Cesarean Awareness Month: My Story
By Lorynne Benavides—
April is not only National Autism Awareness Month or Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but it is also Cesarean(C-section) Awareness Month. C-sections are so commonly performed that I think we truly forget how hardcore the surgery is. I had a C-section performed two years ago and it completely changed my view on what a birth experience looks like.
I had two medical conditions while pregnant that eventually led me to have to have a C-section: gestational diabetes and Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP). Gestational diabetes is pretty self-explanatory, but it is basically “pregnancy diabetes”, a condition in which your hormones cause your pancreas to function a little funky and produce irregular blood glucose levels. This can create bigger, heavier babies, so we knew after my diagnosis we would need to induce at least two weeks early to prevent shoulder dystocia.
ICP, on the other hand, is a little more complicated to explain. During my third trimester, I started itching everywhere on my body. I even had specific tools to scratch with. I talked to my doctor about the situation, and bloodwork confirmed my condition. ICP makes you itch because of the toxicity of the blood flowing through your body. This condition was another reason for induction, due to the reliance of the baby on a mother’s liver to remove bile acids from the blood, so it was important for the baby to be delivered as soon as its lungs are maturely developed.
Due to these two medical conditions, I was induced at 37 ½ weeks. The town I live in, Breckenridge, does not have a Labor and Delivery unit, so I had to deliver at Palo Pinto General Hospital. After getting checked into the hospital, my nurse told me I was already contracting and in labor. This confirmed that I was in labor the entire night before and the reason why I couldn’t sleep, so it all started to make sense. Around 8:00 a.m., my doctor broke my water and that’s when the contractions started getting uncomfortable. The pain wasn’t too bad, but the amount of energy it took to get through one contraction from start to finish was extremely exhausting. About three hours later, I gave in and asked for the epidural. If you’re unfamiliar with how this goes down between the healthcare team and the mother, it’s something quite interesting to watch. The mom, really full of baby, has to sit cross-legged, curled up in a ball with her head as close to her crossed legs as possible and her chin against her chest. While in this position, an IV is placed in your spinal cord. It was the weirdest feeling ever.
After the epidural, I settled back into the hospital bed. I made little cervical dilation progression from around noon to around 7:30 p.m. I was dilated to a 3 at the time when my doctor and I finally decided on a C-section. When the anesthesiologist expressed concern about the way my body was taking to the epidural more on my left side than my right, I was clueless about how this would affect me during surgery.
Axel Wade Benavides was born at 8:54 p.m. that night, and I was on cloud nine and ready to hold the baby I anxiously awaited nine long months for. Little did I know I would experience something so traumatizing just minutes after my son was taken back for his bath. While in the process of closing, the pain started to creep in. I was terrified and immediately told my surgical team I was starting to feel my lower half again. The pain became unbearable. I remember feeling like (and might have been) I was going in and out of consciousness because it hurt so bad. Finally, they wheeled me back to the recovery room, where I felt so alone and scared.
The surgical team came into the room and told me they were going to take abdominal X-rays. I was on a lot of pain medication, but I wasn’t stupid. I knew something wasn’t right. I asked why they needed to take the X-rays and they said a scalpel wasn’t accounted for in the OR. My eyes widened and I immediately wanted those X-rays. Being flipped from side to side was so horrific after just having been cut open and able to feel it all. After they confirmed there was no scalpel inside me, everything started getting foggy. I remember them transferring me to the room where I would stay the next couple of nights. They brought back my son to me around 1:30 a.m., where I finally got to reap the benefits of around 24 hours of labor.
The healing from surgery was something else. I don’t think I ever felt as tired as I did that entire week after having Axel. Lack of sleep, pain and fear were three things worth conquering to be able to create life. Every C-section story is unique. Every birth story is unique. But one thing every woman should do is research and consult with her doctor about her birth plan and the best way to execute that plan so that her birth experience isn’t something she becomes scarred from, mentally and physically. The next time you see or hear about someone having a C-section, please be mindful of the pill that woman had to swallow when she gave up her right to physically push the life she created into the world. Know that she had to give up the power over her own body and gave it to her doctor and surgical team. Keep in mind the recovery she will soon face and how difficult it makes caring for an infant. Try to remind yourself that she is in the process of transforming into her new self, her mother self, and that just because birth is something so common for women, it doesn’t take away the severity, the impact and the effects of each woman’s experience. If you’ve had a C-section, I encourage you to share your story with someone.