Even before I became pregnant, I knew I wanted a scheduled C-section. Prior to that, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever have a baby at all. I knew I wanted a family. But I didn’t think about pregnancy and birth as my way to having a family until I met my husband. See, I’m adopted, and I was lucky enough to grow up with “sisters” from around the world through exchange students. So for me, how you become a family hasn’t always meant by pregnancy or birth.
My husband and I found out I was pregnant just over two years ago (the day before we left for vacation in Las Vegas — not the same type of trip we were planning on, but it was still fun). From our first appointment with our OB, I mentioned that I wanted to have a C-section. Family members had commented to me that it wasn’t allowed or couldn’t be done. Others would refer to the “incredible act” that my body was going to perform. I’d smile and nod, and in my head say, “Nope.”
I was able to choose to have a scheduled C-section with the note that if I ever changed my mind in favor of a more traditional birth, that would be OK. In nine months, it didn’t cross my mind. I get it — childbirth is a miracle, it’s a blessing to be able to do it, and some women dream of it.
But it wasn’t my dream.
My husband and I had everything packed and ready to go for our scheduled appointment at 8 a.m. We had to be at the hospital early for check-in, so we were in bed relatively early the night before. The toughest part about preparing for surgery was the ban on water for the 12 hours pre-surgery. As someone who drank a lot of water before being pregnant — and continued to drink water like a camel during pregnancy (because every piece of pregnancy advice stresses hydration even though it makes you pee even more) — it was tough.
When we checked in to the hospital, our wedding song was playing in the lobby. Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” is not something you hear on the radio very often, so we both smiled and took it as a good omen. Upstairs in anesthesia, we all had a good laugh when the anesthesiologist equated the pain I’d feel to a bee sting, because I’ve never been stung by a bee.
One thing I was not prepared for — despite everything I’d read or heard about C-sections — was how exposed I’d be during surgery. You’re basically naked, for all to see, and I was very aware of every time the door opened during my surgery because I could feel a breeze. I’d also expected I’d be able to keep my husband north of the curtain, but this failed when it came time for him to see our son for the first time and cut the umbilical cord, since he had to walk through what I assume looked like a massacre.
At 8:42 a.m., Jackson Walker Medlin was born — 8 pounds and 11 ounces, a full head of hair. Perfectly healthy.
While I recovered, the grandparents and great-grandparents visited. We enjoyed our first few hours with our new little one, praying all our pep talks to him in the womb to be a good baby would pay off (so far, fingers crossed, they have).
By late afternoon, I had zero energy. I figured exhaustion was part of giving birth, but this felt extreme. Then, while trying to feed Jackson, I felt a sharp pain in my right shoulder. I struggled to hold him and page the nurse or pick up my cell phone at the same time. When I reached the nurse, she seemed unphased by my issue and said it was probably gas pain.
I finished feeding the baby, and the pain passed. More visitors came and went, and I fell asleep from the exhaustion. The pain and exhaustion continued through the night, and I fell asleep again while my husband watched Villanova win the NCAA championship with Jackson sleeping between us. I woke up hungry, so Johnny went down the hall to make a bagel while our nurse was in the room to check in.
And then everything went dark. When I came to, there were a dozen people in my room. I’d had a seizure.
My husband recalls walking toward the room and seeing the nurse run to hit the emergency button. He was traumatized. I felt confused because I couldn’t remember what had just happened.
Jackson, thankfully, was moved to the nursery. The next few hours involved a combination of MRI scans and being hooked up to different machines while trying to describe my pain. Until the doctors decided to do a second emergency surgery, they were still referring to my pain as “residual gas pain.” Also, I was again not allowed to drink water though I was parched. I distinctly remember asking for water and getting a nod that it was coming, and then 45 minutes later I was offered a small sponge lollipop with a dab of water on it.
I only remember being frustrated and thirsty. My husband recalls me making jokes before going into surgery. But, to this day, I don’t remember much about what was happening. The entire night was a blur. I do know my husband was more scared than I was because he couldn’t do anything to help.
The doctors said it was an uncommon occurrence. When they had closed me up after my C-section, everything was “dry.” But a bleed caused my abdomen to fill up with blood. Then, because my blood pressure dropped, I had a seizure. I received three bags of blood. (At one of the final OB appointments during pregnancy, the doctor typically has patients sign a blood transfusion form — just in case).
I woke up the next morning in the critical care unit. And I had to spend the day apart from my new baby.
It was frustrating to not see Jackson as much as we expected to on his second day of life. But I knew he was receiving the best care possible in the nursery. And I knew I needed to make sure I was going to be OK so we could go home together. We were very lucky to have had such attentive nurses watching over our baby and checking in on us!
I’ve been told my actual C-section was normal, and if we want more children it wouldn’t be an issue. But I think we’re one and done. Jackson’s birth did not go exactly as planned. But his birth day will forever be one of the happiest and most traumatic days of our lives!