Hi everyone – wow, two weeks since my last post. You can guess what happened recently: we had our baby! Baby B is now confirmed to be a little girl, and for the past three weeks we have learned that she loves bath time and cuddling, and hates changing her clothes and being put down anywhere. At all. She knows. And she’ll scream.
This post I thought I’d look at the process of the cesarean. When I found out I was having one, I was very nervous about the surgical element: I’d never had surgery that big before, and the recovery was really scaring me. I tried to find some info about the process that wasn’t vague, NHS guidelines (which were helpful, but I was after some actual insights and personal experience rather than general advice), or that wasn’t on a Netmums forum, where it seems you can’t post if you value punctuation and complete words instead of abbreviations.
So here we go. Two days before the birth I was admitted into hospital for steroid injections to help Baby B’s lungs mature as she was coming out a little early. As a result, I had to have my blood sugar monitored every hour thanks to he gestational diabetes. Day and night. For 48 hours. So … that was fun. I only found out on the day that I’d have to be admitted that early, and was kind of tearful as I re-packed my bag from one night to potentially four, and said goodbye to all the nice things I’d planned for the last day without a child. No romantic dinner with SB, no final aqua class. Sounds silly, but I was pretty emotional when SB took me to the hospital and then eventually drove away and left me in my new ‘home’ for the next few days, which was a four bed ward with two other patients.
However, this soon wore off. By that stage I was getting some pretty severe braxton hicks, so it felt safer to be in the hospital. It was nice to know that all I had to do was chill in between getting my blood sugar monitored, and helped me to calm down and focus on what was coming up. I watched a lot of Suits (so many good looking humans and so many sports metaphors), and my first episode of the Great British Bake Off. And wrote an emotional blog post 😉
On the day itself, SB arrived at 8am, and I put on my awesome surgical gear. We were prepared for a long wait, but by 9am we were called in. It all happened so fast, and we were frantically texting our family as we walked to the theatre. There, we waited for the team to assemble: there were approximately 9 people in the room as well as SB and myself. Once my spinal bloc had been administered, they lay me down and checked that it had worked. Then they put in the catheter (lovely), and they began.
It was a really weird sensation to lie there knowing that people were digging around inside you, and even more weird to know that in a few minutes our baby was going to arrive. In labour, I’m guessing that the process helps you prepare, plus you’re probably somewhere in your own zone just trying to get through the pain. And once the baby’s out, I’ve read your body is filled with hormones that help you forget the process and help you bond with the baby. My experience was nothing like that – I was conscious throughout and had nothing else to focus on apart from trying to imagine what would happen in the next few minutes. You can feel them rummaging around inside, but you can’t feel anything, and you can’t make sense of what’s happening because you know it’s such a big moment: how do you comprehend what’s going on? At one point, I saw the doctor’s hand above the screen holding two little purple feet, but she wasn’t completely out yet: that was the strangest experience of the whole thing, and really brought home what was happening!
Because she was breech, they had to push really hard to get her head out. Poor thing. I could feel a lot of pressure – it wasn’t painful but it was uncomfortable. When she came out, she was blue and in shock, so they took her over to a little bed to give her oxygen and warm her up. Here I should say a huge thank you to One Born Every Minute because I knew exactly what they were doing and that it was normal! Otherwise it would have been pretty scary. After a minute or two we heard a thin little cry and she was here.
They brought her over for SB and I to hold while they closed me up. This takes longer than getting her out, but you don’t realise because you’re looking at your baby and trying to work out what has just happened! Afterwards, they wheeled me into recovery where we (unsuccessfully) attempted the first feed. Then they took me back to the ward, where we were left with our baby, and where I waited out the anaesthetic.
Because of my diabetes, they were very strict in feeding her every three hours and make sure she ate. So she had formula for the first 48 hours in addition to me trying to feed, because it’s bloody hard work and they needed to make sure she ate. For the next two days, I stayed in the hospital while I tried to feed her, and the midwives topped her up with formula. The midwives were so patient and sat with me for an hour each time trying to help me: neither baby nor mother have any clue as to what to do, so it’s really tricky. By day 2 Baby B and I had kind of worked out what to do (thank god), so we were discharged, and SB and I were left to try and keep this small baby alive by ourselves!
So. The recovery after the operation. Once the anaesthetic wears off, you are definitely very tender, and I was given pain killers every 3-4 hours, but nothing stronger than a powerful anti-inflammatory with paracetamol. The midwife took the catheter out and helped me to stand about 6 hours after the bub was born, and I was advised to walk around. So I did. It was a very ginger walk: I was hunched over, and moved very tenderly, like an old lady. This continued for about three days, but each day was better. I had a shower that night, and took the dressing off the wound. Going to the loo wasn’t painful (which is a concern!): I stayed very hydrated, and I tried to relax when I went which seemed to help. The muscles they sliced into seem to be used for everything: sitting up, going to the loo, twisting your torso, walking, and so everything was done very slowly to avoid pain. The day after she was born I was walking around the ward regularly, and the day after we were discharged, so much more walking that day. Each evening the wound was tender, and the hardest things were getting out of the bed and getting off the sofa. These were painful every time.
By the 5th day I was able to walk to our local pub for dinner with friends. I stopped feeling regular pain after about 6 days, and only if I moved the wrong way. The first two weeks were difficult: as well as no sleep, worrying about whether the child is eating enough, trying to get used to your new way of life where you can’t go anywhere and where your house looks like Mothercare threw up in your living room, you also have to be careful of not lifting things and taking care of how you move. But I think that’s the same for natural births too.
Now – 20 days after – I can walk my normal distances, however I can’t walk very fast still. I barely feel the wound, apart from in the evenings if I’ve had a particularly active day. Thanks to Baby B being a bit of a cling-on, we haven’t really gone very far, which is helpful as I’m pretty stubborn and not used to being immobile!
After she was born, my stomach was still pretty big. I looked 6 months pregnant still, but it was soft and there were marks and bruises from the surgery all over it. I went through a phase of missing my lovely bump, and feeling my little bub inside me. My legs swelled right up after the surgery – much more than anything I experienced when pregnant. They look like two tree trunks, with no definition at the knees or the ankles. This was fluid retention, and went away after three days. Now, my stomach has deflated somewhat and my legs are back to normal.
So was all that effort to stay fit during the pregnancy worth it? I think so. I think it really helped with my recovery: it made the first walk not to painful, and meant that I could walk more regularly a lot more quickly than some others (or so I heard from the midwives). I don’t think my core has been decimated as much as I thought, which helped once I was at home as walking up and down stairs wasn’t as problematic as I expected. Plus, I’m very fortunate that my stomach did deflate pretty quickly, and I’m sure this is because of the exercise I did when pregnant. So, even though it wasn’t in preparation for the ‘marathon’ that is labour, it still really helped me out and made the whole experience better.
I am itching to get out there in the fresh air and start walking regularly. The weather is still nice, and I know Winter is closing in soon. However, Baby B has other plans and hasn’t decided whether she likes the pram or not. If we go out and she’s in the wrong mood, she’ll just cry and cry, which is not nice. To be honest, I’m starting to feel panicked that I’m not getting out and about enough, and the being sat in my living room for hours on end feeding can result in some pretty severe cabin fever. But I have to remind myself that she’s not even three weeks old yet, and that these things will come with time. I should just enjoy these days when my main focus is sitting and feeding – I should watch more Suits. Because really, the cast is so attractive, and they love a quick, slick exchange of words. It’s like The O.C. for adults.
Sorry if an in-depth analysis of a cesarean isn’t what you wanted from a running blog, and sorry if it’s TMI. But I would have loved to read something like this when I was getting used to the idea, so I wanted to put it out there for others. The whole process was not as traumatic as I thought it would be, and on balance there are definite pros compared with a natural birth, such as:
- You know when your child will arrive, and can mentally prepare
- There is no long labour leaving you exhausted
- I think my recovery would have been similar to that of a natural birth, particularly if the natural birth resulted in stitches
- You get to stay in hospital for longer – this is a major advantage when learning to feed. How are new mothers expected to know what to do when they leave hospital after 5 hours?!
So… all I’m saying is that it’s not as bad as you think. And sorry again if you were hoping for a more running-oriented post.