This month's beautiful story comes from Erin Bull. I met Erin at church last year and happened to see her openness and authenticity in sharing a piece of her journey into motherhood on social media. Erin is a pediatric hospice nurse, a wife and mother of two young boys. She has such a calm and patient demeanor when she parents and I am honored to help share her story.
I spent almost a decade as a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit nurse and I have attended more cesarean section deliveries than I can even count. Through those years, the operating room became a very comfortable place to me. In 2017 my first born, Carson, came into this world via cesarean section after a very traumatic 24 hour long labor induction.
When my Obstetrician recommended a cesarean section to get Carson safely out of my body, I was exhausted so many hours of laboring and ultimately wanted a healthy baby in my arms. Since I was familiar with the surgical procedure and felt my body and mind failing, I requested that we didn’t wait another minute.
I don’t have many clear or happy memories of Carson’s birth. I felt so alone in the operating room. I was shivering, vomiting off the side of the surgical table, hallucinating -all while having a panic attack. I remember thinking how badly I needed oxygen but couldn’t get the words out of my mouth.
I was blessed to have my husband and sister in the operating room with me. They welcomed Carson into the world and I got exactly what I asked for, a healthy baby. Lesson number one of parenthood- give me all the pain and suffering for my child. Thankfully, my sister took beautiful photos of the delivery. I spent many months post partum going through those photos and feeling sad that I wasn’t able to be fully “present” during his delivery. I definitely held the space for myself to grieve but more importantly, I worked hard to process the experience through work with my therapist, talking to my doctor and connecting with others who had similar experiences.
Fast-forward fifteen months…. I was faced with having to prepare for a second cesarean section. I was definitely fearful of history repeating itself and having another fear filled delivery.
Arriving to the hospital for my second cesarean section, I was fearful but this time I felt more equipped for the experience due to my preparation. The Anesthesiologist asked if there is anything he should know- I communicated that my previous delivery was a less than optimal experience and shared with him all of the details. I let him know that I hoped for this experience to be different. He looked right into my tear filled eyes and promised me that he would do everything possible to make sure that it was an improved experience.
As the anesthesia started to take effect, I was laid back on the table with my arms out to either side and I started to have flashbacks of Carson’s delivery. My husband and sister were brought in and I could smell my skin being opened back up.
This is when the magic started to happen…. I started to feel a panic attack coming on and I let the Anesthesiologist know. He gave me some oxygen and said, “You need to feel in control, I understand”, as I stared up at the ceiling and straight ahead into a blue surgical drape that was between my chin and the surgeons that were doing their work. I felt trapped, scared, fear filled and as if history was repeating itself. The Anesthesiologist said “let’s get rid of this blue drape” and he dropped the surgical drape that was between me and the surgeons, tipped me back just slightly, and put a large mirror behind me so that I could see the ENTIRE CESAREAN SECTION procedure!!! He knew, in that moment, I needed to feel in control and that this was the answer. I immediately felt my panic subside and was able to watch my second son, Avery, be delivered into this world.
In the thousands of cesarean sections I have been to in my career, I have never once seen the drape dropped and a mirror used. I’m not sure if the Anesthesiologist knew that I was a nurse, or that I was delivering at my place of employment, or that I was comfortable with seeing the surgical procedure. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t and just felt this is what I needed. Regardless, it was divine intervention. I was able to call out Avery’s gender as he was pulled from my body. I will never forget all of the acts of kindness that made this delivery one of the most amazing days of my life.
Helpful steps in this process:
-Seek a trusted therapist who will allow you the space to talk through your birth experience.
-Spend time discussing your delivery with your physician and ask the important questions
- Connect with others who have had similar experiences- know that you’re not alone
- If you are in the position to have another delivery, make a plan and communicate it with your trusted health care team to ensure an improved experience and know that you can re-write your story