Last updated: Mar 02, 2016
Baby-birth
Where do you look during a C-section? At the blue curtain? At your husband? At your OB's forehead, hoping not to see a furrow of concern?


I elected to close my eyes and tilt my head to the side, holding my breath and waiting. I could feel my lower torso being manipulated. Although I had no sensation (thank you, spinal block), I felt uncomfortable and anxious.

"Are you OK?" my husband asked.

"I just want to hear the baby," I answered, and once again shut my eyes tight and waited.

When I had the emergency C-section last year, it had taken a great deal of pulling and jiggling to remove my daughter from my body. Labor had been under way (before my womb infection stalled the process), and she was already partway into the birth canal.

So I was surprised, during my planned C-section, that I experienced none of that semi-violent tugging. Instead, my OB made a 10-inch incision in my uterus starting at 8:30 a.m., and all I felt were a few gentle pulls in my abdomen.

(If you're curious about the procedure, here's a thorough description of the process, excerpted from An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Pregnancy. Warning: It's not for those with a weak stomach.)

There were multiple calls for suction as my doctor and the resident surgeon pushed against one part of my uterus in order to propel the baby's head away from the incision. Then I heard a familiar utterance from my OB: "This one has a lot of hair too!"

I knew my heartburn during this pregnancy would mean a newborn with a head full of hair, so I issued an "I told you so!" over the blue curtain, then tilted my head, closed my eyes, and held my breath while I waited for the sound of my daughter's voice.

The baby emerged from the incision head first and wound her way into the world, guided by the surgeon's hands. I found it surprising just how much it resembled a vaginal birth. The surgical team suctioned out her mouth once they had the head out, then once more after her body had emerged. That's when it happened: I heard my daughter's voice for the first time.


Baby-birth
But she wasn't as happy as I was. In fact, she was rather alarmed at this turn of events in her otherwise peaceful morning. Her voice sounded so small, so tinny and new. And just like that, she was out, and the nurse was checking the clock.

"It's 8:37 a.m.," she said.

Though my recovery would take more time, they had birthed my child in just seven minutes.

I had a brief glimpse of her after she emerged, but then she was somewhere else in the room. I heard her continue to cry as they weighed her, measured her, checked her vitals, issued her an Apgar score of 8, and swaddled her in a tight wrap. Then we were finally together—my husband, our child, and me.

Choosing the soothing spinal block instead of the strong epidural—which made me shake uncontrollably during last year's emergency C-section—made me so much more alert for this moment. In retrospect, with the epidural, I couldn't appreciate the importance of the moment at all.

But this time, I could revel in the glory of our child. At 9.5 pounds, she was beautiful, chubby-cheeked, and hungry—as soon as we were settled in the recovery room, she emptied every drop of colostrum from my breasts, and dutifully passed out.

And she wasn't the only one. Hunger is unusual for a woman undergoing a C-section—many women throw up during the procedure and recovery, and the idea of food is repulsive to them. Not me! The last traces of my horrid morning sickness were obliterated by the baby's birth, so I wanted to eat.

I quickly demonstrated my ability to raise my pelvis independently (this is the trick to being released from the food-free recovery room), and my baby and I were wheeled to the room where we'd spent the next five days cuddling, healing, and relaxing together.

And that is where—after nine months of worry, nausea, bleeding and leaking, back pain, and major abdominal surgery—I triumphantly tucked into a well-deserved feast of my own.