WRITTEN BY RACHEL (GUEST WRITER)
Today, Rachel is sharing with us, all about her positive c-section experience, during the Covid-19 pandemic. This month is c-section awareness month and we want to share that you CAN have a positive c-section experience, even if it wasn’t originally in your plan. If you had a positive c-section, please let us know!
This is a hard subject as it is very difficult to accurately portray what happened. I remember feeling upset only days after giving birth because I could not accurately remember what had happened. It was almost like different bits were slipping away, in the same way a dream does. I was trying to keep hold of it but suddenly, it was gone, or I would have to go over and over it, to get it right. Where does it go! I guess some of my positive c-section experience has gone to join my forgotten dreams. It is such a pinnacle moment in a woman’s life, and I wanted to remember every little bit. Some women may want to forget their experience and it does seem that the female mind has a coping mechanism already structured into their brain, as most women seem to forget or remember their experience slightly differently, especially as time goes on. I remember reading somewhere, that what we remember, and each time we remember something, it is always slightly different, so what we remember today is perhaps a version of what happened. I would recommend filming it! You do not have to watch it if you do not want to! Here is what happened during my positive c-section experience.
Everything for me seemed to happen so quickly once I was taken to the theatre. I was so nervous and there seemed to be a flurry of people around me with different jobs to do and as the anaesthetist could tell I was nervous, she kept talking to me about my cats. It is like they have done their jobs so many times, they become a bit robotic, everything is second nature. They move around you, making everything seem easy and uncomplicated and when I caught their eyes, they would smile. Yes, all these people were wearing masks, but you can tell when someone is smiling, their whole face changes shape and I think they seemed to have mastered the ‘mask smile’ to ensure their patients know everything is ok.
As a nurse, I enjoy seeing the way other health care professionals (HCP) work and I find it fascinating. For me, an excellent HCP is someone who can expertly do their job whilst having the right amount of emotional intelligence to react to their patients’ needs. When you consider what has been in the news over the last couple of years regarding maternity care, including the East Kent and Shrewsbury and Telford scandals, I think that women need to be able to trust their care providers. I can confidently say that I felt in completely safe hands when I had Scarlett. I had been suffering with some anxiety before giving birth, I was worried about losing control.
I have never given birth before, so my experience can only be compared to what actually happened on July 23rd 2020 or one born every minute, which I’m not sure is completely accurate! Too much drama for my liking! I do not think any birth experience should have the boring adjective ’normal’ attached to it but 2020 has made sure of this anyway! Although, to be told that you have had a normal birth is reassuring as it ensues that everything went well, whether you think it was normal is another matter! You must remember that to the lay person, your normal is completely different to the healthcare professionals ‘normal’ and healthcare professionals must remember this as well. I have to say being a nurse, there is nothing wrong with being boring and normal. If I write normal one more time!! During my nurse training I did watch someone give birth and it was amazing. I remember to this day, seeing the determination, strength, exhaustion and then the complete elation when the baby was born. Women’s bodies are just incredible.
To give birth requires considerable energy and courage but then Covid has added on another level of anxiety and uncertainty. The information you are told seems to be ever-changing, the midwives at your ante-natal appointments can only give you accurate information that is available at that exact moment, they make no promises, you hear whispers that so and so had to give birth alone, that hospitals are only letting birth partners in when they are 4cm dilated, that pregnant women are alone trying to navigate themselves to the delivery ward, whilst carrying their hospital bag (or I’m sure suitcase in some circumstances) and security guards are not letting birth partners in. How are women supposed to cope with so much uncertainty when they are in labour? It is such a vulnerable time. The last thing they should be thinking about is, where is my mask and hand sanitiser, but I am sure many women have already thought of this and put some ready in the car! It is a frightening time and again seems like a postcode lottery to what the Covid policy is at your chosen hospital. Birth partners stay in their cars or pace the car parks waiting for the phone call, will they make it in time, are their loved ones ok, are their babies ok?
Try not to worry, I guess they are trying to deliver care which is safe for everyone. I just wish it could be more streamlined and that someone in the patient information department could release statements to squash the rumour mill scare stories. It can be scary enough! Having a baby should be a magical time, and for most (hopefully) you have waited nine months to meet your beautiful baby and you should at the very least be supported by your birthing partner. I do think that hospitals should be releasing up to date advice more regularly to reassure their patients. To be informed only empowers us and helps us prepare. I have learnt through my job, that yes, the information you are giving may not always be great news or not what someone wants to hear but to not tell someone is essentially only making things worse. Communication is key. We need time to process and come to terms with what our new reality is. Maternity services have now had time to put together clinical guidance which will offer key advice for pregnant women during this horrible time, if you are pregnant, this is very reassuring. You can access this information through the RCOG.
Usually, when someone gives birth you might expect to be asked questions such as how was the birth, how are mother and baby doing? Instead, these seem to be secondary, I remember being asked did you have to wear a mask, did you have to have a Covid test, was Colin allowed in. People tend to ask you questions with a certain tone, they might feel sorry for you, and maybe they should.
I do think it is very weird that we have pictures of me and my husband wearing masks. It takes away some of the actual emotion of what was really going on but also highlights what a crazy time we are living in. I worry that in years to come my pictures will only be a reminder of Covid. Although, people may also see a brave couple about to experience something amazing and yet normal, in a time which was not normal at all. I was wearing a mask whilst I was having a c-section – that is not normal!
Covid or no Covid, my birth experience was all I could have hoped for. I hope your experience was amazing too and I hope that you and your babes are healthy. My birth experience was slightly more structured as I was booked in for a caesarean section. I did feel slightly in control, we knew a time to get to the hospital, the security guard found our names on the list, and we were admitted on to the delivery ward.
There is something strange about knowing when your baby will be born, it does feel slightly like cheating. This thought was pronounced as I could hear women in labour. I heard such deep strong noises; these women were doing something amazing. And here I was, essentially waiting to be cut open! This was becoming very real as the minutes ticked by. It is such a surreal thought, looking at your tummy, and knowing soon a baby is going to come out of it, like a magic trick..ta da!! For me, it was weird that I was going to meet someone for the first time that my body had grown over forty weeks, and yet, this creature did not know me, and I did not know her, but we were bound together. I do not know how you felt but although I knew I was going to have a baby, I could never quite believe it. It made me worry whether there was going to be love at first sight. I’ll be honest, I don’t think I did get this awe-inspiring feeling of absolute love when I first met her. I felt amazed at what had just happened but the feeling of being absolute besotted and the kind of love that makes you want to cry would take a few weeks at least. This can be completely normal and so if this is happening to you, just give it time.
I keep a diary and so I am going to put in my diary entrance from when I had my section. It was written seven days after having the operation and it is slightly erratic, but it probably gives the most accurate version:
31st July 2020:
‘I wanted to write this sooner and wished I had, as I’m already forgetting some of the things that happened in the last 7/8 days and I don’t want to. It’s been an emotional time, not least because I’ve had a baby, major surgery, stayed in hospital for four nights but we’ve had to have Denzil put down…(Denzil was one of our cats and he had to put down the day after we got home from hospital. I have honestly never felt such happiness and sadness at the same time).
When we got to the hospital it was so surreal – I kept thinking whatever happens I will have a baby by 1pm. I couldn’t imagine the thing that was in my tummy would be on the outside…
At about 11am the midwife came back and said they were ready. I was so nervous. I fully expected to go to theatre on a bed but she just said take your pillow and Colin got the bags and we walked through. She weighed me first, I was 66.8kg (I had put on 10kg)! Then we just literally walked into the theatre – there was no waiting room. It was quite overwhelming – there were quite a lot of people – mostly women and two men. Maybe six women. The anaesthetist asked me to sit on the bed – she was asking about my cats. I was absolutely petrified. Colin was there with me. She was trying to put a cannula in my right wrist – she put local in first which stung but was struggling – I told her I was extremely nervous and thirsty. She gave up and put another cannula in. Another lady was going to do my epidural, I wondered if she was training. I was told to put my feet on a chair in front of me so I could pull my knees into my chest, I was told to relax my shoulders – at this point I was uncontrollably shaking all over – I couldn’t stop. I was told I would feel something cold being sprayed on my back, which I think was local anaesthetic. It was very cold. She then felt for the space where she was going to inject. It was completely weird – I felt a weird pressure – and then a warm feeling, which gradually went to my toes and started to rise in my legs – everything started to feel heavy – I expected to feel numb, but it was more like a pins and needle feeling. I was then asked to lie myself on the bed which I wasn’t sure I’d manage but I did.
One of the men helped me to stay on my left- hand side and then I was lifted onto another bed – by now I felt really weird. My arms were on my chest and I could barely feel my chest! The lady then sprayed me with something very cold on my shoulder and said she would spray this on my legs going up to my chest and I was to tell her when I felt it as cold as the first spray – I felt it around my breasts. Its not that you can’t feel it but you can’t feel the cold.
The surgeon came in then and she asked if I wanted to see baby being born – I did. It was all very quick from this moment – the screen went up in front of me – Colin was to my right – I just kept looking at him – he was talking to me – I think I was crying – I could feel tugging and there was pushing and pulling all the way up near my ribs – it was making the screen shake! The anaesthetist said your waters have gone – and I heard someone say there’s lots of water – then I heard a suction. I was told it was time for her to be delivered – it felt like it only been a couple of minutes. The screen was down and Colin was up with the camera ready.
As I was lay flat I couldn’t see the first bit but then I heard the surgeon say there’s lots of hair and then I saw this full head of hair being lifted out – she cried straight away and lifted both her arms up! It was incredible but also unbelievable that its happening to you. Baby was then whisked off and Colin went with her – I could hear her crying. The anaesthetist talked me through everything they were doing with baby. I was not really with it – I was really wanting to know her birth weight. When she was brought back she was placed on my naked chest. It was so surreal and she was rooting almost straight away.
The anaesthetist took some pictures of us. It took them about 30 minutes to stitch me up. I was then wheeled through to recovery. I was still shaking. The midwife was with me and another man. My temp had dropped to 35 something – they put a bear wrap over me and Scarlett. We then went to the main recovery for about an hour. The midwife put Scarlett on my breast and to my amazement there was this gold liquid coming from my nipples. I then got transferred to the post-natal ward C2 and I was wheeled there with Scarlett on my bare chest. I had been given diamorphine and I was really itchy on my legs and tummy. I think I asked Colin about 10 times how much she weighed. It was all just very surreal. I couldn’t stop staring at her, a fully formed perfect human had just come out of my body!’
Thank you for reading about my positive c-section , I have really loved writing this blog post. I am aware that for some of you, your birth experience may not have been anything like what you had hoped for. If you think that something could have gone better, your experience was not good or if you feel down about what happened, then you might want to consider having a debrief. Your health visitor should be able to give you the right paperwork, do not be scared to ask, your mental and physical health is very important and may make all the difference to how you feel going forward.
We hope you enjoyed reading Rachel’s positive c-section experience. Did you have a positive c-section?
What would you want to know about a positive c-section? Did you think a positive c-section could be possible?