To all those people who’ve said that a C-section is “easy,” I have one thing to say in response: sure, I may not have pushed a baby out of my birth canal, but getting a C-section has undoubtedly been one of the most surreal and hardest experiences of my life.
People would ask me about my C-section, if I felt any pain, if I were conscious, how the surgery progressed and felt. And all I could say in response was: it felt sterile and all too medical.
But, before I talk about my operation, I think it’s important to share how I felt in the few days leading up to Tadashi’s birth…
As I wrote about before, we found out the baby was in breech at the 32-week mark. I scheduled my surgery on August 16th — two days before his due date. But, leading up to the procedure, there were some hard emotional truths I had to grapple with. I found myself mourning the fact that I would miss out on experiencing labor. I feared any potential complications. I worried that the C-section would be traumatizing to the baby…
In my last days of pregnancy, I tried my best to let my worries go and to focus on other, more lighthearted things: Reggie and I tried to distract ourselves and enjoy our last few days as a family of two with dinners out, trips to the movie theater… We even bought tickets to visit The Color Factory in San Francisco the Friday before my scheduled surgery…
But one week before my due date, those plans (unsurprisingly) fell apart: after a dinner out at Buffalo Wild Wings and a very heated phone argument with some relatives, I went into labor.
My labor progressed fairly quickly. After calling the labor and delivery nurse at Kaiser Walnut Creek at around 10 p.m., they had me come into the hospital — then sent me home after inspecting me. Yes, I was in labor, the triage nurse confirmed. But my cervix wasn’t dilated at all. They assured me that, given that this was my first baby, my labor would progress very slowly and that I could simply labor at home until my contractions were closer together.
But in the 20-something minute drive from Walnut Creek to Dublin, my contractions quickened at an alarming rate. So Reggie turned me around, and I suddenly was preparing for surgery — and my baby’s imminent arrival.
Once I was in the operating room, Reggie was asked to step outside so they could insert my spinal tap. The aesthetician told me to relax since that would help him with inserting the needle into my spine.
But I couldn’t.
My contractions were so frequent and so intense, even though the nurse had given me hormones intravenously to slow down my labor. And I felt so alone, surrounded by gloved and scrubbed strangers, without my husband beside me, in a too-bright, sterile white room.
After nearly 30 minutes, my spinal tap was finally inserted, and the nurses lied me down on the operating table. They began to pop up the surgical dressings while all feeling in my legs disappeared. Reggie finally returned to the room, and the surgeon started to prepare to cut open my abdomen…
And that’s when it hit me. Strapped to the operating table, shivering uncontrollably with an oxygen tube in my nose, I realized: this is how I was going to bring my son into the world. Not through physical exertion and my body’s effort, but surrounded by surgeons and with a sheet shielding his first view of his parents.
People had always told me how magical childbirth would be. How there was beauty in the pain, an inherent and vastly intimate bonding in the laboring.
But my experience wasn’t like that at all. It was filled with beeps and surgical masks and the cold clink of surgical tools. It was as sterile (literally and figuratively) as possible, and it broke my heart. I couldn’t even feel my legs; how could I feel like this was a magical experience?
And as I felt the slight pressure in my abdomen as the doctor and surgical assistant prepared to lift my son into the world, I started to weep.
After that, it was all a blur. Reggie told me that Tadashi was here, but my mind and my heart were somewhere else. Through my tears, I was just lying prostrate, waiting for someone to set my strapped down arms free and give me my son.
But they couldn’t even do that. Because they needed to make sure he was responsive. And then they proceeded to clean him up and take his measurements. And Reggie impatiently asked when they would hand the baby to his wife, while those precious moments immediately after birth for skin-to-skin contact slipped away…
I just lied there. Completely still, unable to move. Present, but not truly a participant in the experience. Yearning to hold my baby, but also so afraid. Because I brought my baby into the world in the weirdest way possible. I didn’t labor for him. I wasn’t able to hold him as soon as he entered the world. And I just felt, so sincerely, even after I clutched his tiny body to my naked breast, that I already failed my son.