(Warning: Graphic images of surgery)
I wrote a post during my pregnancy about my birth options. I had the option of an elective caesarean or having a VBAC. And I remember saying that I wish the choice was taken out of my hands.
And it was.
My baby girl decided to make herself comfortable in my womb in the breech position, meaning the VBAC was ruled out. Only once it had been ruled out did I realise just how much I wanted to try to naturally give birth (with drugs of course- I’m no sadist). My sister had not long had her baby and a friend had not long had hers either, and both of them had unproblematic vaginal births that required some stitching but nothing more. Both were up on their feet not long after their births and my Instagram and Facebook pages were filled with happy family outings. I realised that I wanted to birth that way too. I wanted to be able to get back on my feet and return to normality as quickly as I could after having the baby.
But it wasn’t to be. Even on the morning of my surgery during a check to see how my baby was lying, she was still bottom down. And the chance of her turning was very slim. Given the gestational diabetes too they didn’t want to leave me to see if some miracle might happen where by she’d turn last-minute.
I remember feeling a mixture of emotions when they told me she was still breech.
On the one hand it meant the surgery was definitely going ahead and I’d soon be meeting my little girl, but on the other hand it meant *shock face* the surgery was definitely going ahead. Two very different ways to look at the prospect of the coming hours.
For anyone that knows me, I’m petrified of needles. Beyond petrified really. And any form of surgery means needles. And for the next couple of hours all I could think about was when they were going to start sticking needles into me, in fact I was so scared it did take away the reality that I would soon be holding my little girl.
I was one of three ladies due for an elective on the morning on the 15th May. The order in which the surgery would happen depended on each of our circumstances and the risk factors. One lady didn’t turn up. And the other lady I could hear talking to her midwife as she was in the bed opposite to mine- both of us screened off by a curtain. I started to eavesdrop in to see why she was having an elective caesarean. They had her on fetal monitoring because her baby’s heart rate kept dropping. She would obviously go first I thought, meaning I had a bit longer needle free.
Once we’d both met our respective midwives and we’d been stockinged up (you know those sexy compression stockings), we sat outside the fetal monitoring room in the waiting room just waiting for the theatre to be prepped.
I’ve sat in that room a million times throughout this pregnancy. It’s where all the pregnancy scans are done. The room started to slowly fill up with other women excited to see their baby’s on the ultrasound machine for the first time, or to tell them what gender they’d be having.
To them the two of use sat there must have been quite a sight. Two heavily pregnant women obviously ready to end our pregnancy journeys.
My midwife walked into the room with a big smile on her face and told me after a discussion with the surgical team I was going to have my caesarean first. I was the higher risk case.
I won’t lie, panic set in then. I don’t even remember what she said when I asked her why, because all I was thinking was “shit, this is happening. And I can’t get out of it.” Yes, my initial thought was to leg it and refuse to admit I had to get the baby out somehow!
I’m guessing because I’d been nil by mouth since midnight and I had gestational diabetes they needed to just get the baby out because not eating can increase sugar production and cause issues for both the baby and myself.
Because the theatres for some reason had all been changed in our hospital last minute we walked up to the main theatre area and I got undressed and put on a gown while Mr London Mum was led away to kit himself up in some scrubs. I clutched a newborn nappy and a baby hat to my chest- the only objects I was told to bring up with me and I tried my hardest to not let the fear show on my face.
I can’t speak more highly about the midwife I had, she tried to calm me as best as she could and her presence really helped keep me grounded. Without her my fears would have escalated to levels where they would have found it really hard to deal with me.
But I walked into the theatre room with her on one side of me, and she helped me up onto the theatre bed. I clocked my surgeon straight away, a lovely kind faced gentleman- in fact the only male on the whole surgical team. He had such a warm personality that I felt confident in his ability. In my mind I thought a happy, relaxed surgeon wasn’t going to mess this up. His positive vibe passed on to me.
The anaesthetist however was a different matter, she was in charge of the needles which immediately meant I was on edge meeting her.
She came over, chatted to me (bless her, she was kind and lovely and told me how much she loved my hair… but she was still the evil one in my eyes) and put a cannula in my hand. With Mr London Mum still not in the room I just clutched onto my midwife as it was done.
Cannula’s are probably my most hated needle. Mainly because the tube stays in your hand and serves as a visual reminder until it’s removed.
The spinal block was next, and by this point Mr London Mum was by my side. He was holding one hand while my midwife was practically hugging me and whispering anything to me to keep me still and relaxed.
I expected the spinal to be like the epidural. For some reason I thought they were inserting a tube. But it’s just a needle. I say just a needle but after a local anaesthetic was injected into the area the anaesthetist put the spinal in, and it shocked me quite a bit feeling how far in it was going that I jerked my body and practically leapt off the bed. Not exactly a smart move with a needle near my spine.
I was in tears by this point. The needle phobia took over. Mr London Mum tried to appeal to my competitive side by trying to make out it was all a game where I had to stay still. God knows why but it worked. That alongside my midwife stroking my hair and thoughts of paralysis if I moved again.
And if memory serves me right I was either biting down on Mr London Mum’s hand or else I was digging my nails into his hand. Either way being able to release the tension while trying to keep my body relaxed (for the anaesthetist) meant he took the brunt of my fears through pain.
With needles all done I lay down on the table.
Very quickly the spinal started to take effect. They put two massaging machines around my legs to help prevent DVT, and I couldn’t feel them working at all. They popped a catheter in (thank you spinal for allowing me not to feel that) and they tested me with cold spray and when they were confident the spinal had taken full effect they started the surgery.
My gown was used as the curtain between my eyes and the surgeons work. He’d already asked if I wanted to watch the baby being born and have the curtain lowered at the moment of birth. To which I immediately said yes. I’m not squeamish at all… I’m just a hater of needles.
In fact watching her being born was so important for me. With Little London I wasn’t part of his birth. I had an emergency caesarean with him and I was out of it on a cocktail of drugs by the time I got into theatre. Piecing his birth together after the event was really difficult for me and contributed a lot to my post natal depression.
This time, even though it was another caesarean it was under different circumstances and I was able to be part of the process and understand what was going on which was further cemented by the fact we could watch her birth and take photos of the surgery.
Psychologically I needed that.
I remember the surgery starting and the fear setting in just incase I could feel it. But I felt no pain. Although what I will say is that you feel a lot more during an elective caesarean than you do during an emergency caesarean. Probably because mentally you’re more with it. I’d go as far as to say you can feel everything. Every tug and every pull. And although it doesn’t hurt there were occasions I’d wince because it was uncomfortable. The thing is your head knows what’s happening, and that can’t be turned off.
Plus when you hear the surgeon request a knife after lots of tugging, reality sets in that they’re cutting away and that’s quite a grim thought… not painful. Just odd.
I’ll remember the moment she was born forever. I told Mr London Mum to get ready with the camera because judging by the tugging I knew it wouldn’t be too long until she was here. And sure enough the surgeon told us they’d be lowering the curtain soon because she was ready to be born. From the start of surgery to the point of her being ready to come out, probably only 15 minutes had lapsed.
Her birth was such a surreal moment. The curtain was lowered and my daughter was lifted up out of my womb and shown to me.
She didn’t cry immediately, but I didn’t worry at all because the faces around me told me she was fine. The team were congratulating us, letting us know she was born at 10.15am on the dot.
Mr London Mum just kept saying how beautiful she was over and over. And they held her there of long enough for me to really get a good glimpse of her. I know I didn’t actively give birth, but I actually felt like I had. Tears streamed down my face.
The midwife took her off to a side room which was in my eyeline. The door was left open and I could see her rubbing her down and doing all the checks. Things I never got to witness with Little London.
I watched Mr London Mum soak up those precious first few moments and report things back to me. The theatre team also kept me informed with any details.
It was the birth I needed. I felt included.
As soon as her checks were over, my 6lb daughter was placed straight on my chest to feed.
And once the surgeon had finished the stitching and popped a pain relieving suppository up my bum (yes really, and yes you can feel it although it’s an odd sensation because it doesn’t feel like it’s being put anywhere near your bum it feels like it’s going into your back!) I was wheeled to into the recovery room until a bed was found on the post natal ward for me.
Once a bed was found I was wheeled out on my bed with my daughter clutched to my chest. As we passed people in the hospital corridors I could see them trying to glimpse this little tiny newborn- and that’s when it hit home. The moment of pride that she was ours.
We were now a family of four.