MY POSITIVE CESAREAN EXPERIENCE
A Boy is Born Through the Sunroof
I looked at the clock and realised in an hour I’d be a Mum. Just as I planned it, just as I imagined it. I walked into theatre and soon after, my gorgeous Boo was born. Of course any woman who has been through the experience knows that there’s more to it, and it’s not a decision that’s taken lightly. But hand on scar, I’d do it all over again.
In the days and weeks before birth, I looked everywhere for advice on what to expect. NCT would only discuss natural birth, and the little they did talk about c-sections was off-putting. Online a lot of women were kind to share their stories, but most of them had emergency cesarean procedures which do seem to be different to a planned approach. Not too many women have elective c-sections, but since I’m one, I would share my positive story with others.
Whatever the opposite of ‘earth mother’ is…
I’m no Earth Mother, I’ve never been one of these ‘au-natural’ types. I believe in medicine, and pain relief and choice. I believe childbirth would be so less traumatic for mothers if they were given a choice on how they’d like to give birth, whatever their preference is – no judgement.
But since choice isn’t an option here in the UK, I had to pay for my choice. It’s not cheap either, private medical births cost between £10-18k. This was a huge sum of money for me, but I had put it aside over the years knowing it would be the only way I’d contemplate having a baby. But, not all women are this lucky, which is why I’d like to see more options available on the NHS.
My childbirth fear is borne of good reasons. As one of the last of my friends to give birth, I have been subjected to horror stories from just about everyone. A number of friends have suffered post-natal depression following a difficult birth, others have long-lasting injuries that required surgery, I even know a women who suffered Bell’s Palsy from her traumatic birth. Tokophobia is the medical term for fear of childbirth, and I can honestly say I suffer from this genuine and overwhelming fear.
The only positive birth story I ever heard was from my first boss Fee. She declared herself ‘too posh to push’ (a term I’m not sure I love, but anyway) and booked herself in to the Portland. She unashamedly celebrated the experience as “checking in to a hotel, and coming out with a baby.” Her little boy arrived “through the sunroof”, never had I seen a happier new mum in my life. I was inspired.
So when the time came, I explored all birth options, but knew deep down a cesarean was my preference. As it turned out, it was meant to be – prior gynecological problems led my consultant to believe that a c-section would be safest for my baby.
I took comfort in my planned c-section. We knew when he was coming, how he was coming and the consultant who would be undertaking the surgery. There were no surprises, I was never overdue, my in-laws could book a hotel in good time, my husband knew when he was going on maternity leave. It was the ultimate in planning.
The night before, I went to hospital for final bloods, before returning home and trying to salvage some sleep. Before I knew it 6am happened, and we were back.
Arriving calmly at the hospital for the first cesarean of the day was a good place to be. I was now in the NHS wing, but with my private healthcare team. I looked around to see women screaming, crying, breathing and panting through labour. I still remember to this day one poor lady crying hysterically next to me. Her first birth had been so unbearable that she had begged the NHS for a cesarean this time around. But they could make no promises and she had gone in to labour early. She knew what was coming next and kept shouting ‘I can’t go through it again, I can’t go through it again’. It will haunt me forever.
Despite my fears of going through major surgery, I was never more convinced of my decision.
With private medical care, you know your team from the start. They coach you through the nine months of pregnancy and are there for you at the final hurdle. It can only be described as being an athlete in a major race, and having the world’s best team by your side. It was worth every single penny.
My husband and I walked in to theatre, and put on our music playlist to keep me upbeat. The cannula went in (horrible), the spinal drip was inserted (actually fine) and the catheter was in. A team of about seven arrived, all very professional but ‘human’ with it. It was nothing as chaotic or crazy as NCT had mislead me to believe, shame on them.
The checks were done and the curtain went up, I laughed at my husband impersonating George Clooney wearing his scrubs and prayed to St Gerard (the patron saint of mothers). We sat there chatting, as the medical team danced around to my music. It was a surreal time.
It’s a boy!
Numb and paralysed from the waist down, I felt nothing apart from some severe shaking – a normal reaction to the drugs. About 15 minutes in to surgery Boo was on the way. I felt like a giant tube of toothpaste with a baby being squeezed out. It wasn’t painful or uncomfortable, but it was definitely odd!
“HERE HE IS”
…shouted the midwife and presented me with my little cherub, he looked like the last chicken in Tescos! But it was done. He had arrived safely and I had made it through without any pain or trauma whatsoever – it was over.
In the days after my cesarean, I was more mobile than I had expected. I didn’t dare bend over for weeks, but found ways around it. My husband was incredible and had to take more of the responsibility, which he did amazingly. Then there was seven days of injections to prevent clotting, which stung like hell. DVT socks and unsexy granny pants were also part of the package, but I didn’t mind. That’s as bad as it got, and I’ll take that any day over giving birth to something the size of my head!
The drugs DO work!
It took about three days for the drugs to clear out, I know because the itching stopped (part of the comedown) and breastfeeding suddenly became painful, as it was discovered my son’s tongue-tie prevented him from latching properly. I hadn’t enjoyed the experience anyway, so combination feeding was a relief. Read more here – Bottling It
Back to normal, whatever that is.
For me, it took two weeks to return to normal, and about a month until I could start doing everything again. Surgery is not something that should be taken lightly and is not without risks, but I have to say, it really wasn’t as bad as you expect. My scar is tiny, and hidden very well – however I have lost some sensation around it, which I doubt will return. Also, what I don’t know is how bad the scarring is on the inside of my body – an issue should I chose to have another child.
This however is all a small price to pay, when I compare my recovery and experience to my NCT friends who braved natural birth. Half of them had a ‘traumatic birth’, while two of them are on their third course of antibiotics for their infected episiotomies. Only two out of the six had the births they wanted – using a birthing pool, which they swore by and said was a good experience. For those of you planning natural birth – I have to say I have heard good things about water births.
As for the health visitor…
For me, the telling moment was when the health visitor came over. She sat my down, put on her best sympathetic face and said “OK, lets talk about the birth. How are you recovering, how difficult was it?” when I told her it was actually brilliant, she had to stop and ask me again. She was dumbfounded that I could have had such a positive experience, because it was so rare to hear. And that made me sad. In today’s day and age, when medicine is so advanced, why should women have to suffer.
Happy to ‘C’ you
It’s interesting that in the UK, where most women don’t get to choose – only 30% of births are cesarean, while in Brazil where women do (but have to pay for it), the c-rate is 80%. Go figure..
Just a caveat to add – every woman is different, and what is right for one person is not for another. I undertook months of research and saw top consultants before making this decision. I know women who have had excellent natural births, and some who haven’t. The moral of the story is – you know what works for you, and don’t let anything stop you. And if you are even marginally thinking about a c-section, I can’t recommend it enough. I’d like to thank the incredible team at Kingston Hospital in London for all they did for me.