I had all four of my kids via Caesarean Section, three elective and one emergency, two under general anaesthetic and two with a spinal block. Here is my birth story and some tips for a more comfortable C- Section.
It was 1989 and a week after my nineteenth birthday that we discovered we were expecting our first child. I had been with Papa Syder just over a year, and being twelve months younger than me he was only eighteen at the time.
I was a bit nervous when it came to telling my Mum as we were still only teenagers, and in the weeks leading up to my pregnancy, we had been making plans to go back packing around Europe, working as fruit pickers as we travelled. I had even started packing our bags, and Mum was excited about us going off on our adventure, so I thought she would be disappointed that our plans had to be put on hold. I needn't have worried though, because Mum was fine about it, she even organised our church wedding and arranged it to take place in eleven weeks time, before my bump was showing.
The pregnancy went well with no problems, apart from being slightly anaemic and I was so excited to meet my baby and to become a Mum. I was still living at home, and everyday me and Mum would talk excitedly about my birth plan.
We had decided on a home water birth, and Mum had made arrangements to hire a birthing pool. We talked about how lovely it was going to be, how gentle and relaxed the birth would be, being at home with my new Husband, Mum and all my younger Brothers being close by to meet their Niece or Nephew (it was quite rare to discover the sex of your baby back then) as soon as he/she was born.
Then at 32 weeks during a routine antenatal check, the midwife gave me an internal examination (a routine procedure back then), She was an old fashioned, stern midwife and she told me off for not relaxing enough while she examined me. I felt relaxed, so I couldn't understand why she was reprimanding me. In a huff, she stormed out of the room and twenty minutes later come back with a doctor " I told the girl to relax, and she wont so I had no choice but to call for you doctor!" the midwife grumbled.
The doctor very quickly realised that the problem was not my relaxation skills but that I had a small pelvis, "This young lady will never give birth naturally, her pelvis is far to small for a vaginal birth, she will need a C-Section!". The face of the grumpy midwife was a picture, and I thought I would burst into tears as my beautiful, home birth dreams were dashed. I cried, and cried all the way home. I felt devastated and terrified, but as my Mum pointed out to me "As long as baby gets here safely, does it really matter which way he or she arrives?" As usual Mum was right.
I bought every book that I could get my hands on (no internet then), to research all I could about C-section's and what I was likely to expect. I must admit there wasn't an awful lot of resources, and I didn't know anyone who had, had a C-section, so I went into hospital really not knowing what was going to happen.
As it was a planned (elective) C - section I was asked if I would like a spinal block or a general anaesthetic, basically would I like to be awake or asleep for the operation. I immediately opted for a general anaesthetic because I was horrified by the thought of being awake while being operated on.
At 38 weeks I was booked on to the maternity ward and the night before the C-Section I had to fast after 8pm, so no snacks after dinner. The midwife took routine bloods and ask me to provide a urine sample for testing. She then shaved me, yes shaved me. I wasn't expecting this and I felt really embarrassed, wishing I had done it myself before I got there. I was given a medicine which reduces the acidity in my stomach. At around 10 pm I was offered a mild sedative, for my nerves. I was told that it was very important that I get plenty of sleep, ready for the big day ahead of me. I was so frightened that I happily swallowed the sedative and I fell straight to sleep.
The next morning I was asked to sign a consent form, was given a rather sexy (not!) gown to put on and a catheter was inserted. Hubby & my Mum stayed with me on the ward, until I was taken down to theatre. As I was having a general anaesthetic Hubby wasn't allowed to be with me and he had to wait outside.
When I came round from the operation, I felt really drowsy and not quite with it. I was handed my baby, and it all felt a bit surreal, like it wasn't really happening. The baby was handed to Dad for his first feed, and then my Mum had cuddles with her first Grandchild.
It took me two days to fully recover from the anaesthesia. For the first twenty four hours I was given morphine for the pain, my catheter was left in and I also had a drainage for blood (which drains the wound, not everyone has this - only if it is necessary). Also, I was given regular jabs in the top of my thigh to stop blood clotting, I warn you that these do sting a little and left me a bit bruised.
Back in those days, they kept C-section Mums in hospital for ten days after their op (nowadays it is about 3 days), and it felt like ten weeks. It dragged, really dragged. As I lay in the hospital bed, I felt in quite a lot of pain and I felt envious as I watched the vaginal birth Mums, come and go. They were up and about within hours of giving birth, whereas a c-section recovery takes a few weeks before you feel yourself again.
My second C-Section was an emergency operation. I had moved house, so was under a different hospital from my first. The doctors at this antenatal clinic told me that although my pelvis was small, a scan revealed that it was a perfect shape for a vaginal birth. I wasn't really convinced, but I trusted the consultant and agreed to a trial labour. As my due date, came and went I became more and more anxious, mainly because an elective C-section is usually carried out at 38 weeks, just to ensure that you do not go into labour. I was more at risk because surgeons also worry that an old C-section scar could rapture during labour. In hindsight, I should have pushed to have been induced early, or never have been encouraged to try a vaginal birth.
Two weeks overdue, I had a show, (a plug of mucus sealing the cervix comes away - a sign of labour), So as I was down as a possible Caesarean, I needed to make my way to the maternity ward. Two days later, I had a slight tummy pain, (like a period pain) and I asked the sister for a pain killer. "Lets have a look at you first, pop up onto your bed" As she examined me internally, she gasped "Good God Girl, You are eight centimetres dilated! I'm going to have to break your waters!"
I must admit, I had a relatively painless labour and all I needed was gas & air. After a few hours, I wouldn't dilate any further, baby had become very distressed, so I was rushed down to theatre. As my labour had been manageable, I didn't have an epidural which meant that I needed to have my emergency C-Section under a general anaesthetic. Baby number two entered the world safely.
My third and fourth C-Sections were a completely different experience, as they were elective for obvious medical reasons and I decided to stay awake for the operation by having a spinal block. The whole process was so much more positive. The worst part for me was having the spinal, I shook so much with nerves, that a nurse had to cuddle me while the needle was being inserted into my spine.
It literally took about 15 minutes, then I was guided into a comfortable position onto my back, a drip with fluid was inserted into the back of my hand, a drape was set up across my chest so that I couldn't see the operation and the radio was playing quietly in the background. Hubby got dressed up in theatre scrubs and sat in a chair by my head. At first, my head felt a bit strange, as if it was in a vice. I later found out, that sometimes happens as blood pressure lowers.
I felt some pulling and tugging, then baby (a girl) was born and Hubby cut the cord, She was then wrapped in a towel and after getting weighed and having the once over. Baby was then placed next to my face so I could give her a kiss and Hubby held her as we both studied her intensly. While cooing over our new addition I was being stitched up, which takes about 20 minutes. The time does go really quickly and before you know it you are back on the ward.
My Top Ten Tips for a Caesarean Section:
1) Help - Anyone who says that a C-section is the easy option, is mistaken. It most definitely doesn't feel like the easy option afterwards. Recovery can be quite uncomfortable and frustrating because you can't be as mobile as you would like. Make sure you have someone at home for at least a fortnight if you can, to help you with chores, bathing baby, and shopping etc. Don't over do things no matter how tempted, you have had major surgery and need to concentrate on your recovery.
2) Big Knickers - Make sure you have at least five pairs of big stretchy knickers instead of your usual bikini ones. Just remember your wound will be right where the top of your bikini undies sit. They will rub on your scar and will be very uncomfortable. The best ones are like a tea bag material. I was told by midwives that they are great for letting the air get into your scar.
3) Shave - Shave or wax your bikini line the night before you are admitted into hospital. Shave it as low as possible. It is embarrassing if the nurse has to do it.
4) Peppermint Water - After your C-Section you will experience chronic wind. It is really uncomfortable, so pack some peppermint water (available from health food stores, often in a powder form). This really worked for me.
5) Be the first one down to theatre - On the morning of your operation, ask the nurse if you can be first in line down to theatre as your nerves wont take the wait. Waiting all day, drives you crazy and you will usually be allowed down first if an emergency doesn't come in.
6) Pillow for Feeding - I found it easier to feed baby by placing a pillow across my lap, and laying baby on top. It lifted baby up a little which I found to be a much more comfortable position, as it meant baby was raised, slightly away from my scar.
7) Pack a nightie - Pack a nightie instead of PJ's, because it wont rub on your scar like PJ bottoms will and it is easier for when the midwife wants to check your wound etc.
8) Move - I couldn't feel my legs for the first few hours after my C-Section, because of the spinal block, but after about 24 hrs you should be able to get up. You dread it and you feel like you wont be able to walk but you can. It makes it easier if you hold your hand gently over your tummy and try not to hunch, stand as straight as possible.
9) Shower - Go for a nice warm shower as soon as you can because it totally relaxes all your tense muscles and makes you feel 100 times better. If there is a bath on the ward, do not be tempted to soak, at first. I did and I got stuck! I had to pull the emergency cord and be rescued - Very embarrassing.
10) Pack a CD for theatre - I was happy with the radio, but you might prefer to take in an album that you find relaxing, to play during the operation.