(part 4 of our pregnancy + birth story)
So we didn't make it the full 48 hours from the time the 2 steroid shots were give to me, in hopes to quickly develop the baby's lungs inside of me before taking her out. They decided to take her out a few hours earlier than the 48 hour mark because 'the baby was in distress'. (Remember in my previous post I was explaining how they kept losing her heartbeat and kept making me drink sugary juice every 30 minutes to 'find her heartbeat'? Well this must have been the 'distress.')
Before the surgery, the anesthesiologist came in to explain that I cannot be 'put under' because my platelets were so low that there was an increased risk that I would not wake up if put under during the c section. I was telling him that I think I'm going to have a panic attack because I was so scared for the surgery, and that I really just want to be put under so I'm not awake to experience it. He said I have to be awake for it because my platelets are too low. So I went into the surgery really scared. I had barely done any research or preparation for a vaginal birth at only 29 weeks, let alone done any research on what a c-section entails. If I knew I was having a c-section I would have done a lot of research to see exactly how the whole surgery was going to happen. But I was going into this completely unprepared mentally which made me really scared.
I remember being wheeled into the surgery room. We wheeled past a room where I heard a mom screaming while delivering her baby. I joked "well at least I don't have to deal with that" and the doctor said "don't worry, this will all be over soon and you will feel much better soon."
Once I got into the surgery room, I remember thinking there were so many people in the room, and everyone was talking to each other at once. I was extremely overwhelmed. I don't think Adam was in the room yet. In normal situations I get overwhelmed in loud spaces with lots of conversations going on at once. I just wanted everyone to stop talking, so badly. I thought that they were students in the room and I was being used as a demonstration. I also knew that I was naked, but I didn't realize that they had my entire body covered up except for my stomach. Looking back, I realize there were a number of different teams in the room, which is why it was so crowded. There was the MFM OBGYN leading the surgery (MFM is someone who specializes in high risk pregnancies), a second OBGYN assisting him in the surgery, the anesthesiologist standing behind me, the head neonatologist (head nicu doctor), a few nicu nurses to take over bella the second she was born, a nicu breathing technician to hook bella up to the breathing support machine the second she was taken out, and I think that's it. So there I was, laying what I thought was naked, on this table, in a room full of people talking to each other as if it seemed like they were just talking about their day as if I wasn't even there. Adam wasn't in the room yet. For some reason they would only let him at the last minute. I told the doctor it was really loud in the room, and he asked if I wanted him to ask everyone to stop talking. I said no, its ok. I then sat on the edge of the surgery table and the doctor told me to lean over and hug the nurse who had been with me through the night. I remember her saying her shift was almost over in the morning, but she ended up staying late so she could be with me through the surgery and recovery. So I was leaning over her with my forehead on her shoulder, and the doctor was right next to her. It seemed as if they were almost protecting me, hiding me, or maybe just making sure I didn't fall off the table. I didn't realize what a fragile state I was in. They explained that the anesthesiologist was going to rub some sort of numbing agent in circles on my back and that I might feel a little pain. I was bracing for pain but honestly felt nothing at all. They then had me lay down and put my arms in these arm holders and told me not to move my arms. Then the head doctor got everyone quiet and gave them a rundown of what was going to happen. This is what made me feel like they were students, but he reassured me after that they always do that just to get everyone on the same page. All I remember from his rundown was him saying "classic HELLP".
After the rundown they let Adam in and he stood right next to my head. I don't remember much about the first part of the surgery. It went really quick, maybe just a few minutes. I remember they told me they had Bella, and I said "why isn't she crying?" and the doctor said "she's peeing!" I think they told me she was breathing and okay. She was immediately taken into the hands of the nicu team so they could start hooking her up to all sorts of breathing support and monitors. Adam then went over to cut the umbilical chord with the nicu team, while the doctors started to put me back together. Adam said he looked over at me and wishes he didn't because he saw all of my insides, outside of me. Next I remember they wheeled Bella past me in her incubator bed and said "here she is!" but I couldn't even see her because I was still laying on the table instructed not to move because they were putting me back together. Then Bella had to leave to go straight to the nicu. She had a whole team leave with her, along with her breathing machine hooked up to her that was on wheels, and Adam had to leave with her as well.
I then remember starting to feel whatever they were doing to put me back together. I started to panic and said "I can feel this! Its uncomfortable!" and the doctor told the anesthesiologist "give her something to calm her down." He then put a breathing mask over my face and said it was laughing gas and I could hold it and use it as needed. I immediately thought I was going to throw up and told them, then they told me to turn my head if I was going to throw up. I didn't throw up, but I panicked because I'm imagining myself throwing up while my stomach and insides are all exposed, thinking my throw up would ruin their ability to put me back together, which doesn't really make sense now.
Then I don't remember anything after that. I was in and out of a dreamlike state. I was asleep and dreaming but would come back to the room and hear some of the nurses voices, but I was visualizing artwork like you would see on a Beatles album from the 60s. The artwork was floating around the surgery room. I remember one time in college I took a class about pop culture and we watched a strange movie called The Beatles' Magical Mystery Bus Tour. Basically The Beatles took a bunch of acid and made a really weird movie. During this time of the surgery I was in that movie. It was very strange and I can't really put it into words. But I didn't feel panicked, or any pain, worries, fear, or anxiety. I then came back to reality and realized that they must have given me something, so I said "woah what was that?" and the anesthesiologist said "ketamine" and I said "woah! Isn't that a horse tranquilizer? I thought I was on the Beatles Magical Mystery Bus!" with a giggle. The only older person in the room was the nurse who had been with me since that morning. She laughed, and was the only person in the room who understood my joke.
I was then wheeled into a post-op recovery room, where Adam got to meet me. My body got really cold and shivery so they wrapped me in warm blankets and then a strange air-filled bubble wrap type of blanket. (Pictured in post-op with weird blanket below) I was feeling pretty good at this point. All the pain I had been feeling the past few weeks was completely gone, because they say the way to cure HELLP is by getting the baby and toxic placenta out of my body. I also think the mixture of drugs I was on at this point helped me feel better. Adam started showing me photos of bella on his phone. I haven't even seen her yet and have to see her for the first time though photos. I felt good but was still out of it, and it was hard to understand the photos. She was so small, only 2 pounds, 8 ounces, and was hooked up to all sorts of machines and wires in the photos. So I didn't really know what I was looking at. She didn't have any facial characteristics of either of us, etc. My same nurse told me that I was such an easy patient and was so calm the whole time. I thought that was surprising. She then hands me over to another nurse and we say goodbye. The new nurse starts giving me another pain medication, fentanyl. I remember laughing with Adam during this time and telling him about the ketamine and the mystery bus I was on. I was only in this recovery room for a short time, but I remember she gave me a few doses of the fentanyl during that time.
Looking back, I have mixed feelings about how they just freely give you drugs without telling you what it is, or asking your permission. I understand that this is an emergency situation and I went through major surgery and pain relief was needed. But knowing how addicting opioids are, this just always bothered me a little bit. I’ve heard stories about ketamine being used as a party drug, I’ve seen fentanyl a lot on intervention, and I know how many people are addicted to opioids in pill form (I was given Percocet), and I was given all three in just a matter of hours. They continued to give me the Percocet for about a week while I was still in the hospital recovering, to manage the pain pre and post delivery. It would make me so out of it that I had to time my visits to Bella to be not right after I took a dose because I would be falling asleep while trying to hold her. Once I got home I stopped taking any pain relievers at all and was so eager to cleanse my body from all the drugs, and to just feel like my real self again.
Now that Bella was delivered and my body was recovering from the HELLP and csection, it was time to meet Bella for the first time and prepare for a three month nicu stay. A whole nother adventure smacked us right in the face and we were thrown in neck-deep to the nicu life.
My next post will be about my first time meeting Bella. They had to wheel my bed all the way to the nicu so I could meet her in her incubator, from laying in my bed. I couldn’t hold her but got to touch her while I sang a lullaby.
Pictured here in post-op. I remember feeling better by this time, but maybe not according to this photo Adam took.