Both of my boys were born via c-section – one emergency and one elective. Ryan was breached in such a way that it wasn’t possible turning him without causing distress, so when my waters broke as I entered week 38, there was no other option than caesarean. Ben, on the other hand, was meant to be elective c-section and that decision was 100% my choice.
In the last 5 years, I have found it quite intriguing how whenever I mentioned that I had Ryan via emergency c-section, people always understood, but when I would say that for Ben I was choosing c-section, people were not as understanding. “Too posh to push” even said one of my (childless male) friends. I was judged, even though I elected it during my pregnancy with Ben after carefully weighing pros and cons of all the risks associated with either of deliveries (for someone who’s already had a c-section). But look, I get it. There is definite stigma around the C word (not that C word!). And also, you can only understand other people’s decisions if you’ve been faced with the same questions yourself. So judging is fine. I’ve got two healthy babies in my life so like it or leave it, below are my two stories…
Day before Good Friday, back in 2012, I came home from work and not even an hour later my waters broke while I was standing in the kitchen. Firstly, for all of you who never experienced waters breaking – no, it wasn’t like Miranda in Sex and the City. It was rather like weeing yourself! Except the wee doesn’t stop. So before you jump in the car, bring along some towels! Anyway, Andrew and I were diligent enough to take our prenatal classes few weeks before, so we knew exactly what to do – that was to call the hospital and ask them what to do! I remember seeing a girl in our class taking notes, and me thinking, “seriously, is that necessary?”, but at that moment I got it – I did not remember a single thing they taught us (lunch was awesome though!). Andrew made the call, told the midwife my waters broke and baby was still breached (as far as we knew), and we were told to come straight in. So we grabbed my bag (packed literally the day before, after Andrew asked me million times to do it!) and 15 minutes later we were at the hospital. At that stage, I actually still didn’t know I was having caesarean. It was only after my OB arrived (about 40 minutes later) that he told me baby was still breached and they were going to get me to the operating theatre. And ladies and gents – I was a bit scared. At that stage, I was having contractions and they were coming thick and fast, so they asked me to lie on the rolling bed and few minutes later I was in the “pre-room” of OR #2 where I met my anaesthesiologist. He advised that he was going to give me epidural and proceeded to tell me all about it but don’t ask me to repeat it – I was kinda busy focusing on the contraction pain! Good thing was, pain was gone pretty much few minutes after I received epidural. Straight after, they rolled me into the theatre and the way they checked if epidural was working and if I was ready for the surgery was with the ice cube. They placed the ice cube on parts of my body and asked me if I could feel the cold (if you don’t, it’s working). Now – I am not a medical expert and don’t know any of the technical terms involved in performing the c-section so all I know is that once anaesthesiologist deemed me ready for surgery, my OB made an incision in my lower abdomen and then another incision to open my uterus. I joked with my OB weeks before that if I had to have a c-section, can it be really really low cause I like my bikinis low – well, my sense of humour was still present as I reminded him of it just before he performed the cut. It was then that I realised I actually never even read anything about c-section during my pregnancy. As I was certain baby would turn and I would deliver vaginally, for some stupid reason it never actually occurred to me to at least read a thing or two. My OB did go through the facts but again – you may see a pattern appearing here – I did not remember any of it. Funnily enough, I usually have very good memory. But during my first pregnancy, so called “baby brain” did kick in, as if to say:”I’m dealing with enough here. Selective memory will be just fine, thank you very much”. So needless to say, I was not ready for what followed. They informed me that they would start delivering the baby and out of pure ignorance, I thought it meant woosh, my baby’s out! I was not prepared for tugging and pulling that lasted about 10-15 minutes, so that OB and assistant surgeon could get the baby out. I did not feel ANY pain, but comfortable it is not! I remember trying to explain to Andrew few days later what it felt like (mind you, he was there the whole time and at one point even saw my insides!) and all I could master was “it’s like you are expecting to feel the worst pain ever cause pulling is so rough, but no pain comes”. Incredibly weird feeling. And then – my baby was out. And the most beautiful sound filled the room. Ryan’s first scream. Many that followed over the next few weeks were probably not as charming, but that first one makes you grin from ear to ear. It was about that time I got the shakes. Like, uncontrollable shakes. I wasn’t in pain, I wasn’t feeling unwell – I just got very very cold. I was later told that it was most likely from the epidural but that it was perfectly normal. However, when they gave Ryan to Andrew and he held him on top of me, shakes went away. Or maybe it was the last bit of baby brain I had in me, and I just forgot about them. But all I could feel was the most perfect little baby breathing on top of me and at that stage, c-section meant nothing. My son was born.
C-section revisited but completely different experience. I chose to have caesarean with Ben because I didn’t like the risks associated with VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean). I will not go through details of those risks as, I repeat, I am not a medical practitioner and anyone being faced with it should seek their own medical advice, but put simply, I decided c-section was better option for me and my baby. But just like Ryan, Ben decided 38 weeks was long enough and one Saturday, in early AM hours, I started the contractions week before my scheduled surgery date. So like millions of pregnant ladies out there – especially the ones awaiting their second child – I got up, turned on the TV and hoped they would go away! So about an hour and a half later, when my contractions grew to 7-8 minutes apart, we called the hospital and told them baby is on his way. I was later told that I should’ve actually made my way in as soon as my contractions started which is the normal procedure with someone who’s already had a c-section (I am actually positive my OB already told me that too). Oops. That baby brain again. Once we got to the hospital, midwife placed me on the rolling bed and monitored my contractions while she made all the necessary calls (OB, assistant surgeon, anaesthesiologist). They finally got me to the operating theatre couple hours later (contractions were every 3-4 minutes by that stage and this time I got spinal cord instead of epidural) and, as already mentioned, was up for the totally different experience from my first. The procedure from there on (at least from my perspective) was exactly the same – there were ice cubes, anaesthesiologist asking regularly if I’m ok, heads up when they made the incisions, tugging and pulling to get the baby out, and the reassuring baby scream when Ben was finally delivered. But I was calm. There was no fear. There were no shakes. Even the atmosphere in the OR was different with assistant surgeon and midwives chatting quietly about their weekend after Ben was out and taken away with Andrew. I actually felt safe. And I thought of many articles I read over the years where women who have had a c-section felt they somehow missed out on something nature intended them to do – and I felt nothing like it. Nor will I ever feel that way. My second son was born. And I will just try to be the best mother I can. That will be my gift to nature.
Every woman is different but both of my recoveries were identical so can at least speak for myself when I say this – it was just fine. I had a catheter and wasn’t allowed to move for the first 24 hours. The next day, I walked around my room and hospital – slowly and carefully – without feeling woozy. I was on regular Voltaren and Panadol for 5 days (nothing apart from that) and was hardly in any pain. I have a pencil thin, 12 cm scar in my lower abdomen which was practically invisible few months after my first pregnancy (and yes, my very low bikinis do cover it!). And I was at the gym 6 weeks later slowly getting my old body back.
It worked out for me and I hope – regardless what the reason is why you deliver via c-section – it works out for you just the same. x