Before my childbirth experience, I had looked into various different options available during labour and felt I’d done my due research, using blogs, articles, personal experience from friends and relatives. In the end, I wound up having an induction at 37 weeks which ended in an Emergency C-Section after 35 long hours. Though I had found out some essentials about a c-section beforehand, I definitely had a knowledge gap in that area. I did learn a couple of things along the way which would have been handy to know beforehand, so I’ve popped together this post to hopefully aid someone else in future.
If you’re expecting a baby, even if you have every intention of a natural vaginal birth, it may help you to be prepared for the possibility of a caesarean section just in case!
The First Day Can Be A Blur
Before my son was born, I had thought about the concept of having a C-Section but it still never registered with me just how different that first day of contact with this new human being would be. For one thing, I was coming down from the cocktail of drugs pumped into me during my long induction and labour, and being fed more painkillers to appease the new wound I’d acquired as he entered into the world. We have two photos of me with him on the first day he was on earth, and I have some very fuzzy memories, but I have no clear recollection of the first time I saw him, or held him, or fed him. It’s something I’ve come to terms with now, but its tough initially when you see others having these amazing birth stories with incredible life-long memories of holding and feeding their babies for the first time.
Hello Catheter: The Reality
For the first day or so, you’re generally hooked up to a catheter, as the epidural kind of leaves you bed-bound, even if the cutting you open hadn’t done that already. Though I’d read about it and seen it mentioned, it still wasn’t something that occurred to me. I remember telling a nurse that I really had to go to the bathroom, and her laughing and telling me the catheter would take care of everything. The getting it out wasn’t so bad – deep breath in and a tug, all sorted. But it did hurt to pee afterwards for a day or two; though admittedly, I’ve heard far worse stories from those with vaginal deliveries about that!
The realities of how often a newborn wakes up at night.
Yes, this is something all new parents have to deal with, however when your efforts to get up out of bed require what feels like superhuman strength and you contemplate fitting the bed with a pulley system (there is definite room for those to be implemented in maternity wards!), its a little more awkward. I can remember three days in trying to figure out a way to sleep propped up so much that it would take the least possible effort to fling myself out of bed to get the baby, because every single time I got comfortable in the hospital bed, he started crying and after the fifth or sixth time, I felt like joining him because it hurt to keep getting up and down. If theres a next time, there will be a pulley system thought up of, or a much bigger effort in co-sleeping for the early weeks!
The importance of a high fibre diet.
I spent four weeks in hospital before having my son due to high blood pressure, so was sick to the back teeth of Weetabix and brown bread by the time he arrived. Upon leaving hospital, I was of the notion that if I saw that brown mush ever again, it would be too soon. I hadn’t bargained for my digestive system slowing down thanks to a combination of the drugs I was on for pain, and reducing the amount of fibre in my diet, so wound up incredibly constipated for a few weeks after the birth – pain I equated to some of my contractions! Next time, if there is a next time, I will be ordering in the bran flakes by the crate! This isn’t something people tend to talk about (even though as a new parent, you will discover a lot of your conversation starts to revolve around poo) but it is very common and easily treatable with a high fibre diet and some stool softeners to regulate.
Negative Attitudes from Medical Staff towards an Elective C-Section
I know its major surgery. Yes, it involved cutting into me and was the biggest, and only, operation I’ve ever had to date. I knew the risks. But after 24 hours of a failed induction at 37 weeks pregnant with my blood pressure rising constantly, I also knew that I wanted a C-Section, because I was afraid of the risks of labour on that blood pressure and what that would do to my baby. I was wrecked, had slept very little and hadn’t slept in my own bed for over a week. They had told me that if after 24 hours that if on the next check (in an hour) I wasn’t dilated enough that they’d book me in for the morning. I asked for that option without the wait- they told me no. They told me I’d regret it. They openly laughed when my reply to their claims of “Oh if you have another child you’d have to have a section and you don’t want that”, was that based on this experience, I wasn’t planning on any more. I’d had the pregnancy from hell and after 24 hours of pointless gels I was fully sure this was my first and last. They laughed me off as if I was a silly child who didn’t know anything, and proceeded to continue the induction – I only got to 4 cm before they wound up sectioning me anyway, as my blood pressure skyrocketed and my sons heartbeat plummeted. I felt it should have been my choice and that my opinions shouldn’t have been laughed off and treated as idiocy. The negativity towards a medical procedure which turned out to be a necessary one from medical professionals to me is damaging – they are making it out as a worst possible case scenario when in fact it was the necessary action to ensure the safe delivery of my son and having us both healthy. It is already difficult enough to deal with horrible remarks from certain groups on social media telling mothers who required a C-Section for whatever reason that they are lesser, that they did not give birth – the addition of that kind of inference from medical staff is downright unacceptable. In labour or during induction, a pregnant woman is vulnerable and concerned for her welfare and that of her child – laughing down her measured requests as silly really isn’t an appropriate action by professionals, but it does happen.
And finally, the one I REALLY could have done with knowing about:
The pains of the womb contracting
In all my reading, I’d not come across anything about the pains felt when the womb was contracting back to its much smaller normal size. So when ten days after my son was born I felt like I couldn’t move, couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk for the pain ripping through me, I panicked. I assumed kidney infection, or that something was wrong with my wound, or that I was dying (this wasn’t rational thought, clearly). After a trip to the doctors office where I was basically told to suck it up, I wound up heading into the maternity A&E because I was unable to sit, stand or lie down without pain ripping through me. I didn’t know then that its worse if you breastfeed because that helps the womb go back faster. And the charming GP hadn’t prescribed me anything for the pain, so by the time I got into A&E I thought I was losing my mind. It’s definitely something I wish I’d been told about – a lot less stress and panic would have been had, and in the early days theres more than enough of that anyway! It can, from what I’ve found out afterwards, be worse on second/third/etc pregnancies – make sure to have enough painkillers leaving the hospital to cover you – the first few weeks of life with a new baby are tough enough without adding disabling pain into the mix.
My C-Section and birth was a positive experience, don’t get me wrong, it got my son here safe and sound and thats what matters. But I feel I definitely would have benefited from knowing the above.
Was there anything you learned along the way that you think would have been much better to have known from the start? Let me know in the comments!
If you are looking for more info on c-sections, whether it be preparing for the procedure itself or life after one, a really useful website has been set up by one of my favourite bloggers, Learner Mama, at www.csectionmums.com.
If you’d like to check out my C-Section Birth Story, you can find it here.