Writing this down now while the memory is still fresh! It feels like there aren’t many positive stories out there about c-sections and high risk births, so I’m sharing ours in case it helps someone else. Content warning for slightly graphic c-section images ahead!
This pregnancy was fairly typical and uneventful up until the 20-week anatomy scan in July. During that appointment, the tech discovered a very large, unusual growth on one of my ovaries. I was already in the process of transferring to Women’s OBGYN in Annapolis for other reasons, but this discovery brought a whole new level of risk management into the pregnancy. Before I knew it, I had a team of obstetricians, oncologists, and specialists monitoring me. The general consensus was that this growth was most likely a dermoid cyst, around 13 centimeters in diameter. However, due to a family history of ovarian cancer, something more serious couldn’t be ruled out until the cyst could be removed. We made a plan to remove it at the time of the c-section and cautiously waited for that day to arrive.
The Morning Of
Somehow we made it to c-section day, November 15th 2022! By the end of the pregnancy, I was in almost constant pain due to the cyst and VERY ready for it (and Henry!) to be removed. We put the girls on the bus for school that morning, and began packing our bags for the hospital. Nothing like waiting until the last minute! Adam and I listened to blink-182 and chatted during the almost 90-minute drive to Anne Arundel Medical Center. We were excited, but nervous. Three c-sections is a lot for a body to take, and this one would be even more complicated than usual.
Thanks to COVID policies, we’d never actually visited the Labor and Delivery unit at AAMC until this day. We were both struck by how large and nice it was – easily three times the size of the L&D at the hospital where Caroline and Ellie were born. We were admitted and began pre-op, and I was getting more overcome with anxiety by the moment. This may have been our third pregnancy, but since it’d been six years since our last baby, in many ways we felt like first time parents.
The staff seemed to pick up on this and were so kind and patient with me. My triage nurse walked me through every single step of the c-section process, down to describing the color of the tiles on the floor leading to the operating room and the height of the stool I’d put my feet on during the spinal. This immensely helped my anxiety and if you have anxiety too, I highly recommend asking your team to take this approach with you as well. Instead of feeling fearful or anxious about each next step, I was able to compartmentalize the process and actually zen out during the operation, something I was never able to do with my past sections.
Speaking of pain: during the actual process, the only pain I felt was when the initial IV was inserted into my wrist (it’s still bruised, five days later), and the zapping, stinging pain of the spinal anesthesia being placed. One of the bad things about c-sections is that the spinal is generally the only part that your spouse/support person can’t be in the room for, even though it’s when you’d want that person most. Fortunately, my surgical team supported me so well literally and figuratively through this, playing calming music and holding me up through the worst of it. I walked into the operating room at 2:21PM. Before I knew it, Adam was back in the operating room with me and it was time to get the party started!
When I say the operating room was a party, I’m not exaggerating! Due to the complications and size of my medical team, there were at least a dozen people in the room for my c-section. The mood in there can only be described as jubilant. My oncology team, whose job it was to remove the cyst and the ovary it was connected to, was excited to be a part of a birth – for at least one of them, it was their first time witnessing one! And the OBGYN team was just as excited and curious to finally see what this cyst was. The excitement was palpable and greatly helped Adam and I feel at ease too.
First things first – get the baby out! Ahead of time, I’d told Adam that I wanted him to constantly talk to me during the entire operation to help distract me, as this had somewhat helped during my past sections. However, I was so zen this time that in the moment, I didn’t want to talk or even open my eyes at all. My anxiety was totally gone as they began the operation, and I didn’t feel an ounce of pain, but I was extremely nauseous due to not eating since the night before. I mostly withdrew inward into a state of calm, but I do remember Adam remarking several times about how the room felt like a party. So, so different from our past experiences! At 2:56PM, there was a ton of excitement on the other side of the curtain, followed by one tiny cry. Henry was here! We asked not to watch the birth or cut the cord, but one of the nurses was nice enough to take several photos for us which I’m so glad to have now.
Cyst Removal & Recovery
Once Henry and the placenta were safely delivered, it was time to figure out exactly what else was lurking around in there. Adam kissed me on the forehead and headed off to the recovery room with Henry. I tried to zen out again once I was by myself, but I found it a little harder to do so now from all the excitement. Somehow, even in the middle of all of this, the one thing I could feel is that I was absolutely starving! Being hungry while some of your internal organs are outside of your body is a weird feeling, to say the least.
My oncology team took over and went to work removing the cyst and the ovary it was connected to. I was still on the other side of the drape, able to hear but not see what was happening. There was a surgical tech right at my head the entire time, watching over the curtain and talking me through what was happening. Again there was commotion on the other side, and I hear someone excitedly ask for a larger bucket. Umm, what? The tech looked over the curtain and exclaimed, “it’s as big as the whole uterus!” It turns out that the cyst was burrowed into my pelvis pretty deeply, and was even larger than the 13 centimeters it’d been measured at a few weeks earlier. So thankful to have this thing out of me!
This part of the surgery wrapped up in about 30-40 minutes, and I was united with Adam and Henry in the recovery room shortly before 4PM. We got to have some skin-to-skin time, and Henry got to nurse for the first time. It was right around the time that the girls would get home from school, so we got to FaceTime with them and virtually introduce them to their brother within an hour of his birth! Somehow, the cyst bucket made it into the recovery room with us too, with the recovery room staff also marveling at it. What had once caused so much fear, anxiety, and pain was now just a fun little anecdote in this birth story!
I cannot say enough good things about our entire experience at AAMC. We were treated with care and competence every step of the way, and will forever be grateful to the teams at Women’s OBGYN, Luminus Gynological Oncology, and Annapolis Maternal and Fetal Medicine for taking such good care of us during an uncertain time. And now, enjoy a few photos from our first days with Henry Blake!