I initially assumed that my upcoming elective C-section would be a soulless encounter with an anesthesiologist, my OB-GYN, and a deftly-handled scalpel. But I'm happy to report that there are ways we can maintain some level of control over our child's birth.
First, an elective C-section is a far different experience from the emergency C-section I underwent with my second daughter. There is no panic or tachycardic fetus to be concerned about. "Everyone around you is calm, reassuring, and moving at a controlled or even relaxed pace. There is little or no tension in the room. It's fun," says Dr. Charles Lockwood, MD, the Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
I burst out laughing; "fun" was the last word I expected in relation to major abdominal surgery. But once it sank in, I found it an immensely comforting concept—it's still a happy event. Everyone in the operating room will be looking forward to seeing that little baby, and I'll be looking forward to personalizing my surgery.
Instead of a "cranked-up" epidural, which is usually the choice during emergency C-sections, I can elect to have a spinal block. This would entail a one-time injection into the fluid around my spinal cord instead of a hollow needle remaining in the space between my spinal column and outer membrane of my spinal cord throughout the procedure.
The heavy epidural dose I endured during last year's emergency C-section made my entire body shake, rattle, and tremor uncontrollably. My teeth chattered so hard that I lost one of my fillings, and it was a miserable state in which to meet my new baby. My hope is that my reaction to the spinal block will be less severe.
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After my emergency C-section, I started having frightening hallucinations that dead people in the hospital were trying to talk to me. For two days, I didn't make the connection between this hallucination and the morphine drip, but within 24 hours of switching to other pain medications, I was on solid mental ground. Luckily, my OB has other less Sixth Sense-like drugs in his arsenal.
Bringing some personality to the operating room
On a less serious note, we're also delighted that we can inflict our love of Huey Lewis on the entire surgical team, not to mention our newborn daughter. Even in such serious, sterile surroundings, we can choose music for our baby's birth. For the vaginal delivery rooms, you must bring a battery-operated music player if you want your child to hear something specific when she's born, but the operating rooms are already equipped with CD players.
And that's not all. Our doula, Deanna Jesus, CD(DONA), CLE, CBE, encouraged us to work with the surgical team to personalize other aspects of the surgery. She suggested questions we hadn't considered: Can the baby be on your chest skin-to-skin, even if just for a few minutes? Can your husband hold the baby skin-to-skin in the operating room and sit with you? Do your arms need to be strapped down? Can you have one released to hold/touch your baby? How much of the surgery do you want to see, if any?
The answer to that last question is clear for me: none. As far as I'm concerned, anything that happens south of my belly button is really my OB's business that day. Just show me my sweet baby, and let me know when I can take her home to her sisters. And we'll all rock out to "Power of Love."