When my alarm began blaring at 5:20 am on January 21, 2004; I immediately hit the snooze button. I am normally a morning person, but the last few weeks of my pregnancy were beyond exhausting. As I reluctantly climbed in the shower I purposefully avoided the mirror. I really didn’t want to catch a glimpse of my giant whale body. I had stopped feeling like a ‘cute pregnant lady’ long ago. My feet where still swollen from the night before; I noticed my sock indention from the previous day’s work.
I was lucky. My pregnancy was healthy and had gone quite smoothly, with the exception of one small hiccup: at 32 weeks I learned that my son was breech, and he never flipped. My c-section was scheduled for 39 weeks. If I am completely honest with you, I was more afraid of a vaginal delivery than a c-section. A small part of me was slightly relieved that things would be nicely scheduled and I would never have to face all the drama of labor.
My parents had their plane tickets to Ohio. It would all happen in 2 more days.
I was in my OB/GYN residency training during my pregnancy. I worked 80 hours a week, often 12 to 14 hour days. Residency was challenging enough when you weren’t carrying around 50 pounds of extra baby weight and having to pee every 5 minutes. However this was my final day of work. Tomorrow I would take an exam, then the baby would be here on Saturday. It was surreal to know exactly when the baby would come. I couldn’t wait to meet baby Ryan (we didn’t know if it was a boy or girl, but the name was to be Ryan either way).
My last day at work was not an easy one. I was assisting with several surgeries and it was during the first case that the headache started. As the afternoon progressed, I started seeing little spots. I knew these were the sign of preeclampsia, so I stopped by labor and delivery to have my blood pressure checked. It was dangerously high. I wanted to go home and get my things, but my fellow residents insisted I stay and get blood work. “Really, I’ll be fine” I said. I had no insight. Intellectually I realized I had preeclampsia, and shouldn’t leave the hospital when my blood pressure was sky high, but it didn’t compute emotionally. It was strange. There was also an element of denial at play. This could not be happening to me.
I had seen patients act this way many times and assumed they were non-compliant. I realize now when patients have an irrational response to an emergency that it is likely denial more than ignorance. So often we spend so much time picturing and planning how our special day is supposed to happen that when things go awry, it zaps the wind from our sails and leaves us stunned in disbelief.
My doctor arrived and decided the c-section should be done immediately and a magnesium drip would be started to treat the preeclampsia and help control my blood pressure. I attempted to argue that I really didn’t need it. Magnesium was a miserable drug. She just glared at me, “Of course you are getting magnesium.” I took a deep breath and complied.
After several blubbering phone calls to friends and family, they set me up for delivery. My mom didn’t get to be there, but my husband and friends (fellow residents) were there to support me.
As they wheeled me into the cold OR, I realized I was terrified of the “unknown” despite doing hundreds of c-sections myself. As I lay strapped to the OR table, I felt vulnerable and afraid. It was so awkward to be on the other side of the knife. As the surgery got underway, though I felt more calm; comforted by the familiar sounds of the instruments and operating room banter.
As he was born, the entire room cheered. “It’s a boy” someone said. My husband and I were overwhelmed with joy.
As the doctor held him up over the blue sheet for me to see him, I remember thinking that he looked blue and they should really get him to the warmer. Myself, my husband and my friends (who we’re running various cameras) we’re all crying and cheering. It was an amazing day.
As I held him in recovery and nursed him for the first time, I remember thinking how incredibly blessed I was. I couldn’t believe how deeply I could love this sweet little boy. What an amazing gift.