The C-section fear
So, I took a tumble at about 8 months pregnant, not a massive one by any means, but I went over on my ankle pretty badly and I felt and heard it crack. I may have been wearing pretty inappropriate shoes for 35 weeks preggo (I just can’t help my love of a heel – up the duff or not!), but there I was, lying on the floor wailing like a banshee ‘I felt it crack, I felt it crack’ while a motion picture of events played through my mind: broken foot, pot cast, crutches, C-SECTION ….arrrhhh! Of course, I was fine. And after an examination by a rather handsome young Doctor, I could bare weight on it again and I was soon consoling myself with a big fat scone – for the shock of course. No ambulance, no pot cast for people to write on (is that still a thing?) and no c section…or so I thought.
You see, despite the dreadfully awful time I had giving birth to my son (if you missed it, catch up here) I was kinda looking forward to the ol’ natural birth again, thinking that round two would be a doddle and I would open up like a flower and shoot her out like pea – all the stuff I had thought first time round that blatantly didn’t happen. I have no idea what happens to the female brain during pregnancy but it seems to mask the awful AWFUL labour memories with flowers and nature and harmony and bonding….it’s pretty weird.
I was under the care of a consultant for this pregnancy as Max, my son, had been such a bruiser.
So at 35 weeks I toddled/waddled across to Lancaster maternity unit to for some growth scans to see how big this babba was going to be. I was genuinely expecting to be told that I was having another 9lb-er, so I was totally shocked when I was called back to the sonographer’s room to have the functionality of the placenta checked. My little girl had dropped off the chart in terms of her growth and was measuring well below the bottom centile line. Thankfully, all was fine with the placenta and the cord blood flow, but the fact remained that I was having a small baby.
The consultant, although lovely, was pretty brisk and straight to the point. She told me there were two ‘problems’ a) small baby and b) my previous tear. Yes. My tear. Without going into too much detail, it was nasty, it was 3rd/4th degree and although it had healed well, she really didn’t want that bad boy opening again. End of. Running parallel to this was my apparent small little girl. So I was sent off for monitoring, steroid injections to strengthen baby’s lungs (in my butt I might add, bloody painful), AND decisions to make regarding a potential c-section.
Of course, the main priority was the welfare of my little one. So if a c-section was the way it had to be, then so be it.
But both failure AND niggling, uber selfish thoughts kept me awake that night (plus the most horrendous heartburn)….will I ever have a flat tummy again? Will I have an overhang? Will I be in my jeans as quickly as last time? How big will the scar be? Will I be able to wear a bikini in the summer? And more than anything the FAILURE of not being ‘good enough’ to birth my own child… Will I feel the same bond? Will I be able to breastfeed? Will she love me as much? Ridiculous in hindsight, yet very VERY real at the time.
Anyhow, I felt the situation was very much taken out of my hands as at my next appointment, this very well respected consultant was yet again advising me to have c section based on the evidence in front of her, so who was I to disagree? By the time I had chatted it over with everyone and anyone (including some midwives, an obstetrician friend and other post c-section mummies) my fears were put at ease and I was actually feeling pretty positive about it the whole situation. In fact, I was kind of excited. I didn’t have to put myself through the brutal pain of labour again, my tear wouldn’t tear further, I could choose my daughters birth date to fit in with childcare for our son (gotta be a perk or two somewhere) and I was going to look a damn sight better on the post ‘birth’ pictures than I did the first time!! Every cloud ladies!
Fast-forward four months, and I wax lyrical about the wonders of a cesarean section whenever I can. To me, it is the most mind-blowing marvel of medicine EVER. And what I couldn’t have foreseen was how magical my experience ended up being, to the point that it makes my ovaries glow for number three just thinking about it!
I had what is called a ‘natural cesarean section’. Because it was elective and there were no obvious complications with my baby (except being a little on the small side) she was able to make something of her own entrance into the world. After the incision was made, and with minimal help, my daughter was able to wriggle out of the opening and into the arms of a wonderful midwife called Lydia who happens to be a friend of mine who came in especially to deliver my daughter (she’s bit of a super hero in my eyes). My baby was held up to me (a bit like Simba in The Lion King) and then taken away for a quick 30 second check, as is standard procedure for any c-section delivery. She was then popped onto my chest, where I fell hard for my little girl. Oh I wailed a small river of love for her. Kitty stopped crying as soon as she was put on me, it was instantaneous, and then she started rooting around for some grub. Defo my girl! She stayed there for the next 6 hours or so, feeding, sleeping, bonding with me until I felt that I better give Daddy a shot at holding her before kicking out time and also to check out her little face (it had been squished between my boobs until that point).
Maaan, I was (I am) in love with that girl.
So much so that I stayed in hospital for an extra day and night just to enjoy some more of that magic mummy and Kitty time, in our own little world with our paid for TV and a pretty impressive chocolate stash – for the milk production obviously (the oromorph was a pretty big highlight too….!)
I felt utterly elated with the delivery of Kitty who weighed in at 7lbs so not too teeny after all.
We felt like cracking open the champers in recovery, after everything we had gone through previously with our firstborn Max, we couldn’t believe we had our daughter in arms so easily. Not one ounce of me regretted the decision to have a c-section, it was absolutely the right decision for us.
The after c-section bit.
So, I’m not going to lie, the recovery is of course longer than a ‘normal’ birth. A c-section is major surgery so you’ve really gotta succumb to the fact that you MUST rest and, if you do this solidly for the first two weeks it makes the overall healing process so much easier in the long run. I was at the park with Max on day 15 (albeit it eating an ice cream as opposed to pushing a swing) and I was ready to drive a car four weeks after surgery. This is all because I rested in the first fourteen days, so I am a BIG advocate of really taking it mega easy immediately afterwards.
I am also truly fortunate that my husband is pretty ace. He had almost three weeks off this time (thank you Easter and the pros of choosing your child’s birth date!) and threw himself into Daddy day care duties with gusto, filling our three year old’s mornings and afternoons with trips to the park, playgroups, play dates etc….I was ‘forced’ to rest, watch daytime TV and cuddle my teeny daughter all in the comfort of my pj’s while eating cake. It was a pretty glorious time. I made sure we were well backed up with support from family and friends, we had lots of people bringing us meals and checking we were doing ok. I waited with baited breath for the day three tears, the day four tears, the day five tears. I had shed copious amounts of tears for weeks the first time round (day three being particularly epic) but by week four when no tears had been cried I decided my hormonal high was here to stay and that was pretty darn fine.
And that BIG question I know you’re all dying to ask….THE OVERHANG…do I have one? Hell no! Its week 14 and I’m pretty much back to normal, the jeans are a bit snug but I’ll take that versus the amount of cake I’ve eaten. My scar is neat and small and if I were to go au natural (if you get my drift..) I wouldn’t even know it was there. I’m back on my treadmill, working on my tummy muscles and pushing both kids to the park at least 4 times a week. Ahh the mummy life.
So, to finish, here are a few practical post c-section tips, honed from my own experience and advice from fabulous friends;
1. Keep your meds up. A good friend told me this the day before I went into hospital so I hotfooted it to town for as much paracetamol and ibuprofen that I could legally buy. Most hospitals send you home with no pain relief so it’s really important that you have a good stash because if you let it wear off in the first few days it’ll feel like you’ve been hit by a car. Also, make a note of what you take and when you take it, you’re going to be in a haze of feeding, sleeping and baby love so it’s super important to keep track of all the meds you’re popping.
2. Bridget Jones knickers. A total must, the bigger, the comfier, the better! I’m a size 8 usually, I went for size 16’s and they were A M A Z I N G. You need something high enough to go over your post pregnancy belly button as anything remotely skimming across your c-section wound is gonna hurt like hell. I have only just put by big knicks away, I miss them already.
3. Skin to skin. I REALLY struggled feeding Max, I just didn’t have enough milk, one of my big fears with a c section was that my milk would be delayed or compromised because it wasn’t a ‘natural’ labour. Jeri over at MyBabyBrain told me to get as much skin on skin with baby for as long as possible (hence having Kitty stuck to me for the first six hours of her life) it worked a treat for me. This time feeding has been much easier, my milk supply is better and those first hours were pretty darn precious for me. Now granted, this might not always be possible, especially if your baby is super small or has to go to the NICU. Don’t fear, there will be many opportunities to get that skin on skin time and when it is possible, enjoy every second.
4. REST REST REST. As mentioned above, just rest. Yes, it’s tricky when you have a toddler but even if it means calling in every last favour you have and using the ipad for hours of entertainment just do it.
5. Eat. Keep your strength up, you are healing and feeding (if you choose too). Use it as your BIG excuse to scoff whatever the hell you want.
6. And finally….get a pre-section blow dry (another tip from Jeri at MyBabyBrain) or a tan, or fake lashes (my preference!) or whatever makes you feel glam, you can rock those post birth pictures ladies so why the hell not!