I didn't forget about the final installment of Septimus' birth story, but I didn't think anyone out there would notice that I hadn't finished it here on the blog. But some readers asked me if I was ever going to post the end, so I guess I should follow through.
For all those who didn't ask, I pinky-swear promise that this is the end.
And for any poor, unfortunate soul who has just happened upon this blog and has no idea what the what I am talking about, here are the previous mind-numbingly long installments of my 7th baby's birth story. Look, it's not my fault; our family motto is "go big or go home."
As much as I hate to admit it, I've watched many episodes of TLC's "A Baby Story." (Too many, really, but that was way before TLC became the ultimate trash channel of cable.) I also have a husband who delivers babies and who likes to talk shop. I thought I knew what would happen in a c-section.
But as it usually happens in life, the experience of a c-section was much different than how I imagined a c-section would be. It was simultaneously faster and slower than I had imagined. Time was standing still for me, but from the time we made the decision to go through with the surgery to the time Septimus was born was 20 minutes.
I mentioned once to Rob that it seemed like an incredibly fast time between me saying "okay"and the first cut. He just smiled and said, "they had plenty of time. I've seen labors crash and babies out in under 2 minutes."
Well in that case, I'd rather not experience a fast c-section. Maybe it just seemed fast since I'd already been through a whole night of labor. What do I know?
I very clearly remember just focusing on the ceiling of the hospital. I kept my eyes almost unfocused, like a sort of self-induced blindness, because I felt so overwhelmed that I didn't even want to concentrate on people's faces. But I was listening, I was definitely listening.
I knew that the attending surgeon was there and he had an OB resident scrubbing in with him. There were the OR nurses, and my sweet labor nurse who had spent all night with me. There was the anesthesiologist from the night shift and the anesthesiologist who had just come on duty. There was the nursery nurse. And then there was my doctor. She didn't say much, but I could hear them talking with her and I knew she was there.
Rob was still out wherever it is that the dads get dressed and I wanted him desperately. He didn't explain it, but I knew why he was out there. If he had asked, they would have let him in. It's not like he doesn't know what to do or where to stand. But there was an undercurrent in the room that even I could feel: I was the wife of a colleague and it was nerve-wracking for them. Rob wanted them to feel as easy as possible, and that meant being Rob, the Dad and not Rob, the Doctor.
While I waited for Rob, I prayed and listened. That's all I could do. I lost focus of my list of specific intentions during labor, so I just kept thinking, "God, You know who needs this. You know."
They put the blue curtain up to shield me from the operating area, and I remember thinking it was a lot closer to my face than it looks on television. I felt like it was all the way up to my chin, but that was fine. I didn't want to see anyone anyway.
I knew from friends who had had sections that they strap your arms down straight out to the sides. For reasons I'll never know, they just laid my arms down without securing them. Maybe I looked too exhausted to even move (that's certainly how I felt!). Maybe it was the stupid IV placement that saved me from being strapped down.
I could hear everyone talking about what kind of antibiotics they would give me since I'm allergic to penicillin (answer: cefazolin), and how many bags of pitocin I would need post-op (answer: 37, since I've had so many babies that they were sure my uterus would not know what to do with itself once the baby was not there.)
I could feel my body below my neck being uncovered down to my knees. The anesthesiologist had started the drugs through the epidural catheter, and she kept testing my sensitivity with alcohol swabs. She would rub the swab on my skin and ask me if I felt it. Then she would rub the other side of my body and ask if I could feel that. Then she asked if they felt the same. In my overwhelmed state, I truly felt like she was asking me to solve quadratic equations. It felt totally beyond me. I just said, "I don't know. I just still feel it that's all." I'm sure I was supremely helpful.
The combination of powerful drugs, adrenaline, exhaustion, and being mostly uncovered finally took its toll and I started to shake. My whole jaw was chattering and my arms were shaking, but I was familiar with the sensation. It was what usually happened to me right after I delivered the other children. Uncontrollable shaking.
The anesthesiologist brought me warm blankets and draped them over my arms and around my head. It was practically like a spa -- you know, if you didn't count the imminent surgery and the IV and the 82 people in the room.
I could feel the betadine wash being poured and then scrubbed all over my abdomen, and all the while the anesthesiologist was fiddling with the meds. With the drape in front of me and the blanket around my head, I felt cocooned, even though 80% of my body was uncovered.
I could hear the nurses counting the instruments and then I listened to the whole team run through their pre-op action plan. Rob told me it's called a "time out" and it's to make sure they have the right patient and the right procedure. I liked how the surgeon called out the whole plan while everyone agreed; it's a very "Go Team!" moment and it was strangely comforting.
The surgeon asked me if he was hurting me, and I could honestly feel nothing so the anesthesiologist must have gotten the drugs just right. I remember lying there, wondering when they were going to start cutting, only to realize that they had already started.
By this time Rob was sitting on his little perch right by my head, but I could hardly see him because of my head wrap. I knew he was there, though, and that made all the difference. I focused on breathing and praying.
It was actually amazing to hear the surgeon teaching the resident during surgery. I could hear him explaining where and how to cut, and pointing out different things as they progressed.
Since Septimus was full breech, the surgeon explained to me that there would be a lot of tugging and pulling while they were also pushing hard on the top of the uterus to move the baby out. I suddenly recalled a few friends who had said that the pressure during a c-section is the most awful part and I was afraid.
Thankfully, the pressure and the tugging and pulling was no more uncomfortable than the version. I could feel the surgeon feeling for Septimus' head right under my ribs and pushing him down while instructing the resident to pull. "Hook his knees, get him. Get him and pull!"
Since he was coming out rear first, I smiled when they said "he." I should have known he would be a boy just by the labor. All the boys have given me trouble during labor, but Septimus won the prize.
I heard someone say, "Baby boy, 6:28 am" and then he was whisked away to be checked out and wrapped up. I felt a sudden lethargy and I realized that it was over -- they had gotten the baby out and all that was left was to be put back together.
It was about this time that sensation started returning to my abdomen because I could feel them sewing me up. I must have made some distressed noises because the anesthesiologist was with me in an instant and I don't remember calling for her. She asked if I wanted some medicine to make me feel drowsy and I took it. Drowsy sounded really good to me.
They brought Septimus in and showed him to me, but I couldn't hold him because of the IV and all the drugs that had me totally spaced out. They gave him to Rob and he held him near my head so I could kiss him. To be perfectly honest, it was such a relief to see him that I didn't even care that I couldn't hold him. In fact, I preferred it that way. I was just too exhausted from the whole experience.
I don't remember much of the end of surgery, although I know they stapled me back together after stitching me inside. I felt them move me off the operating table and onto the gurney and then there was blessed nothingness. I didn't black out, I just checked out.
I woke up in recovery, feeling very similar to the way I felt in recovery from a previous surgery. I was still hooked up to my dreadful IV, of course, and I had the leg squeezers (official medical terminology only!) to prevent blood clots. A nurse came in with Septimus and I finally got to hold him. Awkwardly and with lots of pillows and help, but there he was nestled in my arms.
I remember looking at him, meeting him, and thanking God that he was here and that I wasn't angry at the baby or bitter about the complete upheaval of my careful plans. I had worried that I wouldn't like Septimus because of that, but I was happy to discover that it was an unfounded fear. I more than liked him, and I felt complete peace about the c-section. That's how I knew it was the right decision.
I'll be completely honest: the days that followed Septimus' birth were really awful. Once the heavy sedation wore off, the pain was beyond anything I'd ever experienced. And I've had several induced labors with no pain medication. This was no joke.
The early morning hours on that first day post-op were among the most excruciating and I woke up from a dead sleep almost screaming. I had expected pain, but I was caught off guard by the intensity. I said so to one of my nurses and she said, "Honey, you are going to feel real bad for a few days. You got beat up by that version and a night of labor before you even got to the surgery. It's going to take a while."
The original horrible IV in my right elbow had blown the night of my surgery in a spectacular fashion, soaking the bed and my gown with bright red blood. It even got all over Septimus' little cap and blankets.
Since I still needed an IV for all the bags of pitocin needed to help control bleeding and shrink my uterus, the nurses tried to start an IV in my other arm. I bet you can guess how that worked out when I tell you that I got the cocky anesthesiologist on call to come and place another IV. And the only place that he could find? Same spot, opposite arm.
Now I had to keep my other arm perfectly straight, but it was clear that he wasn't bothered by that when he tossed the needle cap onto the floor and said, "Done, because I'm awesome." I am not even kidding. At least the other anesthesiologist acknowledged the complete crappiness of that location for an IV. This guy was ready for a medal ceremony.
On top of all the pain, it was Christmas and I was so lonely in the hospital. Rob left the night Septimus was born to go home to the other kids, and really wasn't able to come back much until he brought us home.
I remember crying through "It's A Wonderful Life" on Christmas Eve, and then watching the vigil mass at the Vatican on EWTN. I looked out the window and it had started snowing, so I cried because that was what my kids always wished for and I wasn't home to share it with them.
But it wasn't all bleakness and pain, of course. The little miracles of Christmas were a medicine of their own. The nurses taped tiny Christmas stockings on to the bassinets of the babies in the nursery; the kitchen staff slipped Christmas cards on all the breakfast trays on Christmas morning; my mother was working down in the hospital lab and was able to come up and visit me on break; Rob made a Christmas morning video of the children opening gifts and sent me regular text and picture updates; by the grace of God, all my nurses were angels who anticipated what I needed before I even asked. Through casual conversation, I learned that every single one of them had had a c-section at some point and they knew my pain. It was so comforting.
And the baby, the sweetest little baby. My third son, who had to be dragged backwards into the world, was the best bundle I've ever received at Christmas.
I realize the length of this story is extremely lame, but it's too late to change it all now. Just know that I am probably as happy as you to be able to say: finis. Thanks for sticking around.
** just for clarification: I did not get an actual 37 bags of pitocin. As I confessed to Colleen, I was going for hyperbole when I picked the number 37 because that seemed like a ridiculous amount of pitocin for any person to take. In reality, I got 8 wretched bags. They started it on the evening of the 22nd and I wasn't finished with it until the late morning of the 24th. That's still a lot for this old gal, but obviously not enough to kill me. I just felt like I wanted to die.