I want to share my birth story with the Birth Beat Tribe because I don’t think there are enough positive c-section stories. For many women they’re associated with a traumatic birth experience, feelings of failure or disappointment that they didn’t have the birth they hoped for.
While c-sections can be an extremely difficult experience for some, I think it’s important to know that they can also be amazing. Every women’s story is different, but if you know that you need to have a c-section and are feeling upset about it or fearful, I hope my story can help you feel less apprehensive.
Deciding to have an elective c-section
My first birth experience was incredibly intense after being induced. Although, at the time I wouldn’t have described it as traumatic. However, the recovery from a significant tear took its toll on me emotionally and physically. I felt broken for a long time and even though I made a full recovery in a physical sense, I knew if I ever had another baby that it would be something I needed to work through. The thought of it filled me with anxiety.
When I found out I was pregnant with my second baby, one of my earliest thoughts were ‘what am I going to do about the birth?.’ After speaking at length with my partner, we both felt that a caesarean would be best. We had the support of our obstetrician the moment we mentioned it. Once the decision had been made, I felt much calmer about the birth for the rest of my pregnancy.
Knowing the end date of my pregnancy was quiet a unique experience given that my first was 10 days overdue! In a way, I quite enjoyed knowing the date as I felt like I could plan a bit more and be as organised as possible without that endless waiting feeling. I was booked in to have my caesarean at 39 weeks.
During my pregnancy, I watched the Birth Beat Ultimate Birth Course’s c-section module several times. With my partner and alone, just mentally processing what was going to happen. Prior to watching it, like many women I suspect, I had no clue what actually happened before, during and after a c-section.
We were also incredibly lucky as the obstetrician in the module performing the surgery was also our obstetrician. Not only is he amazing at what he does, he is the most relaxed, calm-natured, funny and gentle doctor you could ask for. We knew we were in good hands which made me feel even more relaxed about the big day.
Preparing for a c-section
When you are booked in for an elective c-section (as opposed to an emergency one) there are several additional checks and tests you need to do prior to the surgery.
- An appointment with an anaesthetist to run through specific health questions.
- Being weighed (again!)
- Being given a prescription for a medication that you take once, the night before your surgery to help prevent rising stomach acid.
- You are also asked to have a full blood count blood test, just in case you end up needing a blood transfusion.
Aside from that, there were no remarkable differences in my care leading up to the day.
Day of the surgery
I was booked in for an 8am surgery and we were asked to arrive at the hospital at 6.30am. I also had to fast from midnight the night before.
Despite being prepared, I was still feeling really nervous! It was a funny mix of excitement knowing I’d meet my baby soon but also nerves that I was about to undergo major surgery.
We arrived and were immediately taken through into the room where I’d be staying. Thankfully, as soon as we arrived, we were kept busy with all the prep work and there wasn’t much time to wait around getting more apprehensive.
I’d just taken a shower at home that morning but I was asked to take another one once I was there and put on my hospital gown. This is to ensure the wound site is as clean as possible.
Then the midwife put TED stockings on my legs and inserted a urinary catheter. I was kind of dreading having the catheter put it but it wasn’t too bad at all.
The theatre nurses arrived to take us to the operating theatre and I was so excited that a dear friend was coincidentally rostered on that morning and given the task of collecting me from the maternity ward. Seeing a familiar face and having a good old chat on our way to theatre made me feel super relaxed.
As all this was happening my partner was with me the whole way through. We’d heard some horror stories about partners not being allowed in to c-section births thanks to COVID-19 precautions (mostly international), so we were very happy that everything could proceed as normal for our birth.
Once we arrived at the theatre, I was taken into the anaesthetic prep bay while my partner was taken to get changed into his theatre scrubs. This was the only time he wasn’t allowed in with me, which made me uneasy at first (the thought of having a needle inserted into my spine for the spinal block was the part that was making me most nervous). However, I was so lucky to have the most incredible team of anaesthetists, registrars and nurses taking care of me – they immediately put me at ease.
I had a cannula inserted in my arm and then my lower back region was prepped for the needle. At each step of the way, the doctors talked me through what was happening and at no time did I feel kept in the dark or uncertain. We had to wait for my obstetrician to arrive, so passed the time chatting and laughing. It was all very relaxed.
Once it was go-time, the anaesthetist inserted a local anaesthetic to numb the area before inserting the spinal block needle. With a spinal, the aim is to make you numb from the nipple line down, so they told me I’d start to feel a slow, warm tingly feeling down my middle and legs. After a few minutes, they laid me down and I immediately started to feel the effects.
One of the nurses asked me to wriggle my toes, which I couldn’t do and then they also gently touched my skin with a small pin. I could feel the vague sensation of someone touching me but not the sharpness of it. Once they were happy the spinal block was working effectively, we were ready to meet baby!
The birth of our son
Something no one had really warned me about was how cold operating theatres are. Apparently, they’re air conditioned to low temps to keep bugs at bay, but I wasn’t expecting it. As soon as I was wheeled in, I started feeling really cold. I couldn’t stop shivering throughout the entire operation, despite the beautiful theatre nurses covering my arms and chest with warm blankets.
I think I also had a little reaction to the anaesthetic as the rise in adrenalin can also cause the shaking and shivering I experienced. It wasn’t really a problem, but just something that caught me by surprise!
As soon as I saw my partner walk into the theatre, I started to feel nervous, excited butterflies. This was is it, we were about to meet our baby! He’d been waiting patiently in a waiting room while the spinal was being put in, all in all about 40 mins (which included a lot of waiting around as well). I could tell he was also a bit nervous – seeing your partner laying there under drapes is a surreal experience I’m sure.
Once our obstetrician started making the incision, which I could feel the pressure of but no pain whatsoever, I knew it wasn’t long until we’d meet baby. But I was totally surprised by just how quick it was! It felt like he’d only just started and the next thing we knew the doctor at my head monitoring the anaesthetic told my partner to get his phone camera ready – baby was here!
The drapes were lowered so I could see the moment baby was pulled out, and I could see its head. Seconds later baby was out and my partner said “it’s a little boy” and my eyes filled with happy, proud, overwhelmed tears of joy. We didn’t find out the sex of our baby prior, so this was a really special moment.
C-section babies don’t get the same ‘squeeze’ on the way out as babies born via vaginal birth. Because of this, their little lungs can have a bit of amniotic fluid on them which they may need some help with.
Our baby boy cried immediately after being pulled out which was music to my ears, he seemed to be breathing just fine! He was taken by the midwife for a few minutes for a quick check to make sure his breathing was all OK and then brought straight back to me where I held him on my chest. It was incredibly surreal to have him in my arms finally. While he was on me, I was blissfully unaware of anything happening at the business end! Getting baby out is the quickest part of a c-section, suturing the layers back takes much longer.
During my pregnancy, it was discovered that I had two large ovarian cysts. Thankfully they hadn’t given me any major trouble, but my obstetrician wanted to remove them during the surgery if possible. Because of this, my c-section surgery lasted a little longer than it would have ordinarily.
My partner took our baby with the midwife for his first vaccinations, right at the end while my obstetrician finished the surgery. This was the only point in the whole experience where I became a little anxious as I just wanted to get out of there.
I also think it’s important to share that while you can’t feel any pain or sharpness of the cutting during a c-section, you do feel a lot of the movement. It’s a dull, pulling, stirring kind of feeling that can be unpleasant at times. I’m not sure if I’m the only one but I really could sense a lot more than I expected and it was pretty full on. I think because you know what they’re doing and feeling those dull sensations, it makes it worse than it is. It’s not painful, but just a note if you’re having a c-section – you do feel a lot throughout the surgery.
Our first feed
Once the surgery was finished, I was wheeled into recovery.
Here the nurses checked things such as blood pressure as well as blood loss. Regardless of whether you give birth via c-section or vaginally, you have post-partum bleeding. It didn’t both me in the slightest, but be prepared that people will be checking your pad regularly to see how heavy you’re bleeding.
They also monitored that the spinal block was wearing off by touching me in different places with a glove of frozen water and asking me to move my toes. To be honest, all of this after-surgery care is kind of a blur as by then I had my baby boy in my arms and that was all that mattered.
We were so lucky in that we were able to have almost immediate skin-to-skin contact after he was born and then tonnes of it in recovery. It was while in recovery that he had his first feed – he found his way down to my breast and latched on perfectly first time. I can’t explain how magical that moment was and what a sense of relief I felt. People had said that c-section mums can have a harder time breastfeeding, but for me it was a really wonderful experience.
Despite undergoing major surgery and knowing I had a long road of recovery ahead; I was completely and utterly on cloud 9 after my birth. It was so calm, relaxed and stress-free which was exactly what I wanted.
I was able to have a positive c-section experience in large part because I knew exactly what to expect, thanks to watching the c-section modules in the Ultimate Online Birth Course. I also had a brilliant obstetrician, super supportive partner and great family support, all of which helped make it the birth experience I hoped it could be.
Now that I’ve experienced both a vaginal and a c-section birth, I can say that there is no such thing as ‘the easy way out’. Both experiences were unique, wonderful and challenging in their own way.
Eleven days post-surgery, I’m virtually pain free and recovering really well. The first 4-5 days were tough, there’s no denying that. A c-section is major abdominal surgery and it’s extremely tender and painful to move those first few days. Although I had moments of feeling upset that I could barely even walk, now that I’m through the worst of recovery, I know that I had my best birth experience and the one that was right for me and my family.