I actually hadn’t met the OB-GYN that performed my C-section until the day of my surgery. I was in my hospital gown sitting on the operating table with an IV attached to my right arm when she came in and introduced herself. I met the other OBGYNs on their team, but not her. She had a warm personality. She spoke to me as if we’ve been friends for a long time. She assured me the procedure’s safe and quick, and I’d soon meet my baby.
I burst into tears. Not out of excitement that I can finally get to hold this precious child that I’ve been carrying for months. Nor was it out of fear of dying in case something goes terribly wrong. I do not fear death. However, the thought of leaving 4 little ones behind gripped me. I know too well what that’s like growing up. Some of you know my story. But for some of you who don’t, let me offer you a little back story of where my fear’s coming from. I was the youngest of 3. My mom first had a miscarriage. And then she had my sister who is a year older than me. We were both born via a C-section. Unfortunately, our mom died of an infection 12 days after giving birth to me. I don’t know the details of what happened. I was still too young to understand it when my dad talked about it. But he too had long been gone so whatever happened that day is now buried in the grave. However, as I was lying on the operating table, that piece of my past came out of the tomb and became more real to me more than ever before.
The spinal anesthesia they gave me was pretty strong. I did not feel any work being done on me nor did I feel any pressure when they took the baby out. I was completely numb from below my breasts down to my toes. Not long after they started the procedure, I felt lightheaded.
When they got the baby out, Dr. Moore told me it was a girl. She looked so tiny compared to our other babies. I was quite surprised about this because she was measuring just above 7 lbs during my 37th week ultrasound. If it’s true that babies gain a pound a week late in the third trimester, I was expecting a 9 lb baby at least. If I knew she would be in the smaller side I would have went with a natural birth.
When the nurse put our baby down on my chest to do a skin-to-skin with me, my husband supported her head with his hand while the nurse held her by her bum. This time, not only was I lightheaded, I was also having a hard time breathing. The heaviness on my chest started to take a toll on me. I kept pushing our baby away from my chest because I was struggling to breathe. The nurse noticed my discomfort and asked me what’s wrong. When I told her what seems to be the matter, she quickly took our baby away and told me that she will be taken at the recovery room with her daddy to do a skin-to-skin with him. They told me I can join them once they are finished closing me up.
They hooked a nasal cannula on my nostrils to help me breathe. I remained fully awake the entire time. I could smell my blood permeating the room. But I could not feel anything. As my body lay dormant on the table, my mind was bursting with thoughts of all sorts. I wondered if my mom somehow came into a realization that she will be leaving a 1 year old and a newborn. Or, maybe she went into a deep sleep and never came out of it, oblivious that she will never get to hold me or see my sister again. My mind was spiraling down that road… I was starting to feel nauseous… I thought to myself “what if this is the end of my journey too?”
The doctor and the nurse kept asking me mundane questions. Somehow those queries about how many kids I have, what were their names, kept pulling me back away from the tunnel I was slowly walking towards to. And then I started picturing my 3 little ones at home. I saw a montage of their faces like I was watching a coloured TV in front of me. I felt tears streamed down the corners of my eyes and they trickled down the sides of my face. I was determined more than ever to remain awake. Eventually, I heard the doctor said it was done. They crossed my arms and nestled them on top of my numb stomach as they transferred me to the stretcher. Without having any sensations from my upper belly down to the tips of my toes, I felt like I was resting my arms on top of a table. The nurse wheeled me to the recovery room where I was reunited with my newborn, who was in her daddy’s arms at the time.
I was feeling very weak and the light bothered me so I asked them to dim the lights in the room. My husband brought our baby close to me but I didn’t have the strength to hold her on my own. I started to have waves of headache on and off. I remembered feeling itchy all over and very thirsty. I finished a cup of water that Ian gave me. It gave me a bit of relief from my headache. Finally, I was able to look at our daughter. I was inspecting her face with awe and noticed a little dimple on her right cheek when all of a sudden I started to feel nauseous again. I asked Ian to take the baby away. Next thing I knew I was throwing up in a bed pan the nurse gave me.
The nurse handed me a piece of toast and ginger aisle hoping to calm my stomach. Eating plain toasted bread usually does the trick when my stomach’s upset. But it didn’t work this time. I find myself throwing up some more. We stayed at the recovery room until later that afternoon. Finally, a room became available and we were transferred there until I was discharged the third day.
They continue to give me the IV fluids since I couldn’t eat anything nor could I drink water without throwing up. The nurse also mentioned that the anesthesia can sometimes cause itchiness but there’s a drug that they can give me through my IV to take the itchiness away. And so they did. I was also given antibiotics intravenously, and was administered meds after meds to treat the pain, the nausea, the itchiness. The cocktail of medication I took that day made me so drowsy. I would be awake and talking, only to be falling asleep mid-conversation with someone. I just felt so weak and tired.
They hooked a catheter to me before the sensation on my lower body came back. I was thankful for that as it felt weird having it removed the next day when the numbness was gone. I felt an excruciating pain the first time I stood up. It was horrible and far worst than the pain I felt when I had given birth naturally. They gave me pain medication after another so I can be on top of my pain. They wanted me to move around to avoid blood from clotting. I was given 3 shots of blood thinner. Both arms ended up with bruises where the needles went through.
The next day, I was able to eat. I was famished! I inhaled my breakfast and asked my husband for more food. No more vomiting, which was a relief. I felt better and was able to get up, but still with difficulty. They umped the dosage of my Oxycodone to 2 tablets every 4 hours. On top of that I was also taking 2 tablets of Naproxen every 12 hours and Tylenol every 6 hours for pain management. I went for walks up and down the hallways.
When I thought I was getting better, other issues arose. I had neck, shoulder and back pain. There was also a burning sensation when I peed. My hands and feet swelled up. I had abdominal cramping. And eventually when my milk came in, I got engorged, which led to sore and cracked nipples. I had to pump my milk until the bleeding stopped. This drove me to tears. I was in so much pain. And now I can’t even hold my baby to nurse.
It was on the 5th day after our daughter was born when I decided to wean myself off of the pain meds I was asked to take. I was so tired feeling awful. I had enough! It was only then when I noticed a very drastic change happened in me. The nausea and lightheartedness started to get less and less. The abdominal cramping went away. I started to feel better… physically, emotionally, and mentally. I learned quickly that most of my issues were my body’s negative reaction to the spinal anesthesia and the drugs given to me to manage the pain. Once my body started flushing out the chemicals that were introduced to it, I felt better! Day after day, I felt stronger. On the 9th day, we all went to church including our new baby girl. And shortly after the church service, I went to my friend’s bridal shower with our 2 older girls. When we got home that night, we had supper and movie night with our kids. It’s been days since I have taken any pain meds, and I still feel better without them.
I survived the 12th day mark. I’m here still… with my kids… where I’m supposed to be. I wish that would have been the case for my mom too. It would also be nice if my dad’s still around. I’m sure they would have been thrilled to meet our new precious little daughter – Joanna Marie.
Joanna Marie Olson. Born on Nov. 8th at 8:27am. 7 lbs 6 oz. 20 1/4 inches long.
Here are some pictures of our 3 little ones excited to finally meet and hold their baby sister!
Mira, Diane, Edward, and baby Joanna.
While we were at the hospital, Joanna had some family and friends who came and visited her.
From L-R: My friend Bobbi, who came to the hospital at 6:3AM to wish me well before my surgery; Auntie Sadie, who flew from Manitoba to look after our kids while my husband and I were at the hospital; the Catto family: Sarah, Lewis, Emily, Margaret, and Katie who visited us just before we were discharged.
And lastly, here’s a picture of my husband’s relatives who blessed our family with their time when we got back home.
From L-R: Uncle Ira holding Edward (he came for an overnight visit and drove back to Ottawa the next day); Auntie Sadie sitting beside Mira (she stayed with us for 12 days to help look after our little ones and continue homeschooling with the girls while I was recuperating); Grandpa Olson holding Diane, and Grandma Olson with baby Joanna in her arms (they flew from Manitoba on the 12th and stayed with us till the 17th and tirelessly read books and played with our kids, helped with household chores, and offered Ian and I encouragement).
To all of you who sent prayers, support and encouragement our way, thank you very much! We are so generously blessed with so much love!!! Joanna is now back to her birth weight and thriving really well! She is a happy and content baby and fits just right into our growing family. ❤
Joanna at 8 days old.