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.