If you missed the first part of Sela’s birth story, a pandemic birth story, be sure to click here and read this first.
I was the first one to bring it up – “If that doesn’t work, we’ll have to do a C-section?”
The Pushing Continues
The answer was yes, if I continued to push but the baby’s head didn’t come down in the right position, a C-section was a possibility. But in the same breath he assured me that was no one’s first choice, and that we weren’t in any immediate danger, I could continue to push.
I think it was about 10:30pm and I had been pushing for two hours. I felt somewhat energized by all this talk of a C-section and gathered a second wind. I did not want a C-section, I wanted to push this baby with a head full of hair out of my body before midnight.
That was my goal, have this baby before midnight!
I pushed energetically for another hour, and then like a switch went off between one contraction and the next, I hit a wall. My blood pressure dropped, the baby’s heart rate dropped, things got a scary again, and the doctor’s tone changed.
He said, “You’re pushing really well, but the position of the baby’s head is making it extremely difficult to get down and under your pubic bone. If the baby’s heart rate keeps dropping the way it is, and I can’t get the vacuum on to assist, it could result in an emergency situation. It’s up to you if you’d like to try for a little longer, we can keep going if you want, but if the baby’s heart rate drops that low again we need to consider other options.”
I knew he meant option, singular, there was only one. I sat with that for a minute. Actually, less than a minute. I looked at Matt and said, “I’m done. I can’t keep going. I’d rather throw in the towel now and have time to get ready for surgery than keep pushing and risk it becoming an emergency. I don’t want to have to go under general anesthesia, I don’t want you to miss the birth of our child.”
C-Section Became THE Option
It took me less than a minute to reach the decision, and even less time to be at peace with it. I was so done. I had hit my physical limit and exhausted all my reserves. I knew that if I kept going I was not only risking missing the birth of my child, but also the safety of my child. Matt nodded, and then I looked at the doctor and said, “I’m done. I don’t want to risk it.”
He agreed with me that it was a good decision. I had zero reservations. I didn’t feel like I had failed. I was not sad. I didn’t feel betrayed or pressured. I was honestly so incredibly relieved.
The nurses laid me back down and made me comfortable. It would be about an hour before the OR would be ready. In the meantime they began prepping me for surgery. The clock struck midnight and we knew we’d be having a Saint Patrick’s Day baby.
Finally, at around 12:30am they wheeled me back to the operating room. I was shaking uncontrollably, but I wasn’t cold. My teeth were chattering so loudly, I was worried I might do actual damage to my crown. Pat the anesthesiologist came in to administer my epidural again, and although I didn’t recognize her face, I did recognize her voice. Sweet voice of an angel, that pain relieving goddess. Pat distracted me while the OR buzzed with activity around me.
At one point, I heard the nurse say, “Is that low enough, or should I take care of that?” She was referring to my pubic hair. Hey, I hadn’t planned for this! I cleaned up, you know, like *down* there, but I paid no mind to the top. That’s when I heard clippers buzzing. That nurse took care of it, alright.
I realized days later she basically gave me a pubic mullet, like super short on top, little longer down below. How low did she think my bikini line was?!
There was a bunch of activity below the drape after that, and I started to panic a little because I could feel things. I told Pat, who was up by my head, “Um, is it normal to feel things, should I be feeling things, I feel things!” To which she replied, “What do you feel, honey? They made the incision a few minutes ago.” I don’t know what I thought I felt, but I definitely did not feel the incision, so I figured it was probably safe to say I was numb enough.
Then Matt got to come in, he was decked out in full OR garb that was all way too small for him because he is 6’8″. I feel like thirty minutes passed, but it was closer to three minutes before they said, “Alright Dad, do you want to announce the gender or should we?” Matt said he would do it, and they told him to get ready.
“Okay Dad, you can stand up and take a look.”
Side note – I have never seen Matt around immense amounts of blood or anything surgical, but I know he hates needles. A tiny part of me was legitimately worried he might be the giant man that faints in the OR at the sight of his partner being cut open. He did not.
He stood up and leaned closer to the drape and said, “It’s… a… …. … is that a… it’s a… (OHMYGOD WHAT IS IT?!)… it’s a girl? It’s a girl!”
And at 1:01am on March 17th, 2020, Sela Markie Mandrella was born.
She let the world know it right away by letting out a big, screechy baby squawk (I have since learned that particular cry is reserved for when she is truly pissed off). I looked at Matt and his glasses were fogging up. He was crying, and I was crying, and Sela was crying.
They took her to the isolette, and I think collectively the entire OR staff made some kind of remark about how big she was, but all I could hear was her crying, and the only thing I could see as I strained my neck to look over my shoulder at the isolette was her two giant feet sticking straight up in the air.
My god, those tiny, giant feet. 9 lbs, 3 oz, and 21″ long. Man, am I glad that did not exit my vagina.
They wrapped her up and handed her to Matt, she was still crying her screechy, squawky baby cry. He turned her head toward my head, and what happened next I knew to be aware of after listening to one particular birth story.
She was crying loudly as Matt put her face near mine and then I said her name for the first time. When she heard my voice, she stopped crying immediately. I said it again and she opened her eyes wide. She knew my voice.
I wanted desperately to hold her, but I was shaking so badly I was scared I would drop her. So Matt held her while they finished putting me back together. It felt like an eternity. Finally we left the OR, Sela in her isolette, me on my gurney, and Matt by my side, at 2am.
I have never been so exhausted and so wired at the same time, or so damn thirsty.
After the nurses helped me sit up in bed, I got to hold Sela for the first time back in our delivery room. I was still shaking a bit, my teeth were still chattering, but we were both wide awake. We did skin to skin for about an hour and she eventually latched for a few minutes. She fell asleep, and as exhausted as I was, I couldn’t take my eyes off her.
Poor Matt could have fallen asleep standing up at that point, and he was drifting in and out in the chair that was way too small for him next to my bed. Eventually a nurse from the mother-baby floor came to our room. Since I couldn’t stand up, Matt stood with Sela across the room while this nurse went over what felt like 8 hours of instruction, paper work, tests, pamphlets, and she might have recited the entire dictionary, I lost track.
This woman was in zero rush, and droned on at a snail’s pace in a monotone voice while Matt and I struggled to keep our eyes open. It took forever. I’ll talk more about it in a follow up post, but this was the beginning of a not so enjoyable postpartum stay in the hospital.
It was 6:30am before we were finally settled in our recovery room and able to fall asleep. I had not slept more than three hours in two days, I had not eaten a crumb in over 36 hours, I had labored for 14 hours and pushed for three, and I had been cut open while I was wide awake and could feel nothing below my belly button.
And yet, here I was, looking at my daughter in her bassinet, listening to Matt snore from across the room, and I was happier than I had ever been.
Stay tuned for the rest of the story. I’ll be back to share more about my postpartum recovery soon.