Hold the opiates this time, thanks

I have never been able to remember the first time I held my precious Miss M. She was born via elective caesarean section (unusual breech), and right after she was lifted out I experienced the most excruciating pain in my chest. I thought I was going to die. I don’t remember anything except hearing her first cry, registering she was ok, and then…nothing. I don’t remember leaving the operating theatre, I barely remember being in Recovery and I have no recollection of being taken back to Maternity. The following hours and that first whole night are a blur. I have always thought that I was simply traumatised by the surgery, afraid and in pain. I thought my own pain over-rode my feelings for my newborn daughter. I never had that precious time that everyone talks about, the first time they held their baby in their arms. But, she was ok, and I was ok and that was all that mattered. I didn’t let myself get hung up on it, I’d read that it didn’t happen for everyone, that immediate connection and burst of love. In all honesty I never actually felt disconnected from her – I just felt overwhelmed, and that something had been missed, and in some way I had failed mentally in dealing with the surgery and subsequent recovery, but that it was ok now, so I should just move on. I never spoke about it and life did move on.

Indeed I forgot all about that pain in my chest until last week when it was time to book in for my second c-section and the subject came up. I said I wanted the baby to be given to me right away and explained why I thought it hadn’t happened last time – because something had gone wrong with me that to my recollection was never explained to me. I was given a pre-op appointment with an anaesthesiologist this morning so that we could find out what happened last time and stop it happening this time. It turns out that I didn’t fail my daughter – there is a reason for my not remembering anything. It wasn’t because I was emotionally unable to cope with the surgery and its aftermath. It was Fentanyl. A synthetic opiate analgesic which is 50 – 100 times more potent than morphine, and which was administered after I reacted badly to the Sentocin which was given (as was routine) to make my uterus contract while I was still on the table. Although still conscious, I was completely out of it before I even got to hold Miss M. I was then put on an intravenous morphine PCA – more opiate – which I told them to take out at some point that night as it made me nauseous and the fear of vomiting with my stomach all stitched and in so much pain was greater than my fear of more pain. And at some point after that I started to come out of my haze.

They don’t administer Sentocin any more, so chances are I won’t have that same reaction this time. There’s nobody to blame, I just had an unusal reaction to one drug which was treated with the drug they thought most appropriate at the time. I don’t quite understand why such a strong drug was used, but I’m not going to get hung up on that now. What’s done is done, and now I have the knowledge to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. I can refuse the Fentanyl and ask for Endone instead, or have nothing if I choose. I’m told that the chest pains, excruciating as they are, won’t last for long if they do recur, so if I can endure it and I don’t want any drugs, they won’t give me any. It’s all in my notes, plus the request for no morphine at any time.

I was stunned when the anaesthesiologist explained all this to me. I finally have a reason for what happened, and it wasn’t my fault. I hadn’t beaten myself up about it, or talked about it,  but it made me very sad whenever I thought about not remembering holding my little girl, and the fact that I let her go to the nursery that night instead of staying with me. I was too out of it to make a different decision. The anaesthesiologist asked me if I felt “cheated”. I guess I do if I think about it. Because I was denied that precious time that everyone talks about, the first time they held their baby in their arms. But I am comforted by the fact that I know that I was able to hold her just 15 minutes or so after she was born, even though I can’t recall it. And her father held for that whole first 15 minutes, she wasn’t alone or with a stranger. I was completely disoriented but I managed to breastfeed her straight away, and every time they brought her to me in the night. I have photos of me holding her and gazing at her with love and wonder, even thought I don’t remember those moments with any clarity. She was with me, as she has been ever since. And this time around, it’s going to be better. I know it.

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4 responses

  1. I had a lot of post C-section guilt and heartache, all that grogginess, and they wouldn’t even let me hold her for what seemed like an eternity. She spent too long in the plastic crib on wheels. I felt guilty about the delay of instant bonding, nursing, my mummy love. Second time around, I opted for V-BAC. We cuddled and slept together—Daddy too. I learned a lot, a little too late. But it is what it is. I’ve come to acceptance. I’m glad you’re feeling better about your experience—your mummy love is beautiful!

    1. I’m so sorry to hear you had a difficult experience also, and happy for you that you have been able to accept what happened. So very important. Unfortunately VBAC is now not an option for me, it is safer for the baby that I have a second caesar. But I am ok with that, and I am feeling very good about this section, very confident and prepared and I just can’t wait to meet my new baby daughter! It helps a lot to know what happened last time, now I can see how it can be so much better than that. I have heard lots of stories of wonderful planned caesars and never quite understood how that could be so based on my own experience. Now I know that it is a possibility for me too!

  2. How terrifying it must have been to have such pain and then no memories. It seems cruel no one told you the reasons for it at the time.
    My first birth was also traumatic – I only got to hold my son for a minute or two and then he was whisked away while doctors tried to stop my blood-loss. I can’t properly remember holding him that first time either. But just after they took him away I remember hearing him crying and crying and not being able to go to him. And my husband just sat looking at me with this haunted look. I kept trying to tell him to pick up our baby but he was too scared about what was happening to me. I still hate to remember hearing my little one screaming and not being able to hold him. But within an hour or so he was happily suckling, and in the end I don’t think that first quarter of an hour amongst strangers made any difference.
    My second birth was very easy and straightforward. I think knowing what to expect and being in more of a position to ask relevant and realistic questions makes such a difference.
    I hope all goes well at your birth and wish you all joy in those precious and wonderful first days with your newborn!

    1. Hi Kirsty, it is likely that it was explained to me, but I wasn’t with it enough to remember that either 😦 My husband says I was responsive and he knew Miss M and I were ok and that was all that mattered. He never knew until today how I felt about it all, so didn’t question anything further, and I just got on with it. It does suck, but I do feel relieved that I managed to work through it anyway and that I wasn’t too badly affected by it in the longer term. I was so sad about it, still am, but I always reminded myself that the main thing is that we are both ok. And now I can learn from that experience, and as I responded in previous comment, I am feeling very positive about next week. I am so sorry to read that you had a horrible time as well – and so pleased for you that you had a great second birth. Once they are here and safe, that’s all that matters, isn’t it. Thanks very much for your wishes. I can’t wait to meet her!! x

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