Battle Scar


A few months ago, Oliver, my eldest son, walks into my bedroom, “I really like what you’ve done with the room. Very hospice chic.” Jimmy Kimmel might be blasting on my TV at midnight, and he will come in and say, “So, this is what it’s like at the end?” His humor and teasing are endlessly entertaining to me. I laugh until I cry at these bits poking fun of his mother – me. The newest bit is that he tells me I’m over- painting my eyebrows. “They’re too high on your forehead, you look like a scared cartoon character.”

Just tonight, while he playfully beat me up with his hilarious take on me, he thought he had me. “Wait” he asked. “How old am I?” In the middle of both laughter and tears, I answer Oliver. “I know how old you are.” The truth is, I really did have to think for a second. And he knows that. “You’re thirty-three, right?” I realize that adding the right will give him more fuel to make fun of me but maybe I feed him material sometimes.

There is one thing I might not have revealed to my son and that is the truth of his birth experience. But, one day while he was growing up, his father let the story slip. Oliver has never once made fun of it. In a way, it’s a relief. I hate secrets. But I would keep a secret if it kept someone safe. Actually, my friends know that I will go to the grave with their secrets if they ask me to. I just hate to be asked.

On May 7th, 1983, I woke up at five am. I do not wake up at five in the morning. Okay, so it was 5:30 am. The dream that woke me up was that a large dog, like a Great Dane was wagging its tail so hard on my stomach that it hurt.  The pain was real. It was my first contraction. At this point, I was nine days later than the due date.

I woke my then husband up. Then I walked into our backyard and woke up my best friend Kimberly who lived in the guesthouse. We were renting the bottom half of a duplex and Kimberly the back house in West Hollywood. The three of us sat around watching me not handle the contractions. I wasn’t breathing into them. Anything I learned in Lamaze class went by the way of the learning disability I clearly have. I forgot everything.

We went to the hospital where I was prepared to stay and when a doctor checked by inserting fingers inside of me, my cervix was not dilated at all.   They sent us home. On the way, I remembered that I had ordered a kiwi tart from an upscale Hollywood restaurant called The Ivy. I picked it up. And then sat down, serving myself a really big slice. Oh, right. I think I wasn’t supposed to eat much in labor. As I said, I don’t listen and learn. That undiagnosed ADD.

Just as Mother’s Day this year landed on May 8th, so it did 33 years ago. Twenty-four hours and three centimeters dilated later, the doctor decided on a C-section. I was assumed to be numb because of an epidural given sometime in the last 24 hours.


I was now on the operating table. I saw the videos and so far, things seemed okay in that room.  Except for that one thing: the needle-check to make sure I was numb. Dr NotFeelGood, in the business a long time at this point, cut into my abdomen. I screamed. He stopped. Then he kept going. And I kept screaming. Someone at my head reached out to me and I held his hand.  He told me to squeeze as hard as I wanted. I held so tight trying to fight off what, in effect, was a knife attack, it ended up causing nerve damage in my wrist. I still have that pain. It’s not phantom. It’s real.

I wish I were able to describe in great detail what every layer of muscle felt like as he peeled into me trying to pluck out my child. But, I can’t. It’s the beauty of the brain. I disconnected from the experience at some point. I still screamed. It must have been haunting and frightening to my ex who they would not let in the room once they started the procedure/torture. Everyone around me wore masks and I did scan the room to read the eyes of the medical staff hovering above me. They registered fear, though all kept going about their business. Once my newborn was out of my uterus — but my organs not yet back together — they still didn’t let the father of my child in. We didn’t get that first moment of bonding you hear about as a family. Not that that would matter since we were, as it turns out, not a very suitably bonded family – but I’ll save that for another story.

The doctor realizing his medical mistake – I’m not certain what took him so long, said out loud, “Let’s put her under.” “Oh no you don’t. Not NOW!” I screamed louder than any of my other screams for help. He wanted me to forget. It was too late. The experience was etched and sealed. And now my body got sewn back together. They had a gurney next to the operating table. They were moving me. I helped with the move. And that is when a nurse said, “Look at how she’s moving herself over. If she were numb, she couldn’t do this.” The nurse was slightly horrified. And then the doctor sat down. He looked defeated as he muttered, “I guess I’m getting too old for this.”

I threw my weight around at the hospital after this. And 50 extra pounds is a lot of weight. I demanded my husband be allowed in the operating room. I demanded the baby when they sent him off to the nursery. And I wouldn’t let them take my blood and vital signs ever.

The C-section scar I sport is more of a battle scar.

A few weeks later, at home, I got a call. It was the head of anesthesiology checking on a rumor he had heard about a C-section without anesthetic. I told him it wasn’t a rumor, it’s a fact.   I never confronted or sued the doctor or hospital. I figured I was physically okay and, more importantly, so was my baby. My payback was telling the world that Dr. NotFeelGood was incompetent. Plenty of people didn’t end up in his office because of my big mouth.

In spite of the doctor’s comment in 1983 that he was getting too old, he continued to practice for another 28 years. He died in 2011.









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4 Responses to “Battle Scar”

  1. madeleine gallay says:

    you endured the unendurable, you are 100% badass.

  2. Valentina says:

    Fredde, that is absolutely harrowing!!! Makes my unhappy birthing story sound like a walk in the park. It amazes me you even got pregnant again, ever!

  3. jennifer dudley arbaugh says:

    and all this time I thought I had a rough go! My response after 24 hours, epidural that was overdosed and I numb from toes to neck, double forceps, ripping Dudley out of me and breaking his collar bone… nooo feeling of wanting to BOND… and when an old boyfriend asked how it was? “I will NEVER HAVE SEX AGAIN!” Holy shit Fredde…

  4. Bonnie Raphaen says:

    I know someone else who lived to tell this horrible tale…not a c- section. 28 more years WTF! Yes, you ARE an official badass!!!

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