I was looking back yesterday, my daughter’s 23rd birthday, to the day she was born, That day I became a Mommy for the first time–this beautiful tiny creature swooshed across the landscape of my life like a tidal wave, changing every nuance and making everything unfamiliar, yet brighter and more hope-filled than I ever imagined!
Yes, I know most of you are probably her age or younger, and I feel sure methods and practices have changed since 1988, but I’ve never gotten past the fact that I felt I was robbed of something other Mothers get to enjoy. I couldn’t define it–I just knew something, somewhere, was different.
My OB-Gyn was a nice man. He had small hands, which for me qualified him immedately–who wants great big grizzly hands poking around their nether regions when they’re giving birth??
He was kind and polite throughout the pregnancy, but something changed as I got closer to the due date. I knew he seemed withdrawn and reticent, but no one told me his wife had passed away and he was in deep grief and mourning, yet still trying to work. Had I known…had I just known…
Since my darling Sierra decided to be comfy in her womb/room, and spread out crossways in my abdomen (transverse lie), stubbornly (yes she’s still stubborn) refusing to behave and go head-down (no matter how much I parked my butt on the couch and my head in the floor trying to urge her to move), the c-section was a done deal.
I’d specified to the doctor–BIKINI incision. I was a noob at births. I showed up on time, surrendered my panties and clothing, got the requisite IV and hoo-hoo shave, and was nervous and excited. The doctor had been at the hospital all night coping with a series of emergency births, and when he stopped by only said “Do you wear a bikini?” HELLO? I look like a beluga with a bowel obstruction! “Um…no…” “OK, then.” and walked away. I swear those were the ONLY words the man spoke. Bedside manner? Nil.
I got wheeled in, my nervous hubby beside me, totally confused as to what would come next. The first attempt at an epidural went horribly awry, and the medication flooded my bloodstream. Soon I was vomiting, light headed, confused and miserable. To top it all off, the second attempt (this one a spinal) worked TOO well…I was numb to my tongue. Have you ever tried to talk with a numb tongue? How about throwing up with a numb tongue and throat? I was so consumed with how HORRIBLE I felt that I could barely focus on the miracle occuring on the other side of that blue sheet.
The “bikini” question haunted me. Hubby peeked over the blue wall when I asked “What kind of incision did he do?” He then looked down at me and said “It’ll be ok…I promise. Don’t worry.” At that point I knew I’d been cut from stem to stern. I didn’t want that. I DIDN’T WANT IT! Yet…there it was. And there it still is. The scar which brought my daughter into the world and marks me forever as her Mom.
Vomiting, barely conscious, trying to hard to be in the moment yet wondering exactly when it all started to spiral out of my control, I waited…waited for word of my child. My own pediatrician, who’d seen me from age 2 till my exam for college, was there–I’d asked him specifically to come. I knew he would love Sierra as I knew he loved me, and she would be safe in his care. I saw him from the corner of my eye…turned a bit and saw his reassuring smile…maybe I would be ok.
Tugging, “a lot of pressure”, more tugging, more vomiting from my still numb throat…and suddenly that first cry!!! She was here, alive, beautiful and healthy! Apgars were perfect!! I was a MOMMY!!! A little beautiful bundle of baby came around the blue wall in my husband’s hands…crying softly as I stared in wonder at her, unable to move my arms to touch her, unable to sob cause of the danged anesthesia…but she was there and safe…and I was vomiting again and she was taken out to meet the grandparents and all who’d gathered, while i lay there on the table barely able to speak and wondering how the most important, life-defining event I’d ever experienced had spiraled into an event in which I was a silent, paralyzed bystander. The gift I’d waited for so long…the precious child I’d prayed for and dreamt of…I couldn’t even touch her! It shouldn’t have been that way!!
I don’t remember moving to recovery…or those first hours in her presence. My nausea was so horrible from the anesthesia overdose I could barely stay awake. So her Daddy, Nana, Papa, and Aunt enjoyed her. I tried to breastfeed and she was enthusiastic at least, but the huge incision (navel to hoo-hoo) made it painful. I was determined…but as she nursed I cried from the pain.
Finally we made it home on the fifth day. Proud Daddy had made signs and hung balloons. MY proud Daddy picked us up at the hospital, and brought his daughter and granddaughter to their home. We talked, she ate and rested. I tried to rest, too, but was in such pain (I hadn’t even considered post-partum incision pain) that I had to remain fairly still.
Sierra thrived and grew. At about 7 weeks post-partum, my depression lifted and we began to “do well” together. She still nursed until I returned to work at 11 weeks. She’s been a healthy big sister for her two younger sisters (14 mos. and 6 years later). Yet…every time I see myself in the mirror, I see that crooked (he didn’t even bother to make the incision straight) silvery scar cutting my lower abdomen in half…I touch it in disbelief, although it has been part of me for half my life.
I knew going into Motherhood would change me and leave indelible marks upon my life. I had no idea, however, that some of the marks would be scars which never went away and which changed my appearance forever. I’ve wished a million times over I’d faced that grumpy doctor and said “No, but please do a bikini incision anyhow”. Despite the fact she was a transverse lie…her hips were over my left hip and she COULD have been delivered through the bikini cut if the doctor had been willing to put forth the effort. OH! And when my next daughter arrived (14 months later–another c-section–this time with a BIKINI incision woot!)…the new doctor discovered the first doctor hadn’t repaired my uterus properly. New doctor’s words were “I’m very glad you didn’t labor. Your uterus was less than a millimeter thick around that former incision. You would’ve hemmorhaged and died.”
Thank you, grumpy doctor, for making “Becoming a Mommy” a miserable experience. Thank you for endangering my life and my future child’s life because of your emotional state. While I’m sorry, deeply sorry, you lost your wife…I’d far rather you have taken a sabbatical to get yourself together, than continued on nobly and left the destruction in your wake that fell upon us.
As Sierra and her sisters grow and become Moms…I promise to be an advocate for them (if they permit) regarding the birth of their children. I will not treat a doctor with shock and awe–the doc isn’t the Wizard of Oz; s/he is simply a human battling human battles. If my child’s future is in question, I will forever be forthright in telling/asking the surgeon important questions…and will forever be grateful to have learned enough to know I can.
By: Bethany Plemmons