Yesterday my baby turned four-weeks-old and it feels like I haven’t gone anywhere near my blog since way back before then, even though I know that I was updating with scheduled posts a day or so before. Time starts to become a little strange once you’ve had a baby, the first two weeks stretched out for what felt like miles and now the days melt into one and go by within seconds. Forgive me for posting everything a little out of sync with real time because there’s so much I want to share about my little boy and I want to make sure I separate and categorise it enough to be helpful for anyone else curious about my labour and newborn experience.
First things first, I had an elective cesarean operation with Oliver. This alone was unusual because this was my first pregnancy and it’s not common for women to be given the option or choose to have an operation over natural childbirth as the NHS will push for a first-time vaginal delivery where possible. I however knew what I wanted from the middle of my pregnancy and my decision was made for me once I had developed gestational diabetes and been told that I would be induced at 39 weeks. I was and still am against induction and especially so when it comes to diabetes in pregnancy because I knew that being coerced into an induction when my blood sugars were very well controlled (I didn’t need a drop of insulin thanks to a good diet and a bit of metformin) was an outdated practise. Reluctant to put in an argument for natural childbirth I opted for a cesarean as my ultimate choice.
I could go on and on about my reasons for an elective operation but there are a couple of important points as to why I went for it that I feel the need to mention. Firstly, I didn’t want natural labour to be forced and to exhaust my body and mind or develop complications that call for an emergency operation anyway. Secondly, I was convinced I would tear during labour and thirdly – I wanted to feel as little stress as absolutely possible having my baby. In retrospect an elective section worked for us as a family because we don’t drive and the nearest maternity hospital in a twenty-five minute car journey away so having a date and time meant we could plan childcare and my recovery well. Knowing when and how my baby would be born really assisted the management of anxiety because, truth be told, I’d terrified been about the ‘giving birth’ bit of pregnancy since day one.
So, once my letter arrived for the 25th of June I felt very relaxed about the entire thing and could then begin to start building the blocks to mentally adjust that on that date I would become a Mum to my own little baby.
So, on a very rainy Tuesday morning at about 6am my Dad picked myself and my husband up from our home and we had a calm and relaxed journey to Leicester. I was already knackered, and hungry, and thirsty. Part of having an elective operation meant that I had had to stay up as late as possible to eat and carbo-load my body in preparation for surgery. With my gestational diabetes I wasn’t able to have the carbohydrate drinks given to other women to aid recovery so I had to settle for as much bread and potatoes I could manage with pre-prescribed super strong heartburn tablets. Needless to say I didn’t sleep much with worry because I’d never had a major operation before and was absolutely terrified about the unknown so I wasn’t exactly comfortable or in a good mood when we arrived.
Still hungry, thirsty and as always needing a wee I was eventually called in for my pre-assessment with the surgeon and midwife team once arriving at the hospital and booking in a little early. To be truthful I don’t quite remember who I met exactly but I recall that this session was about forty minutes where I saw my consultant again, the baby’s heartbeat was checked and I had to answer loads of the usual questions like what allergies I had and what medication I was taking. In retrospect I did a very stupid thing of answering only nickel as a useless and barely important allergy compared to the awful intolerance I have to tape used in surgical dressings by the hospital but what can I say, I was running on little sleep and was very nervous – more on why this is important later.
I was already shaking at this point because the operation was becoming a reality and when I had to go change into my gown and stockings I called Rick to help me do it up because I couldn’t grip the fastenings with nerves. I honestly felt so sick and running on such little energy already I spent a few minutes to have a little talk to myself about calming down in the changing room. Standing in a chilly changing room with no knickers on under a surgical gown trying to talk myself into not being such a wuss has probably been on the strangest experiences of my life so far to be honest.
Once I’d had enough time and changed I sat down on the plastic chairs in the waiting area and tried not to look too much at what we dubbed ‘that creepy mural’ thinking I was going to be second into the operating theatre. Having spent nearly thirty years of being at the bottom of any list due to having a ‘W’ at the beginning of my maiden name, having a ‘E’ instead tends to put your in higher ranking so I was approached and told I was going in almost straight the way. Poor Rick then had to do a mad scramble to get all of ours and the baby’s bags in a locker and change into surgical scrubs himself so he could be in the theatre.
I was walked into the theatre and told my husband would be with me soon. As I was trying not to panic the staff talked me through my birthing plan and I explained to them the extent of my anxieties and what support I needed to get me through the procedure. Overall even though I was incredibly scared (I can’t express enough how terrified I was over something as routine as a cesarean operation) I just needed re-assurance and to be talked and chatted to as much as possible to occupy me. I twigged eventually that the staff in the theatre wearing scrubs were mostly the same as in my pre-assessment and it worked out that the consultant who’d seen me during my last antenatal appointment was actually one of my surgeons so I was, for the first time during all of my pregnancy care, surrounded by familiar faces.
The anaesthetist was an absolute diamond because she held me hand as my spinal block went in and talked me through the process as my lower half became numb and I was laid down and my body tilted slightly to the left. The spinal block was bloody horrible and I’ll never forget the feeling like I’d wet myself as a warmth spread down my legs. I then had all sorts either poked and prodded into me or wrapped around both of my arms, what I didn’t realise until later was that the blood pressure cuff was so tight to get my readings that it left a wicked bruise and the cannula was forever flipping the wrong way because it wasn’t taped properly leaving my hand especially sore for days afterwards. Next thing I knew and after I’d confirmed that I couldn’t feel any pain past my ribcage the surgeons had started the procedure and the soundtrack of a machine was sucking away my blood began. Luckily at this point Rick was let into the theatre and I tried desperately not to have a panic attack or cry. Unfortunately due to the nature of the drugs and the adrenaline keeping me going my body was shaking like mad and I had a horrible feeling of unrelenting pressure at the centre of my chest that made me feel awful.
Lying on an operating theatre table without the feeling or control of your lower half isn’t the best sensation or experience in the world truth be told and it’s especially terrifying when you can still feel your feet! In retrospect I suppose I should’ve been excited about meeting my baby very soon but I was far too distracted trying not to panic or worry that something may go wrong. I’d made the effort to put make up on that morning to calm me down (none of the staff let me forget that I looked good in theatre for the entirety of my stay) and a bit of make up always makes me feel more human so I made Rick snap a photo of me – in my own words – ‘looking like I was enjoying myself’.
I’d gotten caught up in a slew of stillbirth accounts online in the last few weeks of my pregnancy and they were all I could think about whilst on that table with the added shaking of the drugs pumped into me. When Oliver was delivered and lifted above the screen draped over my chest for me to see the first thing I did was burst into tears of relief.
At 10.01am on 25th June Oliver Luke Eaglestone was bought into the world, whimpering, grumpy and weighing a healthy 7lbs 11.5oz.
Even though I had requested it I didn’t have skin-to-skin contact with my baby until I has been wheeled out of theatre and into enhanced recovery. I could still see Oliver as Rick held him and we had a quick discussion on if he looked like the name we’d picked for him and then refused to tell anyone of the staff because it was to be a secret until my Mum and Dad were to visit that evening. During this time Rick and I just chatted a little whilst I marvelled at becoming a Mum within a matter of minutes and blurted out that I would happily have another baby because I was so relieved that he had been born – a comment that Rick still won’t let me forget a month on.
The process of ‘putting everything back’ took much longer than the delivery as I was pulled about and listened to the surgeons discuss my organs and stomach muscles as they worked together to finish the operation. This experience was much worse than the build-up of fear beforehand so I made extra effort to talk to everyone around me to take my mind away from that place. I’m quite sure the staff were glad to see the end of such a chatterbox by mid-morning. Eventually I was sewn up with disposable stitches, hoisted onto a gurney and wheeled onto a temporary ward where I would be kept a watchful eye on for any immediate and serious complications that may have happened. Because I’m such a polite so and so I made sure to thank everyone in the room as I was wheeled out and the memory of it alone makes me feel like such a newb. I blame the drugs.
I’ll go more into the recovery in and out of hospital in additional posts but I just wanted to add that without the drugs and adrenaline keeping me going I would’ve passed out by the the time I hit the enhanced recovery ward. I was so ridiculously thirsty that I was begging for a drink of water as I was wheeled in but I was denied anything for a further hour. I was so very tired and woozy although more together than I would’ve expected because I was able to hold Oliver for skin-to-skin contact for a short while and video call my Mum and Dad at around midday to announce his birth. Everyone cheered and there were plenty of tears in my Mum’s office but his name was still kept a secret. Even immediately post-surgery I was determined to keep his name under wraps as we had done throughout my pregnancy – much to everyone else’s annoyance.
During this time as nurses were checking on me every fifteen minutes I was in and out of dozing off to sleep but I do remember Oliver crying every once in a while whilst Rick comforted him and wrapped him in the t-shirt I was wearing that morning so he still had my scent. After much begging, the nurses eventually let me have a small glass of water and then some biscuits. I gulped down both down and thought longingly of the bag of snacks we’d bought with us for the hospital that were stashed in the locker but then the baby was again placed on my chest to settle him and I was more swept up by him than anything.
As I’d opted to breastfeed a nurse suddenly appeared to my right (I’ve absolutely no idea when the topic of feeding was bought up I just recall her appearing almost out of thin-air), grabbed my breast and attached Oliver to my nipple. Next thing I know I’m just lying in this bed with an infant suckling at me with no clue as to how he got there and feeling like none of it is real. He’d got crumbly bits of blood all over him and he was immediately sucking on his fingers when done feeding. I thought he was marvellous.
Eventually the nurses around me did their final checks, marvel at the fact that I can already move my right leg a little and then say their goodbyes as I’m transitioned to the overnight ward for further recovery time. I realise later that I’m actually wheeled into the public lift everyone uses when they visit the maternity wards and I’ve got a baby attached to my breast but I hardly care to be shy.
So, there is is. I’ll write more about my further recovery in additional posts but for now – here’s my little boy.
Do you have questions about a cesarean operation? Have you had one yourself? Let me know in the comments.