OK this isn’t my birth story, obviously – if I was reporting on my own birth it would be just odd. I don’t remember any of it. Really the title should be My Story of The Birth, or something, but that sounds weird…
Anyway, if you’re still reading (forgive the frequent random rambles), then this is what happened on the 3rd February 2017 when I gave birth to my second baby, a beautiful baby boy, by elective c-section. If you want the backstory as to why I had an elective caesarean then read these posts here – in a nutshell, it was an issue of previous section and potentially very large baby and in the end a section was recommended as the most safe and straightforward option.
So here’s the birth story. I’d like to say, in advance, that some of these pictures are possibly the most unflattering photos of me that you’ll ever see. The vain part of me wants to hide them, but I asked my husband to take them so that you could get an honest idea of what it’s like having a c-section – looking great wasn’t the priority here!
I was incredibly nervous the night before – I had a massive cry when I put Angelica to bed, thinking about how I wouldn’t be able to lift her for over a month and do our little nighttime routine. It was quite odd knowing that I was having a baby the next day – I went into labour with Angelica nearly two weeks late and so the reality never really hit home that a baby was definitely coming!
Surprisingly, because I thought I’d not sleep at all that night, I actually slept for a good six hours. I had dinner with husband and parents at about 8pm, I took my antacid tablet from the hospital at 11pm, checked my hospital bag and then went to bed. After tossing and turning for an hour, I decided to listen to some of the hypnobirthing things I’d downloaded when I was pregnant with Angelica, but they hadn’t transferred across to my iPhone from my old computer. So off I went to iTunes to re-download and what did I find there? A special hypnobirthing download for people preparing for a c-section! It was this one here – absolutely brilliant. I can honestly say that my whole experience the next day would have been totally different had I not listened to it. I only played it through twice (I was asleep by the end of the second time) but I really concentrated on the little techniques for relaxing and staying calm and I remembered them in surgery the next day. So, so useful, I can’t recommend highly enough. I should do a separate post, really – I’ll try and get around to that.
We had to get to the hospital for 7.30am the following morning and, as we only live a few miles from the hospital, I got up just before 7am and was in the car by ten past. (Couldn’t have breakfast and I hate not having breakfast, so I didn’t want to be up for ages feeling hungry. And nervous. Hungrous.) The day got off to a bit of a bad start when there was an argument in the reception of the Day Centre we had to check in at – something to do with queues, and it didn’t involve us at all, but it was all a bit much first thing in the morning. What is wrong with people?! At any rate, we didn’t have to wait in the horrible shouty atmosphere because a nurse came to get us almost straight away and we were taken, along with one other couple, to the prep area outside the operating theatres.
There we had a little cubicle where the doctors and surgeons and anaesthetists would come and do their final checks on me before surgery – I was given two gowns, one to put on forwards and the other backwards so that my bare bum wouldn’t be on show as I walked to theatre. Hurrah! My husband and I were in absolute (silent) stitches, though, when we heard the nurse go into the cubicle next to us and say “oh, Sir, I meant that your wife should put the gowns on, not you!” Hahaha….that set us up for the day, pretty much, in terms of lifting our spirits and making us less nervous. Picturing this big bloke just the other side of the curtain, wearing the two hospital gowns…
I had my checks (baby heartbeat, position, etc) and then the nurse put me into my anti-deep-vein-thrombosis stockings (well sexy, gardeners’ green, with a little peeptoe for your toes to stick through) and shaved my lady-garden around where the incision would be made. Then I was asked the same questions about five billion times by five billion people (any loose fillings? When did you last eat? Drink? Are you allergic to anything? What’s your date of birth) and before I knew it, it was time to go into theatre.
I wasn’t nervous at all until I got into theatre, then I started shaking uncontrollably. There’s something quite weird about walking yourself into an operating theatre, with all of its lights and bleeping machines and the people walking about busily with their masks and gloves on. I suppose that the majority of people never actually see the inside of theatre, but with a c-section you’re witness to absolutely everything apart from the procedure itself. (Though I think some people watch that part too and shun the “curtain”? Or is that urban myth? I couldn’t think of anything worse than seeing myself be operated on, I have to say!)
Everything that happened was almost identical to the last time, really. I had a section with Angelica because she was breech, and it was classified as an “emergency section” but in actual fact they decided on it at 11am and I had it at 3pm (I had eaten a load of Tracker bars and had to wait for them to…emerge…) so it wasn’t truly an emergency. Pretty relaxed, really. Nobody was rushing about or panicking, put it that way. So, when it came to it lots of things were quite familiar. I was expecting the little set of steps that led up to the operating table and I remembered having to sit hunched over a cushion so that they could put the needle into my spine for the spinal block. I was still incredibly nervous, but I practised the breathing from the hypnotherapy thing and it seemed to work – at least I didn’t completely freak out, shaking and crying like last time. Even when my cannula went wrong on the first attempt (won’t go into it, let’s just say my arm was rather bruised afterwards!) I managed to keep my cool. I kept the shaking to a minimum.
I’ll admit that it’s a bit stressful having a number of people poke you with needles at the same time. It irked me, with my first section, that they had to do the cannula at the same time as insert the spinal needle – my brain can only cope with blocking out one thing at once, and then everyone is talking to you and asking questions – “can you feel this cold scratch?” “do you feel anything running up your arm?” “can you hunch over just a bit more?” “can you try not to move, I have to get the needle into your other hand”….it’s incredibly hard to stay calm with all of that going on.
And so I totally shut off.
I went completely silent and refused to engage in any conversation. If I needed to answer then I grunted or nodded my head and otherwise, I stared at the floor and imagined myself breathing in golden air, like they said on my birthing download. Whatever I did, it worked, because before I knew it I was lying face up with people spraying air at my body asking whether it had gone numb yet! And then the curtain was going up, and the staff were having their pre-surgery meeting, which they do over your prone body which is very odd! I was just there thinking, you’re staring at my massive swollen belly, all of you, and my PUBES are on show, and you’re saying my name and date of birth and other things about me and it’s just too weird.
Where was the husband through all of this? Just behind my head. But I was ignoring him – ignoring everyone – because I was in my zone. The anaesthetists kept asking if I was ok and I didn’t answer, but I heard my husband say “I think she’s in a zone” or something to that effect, which made me inwardly amused. I think that it’s quite important that you do what you have to do, mentally and emotionally, to stay calm. For someone like me, who has to psyche up to even have a quick blood test, it’s a challenging situation (to put it mildly) to be in theatre, awake, being operated on. Even if the end result is something so wonderful! I was a bit worried about my husband and whether he was ok, but ultimately I was more worried about myself. I reckoned he was a big lad and could take care of himself (he’d been through it before, at any rate) and even if he couldn’t then I had to be totally selfish and stay focused on my cool, calm, collected experience…
Then, the section itself. To start with, about ten minutes of “rummaging”. Everyone says, “it’s just like we’re doing the washing up in your stomach” and “you won’t feel pain, just pressure and tugging”. I’d say there’s a lot more pulling and churning than you expect – I was taken aback, both times, as to how much my head and shoulders moved about on the table, which indicated that there was quite a bit of serious manipulation going on! I would have honestly held my breath for all of those minutes, I was so nervous and excited and anxious to meet the baby, but they kept telling me to take long, deep breaths, and so I did. It seemed an eternity waiting for the baby, but then there was a sucking, lifting sensation from my body and a few seconds pause and then a huge cry.
I can’t even begin to tell you what that first cry does to you, if you’ve never experienced it before. Something just utterly primal happens, even if you’re completely off your tits on drugs – both times I’ve wept uncontrollably. It’s hard not being able to hold the baby when they bring it round to show you (some people have it on their chest but I honestly can’t see where you would even balance it?!) but everyone busies around, cleaning and weighing and doing baby checks, and it does take your mind off the whole sewing-up business that’s going on further down.
I’ve been incredibly lucky that with both sections I’ve had minimal blood loss (this time it was 400ml, which is less than the average natural birth, apparently) and no complications, and so the post-birth part has been trauma-free. It’s still not a great feeling, lying there helpless and knowing what they’re up to, but the new baby is a great distraction and it’s not as though anything hurts, particularly, apart from maybe the pressure of the cannula in your hand where the drips go in.
The new baby didn’t stop crying for almost the whole time, and it’s quite a lot to deal with mentally, when you’re there and you can’t do anything to help stop the crying and all of your instincts are telling you to reach out for the baby… We were still in shock that we’d had a boy, I think, because we were absolutely convinced the baby would be a girl! But there he was, with a willy and gigantic testicles, and I looked at my husband as though to say “what an earth do we do with THOSE?” My husband went off to put a nappy and a hat on the baby, which I thought was quite brave as the table was down the “business end” and I would have been petrified of seeing what was going on, had I been him. He’s even more squeamish than me, so top marks for bravery there. I’m sure he probably side-stepped like a crab all the way down the room to avoid looking in my direction, ha!
And then? All a bit of a blur. You can tell when the section is almost over, because the atmosphere in the room changes. Two people in the room started chatting about their weekend, one started talking about a new job they were going for. There were sounds of cleaning-up, people were gradually moving away from the table. Someone asked if they could insert a pessary into me – I didn’t ask which orifice and, quite honestly, would never have been able to tell you which one it went up! I just looked down to see both my legs in the air, the weirdest feeling as I had no idea my legs had been moved – it was as though they were comedy rubber legs! – and they were saying that the pessary was in. Oh, the shame, the indignity, when I think of what my lady-garden region must have looked like. I’m surprised they even found a way in, if I’m honest…
Painted with something (to kill germs?) and then lifted (by a team of about eighty-five people) onto a wheely bed so that I could be taken to recovery. My husband had gone ahead with the baby, so he didn’t witness the anaesthetist telling me that I was the “perfect patient”. My God, I was so proud. I bet he says it to all the ladies, but it meant so much because I thought that I was a rude, gibbering wreck but apparently to the outsider I was very calm and collected! Husband obviously is doubtful that any of this conversation took place, and I have no witnesses, but I’m sticking with my story – I was a GREAT patient! I’m adding it to my CV.
Here I am holding my new baby boy for the first time. He weighed 9lbs 7oz, which is quite some weight when you only have bodily awareness from the chest up! It’s rather hard, this bit post-section, when they give you the baby and it’s ravenous and you have to latch it on and feed it, all whilst feeling slightly out of it, with wires coming from your arms and a great big needle in the back of your hand! I remember with Angelica feeling quite cross that they couldn’t just let me be for five minutes, give me a chance to gather my senses and get on top of things and catch my breath, but no (and this is a great intro into the rest of motherhood!): the baby is the most important thing and SOD YOUR OWN FEELINGS!
I found latching the baby on very easy this time, but perhaps because I’d done it before and remembered how to position the baby. I also felt much better in recovery this time, too – I felt incredibly poorly the first time – so that helped with getting the baby latched on. He fed straight away, not for long, and then fell asleep on my chest as they wheeled me through to the maternity ward. What a total babe. Look at those chunky little arms!
From here, if you want to know what happened next, you can read my c-section recovery story. I’d say that I couldn’t have really had a better c-section experience, this time around – it’s so different when you’re prepared, and not scared out of your wits, and haven’t already laboured, and aren’t emotionally fraught and absolutely knackered… I mean, still nerve-wracking, but I must recommend that hypnobirthing download again. I suppose you could use any meditation app or download, really, it’s all about positive thinking and clearing the mind and so on, but I did like that it was specific to the c-section scenario.
So there: the arrival of baby 2! As with my recovery story, I hope I’ve not been too graphic? When I read things back, I think oh that sounds horrendous! and I really don’t know why everything sounds so much more dramatic when you commit pen to paper. I can assure you that nothing was dramatic, it was so calm. It could have been dramatic, but I think that your own mental state plays a massive part in how you experience the whole thing – you can be calm and take things as they happen or you can go in with very heightened emotions and everything will seem like the end of the world. (Me, with my first section.)
Did anyone else feel that their elective/planned section was much calmer than a non-planned? Any other tips for coping with the stress or emotions of having a section? Any other hypnobirthing recommendations? Fire away in the comments section below!