Welcoming Heidi Rose Pt. 2 (Our Breech C- Section)

Saturday, July 25, 2020

The morning of our planned c-section was really calm. We were told to arrive at the hospital by 6:30AM, so around 4:30, we woke up, started getting ourselves ready. We had time to each shower, pack any last minute things, and get ourselves to the hospital. Spenser was able to  get himself breakfast and coffee (I wasn't allowed to eat pre-surgery). We had the most beautiful sunrise on the way to the hospital and had the most surreal feeling knowing we were going to meet our daughter within hours. At first we didn't know how we felt about having a planned birth, but it ended up feeling like Christmas day! We were so full of excitement (and a few nerves), and felt so ready to meet our girl. 


When we arrived at the hospital, they got us into a pre-op room, took some blood work, and started doing team introductions. We met the anesthesiologist, the nurses, the OB (who we had chosen ahead of time from our practice) and each one of them walked us through what their role would be during our surgery. The nurses were 10/10 at Wake Med Cary. Every single one of them checked with me to see how I was feeling, if there was anything they could do for us, and if there was anything important to me about our birth. I told them that the only thing I REALLY wanted (aside from a healthy/happy baby!) was audio recording of her first cry. I had been working on a video project my entire pregnancy and really wanted to be able to hear her first cry to finish it off.

Right around our surgery time, they put me in a wheel chair and walked us back to the operating room. Spenser scrubbed into his surgical outfit, and I got my surgical cap on. They took me back alone to administer the spinal block. Honestly, I didn't have any discomfort with the anesthesia at all! I felt a small amount of pressure, and then my legs felt warm. Pretty quickly after it was administered they had me climb up on the bed and as I was doing it I started feeling my lower half go numb. Within 5 minutes, I couldn't feel anything -- a weird sensation in itself! They hung the surgical drape and Spenser came in to sit by my head. He turned on his audio recording at that point and listening back, I must have been nervous because I wouldn't stop talking! I was so chatty with the nurses and kept asking questions/cracking jokes. I don't remember doing it but I was feeling a lot of adrenaline so I'm not surprised! 

Right before surgery started I realized I hadn't "said goodbye" to my belly. I had been rubbing Heidi's head under my ribs for weeks, so I reached down to give her one last "pat" goodbye before meeting earthside.... didn't even realize I was breaking the sterile field. Oops. They had to re-scrub me and re-sterilize. My bad! 

Once the surgery started, they allowed us to play some music. Spenser put on my favorite Maggie Rogers station so we couldn't hear the surgery starting and I just started singing along. It was really calm! The anesthesiologist by my head was walking me through what was happening (in not gory details) and at one point she said "Okay honey, they're at the uterus! Babies are usually born about one minute after this, so get ready!" I made sure Spenser had his audio on for the 100th time :) 

A second later I heard our OB say "Oh Margaret, she is really wedged in here! She is complete breech!" I learned later that she was sitting cross -legged in my pelvis, and was wedged so deep that I required an extra wide incision for them to be able to get her out. Our OB reaffirmed our decision not to have the ECV procedure.. there was no way it would have worked! Heidi was stuck and couldn't have turned around even if she wanted to! 

It's funny now seeing her on the outside... her back is always arched in the exact position she was laying in my womb, and she loves to have her legs crossed when she's relaxed! She was happy as she was. 

Because Heidi was so wedged in, she took about 3 minutes to be born and I felt a ton of rocking back and forth. It felt like my whole lower body was going side to side, but I didn't feel much beyond that. I could tell I was being touched, but had no pain. 

Finally, our OB said "She's got hair! She's here!" and we heard this loud little cry and a watery choke. She had taken a big gulp of amniotic fluid on her way out (common with startled c-section babies) and choked a bit. We had elected to have a clear drape so we could see her when she was first born, but because she inhaled water, I didn't get to see her right away. The pediatric team took her and immediately started suctioning her lungs. I can only imagine what Heidi was feeling -- she went from being pregnant to not pregnant in seconds! It must have been so shocking. Spenser was able to go over and take pictures of her and see her, which was so special for him. Finally we got some sustained cries from her, and within 5 minutes of being born they brought her to my chest to have skin to skin. The nurses laid her on my chest and snuggled in the OR for about 20 minutes while they stitched me up. We were able to get her to latch to the breast while we were in the OR, as well! I was overwhelmed with happiness and love, but I'll never forget looking down at her face and saying "oh my gosh, you're real!" She had such a distinct look... her own little face. It was honestly a little hard for me to process! I don't know what I expected, but she didn't look like what I had pictured in my head. It was the strangest feeling meeting a stranger I had known my whole life. I just tried to embrace it and take it all in, take her all in, and open my heart to motherhood! 


Once I was stitched up, the nurses swaddled Heidi and she and Spenser went to wait for me in the recovery room. They ended up having about 25 minutes of together time, just them, which is so, so special. Once I was transferred back to recovery, the three of us cuddled while the nurses monitored my blood pressure and bleeding for about 2 hours. Heidi latched to the breast again, and we began our (really positive) breastfeeding journey. We called family and let them know she was here, and shared her name for the first time! 

We had chosen Heidi's name pretty early on (around January) but hadn't *committed* because we wanted to meet her. Spenser said the name Heidi once going through a list of names and when he said "Heidi Rubin" we both stopped in our tracks. It felt like we knew that person! We kept it to ourselves and had a lot of fun with family guessing her name throughout our pregnancy. Thankfully, as soon as we saw her in the delivery room, we both knew, it was Heidi! Her middle name, Rose, was not what we had expected to name her. I was adamant about using a family name, and even had something monogrammed with it. But when we said it over her, it didn't feel right! Heidi's cousin Ruby had been saying from the beginning of our pregnancy that if it was a girl her name should be Rosie -- when we said Heidi Rose, it just clicked. That's who this sweet little girl is! She had been telling us all along. 

The first four days of Heidi's life we spent in the hospital. You get extra time with a c-section because C-section recovery is no joke. I was told to try and get up and move around as much as possible, as soon as possible, but for me, moving around was walking 5 steps to the bathroom and back. Managing my pain became the entire goal of our hospital stay. Our nursing journey with Heidi was going well, and my milk came in before we left the hospital. The lactation consultants and nurses who came through were all so encouraging and positive about how well we were doing with breastfeeding -- thankfully that hasn't been an issue for us. But, we had the hardest time getting my pain under control. 


It came to a head on the third day when the adrenaline of the birth finally wore off. I woke up with a hot, searing, pain like I was being cut in half. It was so overwhelming I could barely breathe. I was trying to yell for Spenser across the room (he was asleep) but all I could get out was a whisper. I was desperate for pain relief, and we struggled to get the nurse on duty to sympathize. I told her I was at a 12/10 and needed relief immediately. She was insistent on me waiting the 15 minutes until I was "allowed" to have my next dose of pain meds. After that experience, I was more adamant about getting stronger pain meds with each tylenol dosage, but it took a few days to get my pain back under control from that experience. 


During our hospital stay, Spenser truly had to be my hands and feet. I couldn't pick up the baby by myself, I couldn't walk by myself, I couldn't even feed myself. He had to hand me water, feed me, help me go to the bathroom, AND do all of the infant care like diaper and clothing changes because I couldn't. We had hoped to leave the hospital and have a few days home alone as a family of three, and thought that would be doable based on my conversations with other CSection moms, but for us that was impossible. We called my mom on Sunday morning (the day of our discharge) and said "SOS - we need your help, can you come today?" Thankfully, she was in the car within hours and met us at home an hour after we got back. We desperately needed her extra hands so Spenser could focus on taking care of Heidi and my mom could help take care of me. 


I was shocked at how hard it was for me to walk and do basic things after my c-section. I don't know if it's because my incision was so large, or because we let my pain get mismanaged, or if I just had a tough recovery, but my experience didn't sound anything like most of the other women I'd spoken to... Maybe they were sugar coating it when they talked to me haha. They had told me about how they were up and moving around within 3 days, and they would have another c-section again in a heartbeat... All I have to say is, DAMN, you are bad-asses. You couldn't pay me enough money to choose to have another c-section. I will do everything in my power to avoid ever having to go through that recovery again. It's been three weeks and I still can't walk more than 100 yards, lift a laundry basket, unload the dishwasher, or wear normal clothes. I have a lot of incision pain/nerve pain, and fabric touching the skin around my incision is really uncomfortable. I realize no woman gets out of birth unscathed, and vaginal births can be really tough too, but I really would not choose to endure this again. 

After the first five days, things started to get better. I was moving around a bit more, but Heidi had started cluster feeding to bring in my milk and it was exhausting my body. We had a really scary night where my blood pressure spiked to 165/110 and we thought I may have been preeclamptic. After a sleepless night, we gathered up our 6 day old baby and went to the ER at 2AM. When we got there, they told me Heidi could not stay - It wasn't safe because of Covid-19. I lost my mind! We were exclusively breastfeeding, and if they weren't going to send us back to the postpartum floor, I realized I was about to be admitted to the hospital and separated from my daughter -- potentially for days. I was so scared about how she would eat - we had not brought a pump nor did we have formula. I was texting Spenser that he may need to go find a 24 hour grocery store to buy formula, or get home and thaw some donor milk we had, because Heidi would need to eat imminently. Somehow, this angel baby went 3.5 hours without food, and slept the entire time. She was completely fine, but I was terrified. While we were at the ER, my blood pressure eventually came down. It was still high for me, but no longer at dangerous levels, so I decided (with the guidance of my OB) to self discharge and visit my doctor first thing in the morning. By the next morning, my BP was 118/75... we think my body may have just had a stress response to cluster feeding but thank God I was not preeclamptic! 

For both Spenser and I, that was the worst day of our postpartum journey. It was SO scary thinking that something was wrong with me, that we may be separated, that he may have to care for Heidi alone (for days!?) if I was admitted, and just going to the hospital emergency room during a viral pandemic was alarming in itself. We had spent months avoiding people and places to protect our baby, and here she was in the waiting room of an ER at 6 days old. It was not fun. Thankfully, we are all ok and we were able to regroup and things got better from there. 

Heidi has been an amazing feeder and sleeper. She nursed at the breast without issue from Day 1, and continues to be a champ nurser. Not only that, but she's an awesome sleeper. I knock on wood saying that, but we've been getting 2.5-3.5 hour stretches of sleep from her since the beginning and it's made the newborn days a lot easier for us all. 

I have done my best to separate our postpartum recovery from the surgical recovery when I think about Heidi's birth. Postpartum wise, things have been so much better than I expected. Nursing hasn't been a challenge, sleep deprivation hasn't been that bad, and my mood was SO much more stable than I had expected it to be! The surgical recovery sucked, though. I would never choose to walk that path again if I didn't have to. The pain was really challenging and the limited mobility I still have is very frustrating. I realize that three weeks is not a lot of time, and I'm giving myself grace, but for me, it feels like a big shift. I mean, I painted my kitchen cabinets at 38 weeks pregnant... what do you expect!? I don't know how to sit still! 

While I'm having to flex extra patience about my recovery, we are truly loving being a family of three. Heidi is changing every single day, and becoming more and more alert. I definitely see what people mean when they say "babies don't keep." I miss my squishy little newborn from the hospital, but I love seeing her eyes lock with mine and watch her tracking things around the room. Mothering her is truly a dream come true for me, and I'm doing really well at focusing on the things I love about motherhood. There are days it's stressful (I don't love being screamed at by my tiny 8lb boss) but for the most part, I can barely remember life without her and pray to God I never have to know it. 

Next week will be one month with our Heidi-girl and I cannot believe how fast it's gone! I am so excited for all of my sweet friends who will be having their babies in the coming months... you're going on amazing journey. 

That is Heidi's birth story in a nut shell! If you ever want to talk about  c-section or breech babies, I'd love to talk with you and share my experience/hear yours. Since the pandemic has taken away my physical "village" I have been finding so much comfort and companionship from other moms online. You truly can't walk this journey alone, so I hope that sharing our story with Heidi's birth will connect with you if you are a mom on a similar path! 

Here's the video I put together of sweet Heidi's pregnancy and birthday! 

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