My first child:
It was a cold afternoon in late February, well as cold as it gets in South Carolina anyway. According to the doctors I was only 36 weeks pregnant, but I had my doubts. My baby was conceived by accident while I was on birth control. When I went for my first ultrasound, I had only been feeling like I wanted to vomit for about two weeks. When they looked he was fully developed. Since they could only measure him to tell his date, (and we know how accurate that is) his date was a few weeks short of his age, and according to them, he was already a full 12 weeks old. Fast forward, it was now 24 weeks later, and I had been having what the doctors call “brackston hicks” for about three weeks. I know the doctors call them “practice” but they feel like the gold metal round, enough to make you stop and double over in the middle of the kitchen ten to twenty times a day. I was worn out, hardly slept, hardly eaten, practicing for the moment when I finally get to get it over with; the worst part of having a baby for certain.
I can’t for the life of me remember now what it was that I got up for that day, but I can remember my pants; they were red with white snowflakes, the big stretchy kind because you have so many pairs that fit when your fully pregnant. I suppose I remember them so vividly because when I stood up, my water burst, like it does in the movies. It was so exciting, and how often does that actually happen in real life? It happened so suddenly that I was taken aback, confused as to what had happened. After a moment I realized, and the excitement welled up in my heart, along with some fear too. So alas, it was time for our hospital expedition. Of course my husband got nervous, as husbands do. My grandmother was there, being a Navy family, we lived in South Carolina and the rest of my family lived in California, so thankfully I had no one to call to meet us at the hospital.
My delivery was at MUSC, and I paid no mind to the fact that it was teaching hospital, even though if you asked me now I would have done things differently. You see, I had no birth plan. I didn’t know about pitcoin, or c-sections, or all the terrible things that can happen. I never even hunted for a good OB, I just went where the Navy doctors were. I assured myself, anything bad wont happen to me, and frankly I was scared to learn anything else. Had I known that not knowing was worse, I would have lived with the fear. Had I known that it would plague my life, and change it forever I would have listened to that still small voice that told me to do it differently.
Arriving at the hospital, I was checked, and they confirmed that my water had in fact broken. They then assigned me an intern and she checked me to see how I was progressing. I was only 4 centimeters, so I was offered an epidural. I took it, figuring that since I had been in pain for three weeks some pain relief would be nice. It was, and after a few hours I was checked again. No progress, so the doctor explained to me that they would like to give me pitcoin to speed up my contractions. Sure, why not? I mean, after all, getting this over with faster would be better right? They told me it was a normal procedure to put a monitor on the baby’s head to regulate the heartbeat while on the pitcon. I agreed, I wanted my little boy safe. After a few hours, I was having contraction on top of contraction, the pain was so unbearable! I felt as if I had walked into hell. I told the anesthesiologist, but she replied “some pain is to be expected”. After awhile though she noticed the tube of my epidural wasn’t draining into my spine. “Oh, it fell out” she exclaimed, “I’ll put one in this time that wont”. Now I was getting nervous, what the heck kind of people don’t make sure they do it right the first time? After my second epidural, the pain was so much better. The hours flew by. After only 8 hours I felt ready to push, and I mean ready. It was the strongest urge to do something I had ever felt in my life. Stronger than any hunger, pain, love, lust, a desire so strong I couldn’t deny it. I began to push, and the doctor rushed in and checked me. She told me I wasn’t quite 10 centimeters and that I can’t push or I could hurt myself. She then instructed me to turn on my side. Reluctantly I did so. Holding in an urge that strong, was one of the harder things I’ve ever had to deny my body. So, naturally my body started fighting back. After awhile she checked again, she told me I still wasn’t there. All this time the baby’s heart rate started to decline. Slowly at first, and then more rapidly. After a while of this she finally called in the head doctor of the department. He checked me immediately. I was startled when a yell came out of him directed at the intern. “SHE’S BEEN 10 FOR SOME TIME, THERE’S A LIP ON HER CERVIX, WHY DIDN’T YOU LET HER PUSH?!” He looked worried now. As he shot a direct look at me, he told me “Push Mrs. Merchian, with all you can!” I did, but the baby’s heart rate was low now, and he grew more concerned by the third set. He grabbed the forceps and the vacuum . . . the baby was stuck. He later told me, that because the baby sat in my birth canal for so long, I swelled up. Had I been able to push, the baby would have probably had a normal delivery. In a matter of minutes my normal delivery, and my lack of knowledge turned to panic as they rushed me to the operating room. All I could think of was, what if my baby dies? Apparently that’s all the doctor could think of too, “I will do everything I can to get him out in time.” I waited breathlessly for the first cry, it seemed to take ages. My husband had finally joined me now, which I know only took minutes but for me took a lifetime. I knew he was thinking what I was thinking, as he squeezed my hand a little tighter, and leaned in a little closer. Finally we saw the baby lifted. At first there was no sound, then suddenly a loud, strong cry! I was moved to tears as this little life joined our family. Had I known the cost I paid that day, I might have sued. But we had our new life, and all that mattered was our future. My recovery was easy. There was hardly any pain, no problems, and within a few weeks I was back to my usual self. All in all the c-section was no big deal, and best of all, the baby was fine and very healthy.
My Second Child:
Four years later, we conceived a little girl. I knew it was a little girl right away. With my son, I was even keel, sick for only a week and huge. With my daughter, I was moody as all get out, sick for months, and didn’t even look pregnant. We planned having my daughter, so I knew her time of conception. There was no mystery in her due date. She had a strong heartbeat, and like her mother, a will that thrived all its own from the time of conception. I had never had a true mother, so it had always been my dream to have a little girl of my own to have that special relationship with. I looked forward to the day when I got to hold this little one in my arms, and give her something I had never been blessed with. Since my husband was Navy, we were living in Washington. As my last child was born C-section, I was doing my research to have this baby on my terms. I elected to do a hospital VBAC. I favor epidurals, and since I tend not to trust my instincts, I wanted a doctor that did. After a hunt, I rested on a doctor that was outside the normal Navy Obstetrician. She was wonderful, knowledgeable, and dealt with our every concern. She told us that I was a perfect candidate for VBAC, and she saw no reason why I wouldn’t be able to accomplish it. Time passed and everything progressed perfectly, and then, a bump in the road. To say it was a bump, is an understatement. It was a wall, a wall that forced our paths directly into a valley. Little did we know how long we would be lost in that valley. I was six months pregnant, and my husband was getting honorably retired from the Navy. We knew it was coming, but we did not know when it was coming. Like all good things Navy, you don’t know when, you don’t know how, and you got no choice. Since my grandfather was sick, and all our family was in California, we packed up and moved home. As an upside, at least all my family would be present for the birth of this little one. I would get to share her beginning with the people I loved most in the world, and they would be able to watch her grow.
My due date was fast approaching, I contacted the Obstetrician I knew from my past. On my first visit, I was disappointed to learn that the hospitals in our area would not pay for the insurance required to allow for VBAC’S. If I stayed in the area, it was doomed to be another C-section. This was something I didn’t want. So, I contacted some doctors out of the area. Most said I was too far along for them to be willing to take the risk, others told me they don’t do them. Frustrated, I considered my last option, a home birth. I was completely for it, but truthfully my family shuns the crazy “hippie” ideals, as they call it, of home birth. “Babies should be born in the hospital, you’ll kill it if you have it at home” one grandmother told me. I was frightened by the idea of home birth, what if I did have a problem? What if I couldn’t get to the hospital in time? How would I know? So, admittedly I took the easy way out, or so I thought. Three months passed quickly, and before I knew it, my due date was here. I choose October the 26th. It’s a day before my birthday, and the same day of the month as my first child. When I showed up at the hospital early that morning, I was horrified, probably the most scared I had ever been. My family tried to calm me, but looking back on the video’s I couldn’t really explain to anyone what I was scared of. Perhaps I knew in my heart what would happen. Perhaps I knew something was off. Perhaps it was a warning. I’m sure I’ll never know.
I was scheduled for a morning surgery, but right as it was my turn for the O.R., the nurse came into my room (full of my family), and informed me that the doctor was unable to do the surgery that morning. He left instructions that I was to be kept in the hospital until 12p.m. and he might be able to do the surgery then. He never showed at noon. My family, having waited all day, grew impatient. The nurse returned to inform us that the doctor promised to do the surgery at 8p.m. I, not wanting to give up on the babies due date, agreed to waiting another eight hours in the hospital for him. When I think back now, I wonder why I didn’t just ask for another doctor? Why didn’t I just go home and wait? My life is filled with so many regrets of what I should have done differently. When 8pm finally arrived, I was taken into the O.R., prepped, given the spinal, and sat there waiting for the doctor. It was 9:00 before he showed up. He rushed in, grabbed the equipment, and started the surgery; never letting me know what was going on, never telling me what was happening, despite the fact that I kept asking. He started cutting into me without warning and with a sense of urgency went through the motions. Later I learned that he had cut my muscle in half, greatly increasing my odds of nerve damage. Thankfully, seeing how the doctor was treating me, the Pediatrician starting telling us what was happening. At 9:30, my daughter was born; a beautiful 5lb. 6oz. perfect baby girl. I’ll never forget that moment. It was the first moment of happiness I had with her . . . and my last for the following three years. By the time the doctor was stitching me up, I started to feel the pain. I told them, but the anesthesiologist just seemed to be lost on what to do. By the time the doctor was burning my flesh I had the sensation back in my skin. You see, as I know now, the spinal begin to wear off after 2 hours. Since the doctor kept me waiting in the O.R. so long, by the time he was sowing me up, my spinal was wearing off. I was glad when it was over. I was in pain, yes, but I figured in time it would heal. Besides, I had more important things to worry about. When I got to my daughter, I breast fed her, watched her get her first bath, gazed upon her as she first fell asleep again after no doubt the tiring work of being born. She was a perfect little girl.
The hospital stay started uneventfully, aside from our noisy neighbor. She was a mere 18 and a first time mom, so her baby cried a lot. Thinking back on my first, my son cried a lot too. This time around was so peaceful that I’m sure it made the poor girl next door feel like she was doing something wrong. My little girl barely made a peep, for every time she made a sound, I knew exactly what she needed at that second, so there was no reason for tears. By the end of my first 24 hours I was exhausted. I had gotten up to use the restroom, when my outside incision split open and water like blood gushed all over the floor. The doctor didn’t seal the incision well enough. Horrified, I waddled back to my bed where I called the nurse and she called my doctor. He told her not to let me get up, but then didn’t show up for five hours. This man confused me. When at last he made his grand appearance, he ordered a local anesthetic, re-burned, and re-glued my incision. Thankfully that seemed to hold, and I had no more problems while in the hospital. When the doctor came to see me late on my second evening, I begged him to go home. I was tired, I wanted my bed, and more importantly I wanted quiet. “Hospital’s are no place for rest.” I told him. He signed my release, and I was happy. It was finally time to start my life with my little one, or so I thought. When I went home that evening, in addition to the incision pain, my back was also hurting. I figured it must be from those horrible hospital beds, and I dismissed it. As the weeks went by, my incision pain grew less and less, and my back worse and worse.
When I hit the two week mark, I didn’t feel right. I still needed my pain medicine, not only for my abdominal area, but also for my back. When I went to see my O.B. doctor, I told him something was wrong. He assured me pain was normal for up to six months after surgery, but he would not continue to give me pain medication past two weeks. I was furious. Not only did he dismiss me, he denied treating the pain as well. I called my primary doctor, and he saw me right away. Looking me over and hearing what I had to say, he prescribed me a month of pain medication. Then he sent me to another Obstetrician to do some research. I trusted myself, since this time I felt something was very wrong. The O.B. doctor did some digging, but after three months he found nothing. My back pain was added on to with headache, and my abdominal pain grew. Seeing this, my primary doctor sent me to a pain specialist. On my first visit, the pain specialist knew what was causing my back pain. “There’s a small leak in your spine from your spinal, its putting pressure back there, it’s an easy fix.” She went on to explain that to fix it they inject a small amount of blood into your spine, the blood clots the leak and fixes the pain and headache. A week later, I was free of back pain and headache, but my abdominal pain was still a mystery. The pain in my abdomen was crippling, I had been unable to lift my little one once she reached 15 pounds. Holding her very long caused the pain to worsen. Sitting up made it worse, car drives became an absolute misery. I never wanted to go anywhere because walking around moved everything and made it worse. I had loved the theater, loved the movies, loved to go to the mall, loved to just run out to walmart to look at things. Now the very second we did anything like that, all I could think was, “when do I get to go home and lay down, I’m miserable.” Before the baby my husband and I used to make love every day. Afterward, I could not experience any pleasure, and the act of doing anything sensual made the pain worse. I couldn’t drive. Just the act of pushing the pedals made me want to cry. When my medication would wear off after a few hours, the time would slow to a crawl and I felt as if I wanted to gouge my eyes out. I would literally count the minutes until the next time I got to have some relief, even though it wasn’t even enough to give me my life back. Anything extra I did, including doctor visits, car rides, family visits, going out anywhere took all my strength and effort.
When it neared a year of me still being in pain, and the O.B. in my area ran out of idea’s, I went to the city. I told the new doctor of the problem and he told me there was only one way to know for sure if it was something going on below the muscle layer, or above. That was a laparoscopy. Its a surgery where they make one incision and look at the under layers to see how your uterus looks, and to assess if there is any damage inside your uterus from the c-section. One year to the day, I had the laparoscopy, hoping I would wake up from the surgery with answers. When I awoke, the doctor came in with a grim look on his face. “I found nothing” he told me. “It must be in your muscle layer, your nerves.” So I went back to the pain doctor. I thought she would certainly know what to do. When I told the pain doctor what the O.B. had told me, her face looked like death. She looked at me and said, “there is nothing we can do for that, I’m sorry but you’ll be in pain the rest of your life.” In that moment, I lost all hope. My world came crashing in. I would never have my life back. I would never be myself. I would miss everything in my life that mattered. I had run out of questions, out of people to ask, and had no hope of answers. That was the lowest point in my life. I went home, and cried for a week. I spent my birthday that year wishing I would die to spare my family this hell I had made for myself. The “if only’s” and “what if’s” flooded my mind daily. I felt guilty. Guilty of robbing everyone in my life. Guilty of robbing my husband of the wife that had wanted to make him breakfast, lunch and dinner. The wife that wanted to meet his every need, that looked out for his well being before her own. I was no longer that person. I felt guilty of robbing my son of the mother that would take him to the playground. That wanted to care for him and teach him how to tie his shoes, or teach him to read. Teach him anything. I yearned to feel anything toward him other than pain, or guilt. I was no longer that person. Most of all I felt guilty of robbing my daughter of the mother I always wanted to be. To be there for her, always. To be the one she cried for when she got a boo-boo. To be her comforter. To make her laugh when she’s upset. To kiss her goodnight and know that I gave her a chance at a better life than I had. I was no longer that person. After a few month’s my extended family began to assume my pain was mental. That made my already unbearable situation even worse. They all assumed I was addicted to the medication and that’s why I continued to live the way I was. The problem was, in a way, they were right. The definition of addiction is an unusually great interest in something or a need to do or have something. I had a need to have pain medication, and it left me disgusted with myself. It made me hate myself all the more, and I sunk lower and lower into my depression. It is said that when you are weak, God will be strong. Usually His strength comes to me in my husband. My husband believed in me, believed my pain was real, and believed I would get better, no matter what happened. My husband carried me through much of that time. He was exhausted from taking care of everyone, and taking on the worries of two by shouldering my burdens. He assured me that his life wouldn’t mean anything with out me in it, and gave me hope that we would find answers, that one day we would have a life free of this, and look back on it all. Although it took me six months or more to keep fighting, and although I didn’t fully believe him, it was enough to keep me going. Looking back now, he was amazing through this all. Finding a good husband is so hard, and I had a great one. He took care of me in sickness, and never gave up on me even when I wanted to give up on myself. He did everything for me, took care of the kids, fixed me food, washed me, even loved me despite myself. Although the sickness itself hurt the love we had for each other because of the person it made me, in a way we grew stronger. Because love was tested, I better know the man I love.
When we neared the second year, I started to fight again. The fight was for a cure, and fight I did. First I got a doctor who wanted me to see a psychologist, and I did. Although he found out I have ADHD, he said my pain was definitely not mental. So, all the doctors after that who said it was, were out. I went to other doctors who had the same answer as the pain doctor, others still who had temporary ideas, but no solutions. I saw over 20 doctors that year. So many, that my insurance started putting limits on how many I could see.
Finally, in a stroke of good fortune, I got put with Dr. Joe Park in Victorville C.A. After receiving my records and looking them over, he knew what was wrong immediately. “You were sown up too tight” he explained. “This is not very well known, but it can happen. All your nerves are bundled up in your muscle, and that’s what is causing you pain.” He went on to tell us which nerves, and that there are four ways that he could fix it, three surgery options and one non-surgery. He could go in, and manually loosen the suture, but it may not fix all the nerves that are already stressed. He could also try to burn all the nerve endings, but there is only a 70% success rate and it’s own risks. Option three was that I could get an implant that sends a signal to the nerves and changes the response they send back. The non-surgical option was, we could try a set of injections that stretch the muscle and loosen the nerves. He strongly suggested that we try the non-surgical option first even though it would take several months before we knew for sure if it would work. We agreed. My first set of injections, I definitely noticed a difference. Right afterward, I wasn’t in pain because they inject lidocaine into the muscle and it deadens the nerve endings. Unfortunately, after a few hours that wears off. I was about 10% better permanently. After the second it felt 20% better and the third 30%, but it takes two weeks in between, and I had been sick so long that any day in pain was a day I wasn’t really willing to spend. My husband and I decided that if after the fifth set of injections my life didn’t improve by half, we would go for a surgical option. When the fourth and fifth injections weren’t much of an improvement, the good doctor agreed to try a surgical alternative. We selected the one with the best success rate, the implant. First they use a temporary trial that only stays in five day’s. It’s done in the doctors office, and they use lidocaine and a special metal injector to put the wire in that sends a signal to your nerves that changes the response. The injector cause pain, so it takes about three days to know if you feel truly better or not. After my three day’s were over, I noticed a big difference. I woke up that morning and didn’t have any pain. When I climbed out of bed, I was sure I would have pain when I began to walk, wrong again. What a weird feeling it was to anticipate putting my foot down to experience pain, and yet, there was none. I stomped to be sure. No nerve shock, no throb, no wanting to double over. How odd. This was great! I ran! It was my first time running in three years, I felt the gentle breeze whoosh through my hair. Still no pain. I jumped, letting out a victorious “Yelp!” My poor husband now thinking something was wrong came to check on me. “Are you alright?” ” Better than alright!” I told him, “lets go for a ride!” I insisted that he let me drive him somewhere, anywhere. There was no way I was going to let anything stop me from living if I was given any amount of time with out suffering. He insisted we eat first. After agreeing reluctantly and scarfing down my food, we were off. We spent the next two days going out to just do things. Things I had forgotten I enjoyed. Things like going to the grocery store, going to wal-mart, going to the movies, taking the kids to play. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but when you lose your whole life, its those things you miss. Every muscle in my body ached by the end of the second day. I had serious muscle atrophy from the last three years, but I didn’t care. I no longer had to use the wheelchair cart, that alone was awesome. Point was, I lived, and the sooner I could do that permanently the better. In the next month the doctor scheduled the surgery for the permanent implant. The week after the procedure, my husband got a great job out in Iowa and we moved from California.
Three weeks after surgery I am running my own home again, living my own life again. I take my own showers, I don’t need someone to help me. I take care of my kids. I help my son with his homework, my daughter calls for me when she gets a boo-boo. I feed my husband breakfast every morning, drive him to work every day, and if we aren’t too tired from all the running around make love every night. I feel a happiness that I have not had in three years. If you would have asked me two years ago where I would be right now, I would have said “Dead if I’m lucky”. But I’m not, and best of all I’m not suffering anymore either. To be fair, my life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. I still have pain that breaks through from time to time. I have days that are worse than others, especially when its cold outside, or I don’t sleep enough. I have to charge my battery every two weeks or my unit will die, and if my unit dies I’ll be in pain. Every nine years I have to go in to have surgery to get the battery replaced. Surgery is injury, don’t ever forget that. Because of all the experimental medications they put me on, I developed a seizure disorder that I hope will fade with time. If it does not, it’s something I’ll have to live with. All this because of one surgery. All this because I allowed them to give me pitocin which increases the rate of c-section considerably. All this because an intern made a mistake. All this because some doctor was in a hurry cut my muscle and sewed me up too tightly. All this because I had to be sewn up at all. All this because I had to have another C-section. No matter what medical officials say, C-sections are dangerous. Most of the time they are doing more harm than good. If you’re thinking of having one, please don’t, for you. Or if you know someone who might, I urge you with all of my heart to reconsider. Tell them my story, encourage them to do research, encourage them to educate themselves on the real dangers that women face when they undergo C-Sections. Don’t let them risk throwing their lives away, or risk missing out on the lives of their new baby like I did. I came dangerously close to losing my family, and my marriage over it, don’t do the same. The rate of developing nerve damage after C-section is on the rise, so help stand against surgery at all cost. Help promote awareness and knowledge. Take it from someone who lives with daily regret . . . it is better to not risk having to live with regret at all.
Now I’m pregnant again, and that adventure scares me because there is little insight on how nerve damage effects future pregnancies. So, I hope to change that, I hope my insight will help you overcome if you too are facing a future with cesarean nerve damage.