so long to be. I was still only getting colostrum and latching on my left breast was difficult but I was determined. I rang that buzzer every time she needed feeding to get the midwives to check she was latching correctly. They were hand expressing the not so great breast and also showing Dalton how to do this. We were going to get this right. One nipple started to crack and bleed but I didn't care, I just wanted to keep pumping and getting that liquid gold goodness out for Evie. When she wasn't feeding, Dalton and I would hand express into syringes. I wanted to establish milk flow before we got discharged so we kept working those breasts. I went through tubes of lanolin, nipple shields and gel discs. Every time there was a change of midwives, we buzzed for them as well. A different midwife meant a different experience, which meant different advice. I wanted to make sure I got as much out of my hospital stay as I could.
On day 4, I could get in and out of bed without assistance. We were finally able to latch on both sides. The vomiting had stopped and I was pushing through the pain on just paracetamol. Those 48 hours of pain were behind me, in fact the 9 months of pregnancy were behind me. I had been warned about the post pregnancy blues but I felt like I had my shit so much together that I just wanted to get home and start our new life together as a family of three.
The physio came to my room and gave me pelvic floor exercises that I could do at home. The obstetrician checked my wound and I was cleared to go home. The pediatrician checked Evie and she was also cleared to go home. The midwives showed us how to bath her and after Dalton had washed her, they also said we could go home.
We left the hospital and I didn't turn back. So many times, we had driven home after emergency visits without a baby. That day, sitting in the backseat with my hand holding hers, was one of the happiest moments of my life.
Eve Chara Lake, I love you more than you will ever know. You were worth all of the pain and suffering, every sleepless night and every scare. I hadn't failed after all. Myself and the love of my life, your daddy, had created the greatest gift of all, my biggest accomplishment to this day, our baby Eve.