April is c section awareness month, so I thought my first blog post should be about my experience of having a c section.
I never thought I would have a c section. In fact, I went through times of wondering if I would ever have a baby, not because I didn’t want one, but because I had a huge fear of giving birth.
Despite this, I spent my pregnancy reading up about how to have the best natural birth. I wanted to do it medication free and I believed I could, so when the subject of a planned c section was discussed I burst into tears. This wasn’t the birth I wanted. Why was my body failing me?
Although I live in the UK now, I was pregnant and gave birth in Vilnius, Lithuania. At 40 weeks I was told if I didn’t go into natural labour by 41 weeks I would have two options: 1. Induction, that would likely end in an emergency c section or 2. A planned c section. I didn’t like the sound of being induced, especially if it would likely end in an emergency c section, so I decided to go for a planned c section. I had a week to get used to the idea, read up on it, and talk to friends that had had c sections. By 41 weeks I had come around to the idea and felt prepared for it, but still terrified.
I arrived at the hospital where the OB/GYN was waiting for me. She scanned me and informed me my cervix was still tightly closed and my amniotic fluid levels were now too low, so I was to be prepped ready for a c section. That took longer than I thought. I was given a gown to put on – I put it on the wrong way. I’m sure they never opened at the front on the TV? I then had to sign consent forms and be given some fluids by IV.
After about an hour, it was time to meet my baby. I had never been in an operating theatre, or even stayed in hospital so I felt like I was facing so many fears all at once. Two midwives wheeled my bed to the operating theatre. When the lift opened onto the operating theatre floor I was immediately hit with the most clinical, cleanest smell I had ever experienced. I didn’t like it. It scared me.
My husband had to take the stairs to the operating theatre and he was taken to a room to get changed into scrubs. I was taken into the operating theatre and told to sit on the operating table and lean forward for the epidural. I was terrified, not only because I was in an operating theatre, but because I was surrounded by all these people. I didn’t know who they were, if they spoke English or if they would understand me. The anaesthetist spoke English and numbed part of my back and I don’t remember the epidural hurting at all. I just remember him telling me to lie down quickly afterwards. Everything happened then happened fast. Sheets were being put over me, the screen went up and I was being asked if I could feel things. I could. I was expecting to feel nothing. I described what I could feel and was told it was normal. I also felt sick, again I was told this was normal. I lay there and had no control over what was happening to my body. I really hate not being in control. I looked up and there was a big light. I could see what they were doing in the reflection of the light. I could see them cut me open. I immediately told them and they made the screen higher.
I couldn’t see my husband during the procedure. He was told to sit on a chair in the corner of the room. I could just hear his voice. This wasn’t what I was expecting after seeing births on TV and photos people had posted on Facebook from c section deliveries.
James was born quickly after that. The first thing I saw was the mop of dark hair he had. He was placed on me and they told me to talk to him. I honestly did not know what to say. It was very surreal. This baby had just been pulled from my body. One minute he was inside me and the next he was on my chest. They then finished the operation, which felt like it was taking ages. I was told the position James was in I wouldn’t have been able to give birth naturally, so I was pleased I went for the planned c section.
I remember them wheeling me out of the operating theatre being so thankful that it was over and just thinking it was horrific and I was only going to have one child. It was like nothing I had experienced before. I couldn’t stop shivering but I had James all wrapped up in a blanket on the bed with me. I couldn’t stop looking at him.
The next few days were hard, and I was so grateful that my husband was able to stay in the hospital with me. I really needed his help. For the first 24 hours after James’ birth I had to stay in bed. My husband had to pass me drinks and position a straw, so I could drink. I felt humiliated and so helpless. The following morning, they removed the catheter – it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. It was great to get that out as I worried about moving and it being tugged on. I also didn’t appreciate my husband’s need to give me an update on how much wee was in the bag. Personally, I would’ve preferred him not to look at it.
Once the catheter was out they wanted me to stand up and walk to the bathroom. I wanted a shower, but they wouldn’t let me. Not until the stitches had been removed. I hate not showering. Anyway, I hadn’t anticipated how hard it would be to stand up, let alone walk anywhere, or even have a shower if they had let me. As I stood up my insides felt like they were dropping. It was like they needed to adjust to not having a baby inside me. I needed to adjust to not having a baby inside me. I felt faint. It was horrible, and I just said I need sugar. Orange juice really helped and took away the faint feeling. Walking however, well that was a challenge. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t like the way my body felt. It hurt. It was uncomfortable. It was unfamiliar. I hadn’t felt like this before. They went and got me something which I can only describe as some sort of zimmer frame. I had to lean on it and walk to the bathroom using it for support. I then needed help getting on and off the toilet. They gave me the lovely disposable knickers (which I seem to remember were more like mesh knickers) and the biggest pads I have ever seen. They then put two together inside the knickers. I was thinking crikey how much are you expecting me to bleed. I couldn’t wait to get back on the bed and was wishing I still had the catheter in. I just remember dreading needing to wee. It was just so much hard work to get to the bathroom.
However, probably the most painful thing of all was the doctor doing the fundal massage. She hadn’t long cut me open and there she was poking and prodding my stomach. It was so painful, on several occasions I grabbed her hands and moved them off me and begged her not to do it.
I really don’t like being looked after and having things done for me. In fact, I would go as far to say as I hate it. What I found most upsetting was that I couldn’t do things for James. Every nappy change was done by the nurses or by my husband. I just felt like my body had failed me by not giving birth naturally and then I couldn’t look after James myself yet.
The one thing I really wanted to do for James was breastfeed. The nurses were so supportive of this. They would come and massage my boobs to try and get the milk to come in (I’m sure they don’t do that in the UK), something I definitely wasn’t prepared for, and it hurt sometimes. James was 9lbs so they advised that as my milk wasn’t in yet that they gave him some formula. I was happy for them to do this and they used a syringe so that he wouldn’t get used to sucking on a bottle. What I found difficult was nurses doing all his formula feeds, day and night. I remember feeling so helpless thinking I couldn’t even feed my baby. I wanted to feed him. I was his mum. Luckily my milk came in the day before I left the hospital and the staff were helpful and supportive with trying to get James to latch properly. He was being lazy. He had been used to having milk syringed into his mouth. They started to talk about me expressing milk and feeding James that way as he just wasn’t latching properly. I just kept trying to breastfeed him though and also tried with nipple shields. I was determined. I felt like my body had failed me with birth and I didn’t want it to with breastfeeding. The morning before I left the hospital James finally started latching properly. I was so happy with this. Finally, I could feed my baby.
My c section was quick, planned and straightforward. I was lucky I didn’t have to endure a long labour and then end up with an emergency c section. At the time I felt let down by my body, that it had failed me, but now I am fine with it. If I have another baby, I would probably even want another c section – at least now I know what to expect. Yes, I have a scar, but that scar is important to me, it is where James entered the world.