The Gory Details, Part 4: Austen and Aftermath

From the point when Al entered the operating room until I finally got to hold Austen is kind of a blur. I remember specific things, but there are huge gaps as well. Al has helped me figure out the timeline and flesh out some of the details; here's what we've pieced together (most times approximate):

3:20pm ~ Al arrives in the OR. My arms are spread out on tables or boards on either side of me, kind of like I'm being crucified. I am shivering really badly now; I have a choice between my teeth chattering or my arms shaking—I'm unable to control both at once. I remember chatting with Al for a few minutes between the chattering teeth, but I don't remember what we talked about. The resident anesthesiologist hangs the drape in front of my face and says, "don't worry, we'll tell you what's going on." Me: "Please don't." Attending anesthesiologist: "See? That's normal. It's the people who DO want to know who aren't normal."

3:25pm ~ The surgery begins. I'm still shaking like a madwoman, despite the plastic bag + hairdryer contraption. I think I'm also still talking to Al occasionally; I make him promise not to look over the drape. I hear someone say, "you might want to put some Epi in that bag."

3:36pm ~ I hear Austen cry for the first time, and I remember seeing him. (Al tells me that they held him up; I only remember magically being able to see him, not how.) My only coherent thought before I break down in hysterical tears: "That's the pinkest baby I've ever seen."

3:40pm ~ I continue crying, and so does Austen. Al holds back the drape a bit so I can see the huddle of pediatricians rubbing and suctioning our son.

3:45pm ~ I hear someone announce Austen's weight: 7 lbs. 2 oz., exactly as I predicted. I ask about his length, and someone (I think Al) tells me that they'll measure him in the nursery. The gaggle of pediatricians is taking Austen to the NICU because he's breathing funny even after all the suctioning. I think, "he must be fine, or he wouldn't be so pink."

3:50pm ~ Al brings a swaddled Austen over so I can see him before handing him back to one of the pediatricians. I overhear her say, in response to a query from Al, that he'll probably be kept in the NICU for 5-6 hours... or as long as two days. TWO DAYS??? When am I going to be able to feed him?

Al's dilemma of whether to go with the baby to the nursery (as friends and baby books suggested) or to stay with me (as he wanted to do) is resolved when Austen is whisked off to the NICU: he has to stay with me.

4:10pm ~ The surgery, which had continued through all the crying, is now complete. The drape is removed, and near my feet I see a stand on which hangs what looks like one of those clear plastic shoe organizers you'd hang on your closet door. Instead of shoes, however, each compartment holds several blood-soaked rags. I'd be horrified at the quantity of blood if I weren't so cold, tired, and overwhelmed by recent events.

The resident OB, Dr. Lee (who's about half my size), stands on my left side, and Erika and another nurse stand on my right. I'm told to cross my shaking arms over my chest so they can move me from the operating table to a gurney. I'm tipped sideways, and I reflexively flail and grab the nearest pole (the one that was holding up the drape, I think). Dr. Lee pries my fingers off the pole and says, "Don't worry, I haven't dropped anyone yet." I look at her dubiously.

4:15pm ~ We arrive back in our labor and delivery room. The resident anesthesiologist slides a thermometer under my tongue, checks the reading, and says, "it has to go UNDER your tongue." I mumble, "ih ith" around the thermometer. He pulls it out, reinserts it, waits a second, and checks the reading again. "Is it broken?" says a female voice to my right. "I don't know," says the anesthesiologist. "It says 95.4." Female voice: "Well, she is shivering..." Just then someone else announces my blood pressure: 85 over 49. I think vaguely, "and that's with the Epi in the bag." Erika and Jen (the nurse who taught the Wednesday childbirth class) cover me with about 10 blankets.

5:20pm ~ Al calls his parents to tell them about the birth. Erika tells me that I won't be going to the post-partum unit on Silverstein 8; instead, I'll be going to Silverstein 9, to be with the other moms whose babies are in the NICU.

5:50pm ~ My pain level, which had been at a manageable 5, starts spiking to 7, then 8, then 9. I ask Al to ring for the nurse, who calls in a doctor.

6:00pm ~ The doctor arrives. The pain is at 11, and I'm sobbing and shrieking. Even though I know the crying makes the pain worse, I can't stop. The doctor starts asking questions, like "where do you live?" and "what's your last name?" I point to Al, who answers for me. The doctor says, "no, I need you to answer me yourself. What day is is it?" "Tuesday," I gasp. "Where are you?" "Ha..ha..HOSPITAL," I manage. The doctor orders Dilotted (sp?) to be administered through my IV.

6:30pm ~ I'm asked to wiggle my toes. I send the command very clearly from my brain to my toes, but nothing happens. The epidural is obviously wearing off, but the spinal isn't. (Again, just like I told the resident.) Al calls the NICU to see if he's allowed to visit Austen. He's told that Austen has been moved to the Well Baby Nursery.

7:00pm ~ I feel the pain start to spike again. 7...8... I ask Al to go flag the doctor down himself. 9...10... There's some discussion about whether to give me Dilotted or Torredol. The concern is that Torredol can aggravate bleeding. Another dose of Dilotted is administered.

7:10pm ~ The Dilotted is working, and the nurses ask me to wiggle my toes again. Nothing doing. I feel hot now, so I ask Al to remove most of the blankets.

7:30pm ~ Here we go again. 7...8...9... Torredol it is.

7:45pm ~ I think I can feel my left knee. I can't actually move it, but I feel like if my lower leg weren't a giant block of cement, I would be able to wiggle the knee. Al goes to visit Austen in the nursery.

8:00pm ~ I can feel the toes on my left foot, and I can lift my left knee. I think I can also feel my right knee. The Torredol is still working.

8:20pm ~ I can now wiggle the toes of both feet, and the Torredol is still working. Yay! Erika tells me that they're going to move me to Silverstein 8 after all. I call Al's cell phone to tell him that I'm going to be moved in a few minutes, so he needs to come down and collect our backpacks and my clothes from the labor and delivery room. He's holding Austen and doesn't want to give him up.

8:30pm ~ I arrive in room 813 of the post-partum unit. The IV that was placed hours ago is clogged, and the line can't be cleared. The nurse tries to place another one, and we do the blown vein dance again. I now have bruises on both arms, at the base of my right thumb, and on the back of my right hand. A line is finally opened just below my right wristbone.

8:45pm ~ Austen is wheeled in, and I'm allowed to breastfeed him, finally. I'm told that he was cup-fed some formula in the nursery "or else he would have brought the walls down with his screaming," according to the nurse. This makes me a little sad, but I'd rather have him be fed formula than starve. Anyway, I've got him now, and all is right with the world.


Here ends The Gory Details; at some point in the future I might blog about the four days Al, Austen, and I spent in the hospital recovering from the C-section and getting to know each other, but I'd rather not dwell on them now. Instead I'll just thank the nurses who cared for us during our stay, especially Sara, who taught me how to breastfeed and got me out of bed without hurting me too much; Trish, who made me a little bundled blanket (henceforce known as the egg roll) to hold against my incision so I could get to the bathroom and back without crying, and who sat with us for about an hour answering all our questions about baby care; Karen, the traveling nurse who spent her last day at HUP with us, helping me manage my pain and just generally being really cool; and Patty, who entertained Austen in the nursery for a few hours each night so we could get some sleep. All four listened as well as they handed out advice, comfort, and medicine, which set them apart from all the rest. Thanks, guys!

Posted by Lori in austen's birth story and pregnancy at 2:15 PM on December 28, 2004

Comments (1)

Wow! What an experience. Makes me grateful for all the times I was nice to my mom.
Happy Holidays!


Wow! What an experience. Makes me grateful for all the times I was nice to my mom.
Happy Holidays!

Posted by: Stephen at December 28, 2004 3:19 PM

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