I didn’t know I was going to have a caesarean. I naïvely assumed that I was going to have the vaginal birth that you see in the movies; complete with all the crying and screaming with effort, and all the other embarrassing things that can happen along with it. So when I went for my 38 week appointment with my obstetrician, you can imagine my surprise.
Even even though last week everything was perfectly fine, this week I had tested positive pre-eclampsia and would need to be induced very shortly. This was a Thursday, and my OB’s suggestion was literally go home, pick up your bags, and come back to hospital tonight to be admitted and have a baby.
After the appointment my obstetrician sent me off for some blood tests. From here I went to the labour ward for a quick bit of monitoring, just to make sure that I did in fact have the time to go home and get my bag. (In hindsight I should have done what plenty of people advise, and bring everything in the car with me later in pregnancy. I only had the minimum emergency bag with me.)
As I headed to my car slightly teary, I found that by the time I made it inside the car it had turned in to a full blown cry; not that anything was urgently wrong, just because of the emotional weight of the situation, and topped off with a little bit of pregnancy hormones.
Imagine my husband’s fear as he answered the call of a crying pregnant woman; he’d answered before I had a chance to properly calm down so the fear was beginning to kick in. He told me later that he’d bee-lined it to his work board room and closed the door so that he could give the call dedicated attention. This needed attention indeed; we’d be having our baby soon! I let him know what was happening and we made plans for what was going to happen for the rest of the day.
After all the relevant tests I headed home to do some last minute packing and tidying, and when my husband made it home we got everything together and headed out for one last meal as a family of two. (Highly recommend doing this btw!)
When we arrived at the hospital at 8pm that night we really had no idea what to expect. I filled in all of the paperwork for admission, and from here we were lead to labour ward at the hospital. It was actually reasonably quiet and calm, which isn’t entirely what I expected of a labour ward, but considering I was a bundle of nerves I’m kind of glad that was the way it was.
Induction was to be with gels; a dose that night and the next morning. After the first dose was administered we settled down for as good a sleep as we were going to get considering the situation. By morning nothing had really progressed, so they gave me a second dose of gel.
I had a number of visits from the obstetrician over the course of the Friday, and even though all of the monitoring that they were doing indicated that I was contracting, I couldn’t really feel it. I certainly felt some subtle cramping, but (perhaps as I’ve had particularly bad monthly pain, as well as regular Braxton Hicks contractions during pregnancy) I didn’t really think it was happening.
Turns out I actually wasn’t dilating. By this point at over 16 hours after admission I was getting pretty nervous and impatient to meet my little one.
It was then suggested that perhaps my obstetrician could try breaking my waters, which she told me would be a relatively uncomfortable thing to do. Yikes. We decided to give it a go, but even though I had access to gas as pain relief I did find it a bit too uncomfortable, and the obstetrician decided to give me a break and try again a little bit later. When she came back in to try again nothing really had changed, that we all decided together at this point that I would need an epidural.
As you can imagine I was feeling quite defeated at this point. I actually wanted to try and give it a go to labour and have my baby without any drugs or other assistance, and I couldn’t even manage having my waters broken. How was I supposed to manage actually giving birth to a baby?
The anaesthetist, while he had a bit of an awkward bedside manner, was very proficient at what he did and managed to get my epidural set up quite quickly. This marked the end of my being able to walk around though; I was now committed to be laying in the bed until my baby was born. Again this added to my feeling of helplessness.
Even though I had an epidural I could still feel the pushing and pulling of my obstetrician breaking my waters, and the subsequent fluid that came out. Quite a strange feeling! By now we were creeping up on 18 hours after induction, and generally meeting from the beginning of induction they like baby to be more within 24 hours. The countdown begins!
Monitoring continued until baby’s heart rate began to drop during contractions. At this point I ended up with a few more visitors to the labour room looking at all of the screens and reports. Never the less, at this point I was still under the impression that things were going to be proceeding as planned.
It wasn’t long before my obstetrician was starting to discuss’ alternative’ ways of giving birth; it looked as though a Caesarean was on the cards. I had done a little bit of research, well as much as I could, as a backup just in case this might happen. Regardless, I’m not sure that anyone is ever really, truly ready for the news that you are about to have a baby, and major abdominal surgery.
As my husband is changed into his scrubs, a number of the hospital staff came in to prepare everything as best they could and get me ready to head down to the theatre. It was getting quite urgent at this point though, considering how baby was reacting to the contractions.
Unfortunately the anaesthetist from my epidural wasn’t available, but the one who came in to theatre with me was lovely, and her assistant offered to take photos for us on the camera we had bought. I wasn’t entirely sure how these were going to turn out at the beginning, but I am ever so glad that we were able to have her take them for us.
I was moved to the operating table, underneath incredibly bright lights, and the curtain that would shield my view and keep the area clean around my tummy was drawn. With my husband up on my left side and the anaesthetists positioned directly above my head, everything was under way at 6:50 p.m.
The midwife who came in for the birth was fantastic; she explained the feeling of a Caesarean to me in the best way she possibly could. She told me that while I wouldn’t feel pain, it would feel as though someone was rummaging around for coins it in the bottom of their handbag, only my tummy was the handbag. That sounds very strange, but to this day even after two Caesareans, it is still how I describe the feeling to others.
After a bit of pushing, pulling and tugging that we finally herd the cry of our baby; our firstborn son. He came into the world at 7:14 PM on May 1st, weighing in at 3.66 kg.
As he was taken by the paediatrician he came around to say a quick hello to me, then he and dad headed over to the paediatrician’s table for him to be looked over. And that left me on the operating table, alone.
I was shaking. A lot. I think this was a combination of adrenaline, the pain medication, and the fact that the theatre is quite cool in temperature. I was shaking so much that the anaesthetist and her assistant were having trouble monitoring my blood pressure, though everything else seemed okay and they weren’t overly concerned at that point. It was at this point when I realised that if I looked up into the reflection of the light above the theatre table, I could actually see my obstetrician putting everything back together.
It’s the kind of person that I am I guess, to ask the obstetrician about all of the layers of my insides that she was currently stitching back together. She was fantastic, letting me know about the layers of muscle fat and other tissues. I wish I remember more about what was happening at that point; while I was terribly interested in what she was saying to me, the overwhelming nature of the situation simply got the better of me, and pretty much everything has left my brain.
Before long baby and dad were back with me, which was lovely. I didn’t feel so I didn’t feel quite so alone anymore. My bundled son was positioned on my chest for me to look at and talk to, and at that point everything else that was happening to my body simply disappeared into the background.
Dad held baby while I was taken from the operating table and put back onto my bed, then wheeled off to recovery where I would spend the next few hours being monitored and trying to learn how to feed my baby.
Medical professionals that I’ve spoken to say that it is quite common, but for whatever reason my body was metabolising pain medication awfully quickly, and is as a result I was in a reasonable amount of pain. Unfortunately because my pain had gone above a certain level it was a little bit tricky to bring back into line. My obstetrician had gone home, but returned to the hospital to investigate, and set a plan for my future pain management.
Thankfully through a combination of methods I was able to get some pain relief, and a little bit of rest overnight. I was glad to have my husband’s help collecting baby from bassinet when it was time to feed, and getting things for me like food and drink as required.
In the end I spent five days in hospital before being discharged, the last two of those they in a local hotel through a partnership they had with the hospital. (which was unfortunately something I wasn’t able to do the second time around!) By the end of my hospital stay I was able to shower myself, go to the toilet, pick my baby up, move around with relativities, and pack my own bag on the last day of my stay.
Though I struggled quite a lot and the beginning of my recovery with pain, once I was truly moving around properly things progressed quite quickly. Our son was 10 days old when Mother’s Day rolled around, and we hosted it at our house; complete with a pastry that I had baked. I don’t know what possessed me to bake a pastry, but I have a feeling it was the fact that it made me feel a little bit more human, alive, and capable of something.
I was very lucky to have quite a good network of support around me, and my new family. Generally speaking I was able to take it quite easy as my body adjusted to this new kind of normal.