As you will frequently hear, birth never goes as planned. Thankfully, in our case, our birth plan was “whatever is safest”, so we were well-prepared for the unexpected turn my pregnancy took at the end.
This is quite long because I think the more detailed birth stories are the most helpful. Plus it’s fresh in my mind and I might as well document as much as I can right now. So get cozy and enjoy!
On a Tuesday, we went to the doctor for our weekly check-in. After being evaluated, my doctor confirmed I was at 4cm dilated and estimated 75% effaced. I started dilating during Week 36 with constant progress since then, so my doctor informed us we were basically as far as my body was going to go until contractions start. Then came the discussion of inducement. How far past 40 weeks did I want to wait for the baby to decide on its own birthday? Sometimes nature needs a little help and we were totally okay with that due to the immense pain I had been enduring. After some discussion around the possible size of the baby and how healthy everything had been, we decided on the following Saturday, which would put me at exactly 40 weeks.
At the end of the appointment, our doctor also requested we get an ultrasound that week to get an idea of how the baby’s growth and position were doing. I jokingly told her that I didn’t want to because I didn’t want to freak out about the size. Haha!
We went to the check-out desk to make the ultrasound appointment and surprise! They had an opening in fifteen minutes. Why not just get it over with?
We were taken back to the ultrasound room and just as we had done at 32 weeks, reminded the tech that we didn’t want to know the sex of the baby. Hank joked that at this point he kind of wanted to know, and the tech said, “No, no. You don’t get to open the gift on Christmas Eve.” Which I thought was hilarious!
The tech went about her business, checking measurements and position. She very quickly determined the baby was fully breech. Baby’s head was up near my rib cage on the left side. Their butt was right next to my belly button, hanging off to my right side. And their feet? Right up by their ears. The baby almost qualified as transverse again but was at enough of an angle that they were simply breeched.
Then came the measurements. The tech decided to play a little game and had me look away from the screen. She asked me to guess how much I thought the baby weighed. I guessed around 8 lbs. Then she asked Hank to read the weight off the screen, and I could see by the look on his face that my guess was way off. Before he was able to tell me how much, the tech reminded us that the number on the screen was just an estimation, plus or minus a pound. Then Hank told me…. 9 lbs 5 oz.
I’m not going to lie. I freaked out a little bit. I don’t even bowl with bowling balls that heavy! Baby had measured at 5 lbs during our 32 week ultrasound so I knew there was a possibility of having a larger baby. But this… this was a bit much.
The tech then excused herself to go touch base with our doctor. She said she just wanted to make her aware of the measurements to make sure it didn’t change any plans we had regarding inducement. When she returned, she walked us back to an examination room and in came the doctor.
“So, we have a change of plans. You have a big ol’ baby in there who is breech, which is concerning, because you also don’t have very much amniotic fluid left. Even if we wanted to try to flip the baby, [We previously decided we didn’t want to do a doctor-assisted flip.] we wouldn’t be able to. There’s no room. So, we’re actually looking at doing a c-section.”
Basically, as she described the situation to us, we understood that waiting could be fairly dangerous. At that time, we couldn’t confirm why the amniotic fluid was so low. Either I simply wasn’t producing enough and baby was running out of room. Or my water had broken and we didn’t know.
For those who may be confused by that, when a woman’s water breaks, typically, it’s not like it is in the movies. There’s not a giant gush of fluid that throws the entire room into a panic. Often it’s a slow trickle and depending on volume, can go undetected.
The good news was we weren’t in an emergency situation, so Hank and I had time to prepare. I had last eaten at 10:00AM so my doctor was going to try to schedule the procedure as early as 6:00PM. She said her assistant would make the appointment and call me soon to confirm my check-in time at the hospital. In the meantime, we needed to head home to pack our bags.
We were a little shell-shocked. On the drive home, we worked to wrap our heads around the turn the day had taken. We were just talking about picking an induction date but now we’re heading home to prepare for surgery. Crazy! The silver lining was I no longer had to wrap my head around vaginally delivering a 9 lb bowling ball. So… there was that.
We got home and immediately started preparing for the days ahead. Our bags were already packed, but we had to reevaluate knowing we would be facing surgery and a longer stay in the hospital. Our doctor had mentioned they would probably keep us until Friday or Saturday, so we added a few extra supplies.
The call to confirm our surgery came about an hour after we got home. Check-in at the hospital was 4:00PM. The surgery would be, at the earliest, 6:00PM but could be later given other patient needs.
The next few hours were spent cleaning up the house, ensuring the downstairs guest room was set up for postpartum, and prepping Jax to spend the next few days with our friends. During this time, I also wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything – not even water, which was borderline torture. First, it’s summer. Second, I had just been given news that made me really nervous, and I had cotton-mouth like whoa!
Then the time came. We drove to the hospital, both of us much quieter than usual. We had pre-registered with the hospital, so check-in was fast, and then we had to wait for a triage bed to open up.
Around 5:00PM, we were allowed back into triage, where women are assessed and readied for delivery. In our case, I was prepped for surgery.
I was immediately asked to change into a hospital gown and get comfy on the bed. The nurse strapped two monitors on me. One tracked baby’s heart rate. The second tracked any contractions I may be having. My IV was hooked up next with hydration fluids and compression cuffs were loosely wrapped around each calf muscle to stimulate blood flow during and after surgery (prevents blood clots). I then answered a series of questions about my health and pregnancy and signed quite a few forms. Thankfully, the nurse had amazing bedside manner, keeping us laughing and shaking any nerves we had.
An OR nurse came in to explain exactly how the c-section would go from the spinal anesthesia to recovery. Let me tell you – these nurses were thorough. We both felt like we fully understood what to expect and were ready to go. It was game time.
Except… it wasn’t. We were definitely in a “hurry up and wait” situation. Due to the volume of patients and a shift change, the surgery was pushed to 7:30PM. So all we could do is hang out.
The time hanging out was quiet. Hank was worried about me. I was trying hard not to think about it too much. All that kept flashing into my mind was the scene from “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” when Elizabeth Banks’s character flatlined during her c-section. Not the most comforting image to have before the procedure but it’s the only image of a c-section that came to mind. Slightly crazy, but it is what it is.
At one point, the nurse came in to check on me. She took a quick glance at the monitor and asked, “Do you realize you’re having contractions?”
No, no, I did not.
In fact, this has been my biggest worry during the tail end of my pregnancy. For the last two months, I was in so much pain from carrying the baby that I feared not being able to feel the early contractions. Turns out, that fear was well-founded. To me, these contractions felt like nothing more than the baby’s normal movements.
Around 7:15PM, the OR nurse, anesthesiologist, and my doctor came in to complete the final prep for surgery. They recapped the procedure with me and added some medications to my IV. When the time came, because I felt comfortable, I walked to the operating room with the nurse, anesthesiologist, and Hank. Outside the operating room, Hank and I had to part ways until I was fully prepped for surgery.
And that’s when I started to freak out a little.
I’m good with medical procedures – needles, medications, surgery. Very little phases me. But walking into this big white operating room with more machines than I could count, my resolve to be a brave chick totally melted. I hated, literally haaated, having to walk in there without my husband. He had been by my side for my entire pregnancy – every appointment, every uncomfortable moment. It was at this moment that I felt like I needed him most.
The anesthesiologist walked me around the table to the head anesthesiologist who talked me through, again, the spinal anesthesia procedure. He helped me step onto a platform and then sit on the edge of the operating table. I had to lean into him, rounding out my back “like a Halloween cat” to expose my spine to the anesthesiologist on the other side. At this moment, the tears began to fall. I knew what was coming and I knew it was going to hurt.
This is when you see the difference between good and great doctors.
The head anesthesiologist held one hand and then my doctor came over to hold my other one. I don’t remember quite what either one of them said to me, but I know it was enough to feel comforted and slightly distracted while the needle went into my back.
This was also the moment that I was sincerely grateful that the day was working out the way it had. Having my doctor there – the doctor who has gotten me through my entire pregnancy – meant everything to me, especially going into surgery. I know everyone is not as lucky.
So… a spinal anesthesia…hurts like a bitch! To be clear, the local anesthesia is the painful part. To go back, I was sitting on the edge of an operating table, bending forward “like a Halloween cat” to expose my spine and then a needle went in. The needle is not very long but it felt like it was stabbing through my entire body. And then the burn came. A deep, growing burn around the injection site. Now, the pain and burn were short-lived. Honestly, probably only about 30 seconds. A few deep breaths and it was over. But those 30 seconds… wow. After the burn clears, the actual surgery anesthesia was administered but I didn’t feel a thing.
The head anesthesiologist then directed me to turn and lay down on the operating table before my legs couldn’t help anymore. Good thing we moved fast. By the time I pivoted on my butt to put my legs on the table and laid back, I couldn’t feel the lower half of my body anymore.
To be clear, I could still feel sensations in the lower half of my body. I could feel the baby and the pressures around the surgical site. My legs had that awful weighted/restrained feeling that makes you want nothing more than to move them. Everything was still there. Just not registering every touch.
In addition to laying out on the operating table, my arms were splayed out on two extensions to the side (I jokingly called it the “Jesus table”). My left arm was still hooked up to all my IVs. My right arm was wrapped with a blood pressure cuff and heart monitor. I was also given an oxygen line on my nose – you know, juuust in case, and the almighty catheter.
This is when everyone set to work around me. It was a flutter of activity – calling out information regarding tools and stats. There was that fun pause moment when everyone declared what they were all in the room to do. My doctor checked in with me one more time and then the blue tarp was unfolded. The tarp had sticky edges that were attached to my stomach around the surgery site and then was unfolded over the rest of my body and hung up to separate my chest/upper body from the action.
Then the glorious words were spoken, “Here’s dad!”
My husband walked in and for a brief moment, I could see how freaked out he was to see me like this. But, as he does, he quickly changed to a big smile as he sat next to me on my left. With the anesthesiologist on my right, we were all set and ready to go.
Being mentally sound during a surgery is the weirdest experience. Hearing everyone talk and the sounds of tools. Knowing that an operation is happening right there but you can’t see or feel anything.
Well… in theory.
Here’s the thing… above the operating table were these large lights. Huge spaceship looking things. Unfortunately for me, these lights were also…reflective. Perfectly reflective. So reflective I could see the operation happening on the other side of the tarp.
When I realized this, I turned to Hank and said, “I need you to talk to me. About anything. I can see the surgery in the light reflection.”
Apparently, I said that a little loud because I could hear my doctor laugh and say, “I’m so sorry, Jen! You’re too observant.”
So what was my husband’s solution? To open up the MLB app. The San Diego Padres were playing and I got play-by-play updates. “Hunter Renfroe just got a home run.” “Jan-wow-ski just got a hit.” It did the job – I was distracted and it totally made me giggle.
Suddenly, over the tarp came a group “Whoa!” as the amniotic sac was punctured. Turns out, I had a bit more fluid than anticipated and surprised the team.
We were only 15 minutes into the surgery when my doctor called out, “Dad, are you ready to announce baby?”
Hank stood up and looked over the blue tarp. He later told me he was able to see baby getting pulled out. First the legs, then the butt, and then the head. For me, I could feel a release of pressure that is similar to someone sitting on your stomach and then standing up. I just kept staring at Hank, trying to gauge from his expression what the baby was.
Then he looked down at me with a huge smile on his face and announced, “It’s a Cameron!”
We had a boy! A big, healthy, sweet boy who immediately let out a wail. Good to know those pipes were clear and working.
The next moments are what you would expect. A flurry of activity as they took baby Cameron to get cleaned up, weighed, and measured. Hank joined the nursing staff to cut the umbilical cord and assist with whatever else they needed.
Unfortunately, this exciting activity didn’t translate to the person laying out on the table. I did my best to listen to the nurses as they worked with Hank and Cameron but the c-section after birth gets a little weird.
The anesthesiologist warned me ahead of time that once the baby is removed, my body and hormones will start to tailspin. He was not kidding. Within minutes, I started to get a case of the shakes and feel nauseated. Thankfully, there were meds he was able to administer to calm my body down. The drugs are dangerous for baby, which is why they can’t be given preventively, but their effect was almost immediate.
Then I was able to meet my beautiful baby boy. Hank brought Cameron over to sit with me. He was so small and sweet, but my favorite part was watching Hank dote over him.
Special shout out to the anesthesiologist who took Hank’s phone to take pictures for us. Seriously, the best medical team.
We didn’t get long together though – only about five minutes. Then dad and son had to leave the room while my procedure was finished. Left to my own entertainment guess what I did…
Oh, you better believe I watched my doctor finish my surgery in the reflection of the lights. Now that Cameron was safely out of me and I was doing well, my nerves subsided and curiosity took over. How big was the incision? How exactly was I getting put back together? Watching everything get sewn and glued back together was strange but from a medical perspective, pretty cool.
The procedure only took an hour from the moment I walked into the operating room to when they wheeled me out. After being transferred from the operating table to the hospital bed, I was taken into the operating recovery room where Hank and I enjoyed a two hour “magic hour” with Cameron and two nurses. Cameron was carefully monitored to ensure he was making a proper entrance into the world. I was also monitored to ensure my body was coming out of surgery safely, including the reversal of the anesthesia. But the main focus was Hank and I were eased into parenthood with a few extra helping hands.
We stayed in the hospital three days. I’m happy to report that despite how big a pain Cameron was during pregnancy he has been an absolute dream out in the real world. The day after the surgery was the most exhausting – not only because I was transitioning off the anesthesia onto pain medications, but also due to the constant (necessary) interruptions from hospital staff. Whenever I would start to dose off, someone needed something. Cameron needed to be fed. The assistant nurse needed my vitals. The head nurse needed to check my pain levels, incision, and uterus retraction. The pediatrician needed to check Cameron. My doctor checked in on me. There was a shift change and we were introduced to new nurses. Then there were the phone calls, texts, visits, etc. There’s a lot of activity within the first 24 hours, and we were incredibly grateful to get passed it.
By the time we chose to head home, we were comfortable mentally, emotionally, and psychologically. We had amazing nurses who helped us get comfortable being parents quickly. I was up walking laps in the hospital multiple times a day and responding well to all recovery benchmarks. We could have stayed in the hospital one more day but were ready to get our little one home and start our lives together. And it’s been more amazing than we ever dreamed of. Here are a few of our favorite pictures of Cameron’s first days.
And now, for our greatest adventure. Welcome to the world, Cameron. We love you bunches!