As with most scheduled, repeat c-sections, the date was scheduled months in advanced. I knew that Hope would arrive on May 3 unless she decided to surprise us and my body would decide to go into labor for the first time ever. Although I am older and anything is possible, I thought it highly unlikely, so I was not too worried that she would be born any sooner that May 3rd.
The hospital that I deliver at has started something called the "Family Centered C-Section." If you are having a scheduled, routine, c-section, you can elect to have a family centered c-section. Basically, they allow you to have some of the experiences that you miss in a c-section that you have in a natural birth. Instead of the baby being whisked away, out of the OR right after birth, the baby is given to the mom to hold giving the baby the all important skin-to-skin contact. If desired, you can request a clear surgical drape so that you can see the birth of the baby. And, your husband can cut the umbilical cord. Although I did not elect to have a clear drape (let's be honest, I wanted to see Hope being born, but really did not want to see myself cut open . . . Pete was able to take photos of it all and they are NOT for the squeamish), I did want to be able to experience some of the things that I longed for in the birth of my sons' but never experienced. So, we planned for a family centered birth and I just hoped that I would not go into labor early to thwart my plans.
On the Saturday before the scheduled c-section (and the day before Andrew's First Communion) I woke up to contractions. They were inconsistent, but coming with a frequency that made me uneasy. I timed them and began to GUZZLE water (since dehydration can cause contractions). Thankfully, by mid afternoon, the contractions had slowed and were infrequent, but they continued on through the next two days.
My c-section was scheduled for 10:30 AM on Tuesday, so we headed to the hospital bright and early in the morning. Once checked in, we were greeted by our pre-op nurse, who took us to our pre-op room. Time seemed to fly by. She got me ready for the c-section. My OB came in. We met with the anesthesiologist and before we knew it, our OB was saying that it was time to head back to the OR. I was pretty calm at this point. Our pre-op nurse (who would be with us during the whole c-section), my OB, and the anesthesiologist were incredible. They were friendly, sweet, and kind and put me at ease. Our pre-op nurse said, "Let's get this birthday party started!" as we walked down to the OR.
Once in the OR, they prepped me for the spinal. It is the thing I have been the most nervous about in all my c-sections. It is also the thing that, mentally, I tell myself, if I can get through the spinal, the rest will be ok. The spinal was completed without any problems and before I knew it, I was laying down, with very numb legs. All of the nurses, my OB and the assisting OB began to move around in a flurry of activity. Yet, during all of this one or more of the staff continued to talk to me and ask me questions. The anesthesiologist asked me about how many "babies" I had had. That naturally led into a conversation about our kids and adoption. My OB chimed in that she was adopted and thought adoption was just the best. Her parents had 5 biological children and then adopted her and one of her sisters as well. Then, the music came on. Our nurse had asked me what music I would like in the OR and she put on contemporary christian music. This is Amazing Grace by Phil Wickman filled the OR. One of the nurses began to sing and my OB thought it was me signing. She said that would have been a first! To be honest, at that moment, I was so calm and at peace that I could have been singing at that moment. I am not sure if it was because of all of the prayers of others, all we had been through to get to this day, or the incredible people I was surrounded by who were taking care of me or the perfect combination of all of it, but I truly was so peaceful about this c-section and birth; more than I had ever been with my other children.
Before I knew it, my OB told Pete to get the camera ready, Hope was about to be born. I could feel the tugs. Pete said, "I see her. She's beautiful!" I can still see the excitement and joy on his face. And then I could hear her scream. I started to cry a little and just could not wait to see her and hold her. One of the nurses asked me if I minded if they cleaned her up just a bit before they gave her to me, and I was fine with that. Only moments passed, and they brought her over to me and they placed her on my chest. Hope had been screaming the whole time, but the minute she was placed on my chest, she just stopped and was so content. It was such a gift to be able to hold her right away. My boys had been brought to me bundled in a towel and I was able to look at them for a moment before the nurses took them out of the OR and to the recovery room, with Pete following. And with each of those three c-sections, I was left alone while the OB finished up. This time,I got to hold Hope until my OB had finished, Pete by my side. The time went quickly as Pete and I just gazed at our beautiful little daughter and chatted. Before I knew it, they took down the surgical drape, my OB came to talk to Pete and I and then the three of us (Pete, Hope and I) headed to recovery.
That was a week ago today. And this has been, by far, my best and easiest c-section recovery. The irony of that is not lost on me. Just a few months ago I thought I might be having a high risk c-section delivery, and instead I had the best c-section experience with recovery of all four. I could not have hoped for a better birth experience with Hope and recovery since. I am grateful for all of the prayers over the last several months and for the amazing staff at AAMC who made the day so memorable and special.