Tuesday, June 18, 2013

{Becoming Mother} A Hospital/C-Section Birth Story

I've gotten quite a few questions about my hospital birth with Cannon, my birthing center birth with Cason, why I choose those locations and why I wanted a natural birth. I thought it might be fun to do a blog series on women who have had different birthing experiences and what they've liked about them. I'll be back at the end of the series to share what we liked about our hospital birth and what we liked about our birthing center birth. 

This is not a promo for a particular type of birth, in fact I've tried to cover as many types of births as possible from natural at home to c-section in the hospital. This is more of a "what can you expect" if you were to have one of these types of birth. Hopefully they will encourage you, help you make a birth decision that's right for your family, and most of simply rejoice in the way God creates life. 

Let me introduce you to my friend, Sara. We met through the Lens Baby meet up group and have enjoyed getting to know each other and each others kids during all kinds of fun photoshoots and play dates. She has the sweetest kiddos and takes the most adorable photos of them. She is also a contributing blogger at Create+Focus.

My first child Sam was born in February of 2009 at Baylor Medical Center in Frisco, Texas.  Despite my valiant efforts to deliver naturally, we found ourselves in the operating room when my son took his first breath.  While this was unexpected, everything concerning the surgery went perfectly and I delivered a healthy baby.  My son’s head ended up being too large for me to deliver him.  After pushing for only about twenty minutes, it became pretty clear he would not be able to make it out without, at the very least, some assistance from my OB.  As a last attempt to avoid a c-section, my doctor used forceps to turn him (he was sunny-side-up) and then used the vacuum extractor to try and guide his head out.  We knew this wasn’t going to work as soon as the vacuum started pulling me off the table – there was no force strong enough to get this child out!  At this point all nurses and doctors went from wait-mode to hustle-mode.  My husband was in scrubs and I was on a gurney and in the O.R. within ninety seconds.  Sam was delivered shortly thereafter weighing 8 lbs, 4 oz.  To this day, his head always measures a percentile in the upper 90s!  While his birth didn’t happen exactly the way we thought it would, the end result was all that we were looking for:  a healthy, happy baby boy and a healthy, happy me!  
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My daughter Evelyn was born in November of 2012 at the same hospital by the same OB.  I even had a couple of the same nurses I’d had four years earlier.  Due to the fact that my son was a c-section and because I was not interested in a VBAC delivery, we knew from the get-go my daughter would be delivered via scheduled c-section.  Because Sam was so large and it was suspected my daughter would be as well, my doctor advised we schedule the surgery a few days before my due date.  This delivery took on a completely different feel, with everything being so planned.  It was a bit surreal at first.  We had a 7:30 am surgery slot and arrived at the hospital at 5:30 am.  After I was prepped in a pre-surgery room, I walked with help into the operating room where the epidural was administered and I was given a play-by-play account by my anesthesiologist of everything that was happening well before it happened.  I was nervous, of course, but once my OB walked in the room and I heard his voice I felt a wave of relief wash over me and I felt confident that this would be another successful delivery.  Because this c-section was not in the least bit “emergency”, the surgeons and nurses had time to introduce themselves to me beforehand and let me in on some of the inside jokes and banter that went back-and-forth before getting started with the surgery.  It helped lighten the mood a little which helped my husband and I relax a bit!  We found the whole process fascinating and impressive and this time we were able to appreciate a little better all that was happening.  My anesthesiologist was the most amazing person in the room.  She kept me super-informed and comfortable and cheered me on throughout the whole process – even though my only job during this birth was to lay still!  And when my 8 lb, 11 oz daughter came out squealing like a pig instead of crying like a newborn, she saw the look on my face and reassured me over and over that my baby girl was beautiful and healthy with a fantastic set of pipes!  
I was very pleased with my hospital experience, from the wide-range of childbirth and baby-care classes we attended, to the knowledgeable and caring staff in charge of my early post-partum care.  My postpartum and breastfeeding nurses were excellent in all aspects of my recovery.  I could call any nurse any time of day for any reason.  Each nurse had her own personality, some more nurturing, some more serious, and that took some getting used to.  But I always felt each nurse was there to make my recovery as quick and painless as possible.  And boy, do they work hard – my hat’s off to nurses everywhere!  During my second hospital stay we even developed a special bond with one of our nurses, Peggy, which made discharge day very bittersweet!  I was also able to call on a lactation nurse anytime I needed to both during my four-day stay at the hospital and after we returned home.  They helped me with latch issues and questions about supply.  I returned to the hospital after bringing Sam home to get some help re-teaching him how to latch after his tongue-tie was corrected.  The lactation consultants were such a valuable resource to me and I’m glad I used them as much as I did.  

My extended family and other visitors were treated with respect by hospital staff and at the same time my needs most definitely came first and my nurses were my number one advocates when it came to my recovery.  My husband was treated well, too, getting three meals a day along with me and was constantly asked if there was anything he needed.  He was able to take photographs during both our attempt at delivery and our cesarean sections.  They talked with him during the surgery and included him in everything they could.  They really made an effort to make Dad feel special, too!
As hard as they tried to keep me comfortable, there were times I longed for the comfort of my own bed, and my husband – forget it – his six-foot-four frame just couldn’t get comfortable on the little couch in my room.  He went home each night to sleep which left him refreshed enough to help me with anything I needed the next day.  I also found the number of hospital workers coming in to check on my son and I a bit much at times – sometimes the entrance to my room felt like a revolving door – which kept me from always being able to rest when I wanted.  But, four years later when I had my daughter, they definitely had fine-tuned their post-partum and nursery care procedures and they were more protective of my rest time (they had instituted a rest time each day from 1-4; no interruptions unless you called for someone).  It was something I was glad to see had improved, but my experience during my first hospital stay certainly wasn’t a big enough deal to me to be a factor when choosing where I would deliver my second child.  

Sam’s nurses were respectful of my decisions as a mother, asking me before giving him a pacifier, making sure I was okay with him being supplemented from a bottle (after it was discovered his nursing problems were due to tongue-tie that couldn’t be corrected for a few days), and they were patient and thorough in answering my first-time-mom questions.  My hospital encouraged rooming-in, where the baby stays with you in your room as opposed to the nursery, but the nursery is always there when you need it, whether you’d like a nap or just a break.  They took a different approach at night, maybe because I was limited in what I could do post-surgery, taking my kids to the nursery each night so that I could sleep.  They would watch the clock and bring the baby to my room every 2-3 hours when it was time for another feeding.  I would call the nursery when we were done and my child’s nurse would come and pick the baby up again.  We did this each of the four nights we were at the hospital.  This enabled me to get some uninterrupted sleep those four precious days, because when it’s time to go home, those nurses don’t go with you!  I would encourage all moms to rest when they can at the hospital and ask their visitors to wait until you get home to come see the baby.  My nurses also encouraged skin-to-skin contact between my babies and me, whenever I was up for it, which was always!  They strip the baby down to their diaper and rest them on your chest under your gown.  My kids curled up and fell asleep and it’s the best feeling in the world to snuggle so close and so peacefully!
Recovery from a c-section is obviously more difficult than a natural delivery and yet can still vary quite a bit from mother to mother.  A cesarean is considered major abdominal surgery – be prepared physically and mentally to need lots of assistance.  Let go of those Type-A tendencies and let people help you while your body heals!  The best advice I got regarding the whole post-partum experience was from a nurse in my breastfeeding class.  She told us our number one job – our only job – is to feed our baby (and give lots of snuggles, of course).  That’s it.  Let everyone else help you take care of the rest!  By the second day my nurses wanted me up and moving.  The sooner you move the faster you heal.  My husband and I took short walks up and down the hall, often taking our babies with us, wheeling them around in their beds!  Getting up and about is not easy, but it gets exponentially better each day.  My hospital’s philosophy, both during the labor and recovery phase, was to stay on top of pain.  I was told not to let pain get bad and then ask for something.  It’s much harder to control that way.  My nurses encouraged me to stay on a pretty strict schedule for pain meds the first couple of days, then left it up to me more and more to tell them what I needed and when.  I was able to shower the second day, with help.  That was tough – I’m not going to lie – but I was able to shower by myself each day after that.  If you’re up for it, take a shower, wash your hair and put some lipstick on.  You’ll feel like a million bucks!

Our last day was always filled with mixed feelings.  We loved our nursing staff and the attention we received during our stay at Baylor, but we were anxious both times to get our little ones home.  Hospital discharge is quite a process, but for both of our stays it went very smoothly.  The baby got one last visit from the pediatrician and I got a visit from my O.B.  We signed a lot of paperwork and received a lot of reference material.  I was encouraged to call if I came upon certain roadblocks in my recovery so that they could check me out and assist me if needed.  I was wheeled out to our car, we strapped the baby in the car seat and we were on our way.  It was wonderful to be out in the world again after four days in the hospital.  And it’s a great feeling walking through the door of your home with your baby for the first time. 

With each birth I was aware of other birthing and recovery choices available to me (homebirth, natural childbirth, VBAC etc.), yet I always knew a hospital birth and second cesarean would be right for me.  While we’re pretty sure our beautiful family is complete, should we have third child, it would be our intention to deliver at the same hospital and we know we could expect the same outstanding care we received when welcoming our precious Sam and Evie into this world!

About Sara:
Sara is a former third grade teacher turned stay-at home mom, and lives with her husband and two children in the far north suburbs of Dallas, Texas. You can read about her family and see her fabulous photographer on her blog, Tales from the Nest.

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