Battle Scars: C-Section Awareness Month

“We recommend that babies with spina bifida be delivered by c-section,” the high risk OB told me.

Two weeks before, we had learned that our baby had spina bifida, and we found ourselves seated on a comfortable couch, across from the high risk doctor.  We had just finished a consultation with the neurosurgeon, neonatalogist, high risk OB, a genetic counselor, the Spinal Differences Clinic coordinating nurse, and a radiologist.

“Is there any chance at all of a vaginal delivery?” I asked. “Or is it 100% that I would need a c-section?”

“Vaginal deliveries do sometimes happen with spina bifida, but it is more common to have a c-section.  The defect is more protected that way, and the hope is that there would be less nerve damage. I can understand your desire to have a vaginal delivery, but you don’t want to get to some challenges down the road, and wonder if you had had a cesarean, if the outcome would have been better.”

I couldn’t argue with that logic.  Because I would totally be the person that would have blamed myself if I didn’t feel like I had done everything I could to give Eisley the best outcome.

I was disappointed that I would be having a c-section, but also terrified about the process.  I had never had any surgery in my life, so it was a big, scary pill to swallow.  But as the weeks and months passed, I got used to the idea.  I loved that we had a planned date (as long as I didn’t go into labor early like I had with Haven-but thankfully my weekly progesterone shots helped prevent that) because it made it easier to plan for my Mom and Mother-in-law to come to support us and help with Haven.

The morning of the planned c-section came, and after saying goodbye to a sleeping Haven, I stood in the foyer of our house, with Josh, my Mom, and his Mom.  As I clutched my pillow to me, about to leave for the hospital, tears began to well in my eyes.  I was excited to meet her, of course, but for a moment, the fear took over.

We made it to the hospital, and my stomach was doing all kinds of flips (that were not all due to the baby), as we checked in, I changed into a hospital gown, and they began to prep me for surgery.

I was wheeled down the hall, and we arrived at the operating room sooner than I expected.  Another wave of fear.  I remember being caught off guard by the blast of cold air as I hobbled through the door.  It felt like a deep freeze in there.  How the surgeons’ hands can grasp the tools without freezing up, I will never understand.

The anesthesiologist arrived and placed my spinal block.  It took three tries to get it right, but it actually wasn’t too bad.  Just little sticks in my back.  The medicine took effect immediately, and it was such a surreal feeling to instantly lose almost all sensation to the lower part of your body.

They helped me lay down on the table, because I’m pretty sure I would not have been able to do it myself, even if I had total feeling.  That table was tiny, and I was 39-weeks-pregnant-huge.

The curtain was raised, and my arms were strapped out to either side of me.  It was a very vulnerable feeling-not having control of my body, being strapped down, and with my arms outstretched.  Another wave of fear.

I was about to be willingly cut open on an operating table for my daughter.  It was then that I felt the faintest whisper from the Lord: I did this for you. My body was broken for you. In that moment, I understood just a little bit more about the Lord.  I loved Eisley so much that I was willing to be cut open for her.  And Jesus loved me (and you!) so much that He gave His body and His life for me.  What an amazing love.

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If you have read Eisley’s birth story, you know that I bled…a lot during the surgery.  I purposely did not look at the floor as they wheeled me out of the operating room, but according to one nurse with no filter, it looked “like a bloodbath”.  The blood loss caused my iron levels to drop dramatically, so I had to be on iron supplements for a few weeks after.

I knew from hearing other moms’ experiences with c-sections that movement was key to recovery.  Even just getting out of bed was difficult for the first couple of days.  But getting out of bed meant that I could be wheeled down to the NICU to see Eisley, so I did it.  One of the nurses told me that their c-section moms (at the children’s hospital where they deliver the more critical babies) usually recover much quicker than other c-section moms in the community, because they have to get around to get to their babies.  I was glad for the motivation, because otherwise it would have been more difficult to heal.

After about a week postpartum, I was cleared to drive and do most things as I would normally.  I was still careful with lifting Haven, who was only 19 months old at the time, so she still required lots of lifting and cuddling.  But I actually felt pretty good, considering I had just had major surgery a week before.

April is c-section awareness month, so I wanted to share a bit more about my experience.  Believe it or not, there are many out there that think it is the “easy way out”.  Umm, just no.  It took every ounce of courage I had, plus more from the Lord, to walk into that OR.  C-section moms are warriors, plain and simple.  We’ve been to battle for our babies, and we have the scars to prove it.

Would it have been my first choice?  Definitely not.  Would I do it over again for Eisley?  In a heartbeat.

Screenshot-2018-4-10 Hayley on Instagram “April is c-section awareness month We did give birth to our babies We have the sc[...]



Hello, Sweet Baby (Eisley’s Birth Story)

**Note: Open talk about surgery ahead.  If that’s not your jam, you might want to skip this post.**


The night before I went into preterm labor with Haven, I had no idea I would be giving birth the next day.  I was several weeks away from my due date.  So, I assume I got a pretty good night’s sleep, or as good as one can get at 35 weeks pregnant, anyway.

The night before Eisley was born, however, I knew exactly what was going down the next day.  She had been diagnosed with spina bifida halfway through my pregnancy-a birth defect in which her spinal column failed to close properly, leaving a portion open and exposed on her back.  We had decided with our specialists that a cesarean was the safest route for delivery, and I had spent the rest of my pregnancy slightly terrified of the impending surgery.

So, even though I knew I needed rest the night before, I just couldn’t go to bed.  I put Haven to bed on her last night as an only child.  I triple checked that my bags were packed.  Took a shower.  Laid in bed and tossed and turned-I was a giant bundle of nerves.  I’d say I was about 50% excited and 50% scared.  Not only was I having surgery, but my newborn baby would have surgery as well to close the defect on her back.

I somehow managed to squeeze in about 2 hours of sleep before it was time to go.  In the wee hours of the morning, we packed our hospital bags in the car and got ready to go.  I crept in to Haven’s room to whisper goodbye, and a tear slid down my face.  I knew she’d be fine staying with both of her Grandmas the next few days, I just didn’t know if I would be fine without her.


Right before we left for the hospital.  This was my last belly pic at 39 weeks and 3 days.

When we arrived at the hospital, I got checked in, changed into my gown, and two nurses came in to start my IV.  The nurse who was placing it seemed like more of a newbie, and it took her a couple of tries.  She told me, “Wow!  Your vein just blew up like a balloon!” Not a good thing to say to someone who hates thinking about or looking at veins.  Ugh.  Even just typing it makes me want to puke.

As they wheeled me out of the room, I said bye to my Mom, who would wait in my recovery room during the surgery, and Josh was instructed to change into his scrubs.  The ride to the OR was shorter than I expected-through one set of double doors and we were there.

I slid down off the hospital bed, and shuffled into the OR, holding my gown closed so as not to moon any of the staff.  The room was COLD.  Like, frigid.  So, this is what an operating room looks like, I thought.  This was surgery numero uno for me, so I don’t know what I expected, but it was still surprising to me.

It took the anesthesiologist three tries to get my spinal block in, which wasn’t awesome, but it also wasn’t as bad as I expected.  It was such a strange sensation to suddenly have the entire lower half of your body numbed, and as they laid me back, strapped me down, and raised the curtain, I marveled at how I could sort of feel, but sort of not.  If you’ve had a c-section before, you know what I’m talking about.

Josh was finally allowed to come in, and I was relieved.  He was a little nervous for me, and we tried to make light conversation as they began the surgery.  It was weird to make small talk with my husband of 7.5 years, as if we had nothing better to talk about than the weather, but I needed to keep my mind off of the fact that I was being sliced open as we spoke.

I had pre-warned the OR staff that I did NOT want a play-by-play of what was happening, and they assured me that they would try to be as vague as possible.  But, then I heard, “We have a bleeder!”

Shoot.  That’s not good.  I may be no medical professional, but I’ve seen enough Grey’s Anatomy surgeries to know that bleeders are never a good thing.

The atmosphere in the OR became a bit more tense as they tried to stop the bleeding.

A few months before, as I tried to wrap my mind around the fact that I was definitely going to have a c-section, a friend with three cesareans under her belt told me that it feels like someone has a hold of your legs, and is tugging you back and forth.  As I laid on the operating table, I realized that’s exactly how it felt.

“Rupture!” A nurse called out, indicating when the amniotic sac broke open.  As they lifted her out, I suddenly felt lighter, like my body lifted from the table, ever so slightly.

And then, a cry.

When Haven was born a year and a half earlier, she weakly cried out once, and then nothing.  She did not have the strength to inflate her lungs on her own, as she was a month premature, and she was quickly given oxygen to help her breathe.

I hadn’t given much thought to how I hadn’t really heard much of a cry after Haven’s birth, but as I heard Eisley’s cry, it brought a wave of emotions that I hadn’t really expected.

Relief at hearing that my baby was ok. Wonder at the fact that I was hearing this person for the first time that I would love so much and know so deeply, and yet knowing nothing else about her in that moment other than her cry.  Tears welled up in my eyes.  And somehow, under all these emotions for my second born, a twinge of grief for my firstborn and how we had missed this moment with her.  If you’ve had an unexpected or traumatic birth, you know what I am talking about.  I think I will always carry little pieces of grief for both of my birth stories and how I wish I could change some things about the circumstances.

The anesthesiologist lowered the curtain a bit, and the doctor held Eisley up for us to see her.  I tried to lift my head, but either I couldn’t lift it far, or the angle I was at didn’t allow for me to see her.

They took her to the adjoining stabilization room to sanitize and cover her open defect on her back, and Josh went with her.

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Right after delivery.

Suddenly, I felt alone.

I could hear the OR team talking through closing me up, and I knew the anesthesiologist was somewhere behind my head, but it felt like it was just me and the ceiling tiles I was staring at.

I tried to busy my thoughts so I wouldn’t think too hard about what was happening with my body.  Then, the nausea hit.

“Umm,” I told the anesthesiologist, “I feel like I have to throw up.  What do I do?!” I felt a little panicked.  It’s not like I could run for a trash can to puke in.  “Just turn your head to the side,” he told me.

I turned to the side and dry heaved.  I was relieved I hadn’t actually puked on the OR floor.  That would have been embarrassing.

I don’t know if it was the 2 hours of sleep catching up to me, the blood loss, or the anti-nausea meds I was just given through the IV, but suddenly, I NEEDED to close my eyes.  I felt like a cartoon character from the 40’s or 50’s with anvils attached to my eyelids.  “I’m reeeeeeally tired,” I told the anesthesiologist. “You can sleep if you want to,” he said.

So I went to sleep, right there on the operating table as they put me back together.  It was the best sleep ever, I tell you.  When I woke up, which I have absolutely no idea how much time had passed, I felt like a million bucks.  Well, as much like a million bucks as you can while being operated on.

One of Eisley’s doctors came to update me.  “She is doing great,” he said. “She is 7lbs 5 oz, and 19 3/4 inches long.  We have covered her back to keep it sterile, and we are working on placing her IV.  Then, she’ll head down to the NICU to get settled in.”

Finally, they were done with me, and I felt like a weird, numb board as they tilted me back and forth to place a sheet under me to move me back to the bed.  As they wheeled me out, the same blunt nurse who had placed my IV earlier said, “It looks like a bloodbath on the floor.”  Ahem.  Again, NOT a good thing to say in front of your patient.

I was wheeled back to my room, where my Mom waited for me.  I spent the next hour or so trying as hard as I could to wiggle my toes.  The sooner I could move around, the sooner I would be able to get to the NICU to see Eisley.  My nurse told me that the c-section moms who deliver at this children’s hospital (who typically have babies who need medical intervention), are up and around much faster than other c-section moms in the community, because they are extra motivated by the incentive of getting to see their babies in the NICU.

Josh came back, and told us they were still trying to get her IV in.  Apparently, she was a very hard stick, and it was taking their very best people to get it right.  A few minutes later, a team of nurses wheeled Eisley in to see us. “Can I hold her?” I asked.

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I knew, going into Eisley’s birth, that I may not be able to hold her.  It was a hard reality to come to terms with, especially given the fact that I had not been able to hold Haven until several hours after she was born, and even then it was with wires everywhere and a bulky CPAP strapped to her head to help her breathe.  They assured me throughout my pregnancy that they would do their best to try to make it happen, but it really just depended on Eisley and how stable she was.

But, miracle of miracles, I got to hold her.

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It was only for maybe about 5 minutes, but it was 5 minutes that I didn’t know I would have, so it felt like heaven.  It was also healing, in a way.  While I still grieve that I didn’t get anything like this with Haven, I was so thankful that I got a few moments with Eisley, even if it was two hours later.

They took her to the NICU, where she was evaluated by neurosurgery.  They decided that she would have her closure surgery that day rather than waiting until the next day, and that she would, in fact, need a shunt to drain the extra fluid from her brain-a common side effect of spina bifida.

So, at seven hours old, she went in for surgery.  Oddly enough, I didn’t feel scared or anxious during this time.  I trusted the hands and the wisdom of the surgeons as they placed her tiny nerves back inside her spinal column.

Later that night, I was loaded up into a wheelchair, and my nurse pushed me down to the NICU while Josh followed behind, wheeling my IV pole.  We made our way to the back corner of the NICU, and I was able to sit next to Eisley’s bedside.



She was still intubated from surgery, and she laid peacefully sleeping on her belly.  The monitors beeped as I leaned in, trying to ignore the pain in my abdomen, and I placed my hand gently on her upper back.  Her skin was soft and warm.

A whiteboard above her bed read, Today’s plan: Rest and Recover.

You and me both, Sweet Girl, I told her.