It's a c-section!

A panicked mother's guide to the almighty cesarean

Journey through the Hospital
photo of the station where a newborn is examined

Once your baby is born, he will be taken to a small station typically at the foot of your operating table where the staff will do a quick check called an APGAR test. They will rate his Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration on a scale from 0-3. Some quick math will tell you that a perfect score is a 10. Almost no baby gets above an 8 initially, and c-section babies generally have even lower scores due to an increased likelihood of breathing problems. Tiffany Gwartney, an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner, explains that prior to delivery, an infant's lungs are filled with amniotic fluid. Infants born via vaginal delivery experience a "squeezing" of their chest through the birth canal, and are stimulated to expel more amniotic fluid. Infants born via c-section do not benefit from the "squeeze" of a vaginal birth and often consequently retain fluid in their lungs upon delivery. This fluid typically absorbs into the lung tissue but requires the infant to work a bit harder to breathe initially and sometimes up to 2-4 days following delivery, causing the infant to require respiratory support and heightened monitoring.

My husband chose to follow my daughter to the table, past the curtain again and swearing to secrecy, and once the team had performed their check on her, he brought her to me and I was able to hold her while my doctor finished the procedure. I was even able to get a photo with her right there in the operating room, which seemed like a great idea at the time, but you will notice I chose not to share it here.

photo of a maternity ward hallway, blurred to reflect anesthesia

When the doctor finished, my husband went with my daughter to the nursery for more testing and measurements, and I was taken to my recovery room for a mandatory rest period of two hours. My mother came to stay in the room with me, and can hardly recount this period without dissolving into laughter. Still feeling the effects of the anesthesia as well as the adrenaline of childbirth, I found it difficult to keep track of my thoughts. I apparently asked for ice chips repeatedly despite the fact that I was already holding a cup of them, and I kept reminding her that my legs were numb. When it became obvious to the nurse that I would not be going to sleep, she reduced the “mandatory” rest period to as soon as my daughter had been fully examined, which ended up being about 45 minutes.