Thank you to my lovely friend Faye for sharing her c section stories. I love reading these because Faye shares her experience of both an emergency c section and a planned c section so we can understand what they are like.
Both of my boys arrived by c-section, but both were very different experiences.
One being an emergency, and the second being planned elective;
Part 1 Emergency
My first was due to be a relaxing homebirth experience; birthing pool ready to go in the kitchen, with twinkly fairy lights and the dulcet tones of Taylor Swift playing...
But babies don't always like to follow your plans! To cut a long story a little shorter, after a long labour at home there was meconium in my waters, which meant I was unable to continue with a homebirth.
I was sent into the hospital labour ward for monitoring and put on hormone drip as my contractions had slowed right down I was only 4cm dilated still. I took an epidural as I was exhausted, I thought I'd never be able to push after 30+ hours of these difficult contractions if I didn't get some rest.
But shortly after, the baby's heartrate was dropping for extended periods of time - baby was in distress: so the consultant advised we get ready for emergency c-section.
I was scared for the baby, and just wanted him out and safe now - so I barely remember any of it but we signed off on the paperwork and rushed off to theatre.
I do recall I felt very unwell (I'd been vomitting a lot through labour and also with the epidural side effects)
The anaethetist was luckily able to counter the nausea a bit during surgery with antisickness meds, however I was shaking uncontrollably - it was very surreal, I didn't realise this is a relatively common side effect apparently!
Baby thankfully came quickly and safely via c section - he was a 9lb7oz chunk!
Although as I was so exhausted, scared, shaking, and nauseous I can't say I really enjoyed the experience I could barely hold him for a few hours post surgery.
Being all by myself in the ward following the surgery was one of the hardest things I've done, as I felt so unwell and so alone - covid restrictions in 2020 meant my husband could only be there for one hour at visiting times. It was especially tricky as I couldn't really move for the pain directly following the surgery, so ended up just keeping baby on the bed with me so I didnt have to put him up and down from the crib, but meant I didn't really sleep at all for what felt like days!
Once I got home after two night stay in hospital, I was much more comfortable and well recovered in about 3-4weeks with no complications. But I continued to take it easy - no heavy lifting etc.
One thing I wasn't aware of was that the painkillers they send you home with block you up ... I was knocking back the lactulose like tequila at a party haha! Took about a week to pass a movement which in hindsight I should have spoken to doctor sooner!
The emergency c-section experience was hard on me mentally also, took me awhile to be comfortable with it in my own head, I was upset my best laid plans had failed and felt my body had failed my baby, I thought it was perceived as "cheating" with no pushing.
But no, it's life threatening surgery, it's not easy to do or to recover from. And I had to remind myself also in this scenario it was potentially a life threatening situation with my baby.
I now know that women who do this by choice or other are very brave regardless! But if you are struggling with coming to terms with your birth however it panned out it's worth reaching out to your local midwife team or mental health team, you're not alone.
Part 2 Elective
When it came to my second baby I was desperate for it to be a different experience to my first, I felt mentally scarred by the emergency situation, I wanted some semblance of control... especially compared to what felt like manic-panicked-emergency csection!
I weighed up the options of VBAC vs Elective and the hospital did a good job of informing me of risks and benefits of both.
And for me, being able to control the birth to some extent felt right for me, less risk of reliving that dramatic emergency situation.
As it happened we had some complications in pregnancy with my second baby not growing as much as he should, so we were given the elective c-section date a bit earlier than usual elective c-sections...
So at 38weeks exactly (instead of 39+weeks) I excitedly walked into the hospital with my bag and bump (and husband!) And a ver empty stomach after going nil by mouth.
There were three slots for the elective c-sections on that day (myself and two other pregnant people waiting)
So the surgeons, anaesthetist team and midwife came and "interviewed" us to help them make a decision on which order to do the three surgeries.
Due to the nature of the pregnancy complications and the history with my first birth being emergency they decided to do us first, so I was glad there wasn't really any waiting around to get nervous!
We went straight down to theatre where they prepped me and administered the spinal block; this is very similar to an epidural but I didn't get any of the negative side effects that I'd had before with an epidural (sickness and shakes).
The theatre team were all brilliant and friendly, made sure to keep us all updated during the surgery.
Due to previous c-section I had quite a bit of scar tissue that unfortunately had fused together and to my uterus wall - so it took them a longer time to get to baby.
He was very unhappy to have been born early, his little grumpy face is a picture I'll never forget, but wonderful to hold him on my chest and even breastfed him with the help of midwife whilst still laying there in theatre.
It took even longer to sew me up after he was born due to the problems with the scar tissue; and a bit more blood loss than usual.
I still felt well throughout the surgery, they kept us well informed.
After just over 2.5hrs in surgery we were out and in the recovery room, holding our slightly happier newborn son.
I must admit the initial pain following the elective csection was much greater than the emergency c-section, I struggled for first 24hrs and drugs didn't seem to do much; perhaps this was partially due to the scar tissue problems I experienced.
I stayed only one night in the ward as was desperate to get back to my own bed and my toddler - so I was even up & about marching up to the reception desk demanding to go home by lunchtime the following day! (Those poor midwives had me nagging them for hours!)
At home my recovery was great, by day 3 I felt SO much better I was pretty shocked at how mobile I was.
I made sure to take it easy and accept help from my husband and parents but I was able to do much more than I had with my first csection.
I believe my body has a memory of the recovery first time which helped me for round two!
Reflecting back, there was no way to know that my scar tissue would have been in such a state, it apparently can happen to anyone but isn't terribly common and there is no way to really tell until you're in the surgery.
I wouldn't change anything though, I felt the experience of an elective c-section was wonderful with the trust I had in the staff who cared for me and also skipping the exhausting labour and panic stage made a huge difference to how I felt post partum.
It does reduce the likelihood of anymore children for me, as any abdominal surgery carries greater risk now with the way I have healed previously. But I'm very happy with our family of four!
I've learnt you can't rely too much on birth plans, but thinking about your options carefully you and your unique circumstances, being flexible and just controlling what bits you can does make for a better and happier experience!