Disclaimer: As mentioned in my previous blog posts, both my girls were born in Geneva, Switzerland. So, therefore the procedures or other things I mention in this post, may not be relevant where you, the reader, may live. I am also writing from a planned C section experience and perspective, therefore an emergency C section, would undoubtably be a much different experience.
Since becoming a mum and reading all the parenting blogs and tapping questions constantly into Google, I soon realised that there is a bit of a stigma around mothers having C sections and many a horror story about the recovery. We all know what kind of things are said. However, I have met many mums who have had C sections and they have all had very different, but overall, positive, experiences. Are people just more inclined to post about negative experiences? I’ve always been of the opinion that the mother and babies health is always the priority, and whichever way the baby comes into the world doesn’t actually matter. Although I have always thought that way, I can’t pretend that I was immediately happy at the thought of having my second child by C section. It was mostly due to fear. Nonetheless, I’m pleased to say that it turned out to be a very positive experience — and therefore one I’d like to share. With this post I hope to show that C Sections can be a positive experience — and also recollect the experience for myself.
I had had a very traumatic natural birth with my first daughter, and second time around, I was adamant that I was going to have a different experience and that did not include having a C Section. Not only did I fear the idea of surgery, I already had a very active toddler at home, and knowing that recovery for sections was usually a lot tougher than a natural birth, I knew that I needed to be able to be back to my normal physical self asap. However…. as we all know, things do not always go to plan. At 36 weeks pregnant, I was told that my baby had not yet dropped down into the head first position and was in fact breech. This meant that I had two options; I could go ahead and have a planned C section or I could have an External Cephalic Version (ECV), where the doctor would attempt to turn the baby into the correct position. The EVC, is a procedure, where gentle pressure is applied on your abdomen which helps the baby turn a somersault in the womb to lie head first. I had actually never heard of this before.
My doctor was absolutely lovely and he talked me through everything and answered all of my questions, which I had a lot of! His English was near enough perfect and I was allowed to go home and think about it and ring him back with what my plan was. After lots of discussion back and forth with my husband and family, about what to do, plus a lot of googling!! I finally decided to go for the ECV procedure. I was so nervous, but I knew that by having this done, the decision on which way I gave birth, would be made for me. I rang the doctor once I had made the decision and he told me the day and time to come into hospital to have it done. He also told me that I couldn’t eat before having it done, which made me very anxious, as lets face it, is extremely difficult for a pregnant person to not eat. Well, it was for me anyway! I was also told that although the actual procedure wouldn’t take that long, I would still need to stay in hospital for up to 5 hours afterwards, as I and the baby would need to be monitored, as there is a very slim chance of actually going into labour!
On the actual day, my eldest daughter was being looked after by a friend, and myself and my husband went to the hospital. Once at the hospital, I was taken into a room, and met two midwifes and the doctor. They were all so lovely and I felt very comfortable. Everything was explained to me again but when I was all ready for the procedure to begin, my doctor asked me if I was okay for him to start and I just burst into tears! I felt so silly, but all of a sudden I felt incredibly nervous and just overwhelmed by everything! But, he was so lovely and I managed to calm down. (Damn pregnancy hormones!)
I was lying down on a hospital bed and my head was tilted backwards and next to me by my head, I had a midwife who did a very good job of getting me to breathe through it and feel safe. The procedure was uncomfortable, and a feeling that I can’t quite describe. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and it was over before I knew it. After trying to turn my baby unsuccessfully twice, the doctor explained that he would have to stop and explained that he didn’t want to distress the baby. I remembering feeling such a huge sense of relief. Even though this meant that I would definitely need to have a C section, I was just so happy that the decision had been made for me. Also, the main priority for me, was that myself and my unborn baby were safe. So that day, we had a date in the diary for the C section, which would be Tuesday 20th December 2016. Knowing the date that we would meet our little girl, was absolutely bizarre, but I felt happy and excited about it.
As planned, I stayed in hospital for a few more hours to be monitored and I had lots of thinking time! I felt so at peace about having a C section and I was actually so overwhelmed at how quickly my feelings from negative to positive, had changed from the beginning. I knew that I just wanted my baby girl out safely and how that would happen, had just been made for me. During this time an Antithesis came into see me, to ask me questions about my health in general and to ask if I was allergic to anything, he also talked me through what would happen during the C section. I was then given some much needed food, which I ate up and was very thankful for! I was then finally allowed to go home and I was given another appointment with my doctor, to talk through what had just happened and to talk through the C section in more depth and to sign over my consent for it.
Once at home, and being back with both my hubby and toddler, I felt happy. Being the person that I am, I started to research C sections. I wanted to know everything about them, the good and the bad. I felt that the knowledge was power and it definitely made me feel calm. I knew that by just gaining a basic understanding of the procedures that would occur before, during, and after surgery, would help me alleviate any undue stress surrounding the birth. I also talked a lot to my good friends who had gone through this and what their experiences were of them. It was particularly important for me to find out the procedures in Geneva, Switzerland, as this is where I would be having the baby.
My midwife, who had visited me for the weeks after my first born, was also my visiting midwife second time around at my request. She was just so lovely, spoke great english and just generally made me calm. What is not to like? I had already had one visit from her at my home and when I had messaged her to say that I would in fact be having a C section, she came over and visited me and talked me through everything. This was probably the best thing that I could have done, as I ended up discussing everything with her and told her how overwhelmed I was feeling and I also had a good cry. I actually had no idea I was even feeling that way, so it was good to get it all out, as it made me feel so much better!
The next day, myself and my hubby went to the hospital for the appointment with our doctor. We firstly had one more scan, to check that our baby girl was still breech, which of course she was. My doctor then talked through what had happened during the ECV. It turned out that our little girl had in fact turned head down when they tried, but then she just flipped straight back up to the breech position! He then explained to us, step by step, the whole procedure of what would happen on the morning of the 20th December 2017. I felt nervous and a bit giddy. It just seemed so surreal that we knew when we would meet our baby girl!
We had one last appointment on the 19th December 2016, the day before what would be my daughters birthday! This turned out to be a quick appointment, which I went to on my own. It just involved a blood and urine test, and then having my blood pressure checked. I was seen by some midwifes, who gave me instructions on what I had to do that evening, in preparation for the following day. I was told that my C section was booked in for 8am the following day! This would mean that I would have to arrive at the hospital for 7am. I was anxious but excited!! I just kept thinking, that this time tomorrow I will have my baby girl in my arms! It just seemed so surreal. I was instructed to not eat anything from going to bed that night and to not drink water from 4am the following day. This in itself made me nervous, as I was always hungry and thirsty. But I knew that it was important. I was given two tablets to take; one before I went to bed that night at 11pm and another one in the morning. I was also given some antibacterial soap to use in the shower and was told to shower that night, as well as the following morning. The appointment took around 15 minutes and was over before I knew it. It felt so strange and very routine! When leaving the hospital, I found it so hard to comprehend that the next time I would be there, I would be having my baby.
I headed home in a taxi, feeling as high as a kite one minute and then very emotional. It was official, my hormones were all over the place. I remember feeling that I just wanted get home to see my daughter. On the way home I rang my friend, who was coming over to look after my eldest, once me and my hubby were in hospital. I went through everything with her and I felt so bad that she would actually have to be at my apartment by 6.30am the following morning. But she was so lovely about it and reassured about everything and that my daughter would be in safe hands. I can not even explain at how grateful I was to her for helping us out. (Everyone needs a friend like this!) It was so important to me that my little girl would be happy and distracted during this time and my friend was the perfect person to do this.
Once home, my husband made us dinner and I spent the evening cuddled up with my daughter on the sofa. I remember trying to eat as much dinner as I possibly could to fill myself up. It was a strange evening and I felt strangely calm about it all. I think that I was just so desperate to meet my new little girl. I put my daughter to bed, read her a bedtime story and I gave her the biggest cuddle ever. The next time I would see her, she would be a big sister. I also knew that I would be in hospital for around 3 days and I had never been apart from her for that long. It made me so emotional to think about it. She was 2 years and 9 months old at this point, so I tried to explain to her what would be happening and that I would be away and she would be a big sister etc.. I had obviously been talking a lot about this day with her throughout the lead up, but I wasn’t too sure how much she really understood. But she seemed okay. I then had a quick chat to my mum on the phone and double checked my hospital bag, which I had checked a million times before! I then had my shower, ate two more pieces of toast, before I finally went to bed. I checked my alarm so many times!
I knew I wouldn’t be able to drink anything from 4am, so being a big water drinker and actually feeling incredibly anxious about not being able to have any after that time, I set my alarm for 4am, so I could wake up and have my last drink of water for a while. I did just that, and guzzled as much water as I possibly could. It wasn’t the best night sleep, but I was prepared for that. I was actually surprised that I got any!
The Big Day
I woke up on time and felt butterflies in my tummy. I was so excited!! I showered and got dressed and spent a long time just pacing the apartment and checking and re checking my hospital bag. The next time I would be here in my apartment, I would have my newborn baby with me. Just before my friend arrived to babysit, I went into my daughters room and just gave her a quick kiss. I didn’t want to wake her, as if she was aware that I was leaving, that would have been awful!! I felt teary leaving her, knowing everything was about to change in her little life. But I was also so excited to see her, in her new role as a big sister.
My friend arrived, and I showed her where everything was and told her to make a cup of tea, chill and just watch tv. I think I must have told her a million times how grateful I was for her help, until she literally shooed me out of the door to go. A few weeks later, she actually announced her very own pregnancy, which makes her even more wonderful to be willing to help me out, whilst also dealing with her own morning sickness!
Myself and my hubby got into a cab at around 6.45am and we were at the hospital by 6:55, ready to check in for 7am. Once there, we were shown into a little room, where a midwife gave us both scrubs to change into. We were both a bit giddy and taking selfies.
I felt like we were in there for ages! It was a very small room with a bed and some lockers. We were told to get changed and put everything, clothes and jewellery, all into the lockers. I was given a physical assessment and then I was told that I could go into theatre. I said goodbye to my hubby and walked down the little bit of the corridor, into a theatre and was greeted by a full team of medical professionals and I suddenly felt so overwhelmed. Its like everything just hit me. I was about to have a major operation and I was going to soon have a baby and be a mother of two, two children!!! I suddenly felt absolutely terrified and as soon as I lay down on the bed, I just burst into tears. It was pretty embarrassing now I look back, but also unsurprising. They asked me if I was okay and I just remember saying, I am so scared! At this point, they were all so lovely and reassured me and talked me through everything that was about to happen. I was told to speak up if I had any questions at all and to try and just relax and that I would be meeting my baby very soon.
I was soon started on an IV, which I absolutely hate and then given the epidural. I am so scared of needles and I was aware from having one with my eldest child, that it may take a few attempts and also possibly, make me feel very sick. A lovely doctor could sense my fear and told me to bend my back and hold on tightly to his hands for the spinal to be administered. I did as he said and oh, how I squeezed his hands very hard!! I was so relieved when they finally said that it had worked. Looking back now, I actually think that having the IV and Epidural, was what I was fearing the most (even more so than the actual operation). So, the amount of relief I felt when that was over, was immense and I could actually try and relax. I lay back down and the epidural took immediate affect. I suddenly felt both legs go very warm, like I was being dipped into a lovely warm bath. The doctors then began placing cold icepacks on my lower half of my body to see if I could feel them and then moved it up my body until I could feel it, which was roughly chest height. It was so bizarre being able to physically feel the ice pack on me, but not being able to actually feel the cold. The doctors and nurses were all amazing and basically talked me through every single step, so I always knew what was going on. The next step was them putting in the catheter, which I didn’t really feel at all. Before I knew it, my hubby was called into the room and it had all started.
The C Section
My hubby sat next to me and we were both very excited. I could feel a sense of them tugging in my tummy. I had read that it can feel like someone is having a rummage in a bag and that is exactly how it felt. I could sometimes feel my whole body moving and the actual bed, as well as lots of noises, but I never felt any pain. The operation carried on and before I knew it, a nurse said to me that my baby would be here in a minute, and then after a few big tugging sensations, I heard that sound, the sound of a newborn crying. I was so overcome with emotion and just burst into tears. Within a few moments, my baby girl was put on top of me for that ‘oh so precious’ skin to skin contact, and I was able to give her a big kiss. I was so overwhelmed and I was physically shaking. On first sight of her, I noticed her little round head and face and was overcome with how cute and perfect she looked. She was soon taken away to get her routine checks and the sense of relief when they said that she was perfect, with all five fingers and all five toes, was an immense relief!
It was then time to get sewn up, so my hubby was able to spend that period of time with her. That bit of the surgery seemed to take forever. I think it was around 45 minutes. All I wanted was to see my baby again. This was actually the part of the operation, where I felt very sick, dizzy and faint. However, as soon as I told the team of professionals, they did a few things and I suddenly felt okay again. I was actually then encouraged to get some sleep, which I remember thinking was such a strange thing to be able to do, but I think I managed, as it was then all finished. After a few checks on me, I was wheeled out of the theatre and on the way out in the corridor, I saw my hubby again and my new baby girl. She was put on top of me again and I remember it was the first time that I had my first proper look at her. She was gorgeous and just perfect!! I will never forget, her perfect little round head and face. It was a brief cuddle, but we managed to have a few pictures taken. I was feeling very tired and extremely overwhelmed. But at the same time, I was literally feeling as high as a kite at getting through it and finally meeting my little girl.
Recovery and bonding with my new baby
I was wheeled down to the recovery room. My lower body was still numb and my body still had drugs in me, so I was feeling fine, apart from the tiredness. My gorgeous newborn, was wrapped up in her little cot beside me and my hubby was able to come in for a bit. It was so great to have a private room at this point. To have some privacy and quiet, was just what I needed. I have to admit, that those first few hours are now all a bit hazy to me. But it involved us ringing and face timing a lot of friends and family and also checking in on our eldest daughter. My hubby stayed for a few hours and then went to collect our eldest daughter. We decided amongst ourselves and the midwifes, that it probably wasn’t the best idea for her to meet her little sister today, and to wait until the next day. I remember feeling so sad about that, as I was missing her so much. But I also knew that it was for the best. I spent the rest of the afternoon in the recovery room, trying to sleep and messaging and talking to friends. I also had my first bed bath, which was interesting! By 6pm I was wheeled around to my main room, which I shared with two other women. It was all very familiar to me, as this is where I had had my first born and it looked exactly the same. This gave me a lot of comfort, as I knew what to expect.
The drugs were gradually wearing off and I suddenly felt tired and very weak. The only way I can describe it, was that I felt like I had been hit by a bus. I was told this was very normal. I was also very aware at how much it hurt when I tried to use any of my tummy muscles at all, for example, sitting up. The next few hours of that night are a haze. My newborn spent a lot of the time sleeping and I managed to successfully breastfeed her eventually, with a little help by a lovely midwife. I was actually quite concerned that breastfeeding would be very difficult, as we hadn’t had much skin to skin at the very beginning, due to me having a C section, but thankfully it was fine. The midwifes were popping in every few hours to see me and top me up with pain relief and to change my babies nappy, as I was still unable to walk.
The following day, my hubby brought my eldest daughter in to meet her little sister. She crept in and I was so happy and emotional to see her. She was so excited to meet her little sister. She gave her a little gift and received one back. (Something that I had been advised to do and would recommend) She gave her a cuddle and the baby cried (Typical!) But, we managed to get the beginning of the first meeting on video and some lovely pictures, it was very sweet. Until….. It was time for them to go home. Lets just say that my eldest daughter was not happy and screamed and screamed. My hubby had to just take her and I could actually hear her screaming through the corridors of the hospital. It literally broke my heart. It had been me and her for such a long time and the little thing didn’t know what had hit her, but I knew that I would be home in a few days. A lovely midwife came into see if I was okay and I just cried. Seeing my eldest daughter so upset, just made me feel awful and I just wanted to go home. It was now the 21st December, and I was desperate to be home in time for Christmas Day. I explained all of this to the midwife and she reassured it that this was normal behaviour from my little girl. She also said that she was aware how eager I was to get home to her and said that there was a very good chance that I could be home in the next day or two, but it would obviously all depend on how I was healing and how my baby was. Just having this conversation, made me feel better.
The next morning was the 22nd December and a midwife approached me and asked me if I would like to take a shower. I must have looked at her like she was crazy. All I could think was, ‘is she serious’? At this point, I felt very tender and I was still exhausted. Although, with my research prior to having the C section, I knew that the sooner that I started moving, the quicker I would recover and I was desperate to get home. The midwife helped me up and I put one foot down and pain shot through me. I wasn’t expecting it to be that bad, but I just burst into tears. She showed me how to hold onto my tummy and on my scar, to make it feel less painful and this worked! It was still painful, and I have never walked slower, but at least it didn’t feel like my tummy was going to fall out! The midwife was nice but firm and encouraged me to carry on. With a lot of shuffling on my feet, I made it to the bathroom and I had my first shower. It was difficult and I have never felt so weak, but I did make feel so much better afterwards and a little bit more human. My scar had a big bandage on it and being as squeamish as I am, I was glad to not really have to look at it.
I had now been in hospital for 3 days and I was doing well. I was ensuring that I was getting up out of bed every day and walking a little bit. My baby girl was feeding a lot and the pain was getting gradually better. I kept taking the painkillers and my wound was being checked everyday. I still had staples in the would but now the bandage was off. All of the midwifes seemed happy and I was told that if the doctors checks went well the following morning, we would be allowed to go home. This in itself made me so happy!
The following day was the 23rd December and we had all the checks as promised and we finally got discharged. I was so happy and I rang my hubby straightaway! I remember packing my bag and I was just so excited!! They came into collect me at around 2pm. All three of us dressed the newest member of our family and finally said goodbye to the lovely midwifes, who had taken care of me and my baby girl. It felt so christmassy and I was still feeling weak but the main thing was that I was back home in time for Christmas day just like I had wanted, with just our little family of four.
My lovely midwife came over to my house the following day and removed the staples from my incision. I couldn’t look, but I am so squeamish!!! although, I couldn’t feel a thing. The area was then covered with Steri-Strips and she explained to me that they would just fall off gradually and to just not touch them, but said that I could shower as normal. She also explained to me that the area is likely to be puffy and pink and could be quite itchy and feel quite numb. But she reassured me that this would all be normal.
As the days and weeks went on, the Steri-Strips came off completely, just like she said and I was actually shocked at how quickly the scar was healing and how different it looked day to day. 10 months on, my scar is now a very faint line, which is barely visible. However, I do notice it everyday, which doesn’t bother me at all, as it just reminds me at what an amazing thing happened and I still can’t believe that my baby girl came out of an incision that size.
So… would I have another C section? Absolutely. I am very thankful that I had such smooth procedure and recovery. I would actually say that the C section suited me as a person, as I like to feel in control and I was able to prepare and get my head around it. Knowing the date, helped me make plans for my eldest daughter and to prepare her and myself mentally. The doctor who looked after me in the run up, laid out my options, making me feel like it was my decision essentially and I have since written him a thank you note, as I will forever be grateful to him for being so professional and kind. During the actual operation, I always felt safe and I really felt that I could ask any questions if I had any. Although, I was in a theatre of medical professionals, they were all so lovely and they could sense my fear and reacted to me in the best possible way. The main thing that I will always remember, is hearing my baby girl cry for the first time and then actually meeting and holding her. With my first birth with my eldest, I was high on drugs and so overwhelmed and I can’t really remember meeting her! So this was by far the best thing out of the whole experience, that I will take away with me.
One thing that I really want to stress though, is that from experiencing both a natural birth and a C section; the C section is by far not the easy option. If I am honest, I was absolutely overwhelmed by the recovery and pain after the drugs wore off. However, as mentioned before, it also amazed me how quickly it took my body to heal. There are definitely pros and cons for both and I actually feel quite privileged to have experienced both. For the weeks and months after, I really made sure that I took it as easy as possible (Well as easy as I could with two kids!) I didn’t do this with my first born and I just became exhausted. So I knew that this time around, whichever way I was to give birth, I would take better care of myself postpartum.
C- sections aren’t always as scary as they sound, especially if you know what to expect. The main thing, however cheesy it sounds, is really that both baby and the mum are healthy.