For many reasons that could fill a book, I didn’t get chance to have children until I was 40. We were having problems conceiving and due to my age (late 30s at this point), we were sent for a fertility consultation. Turns out there were a few issues; don’t need to go into the full details, but one of them was that I had a sizeable fibroid. Now this could have been age related, but I had been having problems since my early 30s, so I’m not sure age was a huge factor. We were sent for the tests needed to go forward for IVF. There was a hint that I would not be suitable for IVF, but nothing definite. The only comment was that the position of the fibroid would ‘probably’ make a C-section necessary. The day of the IVF appointment was looming and we had chilled out about the trying part, having decided we were just going to wait and see what the appointment brought. But, I fell pregnant weeks before the appointment naturally, so we cancelled the appointment and off we went on our pregnancy journey.
Sitting up a few hours after DD2 was born – cute baby pic.
The scans began and it was apparent that the fibroid was growing; in simple terms, it blocked the exit route. Scan after scan came and the mini monster grew to 21cm. I’m fairly certain the girls thought they had a twin in there, as it was there for both of my pregnancies and probably still in there now. Talk grew more serious about a natural birth process not being possible. At this point I was still living my child free existence and didn’t really have a care either way. I just wanted this baby, whatever it took, come hell or high water, to be out and healthy. The 2nd pregnancy was tougher though as by then I was in mummy world, where everyone swapped birth stories. I could see the look of pity when I said that I hadn’t experienced labour. They would politely listen to my story, but then go back to the ‘real’ birth stories. There were the occasions where I could tell that they felt my birth had been the easy option and that I couldn’t possibly understand what they had gone through. But maybe that was my mummy guilt kicking in, as I too believed I should have been able to have a natural birth. Because that’s exactly it; natural, the most natural thing in the world, isn’t it?
Very pregnant and booked in for C-section no. 2, 2 weeks later
Practical plans were made; I was given a date for my C-section at around week 32, to be done at 39 weeks. I had a pre-op appointment a week before the main event, where they talked through all the procedure details, it was sympathetically done and put me at ease. I made all the necessary arrangements for the hospital trip. I had a spinal block planned and beyond that didn’t really have a plan. I was hoping that the whole mother thing kicked in at the same time as the baby popped out. I went to antenatal classes with the other couples, not the NHS ones, as they were not offered to me, but we were welcomed at the private ones; they added in a few extra bits about C-sections for my benefit. I still have some amazing friends 8 years on, so it was well worth going.
The day came and we drove, as calmly as possible, to the hospital and signed me in. Another scan was carried out, meds checked, (I had really bad acid reflux, so it was just anti acid medication, but I needed something extra to the norm) and just under 2 hours later, off I walked into the theatre. For the 1st C-section, I don’t think Dad was allowed in for the spinal block, but he did come along for the 2nd (sadly, he had to leave as he felt a little wobbly at the sight of the needle, but so did one of the nurses, so he was not alone!) A catheter was inserted, but by this time I could feel nothing. Then I was wheeled into the bit where the action takes place.
I took in my birth CD, which was played loud enough for me to hear. Dad came in with me into the theatre part and stood at the top end. (Should I say that he was invited down to the bottom end, post birth? I will never for the life of me understand why he went, he has most definitely seen parts of me I really didn’t want him to see. He said he just went along with it; swept up in the moment, but as he almost fainted at the sight of a needle, I can never understand him being able to see the fibroid monster up close and personal, and not pass out. Really not convinced this is the norm, or should have actually happened).
First hold of DD2- still in theatre
The main advice I followed was not to look at the lights as there was the possibility of seeing what was going on in the reflection, I didn’t look, so I can’t confirm this either way. The screen worked well, but did make me feel a bit out of the action for the moments of the post birth checks. People had described tugging and discomfort, but I barely felt a thing on either occasion. They were both shown to me above the screen the minute they arrived into the world. Checks and cord cutting were swiftly done, I could hear crying, so felt immense relief and an over whelming mix of emotions. Both times, they were quickly handed to me and with the help of the anaesthetist, (who becomes your new BFF during the procedure, staying with you every step of the way) I was able to support her on my chest.
I am not going to go into the emotions of it all, as they are personal and everyone will feel differently. I don’t want people to read this and then wonder why they didn’t feel the same. Feel what you feel, embrace it, deal with it, do whatever you need to do to get through it. Elective / emergency C-sections / water births / natural births – call it whatever you want, it is about having a baby; there are so many feelings and emotional and they are all yours.
All the necessary clean up, stitch up, etc. happened over what seemed like quite a long time, but was actually not long at all. Then I was wheeled with baby in arms to the recovery room. It would be a lie to say that morphine and other pain relief was not given; this is something I wish did not have to go into my baby’s body through my milk, but it was a necessary evil and caused no issues that I am aware of. First time, the pain was managed well, but I needed an extra boost the 2nd time, so I had some liquid morphine to top things up. I was in the recovery room, with baby at all times, for around an hour I would guess, then wheeled to the post op ward. Now post op ward is an area of idyllic calm compared to the other labour wards, so it was quite a chilled-out time. The nurses helped me with different positions to start feeding her in my relatively static state. Moving was not the easiest thing to do and I was grateful for the bed controls. Feeding is tricky after a C-section, but let’s face it feeding can be tricky anyway; I can talk more about that another time. Despite the possible shock to the body by this unexpected arrival, milk came in exactly as expected.
The pre-event advice I had been given had been a little on the negative side; I had been warned about getting up for the first time after the op, and how painful it was. I then built it up so much in my mind that there was no way it could be that bad. I wish I had done it sooner as I laid in the bed all day, calling for help when I needed to move baby. Eventually I went for it around 9 pm, so almost 12 hours since the op. I can honestly say that it was not that bad; the pain killers worked well. Obviously, it was uncomfortable, but so is a natural birth; it was OK and I could shuffle around quite easily, catheter bag in hand. With DD2, I moved much sooner and got up and down to her on my own. In fact, with her, she didn’t really leave my side, as the hospital allowed me to co-sleep 2nd time around. Not the 1st time though, so she screamed every time she was placed back in the cot. For around 30 minutes the nurses took her to give me some rest, I soon called for her to be brought back though. But I would get told to put baby back in the cot if they found me co-sleeping. Oh, to be this wise back then, I don’t think I would be being told off in the same way now.
After a fairly OK night, I was moved to the general labour ward, which is chaotic to say the least. I had a night in there, but with DD2, I bought some insurance and got a private side room for the 2nd night, worth every penny!
One of the main downsides to the C-sections was the extended stay in hospital; by the end of day 3, I was desperate to leave. I started to get quite anxious about what was ahead of me, grumpy and very emotional, but as soon as I walked out the doors, life kicked in and I went back to feeling like me, or at least like the new me. The 2nd time, as a bit of a pro, I was released mid-morning, but the 1st time, I didn’t get out of hospital until 6 pm on the day 3. I left armed with pain killers and a list of things not to do, most of which are fairly impossible to avoid with a baby, and completely impossible to avoid with a toddler and a baby. I am lucky that I had a husband on paternity leave by my side for both births, so he was there to carry the girls out in their car seats. Carrying baby in a car seat is a definite no no post C-section, but don’t worry, it really is not long before it is possible. Driving is recommended as a 6 week wait, I won’t tell you anything else as it would not be safe to do so. Not driving was a bit hellish as I lived in a village, but I got through it.
Life at home post C-section is probably very similar to life at home post a natural birth; there is pain and discomfort with both, plus a feeling of not knowing what to do with this tiny little human. But you muddle through, until it becomes 2nd nature and you are off on the road of parenting. It is difficult to get up and down, plus there is a need to restrict lifting and walking around with baby, but that doesn’t mean not holding baby, it just means being sensible. I took the pain killers and the anti-clotting injection as prescribed, but soon found that I could manage with just paracetamol. Everyone handles pain differently and will have different levels of pain, but take comfort from a woman who has done it twice; it really wasn’t that bad. The scar is so low down and small that is barely visible; it was tender for a while, but went on to heal very quickly. There is talk of a fold over C-section belly; I kind of had that before due to weight gain on steroids (another story), so I have plenty of folds going on anyway. It is a little longer before you can get back to the exercising after a C-section than with a natural birth, but who am I kidding if I try to give advice on that part? Exercise is not my friend!
Some will say that I have not given birth, they are right in that I didn’t experience labour, I have no idea what a contraction feels like. But I held my babies as soon as they came into this world, I was there for all of it and even if I hadn’t been awake, they would still have been ‘birthed’. Others might say that I should not have risked my babies lives by getting pregnant knowing that natural birth was not an option, maybe it was selfish, but they are here, happy, healthy and amazing. I am pretty certain it would not be possible to prove any ill effects from the C-section, but I guess equally I can’t prove there weren’t any ill effects either. But to me they seem completely unaffected by how they were born and after the initial baby and toddler years, no one actually cared how they got here, except me, I just cared that they got here.