That’s right, Tom Petty, there ain’t no easy way out. There will come that fateful moment when your fetus needs to be evicted from your body’s cozy B&B, and when that moment arrives there are only two routes out. Neither is pleasant, although one is more scenic. And yes, while it’s true that you have probably been waiting for this day with anticipatory joy, that’s only because mother nature has provided you with self-delusional hormones in epic quantities.

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I really, really wanted to have a natural birth. And by that I mean a vaginal birth with lots of drugs in a sterile and impersonal hospital setting, with no less than four medical professionals at my bedside and a vacuum, extra forceps, and a SWAT team on standby.

I realized that I was not going to get my wish sometime around the 8th month of my pregnancy, when it became apparent that the bulge jutting out of my side was not, as I had hoped, a giant misplaced goiter, but was instead my baby’s head. Nolan, it turns out, was in the transverse position, meaning he was horizontal in my stomach. This is fairly rare, and so I felt pretty badass about it. I was all, yeah, no big deal, my baby isn’t interested in the normal positions. He’s his own man. He’s basically saying, “what up breech babies, that’s all you got?!”

Nolan’s position would have been really awesome if he was competing in the high jump. Turns out it was less awesome for childbirth due to the fact that my vaginal opening is not as wide as the state of Kansas.  Nothing against my vaginal opening, yours isn’t that wide either. If it is I would like to hear from you.

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The reason I wanted to deliver vaginally, I realized, was a little bit different than the reasons other moms cited for wanting this. After reading many online forums, I learned that women often feel strongly about wanting to push their little bundle out the southern exit because they want the experience of childbirth and they do NOT want to feel cheated out of this. I can understand that, although this experience sounds downright horrific based on every friend of mine who has ever delivered vaginally. Women, it seems, want to feel this primal connection to their child and, moreover, to the act of birthing. For some reason pregnancy brings out a very “we are mammals” sentiment in the masses, and people who would never consider wanting to feel, say, a root canal, suddenly want to feel something much, much worse. It’s a strange but common phenomenon.

I had friends say to me, when it was clear that the Nolan train wasn’t leaving the station via the preferred exit, “It’s ok, Liz, having a c-section won’t make you any less of a mother.” Huh. That thought never even occurred to me! I wanted to give actual birth because I am competitive and like to pretend I’m tough! Not because I thought it would make me a better mother. I just like overzealous challenges that I can later brag about. My upset over not getting to “compete” in the labor and delivery unit was real, but it was a little like the time I went skydiving – I had no interest in actually jumping from a plane, I just wanted to be able to say I did it after the fact.

Also, I had trained. I had taken the prenatal classes. I had paid actual money for them. And I had practiced my breathing techniques! Techniques that did not appear would ease much more pain than that of a bee sting, but still. I had practiced swaying on a giant ball to coax my baby out with my rhythmic bounces and periodic hip swivels. I had even bought a tub of olive oil, ready to slather it onto my nether regions! (For those of you who have not prepared for birth, this nifty little trick is called a perineal massage. It helps reduce the risk of tearing during delivery, and as a side bonus you can use the surplus olive oil for many tasty Italian dishes).

All of this intense training was for naught. A c-section was our only viable option, and so c-section it was. Yes, I would not experience the birth of my first child the way I had hoped, but we are lucky to live in a place where safe alternatives exist. Also, and this is no small thing, a c-section meant an automatic five day stay at the hospital. As we all know hospitals are like hotels but with catheters and adult diapers readily available. So better! And also I LOVE hospital food! The hospital where I delivered Nolan makes an excellent Coq Au Vin. Things were looking up.

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Photo credit: Christina McPherson Photography

The big day eventually arrived and things started out smoothly. Brian was asked to wait outside while I was “prepped.” He was excited and anxious, dressed in scrubs, hat, and booties, like an extra from Grey’s Anatomy. I was busy having my spinal block administered, and quickly felt the lower half of my body go pleasantly numb. The plan was for me to be awake during the surgery, but totally numb from the waist down. I remembered a good friend saying she found her c-section to be “a very civilized way to have a baby.” This is civilized, I thought.

By the time Brian was let into the operating room the surgery was already in full swing. He had barely gotten seated when the obstetrician exclaimed, “I see the baby’s butt!” This was jarringly fast for Brian, who had anticipated more of a build-up to the main event. It was like going to a movie with no coming attractions. It throws a viewer off.

And with that, Nolan was out, via the express train. It was kind of amazing and kind of gross.

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And then shit got real. Just as Nolan made his big debut – at the very height of emotion at this whole disgusting miracle – I started to feel stuff. Like, a lot of stuff. My spinal block wasn’t so much “blocking” anymore. Well, damn. What’s the good of a spinal block without the block? Very, very little, that’s what. This was rapidly devolving into something decidedly uncivilized. Remember, getting the baby out is only the first part. After you evict your tenant you still need to close up the apartment, you see. Lock the doors behind you and all.

I can feel this!” I was trying to keep the panic down in my voice. Perhaps I sounded too un-panicked, because the anesthesiologist was surprisingly nonchalant.

“Like tugging and pulling?” he asked.

“No, like I can REALLY FEEL this surgery!” I could feel tugging 5 minutes ago. I felt SURGERY HAPPENING now. If I’m not being clear, those two feelings are different.

“Oh, you do? Hmm….Looks like you metabolized the medication too quickly!” His tone was breezy. “Next time you have a surgery you should make sure to tell them that your body seems to metabolize meds too fast.”

Um, yes, noted. Next time I’m having major abdominal surgery I’ll be sure to tell themToo bad I’m in surgery RIGHT NOW.

Brian could see the panic in my eyes. Oh, did I mention that I was tied down to the table? I was tied down to the table. I had kind of forgotten I was tied down to the table until the part of the story where the spinal block stopped working and I panicked and tried to free myself. Good thing I was tied down, actually.

Brian was in his own type of bind. Unbeknownst to me, he had just been told that he needed to leave the surgery area to accompany Nolan to another room, where I presume they make sure he has all of his most important bits. Nolan, not Brian. Brian’s bits were already accounted for.

Not wanting to cause more panic, but clearly seeing that I was losing my shit, Brian approached me cautiously, the way one might approach a skittish but rapidly angering beaver.

“Ok, I’m gonna go now…” His voice was soft. He was trying to appear calm so that I may be calmed. Which is not possible when you are actively being operated on with very, very little medication.

Uh, ok. That’s cool. I’ll just stay here and fight off my captors alone. My eyes pleaded with him but he was quickly led away.

After about five minutes Brian was sent away from Nolan’s room, too. Poor guy. He ended up wandering through the halls, full scrubs, without either his wife or baby. He was hoping, I think, to be with at least one of us during this most critical time. But then I was hoping to not feel my surgery, so that made two of us who didn’t get what we wanted.

And that is pretty much how it went down. Yes, I had “missed out” on the chance to be tough by laboring with my baby, but I was fortunate enough to get the chance to be tough by having abdominal surgery with meds that ran out part way through the operation. Silver linings!

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This is my first photo with Nolan. I do not even remotely remember this moment. And I had read that I would “never forget the first time I held my baby in my arms.” I couldn’t remember it 5 minutes later. Based on this picture it was beautiful. And hairy. And heavily medicated with post-operative tranquilizers.

Which would you prefer, c-section or natural childbirth? How was your labor and delivery? Let’s hear it. Be descriptive. I want to picture your baby crowning.

(This post first ran on A Mothership Down.)

Liz Curtis Faria
Author

Liz spent much of the past decade as a social worker and photographer, earning very little money but having the opportunity to travel widely and meet many interesting people, including a drunk Canadian who cut her a mullet on a dare. Now a full-time mom and blogger, Liz is continuing her quest to make no money and spending her days wondering why her son so closely resembles a ham. While many, many people call her Mother Earth, she finds that cumbersome. Please just call her Liz. Liz blogs about the joy and ridiculousness that is motherhood at A Mothership Down. Her work has also been featured on Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, and Mamapedia, among others.

12 Comments

  1. Oh I remember! I had mine vaginally after pushing for almost 3 hours I felt a horrible burning in my nether regions. Little did I know it was my vagina being ripped apart (almost a 4th degree tear) because my epidural was wearing off. I also could feel the Dr. Stitching my lady parts back together. It hurt!

  2. its been 9 months and I finally stopped waking up from nightmares from my vag birth. PTSD is the suck.

    • You know, strangely, I pretty much forgot how bad my experience was within hours! I mean of course I remembered it, but I didn’t feel upset about it. I think it’s because I was so excited about the adult diapers and catheter.

  3. The same thing happened to me! They offered to knock me out but I refused. I didn’t want to be all zonked out and not get to see my baby. The second time I had a c-section they left the line in my back just in case it happened again. Sure enough it did, but they were able to give me another dose.

    • Oooh this is good to know. I would like to build in a better buffer next time (If I ever need another c-section), and if not a buffer than a direct line of drugs ready to pump in a second dose. That would have been handy the first time around.

  4. Shannon Day

    I love this! Funny, terrifying & real. Plus great photos and a Tom Petty reference. His music actually features in my Mean Girls post, that just went live on here. Apparently BLUNTmoms like Tom Petty. 😉

  5. Were they able to give you more meds quickly so you didn’t feel the rest of it???? At the beginning of my c-section, before they began, when they said, “Can you feel this?” I said, “YES, YES I CAN! I CAN FEEL THAT, DON’T DO ANYTHING YET!” 😉 The next question was, “When you get dental work do you need extra anesthetic?” which I was surprised by, but YES, the fact is that I ALWAYS need more Novocaine than they initially administer! So they gave me more meds, waited a few more minutes until I was comfortably numb, and then evicted my son 😉 With my daughter I told them right off the bat, “I always need more medicine” and they said, “Okay”. So I’ve also learned my lesson in that regard! (And now I just tell the dentist that right off the bat, too. Saves everyone some time!) 🙂

  6. I absolutely loved your post! I had a planned C-section as well (my baby was breech) as seriously couldn’t understand the whole fuss about “natural” vs. C-section. Thankfully the meds worked all the way through, 2h after the surgery I was lying in my hospital room, naked baby snuggled on my bare chest (German hospitals seem to be really into bonding) and sending text messages and emails announcing the birth.

  7. LOL Awesome post. I had a scheduled c-section due to budda like position of a nearly 10 pound baby. If I pushed her out, I would have a) broken EVERYTHING down there and b) most likely caused some degree of injury to my giant toddler-baby (like shoulder dislocation at best and suffocation from long birth at worst)… Anywho, it was like checking into dental appointment. Prior to surgery I made sure to tell everyone NOT TO GIVE A SCALPEL to my husband who has negative surgical abilities, yet was outfitted like a doctor or a very believable nurse. When I walked in I was like – Yo – this guy, don’t allow any medical apparatus near his hands m’kay? M’kay….

    The surgery went fine, easy I should say… Husband saw all the insides and all the gory details. How the heck after all that was he not proud of me for totally being OK a couple days later? He will not live this down!

    The part where I almost strangled him with the nearest IV cord was when myself, and the doc and the nurse were like – here, DAD, cut the baby’s cord and let’s go to the nursery right now and he was all… I am OK right here. I carried her for nearly 10 months and have been in surgery for a hour. YOU ARE GOING WITH THE BABY!!!!!!!!!!

    I don’t feel that I missed out on experience. I went on to have a second C-section with no regrets. I am happy to be healthy and have two perfectly healthy unbroken and unsuffocated (and should I say giant) babies to show for it. I honestly think this whole “experience” thing is just a hype. Would you like a tear, an infection or an injury to the baby? No, right? If so, go with the latest medical research, experience of a trusted doctor and your common sense. I don’t need to prove anything by pushing a 10 pound child through anything. Life is hard as it is, why do this to yourself?

  8. Alison Tedford

    It was five am. I felt like I had to go to the bathroom an abnormal number of times. It dawned on me maybe I should get checked. I was at my parents and I asked for a ride to the hospital. Mom got ready for work first. First baby, we have all day right? By the time I got in the car I was in transition. The ER people made fun of me because first baby, clearly I was overreacting. First time mom *snide comments* I met the doctor as she was pulling the baby out of me while telling my husband on the phone he was missing the big event because he went back to bed when I said I was going to the hospital because we have all day right? My son joined the world before 8 am. I had nitrous which was amazing and I was only dumb enough to let it run out once. Mom went downstairs and told the snarky ER folks she had a grandbaby already and it didn’t take all day.

    You are a badass. My vagina is also unlike Kansas. I’m Canadian so I don’t know how big Kansas is but I’m fairly certain it is nowhere near that big.

  9. Pingback: Ever Wonder What a C-Section With No Meds Would Be Like? | A Mothership Down

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