I really didn't have a lot of time to think about or process what was happening to me. I was about to go into surgery with ten minutes warning. I had never been in surgery before. I had never really been in the hospital before except for a few trips to emergency and of course my ante-natal care. I had never broken a bone, never been on a drip, I hardly even take panadol! I was about to have myself cut open while I was awake and have my little girl wrenched from the womb.
Before they wheeled me away I asked the midwives a few questions.
I wanted to know if it would hurt. They told me no, it would feel like someone doing the washing up in my tummy. This didn't really set me at ease.
I wanted to know if I could hold and breastfeed our girl once she was out. Kelly our midwife told me I would. This set me at ease. This was probably my biggest worry about a c-section. I had heard of little babies being taken away, washed and clothed and that all important first hour of attachment being missed out on.
I wanted to know how long it would take. They said about twenty minutes. That really rocked my socks. In twenty minutes my little one would be here.
I was wheeled into the operating theatre and Myles was told to wait outside. They needed to figure out if I was going to be put under general anesthetic or epidural. If the little ones heart rate was too low they would put me under and take her out quickly but if it wasn't too low they could take their time with an epidural. I was hoping they wouldn't need to put me under. I didn't like the thought of going to sleep and waking up with a baby. I didn't want to miss it all. All was well and they could do an epidural. I had spent my whole pregnancy saying I was not going to have one and it was very strange to now have no choice in the matter or even to prefer an epidural.
The theatre was a busy place. There were probably about ten people in there all with a different job to do. They were all rushing round getting ready. Someone was attaching cords to me and putting my finger in a heart rate monitor. Someone was preparing the place they would put our little girl when she came out. Doctors were prepping their instruments. The anesthetist was getting her stuff ready. It was all really surreal. I had well and truly surrendered my body and my birth to medicine. I had done all I could in the nine months of growing this little girl and could do no more. These people would help me the rest of the way. I was completely out of control. I should have been freaking out but back came that feeling of peace. I really think that God was carrying and sustaining me through the whole process. My whole world had been turned upside down but I just sat there and let them go ahead. All I could think about was that the little one would be here soon and she would be ok. That was all that mattered.
Myles was still not allowed in. I think they thought it would be too much for him. I really really wanted him there to hold my hand. I looked around for a familiar face in the crowd. I spotted Kelly, the one person in the room I had seen before. The anesthetist was telling me about the epidural. She asked me to sit up on the side of the bed. I remember when they told us about how they do epidurals in birth classes and I was completely put off but in actual fact it was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Kelly came over and started talking me through it. They put in a local anesthetic to numb the area and then in went the needle. Kelly held my hand and I squeezed it tight. It didn't really hurt but it's not a nice idea to think of a needle going into your spine to numb your body. She was a real life saver.
When the epidural was in they laid me down. Someone said they needed to put a catheter in (oh boy). I asked for Myles. The anesthetist told me that it was a "lady" thing and that he wouldn't like to see the catheter go in. I thought differently. He is my husband I was sure he wouldn't mind but I wasn't in an arguing mood. My body had started to numb. The anesthetist put some ice on my face and then at different spots on my body to see if the epidural was working. Each time she put the ice higher and higher and each time I could feel it less and less. The feeling wasn't gone it was just numb. I couldn't feel my toes at all but higher up it was just very tingly. When it was numb right up to my chest they were all set to begin. I had begun to shiver. I don't know if it was nerves or the cool room or the medicine pumping through my body but I was shivering badly. I felt drowsy and pretty out of it. They put up a screen in front of my face so I couldn't see what was going on and I guess so they couldn't see me either. I was glad for that.
Suddenly Myles was at my side. He was a sight for sore eyes. I was so happy he was there. I held his hand tightly. When I talked to him my voice shivered. I don't know what he was thinking at the time but he just smiled at me and made me feel calm. Just before I was wheeled away I told Myles that I thought we would need to sing our way through the surgery. We had talked about singing in labour before. It seemed like a nice way to vocalise pain and get through the contractions. There were no longer any contractions but it seemed a nice way to forget that people were chopping me up.
So we sang. As I lay there alone the song "Indescribable" had come into my mind so we sang that. Then we sung "Jesus Paid it All," our little girls favourite song. It did indeed feel like washing up in my tummy. I could feel pressure and movement but no pain. I didn't want to think about what was going on behind the screen. I just wanted to sing, stare into the eyes of my husband and wait for that beautiful little cry.
We finished those songs and she still wasn't out so on we went to "Mighty to Save." It wasn't the worlds best rendition. My voice was shaky and soft. But it was heartfelt.
Saviour, He can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save He is mighty to save
Forever, Author of Salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave.
Myles eyes started to water. I could see he looked so sad. I asked him what was wrong and he told me he just didn't like that I was being all cut up. I held his hand tightly and told him it was ok. That God was looking after us and our little girl would be there soon. Fancy that, a woman lying on a table with her guts hanging out consoling someone else. But that's how life rolls sometimes I guess.
We sang another chorus and remembered how good our God is. Singing those words we heard the doctor tell us our little girl was out. It was 4:18 am. We waited to hear her cry. It didn't come for what seemed like an eternity and then there it was. For the first time the voice of this precious little girl I had carried for so long. The voice I had waited so long to hear. The voice I had imagined hearing. I was filled with love. I couldn't see her, I could only hear her voice but Oh how I loved her. My little girl.
They asked Myles if he wanted to cut her cord and so he went and did that. I asked to hold her and feed her. They said she would be there soon. Another eternity passed and there was my little girl all bundled up in a blanket. She had the biggest, bluest eyes. She had such a sweet little face. She was so small and so new and so beautiful. She was just looking at us. She wasn't crying just looking. I only had one free arm. The other was having drugs pumped into it. I reached out to hold her. I lent in to kiss her and felt her soft skin on my lips. I looked at Myl and looked at her. We held her and talked to her and kissed each other. I wanted to so much to hold her properly but I was still all cut open. They needed to sew me up. She was so hungry. Her little mouth kept opening and she was making sucking noises. It was very sweet and I kept asking when I wold be able to feed her. They told me would after we left theatre. I kept thinking about that crucial first hour but there was not a lot I could do.
When they had finished putting me back together I was put onto a different trolley. My little girl was taken away with Myl. I was still all numb and I will never forget the sensation of being moved from the operating table to the trolley. My body felt like a plank of wood. I was rocked over and lifted up and couldn't feel a thing. I was wheeled into the recovery room with Myl and our little girl following closely behind.
Someone was telling me about pain relief, someone was checking out my scar, someone took my blood pressure and temperature but I wasn't really paying attention. My body was still property of the medical profession but my mind was thinking about my new little girl. I wanted to see her again. Finally after they had done their stuff she came over for her very first feed. She was so hungry! I don't really remember how well it went. I think we did ok. It was just so nice to hold my little girl on my chest, cuddle her and smell her sweet baby smell.
They wheeled us up to the post-natal ward. I got to keep our little one on my chest for the ride. It was so nice. They wheeled us along the corridors and I was amazed to be wheeled into a single room. In classes they told us how unlikely we were to get one, that they usually saved them for people with problematic births. What I didn't realise at the time was that hey, emergency c-section = problematic birth. We got into the room and got settled in. Word had been sent to my poor mum waiting still in the labour ward and she would be arriving soon. I cuddled my little bundle and the midwives came in to do obs. Mum arrived and met her granddaughter. She was pretty pleased even though she missed out on the actual birth. She gave dad a call to tell him the news. He said he would be down after work. It was about 6am. We had been awake all night. Mum took our car home and went for a sleep. We had a sleep in our room. There was a pull out bed for Myl. I held my little girl on my chest while I slept. It was the nicest feeling.
Our little girl had arrived. She was safe and well. A little hungry but otherwise just dandy. The whole thing was less of a birth and more of a medical procedure but in the end we had our little girl out with us in the world and that is all that matters. The experience wasn't about what Myles or I wanted but about what needed to happen to bring Lucy to us. It was an incredibly humbling moment when I realised that. Our birth story went pretty much completely the opposite of how we "wanted" it to go except on one point. Our little girl is here and after that crazy birth adventure the real adventure began!