In just a matter of months I’ll be having my third baby so it’s only natural I’m beginning to think about giving birth and birth stories! During my first two pregnancies I loved reading other women’s birth stories and relished in the gory details – both positive and negative.
I’m a firm believer that the best way to prepare yourself for giving birth is to be as informed as possible. I do think your midwife and the NHS books and pre-natal classes can give a lot of the information you need but nothing beats chatting to someone who has done it. The internet and blogs have given us the ability to ‘chat’ to thousands of mums around the world and hear their stories. I can’t even imagine how scary is must have been for women years ago who had no one to talk to before giving birth.
I really wanted to share my caesarean birth stories because a lot of emergency c-sections are a bit scary and stressful. But mine were elective and it was a completely different experience. I had my first son, George, four years ago and my second son, Joseph, two and a half years ago, so not every detail is fresh in my mind but here goes… (I still managed to waffle on for a very long time and you’ll see from these stories that I was overly emotional and unnecessarily angry about everything! I’m totally not an angry person so it feels weird to read this and see how stressed and anxious and angry everything made me!)
Let’s start with the number one question….
Why did I have caesareans with both my boys?
My first caesarean
I had a caesarean with George because he was breech – which basically means he was upside down and would have come out feet first rather than head first. This can be dangerous and isn’t something doctors like to do, so they recommend a c-section if a baby is breech.
But doctors don’t go about offering caesareans to anyone, well they don’t in the UK anyway. The doctors did try and persuade me to allow them to ‘turn’ the baby at 37 weeks by pressing on my belly to try and manipulate it to be head down. Sometimes this is successful and works but sometimes it’s painful for the mother, can unsettle the baby and doesn’t work, so I declined the offer to turn the baby and was booked in for a caesarean on my due date.
If I’m totally honest, I was really relieved when I was offered a caesarean. I was terrified by the thought of childbirth and I loved the idea that an operation could be booked in at a certain time on a particular date and everything was booked and organised. All the responsibility of safely bringing a baby into the world was out of my hands and I liked that feeling.
It was like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders as soon as the decision was made and I really enjoyed the last few weeks of my pregnancy.
I’ll tell you why I had a second caesarean a little later on. But first, I’ll tell you about how George came into the world!
They usually book caesareans in 7 days before your due date but apparently, they were busy on George’s due date and I couldn’t get booked in. Everyone kept telling me that first babies never come on time so I didn’t need to worry – and I didn’t worry. It hadn’t even crossed my mind I’d go into labour early! But I did!
I went into labour four days early.
I’d gone to bed like normal and didn’t feel any different to how I normally felt. But I woke up at 2am with intense period pains but they came and went so I tried to get back to sleep. But by the fourth or fifth time it dawned on me what was happening, so I downloaded an app to track the timing between these pains and, sure enough, they were regular and getting worse.
I woke Sam up but he was really confused. We knew I wouldn’t be having a natural delivery so neither of us had really prepared for this and I think Sam had been expecting screaming and shouting and sweating. (We’ve seen One Born Every Minute and he clearly only watched the dramatic bit!) But I calmly told him I was in labour and I was going downstairs to call the hospital and see what to do.
I knew it was obviously the very early stages and, while each contraction made me catch my breath, I wasn’t in intense pain. The hospital told me to make my way there, but I didn’t rush and had a shower, washed my hair and shaved my legs first!
When I arrived at the hospital I was put on a machine to be monitored and examined. I wasn’t dilated at all but a machine showed I was having contractions so they decided to do an emergency c-section.
By this time it was about 7am so they decided I’d be better waiting until 8am when a new team of staff would be coming in and the operation would be performed by fresh people who weren’t coming off the night shift.
This was fine by me as I liked the idea of having shiny new staff rather than tired people! It also meant that it wasn’t rushed or scary and, while it was technically an emergency caesarean, it wasn’t really and felt just as calm as a normal elective c-section.
I had to stay hooked to the monitoring machines which was a bit annoying because it was starting to hurt and instinct was telling me to move and walk and stretch and stand upright rather than lie flat on my back. But it wasn’t for long and at 8am the midwives came to fetch me from a room I was waiting in.
I had to remove all my clothes and wear a gown and walked through to the operating room where I had a spinal to numb me from the waist down.
I was really scared at this point but the midwives were amazing at keeping things upbeat. Sam came into the room once I was numb and the midwives kept us chatting.
There were a lot of people in the room but there was a curtain up so I don’t really know who was there. I remember them lifting my knees up to insert the catheter and it was the strangest sensation as I saw my leg rising but couldn’t feel a thing. I knew it was my leg and I could have reached out and touched but I had no sensation of it being lifted.
The operation began at 9am and I obviously didn’t feel any pain at all but it’s an odd sensation. I’ve heard many people refer to it like your belly being a washing machine with everything inside it swishing around, and that’s exactly what it’s like. It’s not very nice but it was over really quickly because 4 minutes later I heard the cry of our baby boy and George was born.
They held him above the curtain for us to see him and I saw a flash of pink skin and he was gone.
I don’t remember this part but Sam cut the cord and he said it was unexpectedly grisly and difficult to cut.
I remember crying and Sam crying and looking up at the anaesthetist and seeing that he was crying too. I remember thinking that this poor guy must be an emotional wreck by the end of the day if he cries when every single baby is born!
George was wrapped in a towel and briefly placed on my chest and I don’t remember feeling anything but relief. I was just so relieved he was OK. There wasn’t an immediate flood of love. I feel that flood of love and endorphins when I think of that moment now, but I definitely didn’t feel it at the time. I was so happy he was healthy I don’t think I had space for any other feeling than relief.
George was taken away to be cleaned up while I was being stitched up. I’m guessing this must have been a good 10-15 minutes but I honestly don’t remember anything.
I have a bit of a blank in my memory, but I then remember being in a recovery room holding George’s tiny body against my bare skin and he was feeding even though I didn’t really remember putting him there.
I felt sick so the anaesthetist gave me two tablets to help with that and then Sam and I were left alone in the recovery room with a new born baby.
When you have a caesarean, you aren’t allowed to sit up for a few hours afterwards as it can cause migraines and other complications, so this part was all a bit awkward really. I was lying flat with one pillow behind my head while awkwardly trying to hold George. I was completely numb from the waist down and had cannulas in my hands so I felt awkward and uncomfortable.
After about an hour I was tidied up a bit and wheeled to a ward and the next 4-5 hours were both wonderful and horrid.
It was wonderful because we were holding our perfect new born son and everything had gone well.
But it was horrid because all I could do was lie flat when all I actually wanted to do was sit up and put some clothes on and put some knickers on so I could wear a sanitary pad so I wasn’t just lying in a pool of blood. I wanted to properly look at our new baby and cuddle him properly and get him dressed. I wanted to give Sam a proper hug and a kiss. I wanted to enjoy a cup of tea and have some toast.
But all I could do was lie flat.
After about 4-5 hours though I was allowed to sit up, I had that famous cup of tea and toast and two nurses came along to give me a wash and help me put a nightie on.
At that moment I loved those nurses more than I can tell you. They made me feel clean, human and dignified again. Three wonderful feelings after what is really a very undignified process.
The nurses cooed over our new baby and showed us how to properly put a nappy on (yes, we had no idea!) They told me my figure was amazing and I didn’t have an ounce of fat on my (lies, all lies) and they brought me more tea and more toast and changed my bed sheets. The 15 minutes they spent with me now brings tears to my eyes because it was after they left that I became a mother.
A midwife came in a couple of times to check George was feeding OK. I had no idea if I was doing it correctly but I pretty much just left him suckling on my boob and the midwives said I was doing a great job. One important thing she taught me was how to get the baby to unlatch in case they’re hurting you or you need them to stop for whatever reason. You insert a little finger into the corner of their mouth to break their seal and prise them away.
My mum and dad came to see us and I’ll never forget seeing my dad holding George for the first time. George looked tiny in my dad’s enormous hands and I just couldn’t get over how small he was.
Sam’s mum and dad came next and Sam went to the hospital canteen and came back with a tray of curry and chips and a chocolate bar. In that moment I loved Sam more than ever before.
The doctors were able to remove my catheter before I went to bed which I was forever grateful for (I’ll explain more when I tell you about my second c-section). Sam had to leave at 9pm and I barely slept that night. George cried every time I put him in the cot and I ended up catching brief moments of sleep with George’s tiny body on my chest. I was terrified the nurses would see me sleeping while holding him and would tell me off so I kept my curtains tightly closed.
Side note: I then went on to sleep with my babies on my chest all the time. I know the textbooks say you shouldn’t but sometimes it’s the only way to get some rest!
The following morning I woke up with serious cabin fever and I wanted out. My first day in the hospital had gone really well but my second day didn’t go so well.
- I hadn’t realised breakfast was being served so I was left with nothing but Rice Krispies for breakfast. Don’t get me wrong, I like Rice Krispies but this is not want you want the day after a serious operation.
- They were doing maintenance work to the hospital bathrooms so the water was switched off so we couldn’t have showers or use the toilets nearby.
- When I asked for some water it took more than 45 minutes with repeated asking to get it.
- George had gunky eyes and it took over 3 hours for someone to find us some cotton wool.
- The ward was boiling hot and I just wanted some fresh air.
- I was having to wait ridiculously long times for pain killers. When I buzzed for more pain relief they’d promise to be back in two minutes but over an hour would pass.
- George also had a heart murmur (nothing major and it went quickly) but we had hoards of medical students coming in to listen because they’d never heard a baby with a heart murmur before. I felt like he was a science project and I obviously had no idea it wasn’t serious so I was worried sick.
It was all little stuff that mostly just came down to the fact that I wanted to be at home. I wanted to get myself a glass of water, sit on my own sofa, open a window and not have to constantly ask someone to look after me.
I was told I’d be discharged at midday and….six hours later I got out!
The midwives didn’t really do anything wrong. I wasn’t neglected and I wasn’t a high risk and didn’t need much help. I know I wasn’t their priority. I’m just not very good at sitting down and letting people wait on me hand and foot….particularly if they’re not actually very good at doing that! I knew I was fine to go home so I just wanted to leave and when I did I was the happiest mama alive.
Actually, that’s a lie. I was weepy and hormonal and sad and scared. But that’s a story for a different time!
My second birth and an elective c-section
This one is much shorter because it’s very similar to my first story.
Joseph wasn’t breech so I had intended to have a natural birth.
BUT if you’ve had a c-section already, you’re much more likely to end up have a c-section a second time. Another thing that increases your chances of having a c-section is if you’re induced – so I’d said that if I went into labour naturally then I’d have a natural delivery, but I didn’t want to be induced because I felt that gave me double the chance of ending up having a caesarean. If I went 10 days past my due date I’d be booked in for a c-section.
I was really worried about being induced, having a painful and horrific labour and then ending up have a caesarean anyway. To me, that just seemed like to worst of both worlds. I didn’t mind having a tough labour OR having a caesarean, but I didn’t want to have both.
As you’ve probably guessed, I didn’t go into labour naturally so Joseph was delivered via elective c-section.
Everything was very similar to the first, only this time the operation was booked for 11.30am but there was a delay so I think I went into theatre at about 1pm. It meant I had a long wait in hospital in the morning but it also meant I was STARVING. You’re not allowed to eat before a c-section and the hanger was real.
Another downside to having a later operation was that I had to keep the catheter in overnight. I’d regained the feeling in my legs by early evening but the doctor had gone home so there was no one to officially sign a form and permit a nurse to remove it. For some people this wouldn’t be an issue but I really hated having the catheter in. I hated it getting caught on my legs and not being able to stand up to get my baby out of the cot when he cried. Throughout the night I had to call the midwife every time he cried and it would sometimes take 10 minutes for someone to come so I had to lie there with him crying – so near but so far. I also didn’t like having no knickers on and having to lie there bleeding onto a giant sanitary sheet that’s a bit like a puppy training pad. It kept getting twisted between my sweaty legs (it’s SO hot on a maternity ward) and being in the wrong place and it just felt so undignified having to ring the bell and ask a midwife to rearrange a sanitary sheet and change my sheets because I was bleeding everywhere.
The catheter just felt so unnecessary and it felt like my comfort was being compromised because the midwife wasn’t allowed to remove it until a doctor told her she could. I understand why this happens, but it doesn’t make it easier for the patients.
As you can probably tell, I don’t like having to rely on other people to do simple (personal) tasks and I’m sure I’ll be a nightmare when I’m an old person.
There were a few other things that annoyed me this time too…
- I also had a bed next to the door and the sink where the doctors washed their hands was in my bit, so I constantly had doctors and midwives coming behind my curtain and not shutting it behind them so that annoyed me.
- The girl in the bed next to me was not a nice person to be next to. She kept opening my curtain and putting her rubbish on my bedside table. She was loud and sweary and kept going out to smoke and left her baby crying. She’d also have about 10 people to visit her at a time and they didn’t stick to visiting hours and none of the midwives ever said anything.
- Anyway, I was fuming as I lay there quietly listening to her because this was not how I wanted to spend my first day with my precious little baby.
- I was reassured I’d be able to go home soon but, once again, it took hours to get discharged and by 6pm there was a turnover of staff so they told me to stay the night AGAIN and wait for the next morning.
No, no, no, no. I was not staying for a minute longer. I knew it would take hours to get discharged the following morning and by this point my blood pressure was rising. Oh dear.
As my blood pressure rose they told me I couldn’t leave until it had gone back down. But I knew it was only rising because I was angry I was being kept there. I was just so hot and wanted to be home!
So…I basically threw a hissy fit and discharged myself.
Eeeek, not my proudest moment.
This was not a wise move because high blood pressure can be really serious but I honestly felt like it was only high because I wanted to leave so badly and the longer I stayed, the higher it became.
I finally got out at about 10pm and, thankfully, my blood pressure had returned to normal by the time I was home. (My dad has high blood pressure so he has a proper home monitor machine). I couldn’t have been happier to be home and I knew I’d made the right decision!
My plan for my third caesarean
If you’ve already had two caesareans it’s very unlikely your third birth would be a natural delivery. I’m sure you could fight for it and have a natural birth if you wanted one but, to be honest, I had two successful caesareans so I’d be happy to have a third.
But what will I do differently this time?
My main plan is basically to chill the f*ck out and not be in such a rush to get home.
I’m not even sure why I was so desperate to get out of the hospital!? It must have been some kind of instinct to get my baby home!
If I have to stay for 2-3 nights then that’s absolutely fine. If I have to stay for a week, that’s fine too.
So yes, I’ll chill out and relax and allow people to look after me.
I also plan to take a tablet with lots of movies downloaded onto it. This might sound like a weird one, but anyone who doesn’t like sitting in bed all day will understand! Even when I had a newborn baby to care for I couldn’t just sit there! Of course, Sam was with me during the day and my family came at visiting hours, but there’s just a curtain dividing you from all the other people on the ward and there isn’t anywhere for other people to sit.
Newborn babies sleep for about 18 hours a day so you’ll probably spend about 12 hours staring at your little one in wonder and amazement. But after that, well, a good film would help the hours pass a bit faster!
I also plan to take plenty of snacks with me and ensure Sam brings proper meals with him when he comes to visit. I actually enjoyed the hospital food, there just wasn’t a lot of it. I’d also ask Sam to bring an enormous flask of tea and a big bottle of water with him because waiting an hour for a cup of tea and a glass of water is not something an overly emotional new mum needs!
I’ll also try and push to be the first person to go into the operating theatre. At my hospital they seem to book two caesareans in a day and it’s just a lucky dip as to whether you go first or second. If an emergency section comes in then your slot is pushed back and there’s nothing you can do about that but I will try and be the first person in. This should hopefully stop the serious hanger and mean I can have the catheter out before I go to bed.
I also plan to take more photos after the birth. As you can tell from this post, I don’t have many photos from the hospital. I do have some but they’re all grainy and horrible and dark, so I’m planning to take my proper camera and get some more photos!
If you have any questions about anything, please do pop them in the comments below!