April is caesarean awareness month and many people are sharing their stories of their experiences of their births. Many of these I have read and seen were elective c-sections and photos were taken and the experience was all very calm, prepared and straight forward.
I really don’t want to write my story and upset, worry or concern those who are pregnant now, but I wish I had known more about the whole procedure before going through it. I also believe that more support after a c-section needs to be offered to women.
My pregnancy was all smooth running with no medical issues whatsoever- just the usual sickness and a lot of heartburn. He was due Boxing day 2013 so I knew I had to prepare myself for the idea that he may arrive Christmas day, thinking that would be the most surprising thing to happen.
On 23rd December I felt my body wasn’t right and I spent the day running back and forth to the loo, I was very restless and early evening I had my show (mucus plug). The contractions started at 8am Christmas Eve and to begin with were very small and easy to cope with. Once we announced the labour to the family I was immediately surrounded by my Dad, sister and her fiance – everyone just wanted to be around! I was happy at home for a while but by the afternoon the contractions became more frequent and my pain threshold wasn’t doing too well. Even with a TENs machine and speaking to the labour line, I felt I needed to be in hospital, it was just a natural instinct that this would be the safest option.
Once there I was in agony and the midwife trying to check my dilation was making everything all so much worse. The trouble with me is that I have a posterior cervix- something that has made smear tests tricky unless you get the ‘right’ person doing it and the same with these examinations, I was pretty much screaming the hospital down each time she jabbed me in the wrong place! Once someone else was called to check, I was told I was only 1cm dilated. I couldn’t believe it, it was now 6pm and my contractions were every 2 minutes but nothing was really happening. So they told me to go home. I reluctantly got back in the car and endured the ride back.
By 9pm I could not take anymore so we went back and this time I begged to stay in. I felt they could most probably provide me with the care I needed during the most painful time in my life. They eventually agreed, due to it being very quiet as others aren’t as silly to fall pregnant and be due at Christmas! I was advised I should have pethidine to help with my pain. I assumed gas and air would be first given but by this point, I had hardly eaten, hadn’t rested and went along with what I was told. The drug made me feel sick and woozy and didn’t touch the pain.
My sister and husband were with me and were both allowed to stay to support me. After the second dose of pethidine, the pain was still unbearable and I was vomiting from its effect. The whole night is now a blur due to the pain, lack of sleep and the shift changes – each shift the staff wore different Christmas fancy dress, so it was hard to recognise who I had seen- so it is hard for me to recall exactly what happened.
At some point the midwife made the decision I wasn’t coping and told me I should have an epidural. Again I just agreed and went along with what I was told as I thought they knew best. I waited for an Anaesthetist to become available to administer the drug. Once he arrived I was prepped and just as he was about to do it the department received an emergency call from a & e and he was whisked away to help save somebody’s life… it really puts things into perspective when you see it first hand. They all apologised but for me, it was a no-brainer, he had to go, someone needed him much more than I did.
A while passed – I wish I could tell you times etc. but the pain was taking over and I lost all sense of what was happening – and another Anaesthetist arrived, this time with success of administration. The effect is immediate and the feeling of relief washed over me. I could remove the annoying TENs machine, I could sit back comfortably and I could now rest my eyes… the trouble was I rested too much!
I was checked over and over again. I was in and out of sleep, as were my sister and husband and the waiting game was becoming tedious. As I slept and rested the labour began to slow, my waters hadn’t even broken yet! So, in came the midwife with a purple hook thing in a sterilised bag and she said they needed to move things along so she needed to break my waters herself. Again I went along with this as I thought it was for the best.
More hours passed and still nothing, just me too sleepy and not dilating. I think I reached 6cm at one point, but the baby’s heart rate started to cause concern and I was being monitored more closely.
On Christmas morning a very loud, worried Doctor came in and sent the whole room into a panic. I laid there helpless, vulnerable, confused, exhausted and completely and utterly drained. It was hard to take in what was happening, I remember being told that my baby had to get out now, that I needed a c-section and I had to sign the bit of paper that was being waved in front of my nose. I slurred my words saying I couldn’t sign I was too weak, he accepted a squiggle and continued to make the staff panic. My husband was told he could come with me but my sister couldn’t and I left her there crying her eyes out, worried for me, worried for the baby and devastated that she couldn’t be there for me.
When we arrived outside theatre the shock hit me and I started to wake up a little and comprehend what was actually happening. My husband was whisked off to get into scrubs ready for the surgery. I was left sitting on a bed, feeling dreadful, feeling terrified and surrounded by strangers. I was taken into the theatre and hubby wasn’t there yet; I panicked that he would miss the birth!
Once in a different doctor was much calmer and explained things to me. He decided that the first doctor had worried too much and that I could still try and give birth just with the aid of forceps. I sighed with relief and remember saying ‘yes, yes, please do, I don’t want surgery’. Hubby wasn’t there yet but they started regardless. To begin with they needed to turn the baby as he was now back to back. This was a very strange feeling, I could feel him as he was turned around – a bit like your tummy flipping. I was then told to bear down like I was having a poo and push… sounds easy yeah? Not when you cannot feel anything from the epidural! I was lacking energy (you cannot eat or drink after an epidural) and was now trying to push with no idea of what I was doing. I managed one good push and was told I needed three. They gave up and proceeded to do the checks for the c-section; luckily hubby had just arrived. They use a cold spray to check how much your body can feel before starting… I could feel far too much. My epidural was upped and they waited to try again. With each cold spray, I could feel it around my ribs and this was too much of a risk for them that I would also feel the surgery. They decided to move on and do a spinal block. This is all a blur for my memory now. I am laying on my back in a theatre with bright lights shining directly down onto me, I am surrounded by multiple staff dressed in scrubs, all concerned and I cannot move my body. Once a spinal block is administered you really cannot feel, except for my head and fingertips, and the feeling is horrendously scary. I was now immobile, laying with most of my body exposed, screens going up, staff hustling and bustling and people looking straight down onto my face asking me questions… the most useless, vulnerable and frustrated I have ever felt in my life.
The birth of my baby for me was meant to be emotional, warm, full of love, reassurance being given and overwhelming. This was a million miles away from what I had imagined. I just wanted to curl up in a ball, be hugged by my husband and cry.
Once they cut into you, for some reason, they announce you will feel tugging – not what anyone wants to hear I would think, I certainly didn’t, it just scared me even more. All of a sudden he was out and I could hear rushing about, I don’t recall hearing his first cry. He wasn’t put on me, I didn’t see him immediately and I couldn’t hold him. My husband was handed him once he was checked and wrapped up. He leant over and showed him to me and all I could say was ‘you take care of him now’, I honestly had the feeling I was going to die. I have never felt so scared, weak, confused, exhausted and useless. I told my hubby not to worry about me, he needed to be there for our baby. I laid on the table and let them begin stitching me up. I’m not sure how much time passed but a feeling of needing to get up to be sick rushed over me and I began yelling at this woman who was near to my head. I was probably completely overreacting, but I had just gone through the most traumatic experience of my life, I was lifeless laying on a table and was being pulled about not knowing what I looked like behind that screen. She tried to calm me and she placed a bowl next to my head to be sick in. I was screaming that I would choke if I vomited sideways whilst laying on my back and I proceeded to try and get up!! Yep, completely numbed with surgery still going on and there I was trying with all my might to sit up and get off the table… I didn’t move an inch!
By this point, I really thought I was going to die. I was panicking and shouting and getting extremely worked up. I still had bright lights beaming onto my face, I couldn’t see what was happening, I didn’t know where my baby was and I had no control of my body. The panic must have been all too much for my body as I passed out.
The next thing I remember was waking up and shaking uncontrollably – an effect of a spinal block. I was moved up to recovery and finally got to see my baby boy up close in my husband’s arms. I still couldn’t hold him due to the shaking, you would not believe how much and for how long your entire body shakes, even your mouth as you try to speak.
The one thing you imagine yourself doing after giving birth is being the first person to hold your baby and to do skin to skin contact and begin the bond. No one can prepare you for the feeling of not doing any of these things and being so detached from the little person you have carried around for 9 months. I know they saved him, I know his heart rate was irregular and I know the surgery was needed but it will still never change how I feel about it all.
The moment I could hold him was amazing and the moment the midwife put him on my bare chest for him to scramble up to my breast and latch on is the one that I can treasure.
The after effects of a c-section are also traumatic. I could hardly move, I had a urinary catheter in and lifting was almost impossible. When the midwife told me to go and have a shower my hubby came down to lend a hand. She told me to take off my dressings as they would come off gently in warm water. No one had told me how I had been repaired… I assumed stitches and possibly internal ones that would dissolve. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw when I looked down. As I peeled off the dressing metal teeth were exposed and I was in complete shock. I began to shake and felt weak and extremely sick, luckily they had a seat in the shower! Staples are often used for speed in closing a wound in surgeries like this and having never heard of them before, seeing these in my abdomen was very unpleasant – you would think that somebody would have mentioned this to me.
After a few days in hospital I was informed I could not drive for 6 weeks, I couldn’t lift anything, not even a kettle and I was to take it easy. I had not mentally prepared myself for the effects at home and not being able to be active or drive came as a surprise. I was lucky in the fact I had plenty of family around and as it was Christmas, people had more time off than they usually would, but it was not how I expected it all to be. To begin with, my baby had to be handed to me as he was too heavy to lift, I needed a hand getting up and down off the sofa, out of the bed and even off the toilet!
The midwife visits afterwards to check your wound and the baby. My staples became a real nuisance and 3 needed to be removed sooner than they should as they became tight and began to bruise my skin. Not lifting anything was very annoying, as I had to rely on everyone to do everything for me. Laying down hurt due to the staples pulling on the skin and I hobbled around like a little old lady. I attempted a walk one day and only made it to the end of the road and had to turn back. I was so weak, my muscles no longer worked and everything felt tight and uncomfortable. The staples were all removed a few days after returning home and then that is it, you are not checked on again, hubby has to go back to work- there is no different allowance if it is a c-section birth and I was left on my own to manage the best I could.
In the end, I chose not to drive for 10 weeks as I didn’t feel I would be safe to react quick enough if needed. The wound over the first year was red and raised and very very itchy. Scar tissue began to build up and cause pain and tightness across my abdomen. I had this massaged out, quite painfully, but it needed to be done. The muscles slowly started to regain their use but I had to wait a year to do exercise as each time I attempted it my stomach would swell and be painful for days afterwards.
It has now been 2 years and the scar is more faded, the muscles are all back together and working well but I am not sure if I will ever get the full feeling back in my skin. It kinda feels like pins and needles when you touch it. This is because the brain cannot talk to the nerves after they have been cut through. All of these factors are never told to you after having a c-section.
I was told in the hospital that I would probably need an elective c-section if I had a second pregnancy. My view on that? There is no way on earth that I am going through all of that ever again. My next labour I will stay at home longer, I will remain calmer, I will focus on my baby and not the pain and I will refuse drugs except for gas and air. Next time I will aim to give birth naturally, I want to get the feeling of being overwhelmed and I want to get the chance to hold my baby immediately.
My son is here and I am overjoyed that it all turned out well, but the trauma of the labour will never leave me.