For those that don’t know my child was born via an emergency caesarean. And yes, I say born because it still counts despite what some crazy people rant about on the internet. In the spirit of April being “Caesarean Awareness Month” I thought I’d draw attention to it by sharing some of my birth story and personal experience of dealing with having a c-section.
Apparently one of the aims of this month is to not only create awareness about caesareans but to decrease the number of “unnecessary” caesareans that occur. While I have come across some stories of women having this major surgery and then finding out they may not have had to for whatever reason, I think the word “unnecessary” is open to interpretation. For example, perhaps your body may be physically able to give birth but your last birth was a traumatic experience and for your mental health, natural isn’t an option. Of course all decisions should be made it consultation with your doctor!
I had a low-lying placenta that was being monitored to see if it would move high enough to allow for a vaginal delivery. At 32 weeks I still didn’t have the all clear. It became a very real possibility that I would have to be booked in for a caesarean and I was freaking out a bit, especially after watching on the TV about one that had gone very wrong. Wisely, I spoke to a friend about my concerns and she was able to share her experiences with me about having an emergency c-section and then later on a planned c-section. Preparing myself with useful knowledge, such as the step by step procedure the doctors would do and information about what I may feel (and what is normal to feel) during the surgery was one of the best things I did. It gave me some more certainty, knowledge and confidence. At 36 weeks I was given the all clear to have a ‘natural’ birth and stopped worrying about it but seeking that information was the best thing I did as in the end I had to have one.
I can now say that they do not need to be scary! Since we can never truly predict how the birth of our baby will happen I highly recommend looking at all the options so you are not unprepared in the event that you need to have one.
A brief birth story
My labour started on the evening of my due date (how’s that for timing!) and was progressing well. I get a little foggy on the times but somewhere around 4 or 5am I ended up with an epidural. Later on they went to top it up and it no longer worked. I had progressed up to 8cm dilated and had had no progression for a couple of hours. Due to no progression and being unable to make my baby move into the correct position my doctor called for a caesarean. My monitors had kept coming off and I wasn’t entirely sure if my baby was ok, so of course I signed the papers to agree. I had to have a ‘spinal’ put in as the epidural no longer worked. As I was on that operating table and feeling things happening, such as some tugging sensations, I was able to stay calm as I recalled the information my friends had given me. I also developed the shakes and my anaesthetist checked on me regularly, assuring me it was normal. Seeing my baby being lifted up (although not very well) and hearing that cry was such a relief. I only caught a quick glimpse of him bundled up (we had a family photo but he was mostly hidden away) before he was taken off with his Dad and I had to wait and be stitched up. A c-section had certainly not been my first plan but I was able to use my knowledge to help manage my feelings and remain calm. And I had a healthy baby boy at the end of it which was always my first priority.
After (in the hospital)
I was disappointed that I couldn’t hold my baby straight away as it took roughly 45-60 minutes or so to stitch me up and do whatever they had to do before wheeling me down to see him. I had really wanted that skin to skin contact and to start our earthside bond. When I was out he was brought over to me and we were straight into learning how to breastfeed. We connected really well and I could feel that he knew I was his Mother. Luckily, the hospital allowed my husband to stay overnight while we were there. It was particularly helpful in those first 24 hours as I wasn’t allowed to stand up. I’m still not sure why as I know others who were allowed up the same day. My only guess is that it was because I had to have a spinal.
Sneezing the day after a c-section will hurt more than anything! I’m not even joking! The midwife came in to find me in tears and with immediate concern, asked me what was wrong. “I sneezed” was my tearful response and she had a little chuckle as she comforted me (and here is a shout out as to how wonderful midwives can be, I had a few good ones!) Generally, I was slow to move around in the hospital but with a bit of pain relief I was fine and after a few days, ready to go home.
The doctor who had delivered my baby came in to check on me and told me that I should have no problem with a natural birth if I wanted to the next time. I have “failure to progress due to mal-positioning” in my notes. It all came down to his position (not even breech!) and not being able to properly align him. Sometimes I wonder, did we try hard enough, should I have waited longer? At the time you put so much trust into the professionals and it all happened so fast. I firmly believe that I agreed to a c-section with the best interests of my baby in mind and I have no real regrets about that decision.
After (the next six weeks)
While I still had to deal with some pain and practicalities such as not being able to lift heavy things, hang out washing and not being able to drive, I was still fairly fine with how it had all panned out. I did experience some severe mastitis was landed me in hospital during the second week (and thankfully, my baby could be with me) which I feel may have slowed down my recovery when I compare it to other people. We were going for short walks in the third week and I got better each week from there. I found it really important to follow the doctor’s instructions and not over do it, even when feeling good, as the risk is just too high.
What I did discover was that I would have moments of defensiveness and the constant feeling of having to explain myself when telling our story. I still do it now! Part of this was thanks to previously seeing posts online about people saying that c-sections weren’t real births and that we are bad mothers. My first Mother’s group meeting was held just before he was six weeks old and in that session we were all asked to share our birth story. The woman before me spoke about how she was told they may need a c-section and she pushed so hard because there was no way she was doing that and then delivered her baby. I then had to tell my story, and I almost felt like I was apologizing for my outcome, like a failure, instead of being proud. While I certainly don’t want to take anything away from her, afterwards I also felt angry that she didn’t realise just how much luck may have come into it. There are plenty of women who have tried until there was nothing left or whose bodies or babies have then faced a medical emergency that left them with no choice. I also ended up being the only Mum in my Mother’s group who ended up with a c-section (although a quick Google search tells me that approximately 30% of births in Australia occur via c-section) which only enhanced that negative feeling. With all the hormones floating around, you feel vulnerable. In the end I had a lovely Mother’s group and the lady running it was so supportive and helpful, so please don’t see it as a discouragement on attending them.
I also had another incident where I went back to my local hospital to ask the midwife to check my scar, roughly four weeks after, as I had some concerns. She took me into the same room that I had been in while in labour. It was like some kind of flashback that had me feeling fragile for a good 24 hours after. I do feel like this is something Mothers experience regardless of how their babies were born but it all contributes to a real mix of feelings.
The other advice I was given by the doctor at my six week check up was that it is best to wait for 18 months – 2 years before trying for another child to allow my body to fully heal and reduce any risks. I was so terrified of falling pregnant again too soon that when I finally agreed to start that kind of “activity” we doubled up on contraception for quite a while! Was that too much information? Sorry, but I’d heard one too many stories of ladies falling pregnant while on the mini pill.
I have always been ok with my decision, from the first moment, all the way up to and including, now. While I may have moments where I get sad that I missed something, they are really just moments.
The vulnerability and the questioning of it will still arise in me occasionally. It might be when I see photos of a woman holding her baby while still in the operating room and I feel sad that I wasn’t able to. Or when I see beautiful birth photos and wonder how it could have been. Or I see photos of a baby being pulled out of their Mother’s belly and I wish that we had thought to ask if that was ok.
It’s having a conversation with someone and then having to clarify that I had a c-section and that person says “oh” before continuing on with their discussion, leaving me to over-analyse what that word actually meant. It’s reading other peoples stories about how they were told they had to have a c-section and then discovering later that they actually didn’t and I wonder for a moment, what if we waited a little longer? But really, the moments are now brief and my emotions certainly aren’t triggered every time I come across these things. Of course if you are struggling with these things you may wish to consider seeking professional help.
The only other impact that my caesarean will have in the future is making the decision about how to birth my next baby if I was to have another one. I should be able to try for a natural birth if everything else if fine although I have heard that some doctors won’t always approve that option. Perhaps this is what some people also mean when discussing “unnecessary c-sections”?
I had major surgery to birth my baby. We are both alive and healthy. The way he was born has not hindered him or our bond at all. I have learnt to accept it and be proud of it. And having my boy in my life is the best thing ever.
*always seek the advice of your doctor*
Tell me about your birth experiences in the comments!
While this post is about caesarean births, I genuinely love to read about all birth stories.
And if you had to make a decision about a c-section or vaginal birth for your next baby (after already having a c-section) tell me how you decided!