I’m not trying to capitalize on any of the recent headlines with the title of this entry, but those are the words I kept frantically repeating (okay, possibly yelling) for the majority of my first c-section in the operating room.
I couldn’t breathe. At least I felt like I couldn’t. Apparently, when you feel like you are suffocating, those are the three simple words that flash through your head. It took me almost a year to be able to talk about Ben’s birth experience without choking up. It really screwed me up, and the fact that I got pregnant again so quickly afterwards and knew I would be most likely having another c-section only made my anxiety worse. I found myself having panic attacks months later just thinking about it.
When my doctor told that they were going to start prepping me for an emergency c-section, my Type-A personality kicked in and I started cursing myself. I had read a million articles to prepare me for birthing my baby and yet, I hadn’t read one damn thing about c-sections. Why didn’t I causally pick up an article on c-sections?! I just never assumed that this would happen to me. I knew what they were, but I’m a planner I prefer to be prepared, nix that, overly prepared for every circumstance and I had no idea what to expect.
At the same time, an eerie sense of calm came over me. I suddenly felt relieved. A c-section wasn’t what I had been planning, but there was going to be an end to this and I would meet my little boy soon. This baby was 2 weeks overdue and after 31 long hours of labor, I was done. The baby wasn’t engaging and I had made no progress since checking into the hospital at noon the day earlier, nine hours after I initially started laboring. I was physically exhausted and wasn’t sure if I even had it in me to try to push. While I didn’t want to have surgery, I no longer had a choice and I just wanted this baby out of me.
The nurse went through a list of negative effects that I could potentially experience… death and the sensation that you couldn’t breathe were both included. I signed my life away- because really, what choice did I have?
I’m not sure if it was the drugs I had already received combined with the spinal I got for the actual surgery, but I later found out that the spinal went up too high and numbed my diaphragm. A key part of you “feeling” like you’re breathing, whether you realize it or not, is your diaphragm being able to rise and fall with your lungs.
Within seconds of lying down on the table, I was gasping for air. GASPING. I felt like I was suffocating and was sure I was dying. The nurse warned my husband I was having a “small anxiety attack” before he came in. I immediately could tell this was more than what he considered “a small attack” the moment I saw the look on his face. There was an elephant was sitting on my chest and all oxygen had escaped the room. Tears streamed down my face.
“Jeff, I’m freaking out.” I squeaked, exasperated. “I’m really freaking out. I AM FREAKING OUT. I can’t breathe. I can’t. I.cannot.breathe!!”
At one point, about half way through, I actually cried “I changed my mind, I don’t want to do this anymore!” This is how out of my mind I was. Jeff held my hand and whispered “its a little too late for that now, sweetie… It’s going to be okay.” I was a gigantic beached whale, naked, and strapped down to the table and I was making full blown scene in the operating room. This wasn’t supposed to be about me- it was supposed to be about my baby. I couldn’t help it though.
The anesthesiologist assured me that if I was talking, I was breathing. The baby was putting a lot of pressure on my lungs in this position and she promised that as soon as they got the baby out, I’d feel better. How long would that be? Only another 20 minutes or so. I couldn’t do 20 more minutes of this. I started to hyperventilate. She couldn’t give me anything to relax me until the baby was out, but as soon as they took the baby, she’d give me something to calm down.
I needed this baby out.of.me.now.
I closed my eyes and started to pray. I don’t consider myself an overly religious person, but it’s interesting how in times of feeling helpless, I’ve found myself attempting to negotiate with God.
Then I heard it- my baby cried. I felt a wave of happy emotions, followed immediately by desperation. I still couldn’t breathe. They brought my fat, handsome boy over to me and I gave him a quick kiss before pushing him away. Yes- I pushed my child away the first time I met him. I still think about this all of the time. My sweet new baby and I couldn’t handle even seeing him. What kind of mother was I? My baby was 5 minutes old and I had already failed him. This was my last thought before the meds kicked in and I passed out.
I could finally breathe.