Rex’s Birth Story: My C Section Experience
As I’ve well wanged on about in previous posts, my birth with Milo back in 2014 was far from what I’d hoped it would be. With very minimal expectations, I’d just asked that I get to use a birthing pool and not be left to die in agony. Sadly, it ended up being pretty much the opposite.
I won’t go in to it all (again) but the recovery from a forceps delivery left me with numerous hospital visits post birth, reconstructive surgery is still yet to be done & I suffered with bad anxiety until I booked myself in for a few sessions of CBT to combat Post Traumatic Stress. All a lot to handle in the wake of labour, all while walking bent double and all just a bit much in general.
We’d planned to go private for Milo’s birth originally, but then decided instead to stick with Milton Keynes General; champion the NHS and all that jazz. Again, I won’t go in to it, but many things went wrong & weren’t handled adequately so as soon as we found out we were expecting Rex, we looked in to going privately. Yes, costly, but ultimately it put my mind at rest immediately. I knew I wouldn’t have a battle on my hands to push for a C section and I knew I’d feel well looked after. Just to stress here; I’m aware this isn’t a viable option for the majority and I think the NHS is marvellous, this was just more about the fact we could afford to take steps to ensure I was mentally prepared to go through the birthing process again so did so. We picked The Lindo Wing at St Mary’s in London (you might know it because it’s where Kate Middleton always stands looking glorious like, 27 minutes after pushing a baby out) and chose our lovely consultant, Dr Fernando.
ANYWAY. On to the big cutting open! I wanted to make sure I wrote this post because I’ve had such a huge number of women getting in touch with me in the past 10 days to find out how it all went. Every single one of the messages is rife with nerves and panic and I want to put some minds at rest. In the lead up to my own birth, I’d read Ruth Crilly’s account of her own elective section and it left me with lots of questions answered/tips on how to get through it. As someone who’d never had surgery before, I had no idea what to expect and was basing everything off what I’d seen in 1996 episodes of Casualty so it was so nice to feel like I wasn’t going in completely blind.
Rex was originally booked in to excavate the premises on the 19th July. It was all very blasé; ‘we do very maximum three a day, so let’s look at when the diary allows it’, my consultant had informed us while cheerily clicking his mouse around. And then sat at home, a week before, Greg looked terrified as I rocked back and forth in our kitchen doing a bit of deep breathing because I was experiencing some serious pressure. Like, a hangover poo from the vagina kind of vibe. It was starting to get to the point where I was nervous any sort of movement would break my waters so at our appointment the next day, I asked for an internal.
‘Ah yes, I can feel the head! If we leave you, you’ll go in to labour prooooooobably over the next few days so, you can pick… have the baby tomorrow (Thursday) or the day after (Friday)’.
We decided not to tell anyone aside from our close family and chose to wait until the Friday. There was so much we hadn’t organised, we wanted to spend one last night with Milo, plus I needed my bloods to be taken in the run up to the op and they like to do that a little in advance. On the Thursday evening, Greg and I read Milo his usual stories and put him to bed before leaving him with my parents and heading back to London, hospital bags FINALLY packed. We’d originally planned to stay somewhere really decadent, have a meal out, get pampered etc but because it was all so rushed, we ended up picking one at a whim which had a bathroom like an ice-rink and was so disappointing I cried about 4 minutes after arriving (it was mainly just because I missed Milo and y’know, all the pregnant-whale hormones). I was also a tad pissy because I knew I was nil-by-mouth as of 5am which meant no breakfast, but we Deliveroo-ed at 1am and I got over myself.
I was booked in for 11am so we needed to be there for 9am and while Greg drove a million miles away to go park the car somewhere in central London which wouldn’t cost us the same as the private healthcare itself, I waddled in to The Lindo Wing. I went through to the first room I’d be staying in post op; a recovery room, where I’d be for about 4 hours after the procedure so they could keep an eye on how me and the baby were doing, then my midwife came to introduce herself and set about showing me how to pop my gown on without exposing my bare arse crack to the world/had me sign some forms. In the meantime, Greg had lugged all our bags in and we’d then realised we didn’t have a bloody baby hat. Probably the ONE thing you know to bring. So off he dashed, to find some sort of baby clothes emporium in search of something to keep Rex’s head warm. Well done us.
For the final hour, I mainly passed the time by sitting on Instagram and playing with the blue hair net they’d kindly gifted me. I’d brought along some pencils and an adult colouring book to help me relax but actually I wasn’t feeling all that nervous (especially after a visit from my very, very chilled and nice Aussie anaesthetist, we’ll hereby call him AA) and my belly prevented me from bending in any direction so I just decided to stay on the bed and enjoy doing absolutely.nothing for probably the last time in my life. After about four panicked phone calls from Greg ‘THERE ARE NO BABY CLOTHES IN PADDINGTON’, I was starting to be concerned he might actually miss the whole thing but he arrived with ten minutes to spare, sweaty and wielding a solitary woolly grey hat with ears he’d found in a GAP Kids store in Bayswater. All was well. He had a quick shower (you have en suites with each room) and shoved his scrubs on. For some strange reason I have absolutely no recollection of taking the lift down to the operating theatre but it appears I did… flip flops, gown and stockings on, and then met the team who’d be slashing me open to grab a human out.
I sat on the bed while nice AA put a cannula in and explained, along with another guy named Glen (he was there for reasons, not just as a spectator) everything that’d be happening. AA, Glen and Greg basically made a little ring around me and looked cheerful while they got me prepped for an epidural and I tried not to start getting nervous about all the beeping machines and tinkling of metal instruments on metal bowls. SO, the epidural. For some reason people always harp on about it being a huge needle blah blah blah. You’re given a pillow to hold, you lower your chin to your chest and you feel a tiny (and I mean tiny) scratch in your back. There’s no pain, but you gradually start to feel some serious pressure in your spine to the point you almost worry your skin’s going to full-on explode all over the show. It doesn’t hurt, it just feels weird. And cold. But that’s honestly it. And then after a short amount of time, you start to realise your legs are all tingly and your bum’s going numb; that’s when they get you to lay down.
They’re crafty, the people in the theatre, I’ll tell you that much. You’ll be having people talking to you and lots going on and some lovely music playing and you’ll presume nothing’s really kicked off. AA and Glen pulled a blue sheet up and casually dropped in that they were ‘prepping’, while also asking if I could feel anything going on. I felt the smallest of touches when someone put the catheter in but it was like a ladybird crawling across my vagina as opposed to anything else. I was relaxed as you like.
After about 10 minutes I’d noticed I could feel them on my tummy, AA said that would be the case so I wasn’t alarmed. It first felt as though they were putting the iodine wash on and then there was a lot of pushing down quite high up near my ribs which gradually became more and more intense. Now, when I gave birth to Milo, I had an epidural which didn’t work and a huge fear of mine was that this would happen again. It gave me one singular, numb foot and despite attempts to re-administer, it did nothing. I wasn’t allowed any more pain relief and it was a huge part of why my natural labour goes down as one of the worst days of my life. So I’m lying there on the operating table, slowly feeling more and more pressure and then my mind just goes in to overdrive; ‘I CAN FEEL SOMETHING!’. AA calmly speaks out ‘guys, can we stop for a second while I give her a top up, we’ll do delivery at 11:45’. I looked at the clock, 11:43.
Me: ‘Sorry, I can just feel stuff and if the cutting hasn’t begun yet then I’m really worried I’m not numb enough’
AA: ‘Oh they’ve nearly finished! They’re about 20 seconds from getting baby out’
Me: ‘You’re IN me? But Dr Fernando’s not even here?!’
Dr Fernando peeks over curtain; ‘HELLO!’
So after a top up, we go back to it and with a little bit more movement, out comes Rex. He cries, Greg cries, I don’t cry (I can never bloody cry when I give birth) and he’s presented to us over the curtain. After a quick clean up, my midwife puts on his little hat and wraps him in about 14 towels, ready to be placed on my chest. It ended up being more nose to nose as there’s really not a lot of room for baby to lay on you, but it was lovely nonetheless and I certainly didn’t feel like it wasn’t ‘natural’ enough for me. I’d worried beforehand not having that gruelling labour and the immediate skin to skin would mean I was left feeling empty but not in the slightest; having him handed to me was wonderful and all the feels were the same as they were with Milo (aside from the fact I didn’t feel like a broken bloody woman).
AA had mentioned some women fall asleep while they’re being sewn up and I thought that was a bit far-fetched. Until I couldn’t keep my own eyes open and had to ask Greg to take Rex so I could have a bit of a snooze. The whole thing (from me arriving in theatre to leaving) took just over an hour and the sewing took around 20 minutes. After a quick slumber, the team lifted me on to a bed, handed Rex back to me and I was wheeled up to my recovery room. Not feeling poorly, not feeling uncomfortable, not feeling anything negative; just pleasantly warm and a little bit sleepy. A bit like that perfect 4pm nap on a Sunday when you’ve been out the night before but minus the churny guts/banging headache.
When we got back to the room I was encouraged to do skin to skin with Rex and he got tucked in to my hospital gown where I tried giving him some milk; he wasn’t having any of it and just wanted to sleep so I didn’t keep pushing. We actually ended up having a paediatrician come visit us a few hours post birth because he kept grunting and had low blood sugar levels so Greg and my midwife gave him some formula instead while I flopped my nipple around near his face every few hours in the hope he’d crack it. After a couple of days of lazy feeding we got there but he certainly took a little longer to latch well than Milo did (who was like a veracious vacuum cleaner in comparison).
After a couple of hours of being in the recovery room I was brought my lunch and I was really hungry by this point so very happy to see a big bowl of soup and some jelly. I had heard a few accounts of people feeling sick post C-section or giving themselves bad wind after overeating so I made sure I stuck to nibbling and just drank lots of water. I really did feel absolutely fine though so I guess it’s just dependent on how you are with anaesthetic.
The most uncomfortable part of the entire recovery was actually a ridiculous shoulder pain which set in just after I’d been wheeled up to my room (this is when you’d go to the ward if having your baby on the NHS). Apparently it’s some sort of pain transference and all to do with nerves, but it’s essentially trapped bloody wind in your shoulder. Every time I breathed I felt like I had a stitch in there and it was my main gripe, much to the midwives’ amusement. Apparently it’s very common so I’d recommend taking along peppermint tea bags or peppermint sachets (which you mix with boiling water) because they really do help. Luckily The Lindo Wing had both readily available but of course, this wouldn’t be the case NHS wise so plan ahead just in case! Pain relief came every four hours and there was only one occasion late that first night when I actually felt a bit ‘come on come on come on’ about 10 minutes before the nurse brought them to me. The pain of the wound is stingy, but nothing to worry about. Not agony, you’re not writhing, it’s just sore and stingy (in my experience) and the best thing you can do is take everything when they tell you, even if you don’t feel like you need it. I was encouraged at around 8pm to shunt out of bed and sit in a chair but I got to the edge of the bed and felt like it was too much so mission was aborted. Throughout the night nurses came to change my bag of wee, give me meds (this included top ups of the epidural, not entirely sure if they do this on the NHS… definitely ask your midwife about it because it helped. A LOT) and I continued to try to feed Rex.
The next morning, despite feeling exhausted after our first night with a newborn, I felt fine. The nurse came to remove my pressure dressing (you’ll worry this will hurt, it doesn’t) and I was told I’d be helped out of bed to the bathroom. At this point, the last thing I wanted to do was move. The LAST thing. Mentally I felt great and I was aware we were having visitors so I wanted to be fresh, but getting in and out of bed seemed like something I couldn’t manage. I’d also been informed I was having my catheter removed and because so many people had told me this hurts, I’d worked myself up in to preparing for the worst and ate breakfast the slowest anyone. has. ever. eaten. breakfast. in. the. history.of. breakfasts just so they’d leave me be. Anyway, I’m pleased to report you can’t feel anything when they remove the catheter; apparently it’s common for it to hurt when put in, but you obviously won’t feel that during a C-section because of all the numb so yay! One worry down. And then came the trip to the bathroom.
It was fine! It was sore, yes. Like, very wincey sore. And I had to hold the nurse’s hand and then sit on a chair so we could both wash me. No, not very ladylike but I didn’t care because I was just happy all my guts hadn’t fallen out my wound. And actually, once I’d got up that one time, I was fine to make my way back to the bed by myself after I’d done my make-up and managed to go for a wee. They ask that post catheter removal, you wee twice in 6 hours (they place a little cardboard tub over the toilet so you can do it in there and measure the quantity) and I thought I might as well get one visit down while I was already up. I felt happy, up for visitors and despite needing Greg or a nurse to help with getting Rex in and out of the cot, all was fine.
You’ll still bleed down there post C-Section (thanks Mother Nature) but it probably won’t be quite as much as with a natural delivery. You’ll have a big ol’ pad on the bed which nurses will change during the time you’ve got your catheter in/the first 24 hours, but once you’ve got up and about you’ll be encouraged to whack out some of your massive pants and rock a big canoe sized sanitary towel. Big knickers really are a must FYI; you need to make sure there’s no rubbing on that wound because eeeeeeesh. No thanks.
One thing I didn’t know about before I went in was the nightly stomach injections. If you’re a bit of a needle-hater then they’ll probably be the worst part of your day but they’re a necessity in keeping DVT at bay. I’m here to tell you some even BETTER news; you’re given a bunch to take home with you! HOORAY! Which either you or your no doubt very willing partner will have to do over the next 10 days. You grab a hefty lump of flesh, jab the needle in, push the liquid in ’til it clicks and pull it out. Doesn’t hurt when you put it in but smarts a tad afterwards and can occasionally bleed. It’s really not horrendous but a bit crap.
On the Sunday we were more than ready to go home and so after being checked over by the midwife and a quick visit from Dr Fernando, we set off with a big bag of painkillers and lots of leaflets on safe sleeping, registering Rex’s birth and all other fun jazzy parenting stuff. You do have to shuffle out the hospital very, very slowly and you will feel like it’s the longest walk ever but it’s not as though you’re in agony and bawling as you pigeon step. More huff-puffing and being bent over to ease the stinging. Your other half/family member will need to carry the baby (obviously) and you just need to make sure you can get yourself to the car. On the ride home you’ll probably make a mental list of all the speed bumps/pot holes ready to complain to each and every council (seriously, you’ve never realised how bumpy a car journey is until you’ve given birth) and then you’ll be back at home, ready to take on life with your teeny, tiny baby and super cool tummy scar.
I think I’ve pretty much covered anything and everything involved in my C-section tale but if anyone has anything else they want to ask, please do get in touch, I’ll gladly answer any questions. I know each and every experience of birth is different but there are positive stories and this one was a dream in comparison to what I went through with Milo. Rex’s birth was like a fine, suede antique chaise longue while Milo’s birth was a 40 year old sofa upholstered with an OAP’s pubes and dog hair piping. All joking aside, my first birth left me feeling broken and this has really helped me recover mentally. July 14th 2017 was one of the best days of my life and I can’t say that for when Milo arrived. I think that says a lot. Please don’t panic.