WRITTEN BY DARSHANA (GUEST WRITER)
Darshana is sharing c-section expectations vs the reality of what it was actually like to experience!
I remember being at my NCT meeting when I was pregnant with my first daughter and there was a class on c-sections. I remember how they described a c-section as one of the scariest experiences you will ever go through when giving birth. I was asked to sit in the middle of the room and around 4 to 5 other group members were asked to surround me to describe how intimidating a c-section could be with so many people around you while you lay there being cut open.
With my first daughter I had a vaginal birth which was a long and traumatic experience. I was in hospital being induced for around 5 days before I finally went into labour. After around 15 hours of labour and the help of an epidural, I finally gave birth to my beautiful little girl but unfortunately, my placenta was caught behind my closed cervix, so I was taken into the operation theatre to get it manually removed.
With my second daughter – who is now two months old – I was induced once again, this time because my waters had broken but I wasn’t aware of it. This meant a chance of infection for the baby. I remember being terrified of being induced again and the thought of my husband not being by my side while I went through it all – giving that the pandemic placed limits on birth partners prior to the birth. Luckily, he could be with me as soon as the induction process began. As soon as they put the pessary in me, my contractions came on too strong, too quickly which wasn’t right and they explained that they will be moving us down to the delivery ward so I can get the hormone drip and start my labour.
We were moved into a room in the delivery ward where my husband and I were getting ready for me to get the hormone drip and start the labour process. We had no idea what was about to happen. Around 5 medical staff walked into the room with a consultant, and they all surrounded me as I sat on the bed. They started to explain that my baby’s heartbeat was dropping every time I had a contraction, and they feared the baby could be at risk. By the end of the conversation, I was told I would require an emergency C-section.
I remember feeling so scared for my baby and I feared the idea of being cut open to have her taken out. The whole moment felt surreal. Considering I had preeclampsia with my first daughter and still gave a normal birth, I never thought an emergency c-section would even be an option. I remember crying as the doctor read the risks to me before asking me to sign the operation papers, she asked if I wanted to have a moment to process it all, but I told her to continue and fought back my streaming tears.
I was wheeled into the operation theatre where the staff were so lovely and made me feel so calm and comfortable. When I had the epidural during my first daughter it was a very unpleasant experience as the anaesthesiologist had hit a blood vessel at the first attempt and had to try again. I was expecting the same pain but this time it felt nothing like the first time. Within 10-15 minutes of me lying down and being numb, my second baby girl was here. I could not believe how quickly it happened and how I did not feel a thing, maybe just some pulling but it felt unbelievably quick. I was feeling very nauseous from the anaesthetic and felt very cold and shivery – apparently this was normal.
I have been asked by many women close to me how I found the c-section and which birth I preferred. After having my first daughter I remember saying to my husband I don’t know if I can go through that again and I don’t think I want any more kids. This time I said to my husband if I have a c-section I will definitely have a third. I know some people might find this reaction surprising because a c-section is such serious surgery but I found it quick, and I didn’t struggle with contractions. Weirdly, I felt like I had more control because I knew she was coming now, I didn’t have to wait and wait not knowing when I would finally meet her.
I agree the recovery is a long and hard road but I was lucky enough to have the support. I was staying with my parents when I just came out of hospital as our house was being renovated. I had many people running around my toddler helping entertain her while I rested and spent time with my newborn. I stayed on top of my painkillers – which really helped – and I felt like I was able to get up and walk around slowly quite quickly. I think the reason why I dealt with the recovery better was because I had Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) throughout my pregnancy which had me in crutches near the end and the recovery from a c-section felt like I was still dealing with the SPD symptoms.
I did struggle with the idea of not being able to do a lot on my own and feeling helpless when it came to caring for my toddler. It got me down a lot of days but I also pushed to recover quicker than I should have which resulted in my stitches being infected. The infection pain was worse than any pain I felt throughout the recovery process. Every time I laughed or coughed, I was in excruciating pain, it was horrible. I ended up having to go to the doctors and being prescribed antibiotics to help my stitches heal. Three months on and I still don’t feel 100%, it is delicate where the stitches once were and almost numb at times. I still get a pulling pain when lying down or running. I keep wondering if this pulling pain will go or if it will stick around. People that see me think I am fully recovered but I still deal with some pain getting out of bed and when I try to run or if I move suddenly but my mind keeps telling me I am a mum and I have to just get on with life with or without any pain, my family needs me.
I am still on the road to recovery but I do know one thing, a c-section is not as scary as it is made out to be as long as you are in good hands in that theatre, I was lucky and I am thankful for that.
Stigma behind c-sections
‘too posh to push’
This saying has always confused me and made me think who created this? Who thinks that a woman is any less of a mother or even less of a woman if she brings her child into the world through an operation rather than pushing them out? You give birth to your children; you have carried them for 9 months and you have then had your body cut open to bring them into this world. You have gone through the same trauma, the same feelings regardless of how your baby enters your world. Why does it make you any different if you opted or had no choice but to go through a c-section?
I always care what people think and slowly I am learning why I should care? They didn’t go through my pregnancy or the birth with me! It was just me, I know how I felt and what I went through mentally and physically so what gives anyone else the right to have an opinion on how my baby comes into the world?
Top tips for anyone who is about to have a c-section or fears a potential emergency c-section:
- Mentally prepare yourself to have limited mobility post operation. Do not feel disheartened at how difficult it is to get confidently mobile.
- When coming out of the shower make sure you dab (not rub) the c-section area with a towel and then lie down and air dry it. I didn’t know about air drying the area so I got an infection, luckily my cousin who is a midwife helped me through that period and told me what I should do.
- Even if you think you are healing quickly, give yourself time, you might slow down the healing by thinking you are perfectly fine.
- Don’t lift anything heavy!
- Ask for help, you definitely need it. Call in all the help you can, grandparents, siblings or friends and don’t feel bad for it.
- If you notice any puss or redness around your stitches, make sure you call the doctor. If your stitches are infected it’s best to get onto an antibiotic course as soon as possible.
- If the area does get infected, hold that area when you laugh, sneeze or cough, it will hurt a little less.
- Don’t put into your mind that you ‘can’t’ walk confidently, giving yourself time is fine but don’t stop making small efforts to help yourself recover.
Bringing your baby into this world is a blessing, how they come into this world doesn’t matter as long as they are healthy and happy. I know my baby is gorgeous, healthy (touch wood) and happy. I have no shame or no fear in saying that I had a c-section, and I will opt for one next time too (if there is a next time) over vaginal birth too. Your body and you are amazing, never forget that beautiful mamas!