On August 23, I got two things I have been wishing for a very long time — (1) to give birth to a healthy baby girl; and (2) to have an uneventful birth.
At midnight, I had my last watermelon bite and readied myself for bed. I was scheduled for an 11am c-section and was given strict instructions not to eat or drink anything after midnight. It seemed like a rather arbitrary deadline but I wasn’t going to let anything jeopardize my surgery. I went to bed full of excitement for the first time since I became pregnant. I couldn’t believe that my baby and I made it this far. 38 weeks in the womb! It felt like a miracle. After all, the odds were stacked against me.
All lupus pregnancies are considered high risk, and about 50% of these pregnancies end in premature births due to lupus complications. Approximately 20-30% of pregnant women with lupus will experience preeclampsia. In fact, with my first baby, I had preeclampsia and gave birth to my son 7 weeks early via an emergency c-section. Add to that my advanced age (39 years old) and my history of organ involving lupus flares; and I was a wreck throughout my pregnancy. So I was beyond excited that this pregnancy was preceding as scheduled.
As instructed, I arrived at the hospital at 9am, two hours before the scheduled surgery. I was checked in, given an IV and was hooked up to a fetal monitor. I was ready!
Unfortunately, there was an emergency c-section and my surgery was being bumped. I took it in stride, what’s another few hours? My husband and I decided to watch a movie (50 First Dates, because who better than Adam Sandler to keep things jovial?) and make the best of the delay. 4 hours later, no word or updates and I was starting to get worried. My biggest concern was that my general condition was deteriorating. I started off the day already fatigued, ill and in pain. With every passing hour, my symptoms were getting worse. I was afraid I would have a bad flare and wouldn’t be able to withstand a surgery. I was getting very upset. After much repeated inquiry to whoever we could get a hold of, we were finally told that we would be going into surgery. I have waited 7 hours without food, water or information on why there was a delay.
By the time they walked me into the OR and had me sit on the edge of the bed for my epidural, I was so upset that I couldn’t talk. I sat with my back arched, waiting for the needle, with tears rolling down my cheeks. I felt so weak and sick, and I was scared about how I was going to survive the surgery. Emotionally, I was a mess. I stated the morning with such excitement but the gross delay killed my spirits. Instead of being excited about meeting my daughter, I was just upset.
Of all people, my anesthesiologist turned things around for me. I don’t remember his name or what he looked liked but I remembered how upbeat and empathetic he was. He noticed my tears, asked the right amount of questions and got me excited about the process again. He also held my hand as the anesthesia started to warm my body.
Soon, the anesthesiologist blended to the background as my husband took a seat by my head and held onto my hand. A curtain was put up so I couldn’t see the surgery and my OB got started. Things moved fast. I was laying naked on a cold OR table with my arms and legs spread out. I remember how warm I felt. How bright the lights in the room was. How busy the room seemed with all the doctors and nurses busy at work. I was fully conscious and followed along with what the OB was saying.
There was some tugging and soon I heard the OB laughing. My baby girl had grabbed the OB’s tool as she was coming out of the womb. There were delighted laughter by all and it was soon joined by the baby’s strong cry. I remember the excitement as the nurses quickly took the baby, wiped her clean, put on a hat and cut the umbilical cord. I squeezed my husband’s hand and asked if the baby is healthy. He beamed and replied with a resounding yes. The nurse brought the baby over and told me the baby looked just like me! I was able to put her against my cheeks, touch her for the first time. I couldn’t stop crying. I was so overwhelmed with happiness! And even during that crazy time, the fact that I was able to touch my baby right away was not lost on me. With my first baby, since he was a preemie, he was wheeled away to the NICU before I even got to see him.
After a few minutes, my baby and husband were led to a different room while I was being stitched up. I was suddenly experiencing some side affects of the anesthesia. I felt extremely dizzy and nauseous resulting in vomiting multiple times in the OR. After the OB was done, I was wheeled to the recovery room where I spent a few hours in a dizzy haze with vomiting fits. I was in and out of consciousness with a mix of familiar beeping machine noises and the sound of my husband cooing over the baby.
The nausea subdued with time and I wa wallowed some ice chips which I greedily ate. I was then asked if I can wiggle my feet and legs. This was the test I had to pass before I was allowed to go to my room and meet my baby. My legs felt heavy but soon, the tingling sensation came back and I was able to move my feet and legs a little. Enough for me to be moved to my hospital room. They wheeled me there but I had to move myself to the bed, which proves to be an excruciating exercise with a fresh c-section wound.
Somehow I got there and when I was settled into my bed, the nurse brought my baby girl Callie, just a few hours old. She immediately found my breast and latched on. She fed hungrily and I bawled. I just couldn’t stop myself from comparing this to my first birth where I had to wait a day to walk down to the NICU to see my son. He was in the incubator for 15 days. I could not hold him, let alone breastfeed him, for a few days.
If my first baby was a miracle baby, this second felt like my redemption baby. Each of them have their own story. I held her tightly as I can and just reveled in how lucky I felt to get a second chance at this. And I am grateful at how “uneventful” this birth story is.