I’ve had a discussion recently with some of my mummy friends about pregnancy and my experiences of having had a c-section versus their natural labours and, having read another blog recently (apologies faux par of mine I forgot to write the name of it down) about whether you “miss out” on the experiences you have in a natural birth and the subsequent bonding it got me to thinking back to my experience and how it all came about…
I had to have a c-section due to problems with my hips and back meaning that I may have struggled with a natural birth. It just so happens also that my daughter was breach so it kind of sealed the deal anyway if there had have been any question about it. However what I didn’t bank on was the fact that it would all happen sooner than expected!
At 37 weeks I had an appointment with my consultant who felt that the baby was measuring on the small side (she’d always measured 2cm under but had dropped to 3cm) so they decided to send me for a growth scan and booked me in for the next day. I was a little nervous as until then everything had gone smoothly and I’d had no cause for concern so I left the room that day wondering what to expect. The next day my husband and I went for the growth scan and I laid silently waiting for the sonographer to do her thing, trying not to read her face or look for any signs that she may have uncovered a problem. After what felt like an eternity she told me that my amniotic fluid levels appeared low and she was concerned about the blood supply from the placenta as this also appeared low. I was asked to go along to the day assessment unit for a CTG (listen to the baby’s heart beat). By the time we left the hospital that night we had been there for several hours and were feeling a little bewildered and not to mention hungry. However luckily the CTG results all came back fine.
I was booked in to see the consultant again the next morning first thing. He was a fun and friendly character who had instantly made me feel at ease from the first time I met him. He had a chat to us and said he didn’t think there was any immediate serious concern but since the baby was measuring on the small side and I had just hit 37 weeks he felt it better to be safe than sorry and that we should just get her out. He picked up the phone to check availability for a c-section the next week and I suddenly then heard him say “tomorrow? yes sure”. He put the phone down and said “How does tomorrow first thing sound?” I immediately laughed in a rather hysterical manner and looked at the midwife in the room, I genuinely thought he was joking but from the blank and serious expressions staring back at me I soon learned he wasn’t!
With an appointment scheduled and a shake of the hands my husband and I left the room in a state of shock, I’d been expecting to have at least another couple of weeks on maternity and hadn’t long been finished work. However it seemed my little girl was going to make an early appearance! We were sent back along to the day assessment unit for my bloods to be taken and consent forms to be signed etc so the c-section could go ahead. The ladies were lovely and made us feel at ease, even making us a cuppa! After an hour or so we were done and dusted and headed out to prepare ourselves for what was about to happen.
One slight problem was my in-laws had booked a holiday and were in France! We had joked with them that they were cutting it fine when they’d booked it and I had said “what if the baby comes early?” I often get these gut feelings about things. We now had to ring them and break the news that our jokes were in fact now coming true and I was booked for my c-section the next morning. They were devastated as they couldn’t get back in time but told us they were promptly jumping on the next available ferry. Sometimes people laugh at me with my gut feelings but I guess I sometimes have reason for them and this was obviously one of them!
After calling family to tell them what was happening we had to head through to a town a few miles away to pick up the pushchair as when it had been delivered to us initially there had been a fault on they were fixing it, en-route we had a minor bump in the car as a guy in front appeared to move at a junction and with it being all clear we followed but he must have stalled and we went into the back of him, luckily there was no damage but I do think I slightly scared the poor guy (and the police van that pulled up) as I got out of the car heavily pregnant and sobbing my heart out that that my baby was coming early!!!! I think they were pleased when they realised I didn’t mean at that very moment! I also had to go and buy a nursing bra, as I’d tried the week before and they told me it was too early to be measured, again my gut was telling me otherwise! I was no good there though either and kept blubbing at the poor woman fitting me and got strange looks from other shoppers as I stood in the underwear department in tears! I blame the hormones!
We arrived home and I suddenly realised that I didn’t have any tiny baby clothes, everything in my hospital bag was 9-10lb and I’d been told to expect my daughter to be 4lb!!! I suddenly had a panic and began to blub again. I called my mum who took charge and called at a local supermarket on the way home and bought a load of tiny baby sleepsuits bless her!
That night I just couldn’t sleep, I kept thinking of the fact that the next day I was undergoing major surgery let alone about to become a mum! I suddenly started panicking about what if something went wrong during the c-section and started muttering about not having a will to my husband and what I wanted to happen! I’ve had several operations on my hips over the years but not for quite some time and I suddenly felt very vulnerable. I don’t think my behaviour put him entirely at ease but I felt I needed to express these things!
The next day after a restless nights sleep and being nil by mouth from the early hours I headed to the hospital. I was greeted by a lovely nurse called Claire, she showed me to our recovery suite and helped me settle in. She was lovely, so calm, so friendly, instantly made me feel at ease. All the necessary checks were done and we were left to sit and wait until the theatre was ready. We were first in but we had to wait until an emergency c-section was completed so we ended up being called a little later than expected. It seemed like an eternity! I can’t even recall how we passed the time!
Once we finally got the nod hubby was dressed in his scrubs and a final bump pic was taken for good measure. I had my pre-med done and the lovely hospital gown donned! I was walked down to the theatre, bare bottom showing to all, to have my spinal put in and was shaking like a leaf! However the fabulous team that met me again instantly put me at ease. I just remember a lovely calming voice of a Scottish nurse and a really friendly anaesthetist, they were like a welcoming committee and chatted to me and really relaxed me totally. The only one freaky moment was the fact that I almost lost consciousness as they were putting my spinal in, I kept telling them I didn’t want to go to sleep and I was going to sleep and then I started to keel over so they grabbed me and laid me down quickly and I came back round. Turns out I had a slight dip in my blood pressure but it corrected itself (freaky though!) Once I was settled they brought my husband in and he sat by me at the top of the bed. The large sheet shield went up and neither of us could see anything. A nurse sat with us at the top end talking to us, as did the anaesthetist, it was all very jolly and surreal. My husband tells me that they hit play on a CD player and David Bowie’s “Changes” came on. I began to feel a bit of tugging and pulling but nothing too bad and then suddenly at 10.09am I heard a cry, it was my baby girl, MY baby girl, I was a mum! They hit stop on the CD player, it had all taken less than the time the track had taken to play out! Incredible! My little girl was wrapped in a blanket and handed to my husband who sat with her against my shoulder. We both just sat in utter amazement staring at our daughter, all the tiny 5lb of her! It took a further 40 mins or so for me to be sewn up and all I can remember is at one point my legs being lifted in the air, I could see them rise above the sheet that had been put up but couldn’t feel them, it was surreal, it was like one of those magic acts where body parts suddenly become separated from one another. I just looked at hubby and in a rather slurred voice said “are those my legs?” to which he started laughing and that in turn made me laugh too!
After around 20 / 30 mins my husband was taken back to our recovery suite by Claire with our daughter so she could be checked over, weighed, cleaned and dressed. By the time I was wheeled back round hubby was sat holding our little girl. It was then that I got my first chance to hold our daughter, skin to skin and try her on the breast, It was an amazing experience! Do I wish I could have held her instantly? Yes. Do I feel I lost out though? No. I still got my moment with my little girl and the important thing was that she was safe and I was safe.
The rest of the day admittedly is a bit of a blur… the drugs were great! ha ha! I remember being brought tea and toast quite soon after coming back to my room and my husband standing holding our little girl as we listened to screams coming from down the corridor. We joked that it was all quite quick and painless really! We spent a few hours in the recovery suite before being wheeled to the labour ward at around 4pm. The flurry of family started, the first being my proud mum and dad to welcome their first grandchild, followed by my sister and her husband and my best friend and a family friend. Our inlaws arrived the following afternoon after a mad dash back from France and they were over the moon!
The first day I didn’t feel much pain but over the next few days I was very uncomfortable, I take strong pain killers anyway for my back and hip so what they were giving me wasn’t doing a thing and I had to ask for something stronger. I don’t think I expected it to hurt as much as it did, every day I was in agony and smiled through the visitors before finally bursting into floods of tears when they left. I think the first night was the hardest, I had the crib laid next to me and could hear my daughter being a little sick, it sounded like she was choking and freaked me out. I was in such agony I couldn’t move to get to her and had to buzz the nurse to come and het her for me. I didn’t like that! However the next night was easier and the electric adjustable beds were a god send! It was quite hilarious watching myself and the girl I was on the bay with taking it in turns through the night to raise up and down like something from Dracula!
When they first got me up out of bed it was horrible. The stitches felt so tight I literally couldn’t stand up straight! I begged the healthcare assistant to stay in the bathroom for me… dignity out of the window! I think I was disillusioned too as I didn’t think I would bleed as much having had a c section… naive! I actually stayed in hospital for 5 days to get my pain under control. I know many women who have been out in 2-3 days no problem and with little pain, but this was just my experience and I felt comfortable knowing I had help close by. Having spent those 5 days in hospital I had got a good handle on looking after my daughter and excellent support breastfeeding so felt comfortable on returning home.
A slightly surreal moment was as one of the midwives was helping me with my breastfeeding (essentially milking me!) and she turned mid way through to tell me she lived in the same street as me! Brings a whole new meaning to popping out for a pint of milk and it’s slightly funny seeing her on a regular basis now but when you have had a baby you kind of don’t worry about the embarassing moments anymore!
It wasn’t until my stitches were removed on day 7 that it felt easier to move, whoever stitched me up had obviously done a corset pull, god were they tight!!!! However once this happened things started to get easier, although I was shocked that I couldn’t even lift a tray with a teapot and cups on when visitors came! I really hadn’t bargained on how much it would affect me. I had hubby about for another week or so and my mum was great popping over to help me. Once hubby returned to work I did struggle to get the moses basket up and down the stairs so mum used to come over around bedtime and tuck me and my daughter up! awww!
I would say I was moving about easier at around 3 weeks and at 4 weeks I got the all clear to drive so it didn’t take too long to get back up and about after my c-section. My first trip out for a walk around my street was in the second week and I attended a breastfeeding support group with a friend at around 3 weeks. I will have to tell you another time about my first trip out on my own the following week to that group… now that was an experience!
I don’t regret having had a c-section at all. It may have been a rollercoaster road for the 48hrs before but the experience itself was fine. I have an excellent bond with my little girl from day one and this has never changed. I breastfed for 4 months and can honestly say having a c-section didn’t affect the bond or her latching on at all. I don’t feel that I lost out by not having a natural birth and I don’t think I would change the experience if I had to go back. I was there at the birth of my niece recently and it was an unbelievable experience, one I was privileged to be a part of. However I think no matter which way a child comes into the world it’s always unbelievable and special, even when things don’t always go according to plan.
I wanted to write this post to give an honest insight into the experience I had and to reassure mums out there who may have to have a c-section when they desperately want a natural birth, not to worry. The most important thing is that you and your baby are safe.