C Sections - My Story
C sections, many people consider them to be the easy option for childbirth. I guess in a physical sense, if all goes well, at that very moment of giving birth they probably are because you're completely numb (or you're meant to be). But what about when the numbness wears off? What about the emotional aspect of not giving birth naturally?
Today I'm sharing my experiences and thoughts...
C Section #1
I was 20 years old and 12 days overdue with my first baby when my waters broke. It was 4am and we were told to go to the hospital for a check-up but that we should be able to go home afterwards to wait it out. That was the first thing that went wrong - there turned out to be meconium (baby's first poop) in my waters which meant that I had to stay in the hospital so they could keep an eye on the baby.
As the day went on the pain got worse but I still wasn't dilating so they gave me something to help make my contractions stronger (oh deep joy). I'm not the kind of person to make a fuss, there was a lady in another room screaming at the top of her lungs but that just isn't me. When I could take no more pain I simply sat and cried quietly, this was when my husband knew I had had enough and we called the midwife to ask for an epidural.
By this time it was around 11pm and I was exhausted so the epidural gave me some much needed rest. Then gradually one side of my body began to come round, I could feel the contractions again on one side. The midwife checked the baby again and his heart rate had increased so they decided to take me for an emergency c section. At the time all I could think about was my baby being in trouble, I just wanted him out so even though they explained it all to me I didn't fully think of the consequences of having a c section.
They took me to the operating room and told me they would give me a spinal because I was still feeling contractions on one side of my body. It seemed to work to begin with but as they began cutting I could feel the sensation of the knife going across my tummy. Obviously I had never gone through this before so I had no idea what was normal and what wasn't but what happened next was clearly not right. They either cut or clamped something deeper inside me and the pain was indescribable, I shouted 'OW' and the whole room went quiet, everyone just looked at each other and this seemed to go on forever even though it was probably only a minute. They re-tested me to see if I was numb and it was clear that I wasn't so they removed my husband from the room and gave me a general anaesthetic.
The hardest part of all this for me was that I never got to see T being born, I didn't hear his very first cry, I wasn't the first to hold him and I wasn't even the first to give him a bottle. I admit that it affected my ability to bond with him to begin with and that really upset me for a long time because I felt like I hadn't been there for him when he first came into the world.
The pain after a c section is unbelievable, lets just say the phrase 'it takes your breath away' was made for post c section mums. Standing up from sitting down would literally take my breath away, laying flat was impossible and coughing or laughing was not much fun either. I also ended up being re-admitted to hospital as I was experiencing severe headaches caused by leaking spinal fluid from the epidural/spinal. This whole birthing experience was not a good one!
C Section #2
It's amazing that I even considered having another baby after my first experience but I had always wanted a big family so there I was, 23 and expecting baby number 2. I was told by my midwife that I could try for a natural birth even though I had had a c section previously and this was something I wanted desperately. After having T I felt like less of a woman because I hadn't given birth how a woman is supposed to - it was important for me to have this baby 'properly'.
Everything was going great, I got to my due date and still nothing was happening but I had an appointment with my midwife the following day so I was quite content. That appointment changed everything though, it was then I discovered that my baby was breech! This was obviously going to affect my ability to give birth naturally, especially with my previous c section, so after a lot of discussion about options and risks I decided that I would have another c section.
To say I was disappointed would be an understatement, to say I wasn't petrified would be a massive lie. The c section was booked for a couple of days later and by the time I went into hospital I was a nervous wreck. That morning I could barely even talk when the midwife asked me questions and got me ready for my op. I had told everyone I came into contact with about what had happened before and they all promised me it wouldn't happen again but I was still so scared.
Going to the operating room without my husband was difficult but the midwives were so lovely to me which helped calm me a little. The epidural went in easily and I laid down on the bed while my body was going numb, I remember constantly wriggling my toes because I thought that if I could move them then I was going to feel them cutting me again. The anaesthetist assured me that the toes were the last part to go numb which made me feel a bit better but I still couldn't completely relax.
My husband entered the room and they began the c section, I could feel some tugging but that was it - I was amazed by how different it felt and it made me realise just how wrong the first one had been. They asked me if I'd like them to lift the baby up so we could see her as she came out and I was so excited to think I could actually, finally, experience that moment! Unfortunately when she was born N's oxygen levels weren't quite right so they whisked her straight off to get her sorted. I couldn't hear her crying so at that time all I could think about was her but afterwards I felt so sad that I didn't get the special moment that I craved so desperately. She soon started crying and was put into my arms, I got to hold her first and it meant so much to me. As soon as she heard my voice she tried to open her eyes, I'll never forget that moment.
Afterwards the pain was as bad as before, I think this is something that has to be expected after a major operation because that's what it is - a major operation, not just an easy option! I was able to bond with N as I should have with T but I still felt like a complete failure as a woman because I now knew I would never give birth naturally. I knew deep down it wasn't my fault but it was very difficult to accept. This was a much better experience but missing out on seeing N lifted up as she was born really hurt.
C Section #3
As I've said before, my third pregnancy wasn't planned so I hadn't imagined I'd be thinking about giving birth again. I was now 31 and the pregnancy was pretty difficult from start to finish, I had so many pains in my tummy, partly due to E being a bigger baby and partly because my tummy muscles weren't what they used to be. I knew from the beginning that I would have to have a c section and I think this made it easier to accept. I also liked the fact that I could have the baby a week before my due date, no more waiting around to go into labour.
A couple of days before the c section I had to go to the hospital to have all the necessary checks and it was then that it really hit me - I was about to go under the knife again and have an actual baby! On the day I decided to go into it with a clear head, I didn't want to have bad expectations, I just relaxed as much as I could and thought positively (even if my hands were shaking like a leaf).
There was some difficulty getting the epidural needle into my back, they had to put it in and take it out lots of times. This was obviously very uncomfortable but once it was in and the numbness was spreading I felt nothing. My husband entered the room, held my hand and I waited to feel the tugging sensation. I couldn't feel anything at all when the midwife said that my baby was nearly here, my response was 'have they started then?', I literally felt nothing (now that's what I call a c section). They certainly had started because our beautiful little E was swiftly lifted up above the curtain so I could see her straight away - I finally got my special birthing moment!! She was taken off to be cleaned and wrapped up but we could see her the whole time, I couldn't take my eyes off her. Then she was placed in my arms and the tears that had fallen over seeing her lifted up returned once more.
The c section itself took longer than the other two because the doctor had to burn off some of the old scar tissue, apparently this smelt quite bad but honestly I didn't even smell it because I was too wrapped up with E. For me this was as perfect a birthing experience as I was ever going to get, I didn't get any of those feelings of failure afterwards and, although I was in just as much pain as the first two (probably more so because my wound became infected and it took longer to heal), I felt happy with everything that had happened.
Now, when I hear other mums talking about their birth stories I no longer feel inadequate, I've come to terms with everything that happened and have accepted that this was just how things were supposed to be for me - my story!