Tag: birth process

C-what now?

579d6c19075f527cfe45fbf755735b5a

pic

I was inspired to write this post because lately I’ve had a few friends facing the idea of a first time C-section delivery of their bubs. I remember what it felt like having all these questions and concerns beforehand and I have decided to share what my experience was like. I hope that you find it interesting, positive or even helpful x

I think I always had the weirdest gut feeling (haha funny no pun intended) that I would end up having a Caesarean Section with the Little Mister. While I was pregnant, I constantly tried to psych myself up for the fact that I might end up with an emergency one. I just felt it in my bones. Maybe it was ‘pessimism’ (I’d not had the smoothest of pregnancies), but maybe it was just mother’s instinct. Either way, it felt daunting and way out of my comfort zone. Before my C-section, I had never even been in hospital, unless I was visiting someone or had a routine appointment (which only happened for the first time when I was pregnant).

I was all like, “WHAT? They might have to cut me? In my belly? And PULL out a baby?! A whole entire baby?!”

I wasn’t a stickler for a birth plan (thankfully), but I did have a few concerns about a C-section birth!

Would the anticipation of surgery freak me out? 

A part of me suspected that if I needed an emergency C-section, I wouldn’t have time – or the presence of mind – to worry (I was right), but I still worried that if I was told to have a scheduled C-section that I would psych myself out so badly that I would be a terrible bundle of nerves (and perhaps not a great patient)! I mean, the idea of being awake during a serious (and life changing) surgery just weirded me the eff out.

Also, I’d been watching that One Born Every Minute series and they’d shown a C-section taking place. I saw the way that baby just schlooped out of the mother’s surgical wound – pulled out almost violently – and I found it quite confronting!!! Not gonna lie! I was glad to see the real deal (I’m a ‘knowledge is power’ kind of person) on TV, but having that happen to me? WHOA.

I can’t speak for those who have had scheduled C-sections, but I have heard that the experience can be incredibly (and surprisingly) amazing. You can plan it all out, you have time to try to wrap your head around it, it happens before you’ve just suffered through hours and hours of attempting a natural labour, and I’ve even heard women talk about how they could do their hair and make up and have nice photos of their first cuddles!! 😮

What I do know from experience is emergency surgery and I honestly was in no position to freak out. For one, I had gone a little loopy on gas (turns out I’m very responsive to it) and in anticipation of possible surgery, I’d had an epidural administered (something else I am quite responsive to it turns out). I was quite out of it! But seriously, it was all about getting the Little Mister out healthy and well. I had never done this whole baby creating/birthing thing before and I just trusted the incredibly capable staff around me.

I was wheeled away to theatre and while I do remember being a tiny bit apprehensive (sh*t starts to feel real in there – I won’t lie), I had Mr Unprepared holding my hand and somehow an inner grit just kind of shone through. I just had to do what I had to do. There was no fighting it. Besides, I couldn’t run away – I had no feeling in my lower body haha.

The anaesthetist was very comforting too. He talked me through it a little (even made some great tension breaking jokes) and did all the tests to make sure I really couldn’t feel anything. That was comforting. They don’t just start cutting – they do have to check some things with you first. A relief, really haha.

Would I feel it? Because I so don’t wanna! 

I was told that some women will feel a pulling sensation while having a C-section. This made me squirm. Not so much in fear of pain, but it just sounded kind of “urgh” (I don’t have a better word for it). I was lucky. I felt sweet eff all. Those who have told me they felt the pulling, have never told me that it scarred them for life or that the pain was unbearable. That’s kind of comforting, right? Can’t be as bad as pushing a watermelon out of your hoo-ha all by yourself, right?

What if I could see it happen? Holy sh*t that would just horrify me! 

As I lay there with the curtain divider thingy up, I suddenly noticed that if I wanted to, I would see my reflection in the big metal apparatus (was it a light or something? I don’t honestly remember). This worried me a bit and I tried really hard to keep my eyes away. Just when I thought I had managed to do this (and was cool with it), someone angled it away deliberately. How thoughtful of them – yay. I know some people would rather see it happen but I was not one of them! Again, I didn’t want to scare myself seeing the surgery play out. I had never had surgery for ANYTHING in my life. No broken bones. Not even any stitches!

Would my wound be itchy? Because damn, I’d had enough of being itchy and the thought of being itchy again seemed unbearable!

I’ll admit it. As my due date became closer and closer, I started to become more worried about having an itchy wound than I was about the actual possibility of surgery! I had been so ridden with itchy conditions (PUPPP rash and the infection that eventually brought on my labour), that the thought of having my Little Mister out of my belly and still suffering the torture of itchiness seemed unbearable. I know I’m a wuss, but for me I think being itchy is the worst physical torture I’ve ever experienced! I’m the first to put my hand up – I can’t leave an itch alone. But a C-section scar? I’d be forced to leave it alone and the idea drove me nuts!

Right after surgery I was on pethidine (painkiller) and it thankfully did not seem to cause itchiness as a side effect. I had a big pad over the wound (can’t remember if I had a proper dressing first up or not) and I was on bed-rest of sorts for 48 hours (although it is normally 24 for those who have a routine kind of C-section). I was so relieved to not be pregnant anymore that I think the stress levels decreasing did help me to not focus on the wound.

I spent a lot of time gingerly shuffling around in the first few days at hospital. I probably could have been a little less shuffly, but I was nervous about the wound as I had never had surgery before. When I got home from hospital I remained very cautious. It did really help that Mr Unprepared was home on leave from work for a few weeks. He was able to do the things I couldn’t (they advise that you don’t lift anything heavier than your baby for a few weeks), and while this was frustrating for me at times (I wanted to be the on-top-of-it new mummy who knew how to do everything but I couldn’t – my husband even learnt several baby related tasks before I did), it was also quite nice to know my biggest job was just to recover and to cuddle and feed my baby. Good bonding right there 🙂

I started to feel quite good within a couple of weeks, which really surprised me. It was so nice to move again without feeling a bit sore or shuffly. Getting in and out of bed to pick up the Little Mister for a feed became much easier (at times Mr Unprepared had to get up for me and pass him over in the middle of the night) and I started to enjoy being physically free (well compared to just after surgery haha).

By three weeks, I was ready to take my first solo outing with the Little Mister – a very big deal for a new parent. I was able to lift my stroller out of the car and get the Little Mister in and out of his seat. I was probably twisting and lifting a little too much but the fact that I felt mentally ready really was a great milestone.

In the present day, my scar is quite visible and dark in colour (I always scar prominently and dark), but I don’t care too much. I’m not bikini ready and even then, the scar sits quite low so I’m cool with that. I probably could make more of an effort with bio oil etc to help it fade but it is honestly not of much concern to me. Sometimes it will get itchy (if my skin is a little dry or my underwear rubs on it a tad uncomfortably), but it’s not horrible. It’s just a little uncomfortable occasionally. 99% of the time it’s completely forgotten. I don’t feel less attractive because it’s there. In a weird way I’m proud of my battle scar. It’s evidence that I lived through something life changing (and ultimately positive)!

Two years later on reflection, I don’t regret that the Little Mister had to be delivered via C-section. In fact, to be honest, it’s all I’ve known and I’m cool with that. I don’t think I ever felt all cut up about how he was delivered (eek – excuse the terrible choice of words). You have to do what you have to do and I think I was quite the little trooper 😉

In fact, there are advantages to a C-section. I was able to avoid doing any damage to my lady bits! While this can still happen if you have a long labour before you head to surgery, I was lucky. There’s an upside to everything, right? I was also lucky that it all happened so fast. While the reasons for this were a bit scary, I did feel glad that I hadn’t suffered for an eternity beforehand. I still call it ‘giving birth’ and I don’t think I’m any lesser than someone who was able to deliver naturally (good for you if you have – what a champ!)! Each new mother goes through some kind of adversity or pain delivering their baby – however your baby comes into the world isn’t what’s important – it’s their health and the fact that they’re alive and well that matters. It’s the fact that you have your beautiful baby that you’ve dreamed of that matters.

Do you have any questions? Or advice for those facing a possible first time C-section?

Don’t bother having a birth ‘plan’.

03503a7d6b95f7e09aaa01d6462f99fc

I honestly don’t know why they call them that. The fact is, you can’t PLAN your birth process. Even if you have a wonderful labour, you didn’t plan it. It was just a wonderful surprise to know that you were able to have a relatively good experience! To suggest that we can plan childbirth just seems like bollocks to me. Big sweaty ones. It says we’re in control of the process. I’m sorry, but while that thought is nice and sometimes keeps us sane, it just isn’t true.

My advice to first time pregnant mums is to throw out any notion that you are in charge and that everything will happen the way you want it to, because you’ve thought positively, avoided all negative horror stories and you’ve got a birth plan. Hasn’t anyone heard?? You have a birth plan! You did research! People who do research are better at this, right? Everything’s going to go just as you want it to! The truth is, positive thinking and making smart choices are never a bad thing – in fact, I recommend them. However, they don’t make a ‘good’ labour (ie the one you hope for) a sure thing. I feel like society keeps telling us we’re in control of everything. It feels like a comforting thought, but when despite all of your best efforts, something goes wrong…you feel like a failure. You’ve been fooled and pressured into thinking that you’re in charge of such a crazy biological process.

It’s actually liberating to realise you can’t be in charge of all of it. When my pregnancy started to get a little bit nuts, I blamed myself. I was ashamed that all these weird things were happening to me. I thought that those around me (the lucky ducks who have pregnancies that make them feel great) would think that I must be doing something wrong. That I must be thinking negatively, making some erroneous choice with my lifestyle or my diet etc. I knew it wasn’t my fault on an intellectual level (and was told so by more than one doctor/medical professional), but the fear of judgement was probably my biggest mistake of all! It’s just that we have all been brainwashed. It’s misguidedly comforting to tell ourselves that the other person over there with the pregnancy problems or the terrible labour must have done something wrong, because then we can just do it all ‘right’ and we’ll be fine. In a sick way, it reassures us.

In some ways, my crazy pregnancy was the greatest gift. It taught me that I’m not the one driving this bus (at times I looked like one haha). That you can do all of the ‘right’ things, think all of the most positive thoughts, and nature will still take its course. By the time I got closer to my due date, I threw all ideas of a birth ‘plan’ out of the window.

I had birth ‘preferences’. Birth ‘hopes’. Birth ‘wishes’.

I wrote a list of what I hoped for. I wrote a list of things I was willing to do to save myself or the baby (I kind of knew it wouldn’t be straight forward – intuition perhaps). I wrote a list of guidelines for my husband and my family – who I wanted there and when. It wasn’t fancy. It was pen scrawled all over an A4 piece of scrap paper, written off the top of my head. Maybe a list of only about 15 items. Some being very significant, like what I hoped would happen if something should happen to me (incapacitating me in some way), to the not so earth shattering, “Here’s my iPod, if my labour gets long just play it on shuffle – the songs on it keep me calm and inspire me.”

I was obviously hoping for a natural, vaginal birth, but I knew that drugs might help (I was quite unashamedly open to the idea) and that a C-section might be an emergency necessity. I knew from the start of the whole process that I would just be happy to have a healthy baby. I would not spend time mourning the death of a ‘plan’. I had already mourned the smooth, normal pregnancy I hoped I would have. I wasn’t going to do that to myself again.

My new attitude paid off. Because, as you may know, sh*t got crazy. I was in hospital for a mere 3 hours before I was in surgery. I only knew I was in labour about 2 hours before that. My labour was brought on by an infection. I got to 9cm dilated before they had to get me in for an emergency C-section. The epidural was administered in full dosage ahead of time (which made it a bit weird when I tried to push in a last ditch effort – can’t feel ANYTHING down there). I had no choice. I was then tethered (by catheter) to my hospital bed for two days (rather than the customary one day), while my firstborn spent the first 3 days of his life in another hospital without me because he was sick too.

If I had been all about a ‘plan’, I would have been exponentially more devastated and traumatised. Instead I was just shocked and dazed (perhaps it was the pethidine too) and later realised the enormity of what had happened to my baby and I. It took weeks to come to terms with what had happened. It was the biggest thing that had ever happened to me, my baby, or my body and of course it was going to take some getting used to! I am just glad that I didn’t also have the added sadness about things not going to ‘plan’ during the birth. I’d made my wishes known and they’d been respected, but I hadn’t outlined my preferred labour process without having an open mind. I knew anything could happen.

The important things happened. My parents were there to share in the experience (they stayed at the ‘right’ end of me haha) for the first time (I am adopted so it was hugely meaningful for the three of us as my mum has never experienced a pregnancy and I wanted to share this with her – I was so moved by my parents’ gratitude at being invited into such a special and private ‘event’). My husband got to the hospital quickly and was there for just about the whole time – by my side, encouraging me and saying all the right things (seriously!). I was kept safe, as was the Little Mister. No-one tweeted or Facebooked my labour process to the world in real time. I was given gas right when I needed it, surgery before things got horrible, and my baby was alive and likely to stay that way.

What didn’t I expect? What didn’t go to plan?

By complete chance, a top obstetrician just happened to be present when I came into the hospital. He was amazing and kept everyone calm in a tricky situation. Including me. I got optimum attention and care because while the time of my labour was unexpected (I was due to be induced almost a week later), I was the only person giving birth in the ward that night. The ONLY one! If I had been induced when I was expecting to be, the ward would have been FLOODED with people hoping to have their babies on the 11/11/2011 (as I found out later that week after a 6 day stay in the ward). Resources and manpower would have been stretched. The paediatrician who was present was also very good at her job (and to my mum’s delight – the wife of her favourite former professional AFL footballer)!

While not much went remotely as predicted, a lot of things went really right. I am so grateful. I am so glad I can see those blessings. Blessings I could never have planned for.

I’m calling on everyone to stop telling each other that we can plan our destinies. We can’t. We can’t be in control of everything. We can put our ducks in a row. We can be educated. We can make the best choices possible to encourage a great outcome. We can be positive and keep a great mindset. We can work hard. All of this might put us in the right places at the right times, but ultimately not all of it will always work out how we expected. Childbirth is no exception.

I love the way Mia Freedman of Mamamia puts it in her article about “Birthzillas”:

For many, it’s about control. One of the most confronting things about pregnancy and birth is the unpredictability of it and women often believe they can regain control by planning. Babies, however, like to raise their middle finger at your plans. They come early, they come late, they get stuck, they get suddenly distressed or tired or tangled…

After my personal experience, all I think we should care about is what’s best for the baby in that moment. I’m not going to compromise my child’s safety, by refusing treatment (or at least prolonging the inevitable) because I want to stick to a plan. Birth plans? Total first world problem/privilege. I’m sorry to put it so bluntly. My baby was in real trouble (as was I) if I did not have the first class care that I received. Who cares what that care involved as long as everything turned out for the best? A child who was/is alive (even if he didn’t breathe for four agonising minutes). Healthy after a little special attention.

Childbirth might not feel like the magical miracle everyone dreams of (at least it isn’t for everyone), but the result is what matters. It’s really important to go in knowing what is the most important.

If you got out of it healthy (if not worn out and needing some stitches somewhere) and you got to hold your healthy baby, take him/her back to your hospital room for cuddles and bonding for the first few days of his/her life… YOU ARE LUCKY. Your birth went well.

The birth of the Little Mister was shocking, surprising, a blur and hard to wrap my head around later, but I do not regret it at all. It went the way it needed to go. I wouldn’t and couldn’t change it. It brought me the most amazing gift and we all survived! I feel like a much stronger, more resilient person for it. I am proud of the fact that I was able to accept what happened (it took some time but had more to do with the trauma of being separated from my baby – as an adoptee since birth this was difficult to accept – my little man had to experience an immediate separation from me – something I’d dreamed he’d be spared of ever experiencing) and I feel like anything that brings you your gorgeous baby alive and well (even days later) is a success. I refuse to think of it as anything else.

P1040397

My advice to mums to be is to accept that life brings no guarantees. Know stuff. Do the stuff you can do. Then let the universe (and your beautiful baby you are so excited to meet) take its course. Some things are just bigger than us. Our self esteem and our pride should have nothing to do with something we can’t really control. We should not feel ashamed if something turns out differently to how we hoped. We did our best and life had other plans. That’s OK.

Sometimes life might put us on a path that will teach us the most, if we’re willing to learn.

Did your birth/s go to plan? Did you have a plan?

For some women, a traumatic birth or a birth that did not go to plan can be a trigger for post natal depression. If you are struggling, please click here for some resources.