A Drop In My Ocean
My emergency C-section
I’ve always been quite the strange one when it comes to veins, blood and injections. Since I can remember, and to this day, I can’t touch (and prefer not to look at) the blue veins on the inside of my wrists. From my very first school injection, to that blood test to confirm a pregnancy, I have fainted every time that needle goes in. Heck, when someone ELSE even just talks about their own experience of veins or needles, I can feel myself slowly slipping away and have learnt to quickly pull myself together. Why am I telling you this? I don’t really know. I started writing this to attempt to describe the traumatic events of an emergency caesarian one year ago, but feel like these fears somehow justify, or rather, better explain why the whole experience was nothing but horrific for me.
My third pregnancy was very similar to my first two, in fact, probably even better. Totally healthy, not much nausea, and only about 6kgs of weight-gain.
After being induced twice before, both times delivering naturally with an epidural, I was determined for this birth, my last birth, to go for gold. I was going to wait until my waters broke, and experience the full shebang of childbirth, no painkillers. I was ready. I spent the last 3 weeks of this pregnancy watching back-to-back episodes of the British reality program “Birth Stories”, and loved every minute. I was living every situation with those women from my couch. Every scream, every tear, every water birth, every almost-giving-birth-in-the-car-park, I was there – and my excitement only grew.
3 days before my due date, I went for my final check-up. I had a horrible feeling in my deepest gut that something was about to happen, when I was left on the baby heart monitor for WAY longer than normal, as if the nurses kept me lying there, tummy strapped with the monitor, hoping for the results to change soon.
But after 30 minutes, nothing changed, and the gynae was called in. From there on, things got flustered and fast. She calmly, but not calmly, told me to come in to the office for a quick scan and a blood-pressure reading. Within 5 minutes, her gloves came off (literally), she put her hand on my shoulder, and said “Your baby is not happy, and we need to get her out…now.”
After much pleading, begging and crying, I was sternly convinced to make my way to the maternity ward, that they will be ready and waiting for me to go in for a caesar. A caesar? Me? You mean, needles, a drip, an epidural, and you want to CUT ME OPEN? I cried and cried, and walked in slow motion to the car.
Fast-forward to the operating table. Everything was a blur. It felt very strange to be panicking, but not to be running anywhere. Just sitting there, on the cold table, waiting for the anesthetist. When she finally arrived, it was time for the drip to go into my hand. Into a big, blue vein. I was petrified, and yes, during the process, while the anesthetist started prodding my spine with her finger, I passed out. Stone cold. And when I woke up, it wasn’t a nightmare, it was real, and the prodding continued. The rest of the procedure was nothing I was prepared for. I was completely terrified and felt like I left the room when I felt the sensation of being cut open. The tugging and pulling made me want to vomit, and all I could do was cry.
The best way to describe my overwhelming emotion at the time brings a feeling of guilt now, because this, after all, was the beautiful act of bringing a child into the world. But I’m going to say it anyway. I felt violated. I felt like I gave no-one permission to cut me open. I felt like a victim. This feeling was worse than my worse nightmare.
I just closed my eyes, and waited for it all to be over. When I finally heard a baby cry, I was relieved, but still not happy. I was in total shock. It wasn’t a nice feeling to not be thrilled when they brought this perfect bundle to my face to breathe her in. I just asked them to take her away, and assured them that I would look at her a bit later.
I am well aware that ladies have c-sections every day and some, in fact most moms I know, choose to have a c-section. I know for a fact that the procedure is even a happy one for most who choose a caesar. So I am aware that I am not special, and I am definitely no victim. In fact, this decision by my gynae actually saved my baby’s life, and it turns out that I was suffering from preeclampsia. The baby was highly distressed and after delivery, she told me that the baby had passed a stool in the womb, and the placenta had started to disintegrate. My terrible, traumatic experience was the only way for my baby to arrive quickly and safely.
During my 3 days in hospital, I would have occasional bouts of involuntary weeping when I was alone, but didn’t think much of it. When my perfect little Ava was with me, I was happy, I was besotted, and I was satisfied. But when I was alone, I felt very sad.
At home, with 2 children, a newborn, and a very sore body, there wasn’t much time for processing anything. I was just living from one feed to the next! Days went by, then weeks, then months, and I was in auto-mode. Eventually, after 12 weeks, I went back to work. But I was different. I was nervous, and fearful. I was always in a hurry, and felt like I always had butterflies in my tummy. The fear was a strange thing, and very unlike me. I would sit up in the still of the night, to keep checking on my husband, to make sure he is alive and hadn’t died in his sleep. What? Who does that? Why?
I started to feel like I wasn’t coping with life in general, and for those who know me, know that I am a coper! I always have lots on the go, and I’m always calm and get things done with a relative amount of ease. But now, it was different. Everything in my life started to feel too much, until one night, I sat next to my husband and started opening up about how I felt. For the first time ever in my life, I was using the word “anxious” to describe how I was feeling. I cried to him, trying to explain how I felt. I described it as the feeling of drowning. I told him that I was drowning, and that I can’t get my head above the water. It was then, when both he and I realized that something was wrong.
By now, Ava was already 5 months old, life had gone on, but something was not right.
A few months prior to this, I had sat with a friend who was sharing her personal experience of post-partum depression with me, and her honesty meant so much to me. I casually mentioned to her that after 2 months of having Ava, I still couldn’t look at my c-section cut, like I couldn’t face it. She said that it sounds like I should go talk to someone, but I just smiled and nodded, never thinking it would get to that. And now, 3 months later, I still couldn’t look at my cut, and I felt like I was drowning. It was time to take action. So I phoned the same friend, and asked her for the name of the lady who was helping her in her journey. And then I did it. I phoned, I made an appointment, and I went.
I learnt that I hadn’t processed the trauma of that day, the 22nd of April 2016, and so my brain wasn’t able to “file” the experience in the past. My body was still experiencing all the emotions that come with shock, while my mind was trying to carry on with normal life. What a break-through. What a hard realization to come to. But it made sense. I felt like I had been in an accident, and that I couldn’t bring myself to look at the injury, because it was too painful to face. But after opening up, and talking about it, and making peace with it, I slowly but surely made my way above the water, until eventually, I could breathe again, and finally felt like myself again.
Today, it has been one year since that squishy little girl entered the world, screaming her lungs out.
One year since a small pebble of trauma dropped into my ocean and started the ripples of anxiety until God helped me to calm the waters again.
Ava Hope, my sunshine, my joy – I would do all the tears, all the fears, and all the pain over and over again.