In this series we share birth stories of all kinds from mothers around the globe — with the hope that they inspire, educate and inform expecting mothers. Interested in sharing your birth story? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org . Read more birth stories here.
My birth story actually begins well before the 39 weeks I carried my baby. Let me explain. I had 3 miscarriages over the course of 3 years. My doctor at the time chalked up my losses to “bad luck,” as they are all too common. I knew I had fibroids and was worried that they were impacting my pregnancies and decided to try acupuncture to help shrink the fibroids once we settled into our new home in San Francisco. The acupuncturist I was seeing also specializes in Maya Abdominal Massage and after my first massage she immediately encouraged me to go the doctor, as my uterus was “alarmingly enlarged.” I went to my new doctor and she immediately referred me for a surgery consult after seeing multiple large fibroids on the ultrasound. She said she was certain that the fibroids were causing my miscarriages. My husband, Kevin, and I felt a sense of relief knowing that there was something we could do to help our chances of carrying a healthy pregnancy. We went to the surgical consultation and left knowing that having a myomectomy was the best chance we had at having a healthy pregnancy. The surgeon explained that they would perform a surgery like a cesarean section except, instead of removing a baby, they would remove all of the fibroids. Dr. Tan specializes in a robotic surgery method, which is less invasive, but I was not a good candidate for it because of the number and location of my fibroids. After the myomectomy we would have to wait 3 months and then we could try to get pregnant. As a teacher, I decided to wait until the end of the school year since the recovery is about 6 weeks and I didn’t want to miss that much work. She was adamant that it would be too dangerous to have vaginal deliveries after such an invasive surgery. So we knew from the very beginning I would be having a planned c section at 39 weeks to avoid going into labor. While it would not have been the path I would have chosen, the planner in me was comforted to know our baby’s due date and what to expect well in advance. It also allowed us to schedule it for a time when my doctor could perform the c- section. Throughout my pregnancy, I did receive a few negative comments including, “I’m sorry you won’t get to experience birth the way it is supposed to happen.” However, I can honestly say I had a positive experience and am so proud of birthing my daughter.
I started fasting after dinner the night before and tried to sleep, but ended up tossing and turning most of the night. My c-section was scheduled for 9 A.M., so we arrived at the hospital at 7 A.M. as instructed. We kissed our sweet dog goodbye and left the house a little early so we could stop and pick up donuts to give to the nurses. We checked in and they brought us to our delivery room, which in our case was the room where we would spend a few hours after delivery and leading up to the surgery. We had the nicest nurse named Bridget and she immediately made me feel comfortable. I changed into a gown and Bridget inserted the IV and put a monitor on my belly to monitor baby’s heartbeat. Over the course of the next hour, a ton of doctors and nurses came in to introduce themselves and explain what we should expect. There were multiple nurses, an anesthesiologist, my obstetrician and the resident who would be assisting her. When I saw Dr.Cho, I was feeling a little emotional, a mix of excitement, anxiety, and fear. She had been so instrumental in helping us get to this point (she was the Chief Resident for my myomectomy) and my O.B. throughoht the pregnancy. It was so special to us that she would be the one to bring our baby into the world. She also informed me that Dr.Beckerman would be assisting her. This was so special to Kevin and I, as she was one of the resident surgeons who performed my myomectomy and checked-in on us in the days following. At my last prenatal appointment we discussed how we wanted to find out/announce our baby’s gender. We had decided that Dr.Cho would hold up the baby over the curtain and Kevin would say “it’s a…”. That morning at the hospital Dr.Beckerman mentioned that sometimes it is stressful for dads to make the announcement, because if it’s not a boy it isn’t always obvious. Kevin decided to let Dr. Cho make the announcement to play it safe. I was also able to talk to the anesthesiologist about how nauseous I was after my myomectomy and talk about the plan for if I started to feel sick during the surgery. She made me feel so much better and assured me my experience should be different since I was not going under general anesthesia. We signed a bunch of releases, including medical waivers and vaccination preferences for the baby.
Before we knew it, Kevin changed into scrubs and I was moved into the operating room. I was surprised how casual and chatty everyone in the room was. The radio was on in the background; they even asked if I wanted to choose the station. “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” by Justin Timberlake was on when they transferred me to the operating table, which I took to be a good sign. The anesthesiologist explained what to expect and how to arch my back to make it easier, before inserting the spinal block. I didn’t feel a thing, thanks to the numbing. After consulting with the surgical team, they decided to also prepare an epidural in case the surgery took longer, due to my previous surgery and potential scar tissue that would take longer to get through. This freaked me out a little, but they assured me it was just in case the spinal block would start to wear off. Within minutes, I started to lose feeling in my legs and feet. They tested to make sure I was completely numb, inserted a catheter and brought Kevin in before getting started. I was told it would be pretty quick to get the baby out, and the majority of the time would be sewing me back up. Within the first few minutes, I started to sweat and feel nauseous. The anesthesiologist explained that my blood pressure was dropping and she gave me something that made me feel better within a few minutes. One of the nurses brought me a cold washcloth for my neck. Luckily, that was the only negative side effect I experienced. The nurses and anesthesiologist continued to check in with me and make sure I was comfortable throughout the entire procedure. Kevin was great, constantly comforting me and talking to me. About 20 minutes after they started, Dr.Cho told me I would feel some tugging and pressure, as they were ready to take baby out. That is the best way to describe it, I felt some tugging, and it was strange but did not hurt. Before we knew it, the baby was out and the pediatric team took her over to the corner of the room to examine her. We had requested that Dr.Cho delay chord clamping for a little extra time than usual. She was happy to do that since everything was going smoothly. I heard some cries and I remember the pediatrician saying she wanted to hear her cry more. Kevin went over with the pediatric team. I overheard someone say something about there being a problem with the spinal chord and I was so worried. It turns out that baby had a sacral dimple, and everything was ok. At our first pediatrician appointment we learned that it wasn’t even a sacral dimple, it was nothing to worry about. I realized after a few minutes that I did not hear baby’s gender, so I asked. Everyone laughed at me; somehow I missed it. It was a girl! They asked her name and we shared our chosen girl name, Riley. The next thing I knew they were bringing her over for skin to skin. It was the best feeling in the world to hold her and I was so grateful to be able to experience skin to skin right away. Kevin and I both had tears in our eyes; we were in complete awe of how perfect she was. She immediately tried to wiggle her way down to start breastfeeding. I was so amazed at how instinctive that was for her. It took the surgeons about 40 minutes to stitch me back up. They use three layers of sutures and repaired some of my scar from my myomectomy. The anesthesiologist said they should be ok with timing for the spinal block and I did not end up needing the epidural. I was relieved.
We went back to our recovery room for a few hours. Kevin sent out our exciting news via text messages to our family and closest friends. At our hospital, the policy is that the baby stays with the parents for the entire stay, unless there is a medical need for the baby to receive extra care. Kevin wheeled her next to me when we moved up to the maternity wing, where we spent three nights. Riley had her first elevator ride at the young age of 3 hours old. The maternity wing was surprisingly empty and we got lucky and got the “Twins Suite,” a double corner room with beautiful views of the city. Nurses were in and out every few hours, checking on Riley and my vitals. They would also check my pain levels and give me pain medication, as needed. I was surprised that I felt so much better than after my myomectomy. My body reacted a lot better to the spinal block compared to general anesthesia. I wasn’t nauseous and didn’t need too much pain medication. I was on a liquid diet for the first 24 hours and then moved onto bland solids and regular foods. I was up and walking about 10 hours after my surgery. I had heard that the earlier and more frequently you are able to get up and move, the easier the recovery. I was up and moving around as much as possible, doing many loops around the maternity wing. When my catheter was removed I was relieved to know that I had no trouble using the restroom. I was bloated and retained a ton of fluids for about 2 weeks after the surgery, which was slightly uncomfortable. I couldn’t wear normal shoes home from the hospital because my feet were so swollen. Dr.Cho and Dr.Beckerman came to check on me several times during my stay and were happy with how my incision looked. They were able to use the same exact incision as they used from my myomectomy. I was amazed at how many people came in and out throughout the day to check on us. The nurses were amazing and so helpful with breastfeeding. I am convinced that they helped Riley and I establish good habits from the start and that is a big part of the reason that I am still breastfeeding today. I was worried that my milk would not come in because I had a c section, and am happy to report that it wasn’t an issue. There was a team of pediatricians that were in and out throughout our stay as well as lab technicians who came to draw blood and test her hearing.
Kevin and I are both from the East Coast and our families were not scheduled to arrive until they day we got home, so we only had a few friends visit while we were in the hospital. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t have more visitors, but grateful to have a steady stream of family and friends visit us over the summer. By the time we were discharged from the hospital, we were so ready to get home. I wish we had practiced putting a doll or stuffed animal in our car seat. We were stuck in the hospital lobby fumbling with all of the settings, before we finally figured out how to adjust everything so that it fit our little peanut. Kevin was so amazing at keeping me calm and grounded before, during and after the c section. He was a helpful hands-on dad from the very beginning, changing diapers and swaddling when I was stuck in bed recovering. He had to teach me how to change a diaper once we were home from the hospital. I am beyond grateful to have such a loving, kind and supportive partner throughout this beautiful journey. I was also pleasantly surprised at how much easier my recovery was compared to my myomectomy. As Dr.Cho reminded me during my postnatal appointment, “I would hope it would be easier. The first time we had to cut out 17 tumors, one the size of a baseball. That was much more traumatic on your uterus.” I was completely off the pain medication after 5 days at home and I can honestly say I felt pretty much back to normal after a few weeks.