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Let's talk about C sections

Updated: Apr 7, 2022

As April is C section Awareness Month, let’s talk about them.

Both my children were born by c section. Both were unplanned. Both times I went into labour naturally, waters broke, and my labours were long. Lucy took 58 hours from first contraction to when they operated. It’s recorded as 18 hours of active labour. For me, all those hours counted. The excitement of knowing she was on her way, the anxiety of the unknown and the long wait as we counted the time between contractions.

Lucy was delivered by c section because I got a fever. At 9 and a half cm dilated they recommended getting her out as soon as possible. By this point, I was so exhausted, I agreed. Sadly, I don’t remember much of the day after that.

Just over 3 years later, I fell pregnant again. I so desperately wanted to try for a natural birth. I’d heard of women having successful natural births after a c section. In fact, the success rate seemed to be that 3 in 4 women had vbac success and I had dilated to 9cm before so I was full of hope. At 24 weeks pregnant, I met with my vbac consultant for the first time. Little did I realise the emotions that would come from this discussion. She informed me that as my first birth had been a c section, my next birth would be consultant led, I would be on the labour ward, I would be prepped for surgery in case the same thing happened again; bloods would be taken while in labour and I would have a canula put in my hand. I was suddenly filled with dread. This sounded like I was being set up to fail and I hated every word of it. She asked me to recall exactly what had happened during my first labour. I felt very emotional. I had never really had to explain in full detail what had happened. It brought it all back and I realised I was quite traumatised by the whole thing. Looking back, in the moment, I would say everything was calm, I was relaxed and had no issues with the way the labour went. But recalling it was different. I did not want to go through it again. I got home and cried. A lot. For 2 days I felt like I did not even want to get out of bed. I worried that I’d spend the next 16 weeks worrying about being on a labour ward, seeing the same machines, hearing the same terminology and it would bring it all back. Then, I thought I cannot spend the rest of my pregnancy like this. Instead of feeling so negative, I decided to spend those weeks using this knowledge to my advantage. I could prepare myself better for what was to come, practise relaxation techniques and do some hypnobirthing classes to ease my fears. I wrote down my birth plan for how I hoped it would go, but I also wrote down how I would like things to be if I ended up having another c section; the main points being I did not want to be left alone at any stage and wanted to see my baby as soon as she was born.

Then the pandemic began… Pregnant women were told we were vulnerable and had to isolate for 12 weeks. Covid-19 was the unknown at this stage so I would often go to bed feeling very anxious. I was relieved the government classed us as vulnerable. I wanted to hide away from the virus and feel I was keeping my baby safe. As these 12 weeks came to an end, my due date got closer.

I went into labour the day after my due date at 10am. My husband had to wait in the car until I went into established labour at the hospital. The midwife told me that Ava was in an awkward position and my body was working harder to turn her the correct way for labour. By midnight I decided to have an epidural. I wanted to be sensible. I knew that I would be alone with the baby once she was born and that my labour could be long. I did not want to be exhausted looking after her by myself.

Hours and hours past, I wasn’t dilating. I knew what was coming. “We think it’s best to operate”. I cried, but I needed to let the sadness out. Then I let it go. I was about to meet my little girl and it didn’t matter how she arrived, I just wanted to see her.

I had the loveliest midwife called Cecilia, who did everything I asked for and more. I couldn’t hold Ava; my arm had gone numb (this happened both surgeries). She held Ava so close to me so I could take in all her gorgeous baby features, touch her soft skin and hear her sweet little sounds.

I suddenly felt so blessed. I had been so lucky to fall pregnant naturally 2 times, to have 2 relatively easy pregnancies and have 2 healthy baby girls. In that moment, nothing else mattered. My family was complete.

I don’t feel that c sections are talked about enough, particularly the recovery part. I had very little understanding of what would happen after the operation and I feel like there should be more support for this to prepare women.

To anyone reading this who may be having a planned c section or would like to know more about it, please don’t feel worried after reading my blog. I genuinely believe my sadness came from not having the birth I had hoped for, not from the experience itself.

Here are some things about c sections that I did not know about before mine.

· When you lay down, they will lift your gown up so that you cannot see what is going on. The gown is much closer to your face than I realised. I had my partner right next to my face so I could focus on him and not feel claustrophobic.

· My body shook a lot, both times. I thought nerves had kicked in, but after talking to a friend who had also gone through a c section delivery she mentioned this happened to her too and that it is normal.

· Ask where they take the baby when he or she is born so you know where to look. My first born was taken to a part of the room where I could not see her and my midwife and husband went to see her, leaving me alone and feeling like I was missing out.

· After the surgery, ask what pain relief is offered. After my first c section I didn’t feel I needed anything. After the second I wanted anything that was available!

· You will be given anti blood clotting injections for the first 10 days after your c section. If you and your partner cannot face doing them, discuss this with the midwives and health visitors to see if they can do them for you.

· Buy big pants. There are c section pants available, but I found these expensive. I bought high waist knickers from the supermarket in a much bigger size (I am usually a 10 and bought size 16 so my swollen tummy still fit in them)

· For me, the most uncomfortable movement was getting out of bed, moving my legs from the bed to the floor. One of my favourite purchases was a toddler step to put at the side of my bed so that I did not have to lower my legs as much.

Since having Ava I have discovered that there is help for anyone who has suffered birth trauma. I wish I had known more about this at the time, but then I never realised quite how affected I was until much later. If you are feeling this way, this website could be a helpful place to start. You can also get in touch with your local hospital and talk through the birth that you had and why it went the way it did.


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