What To Expect When You’re Expecting a C-Section

Me when I was newly-pregnant: I’m going to be really open-minded when it comes to a birth plan. Whatever happens happens. I’m just going to go with the flow.

Me also when I was newly-pregnant: I don’t want a c-section if I can avoid it.

I’ve never really stayed in hospital before, I suck at taking pain relief and I didn’t want to have to recover from major surgery and figure out how to mum…but it all worked out! Just want to share my experience in case it helps someone else get mentally-prepared. I covered a bit of Jessica’s birth story in (Breast/Bottle) Feeding but I’ll go into a bit more detail here. So this is a warning to stop reading if you don’t want to know. I’m going to be really honest.

The pregnancy was trucking along and everything was fine, but it became apparent that my baby was small. I’m only 5 foot nothing – so helpfully pointed that out to sonographers and the midwife but they shook their heads gravely and said that baby was small even for me. I noticed when they clicked and dragged the application over organs/limbs for each measurement, that the estimated progress on the screen was a couple of weeks behind (ie if I was 31 weeks, the measurement said 28w 3d). She was also breech with her head under my ribs on my right side. Once she found her possie there, she never really moved from there with her feet up and toes pointing to her face.

With the small baby/breech combo going on, my midwife told me that I’d likely need a c-section: small babies don’t tolerate stress well and so they would probably attempt to turn her from the outside once and if that didn’t work then we’d go ahead with a c-section. This is classified as an ‘elective c-section’. I tried all the things that I’d read could help turn my baby. Crawling around on hands and knees, hanging upside down and even saw an acupuncturist to work on certain pressure points and was given some moxa sticks to take home. So I would sit awkwardly in the spare room pointing a burning stick at the outside of each little toe for 10 mins per side every day.

Baby wasn’t budging!

Timing

Now I’m thinking: ok if I’m going to have a c-section, I’d like the benefit of knowing when. But it was a wait-and-see approach. If baby’s growth stagnated or stopped, she’d need to come out. On the other hand if her growth kept progressing, she’d need to stay in. However with a small baby (I forget the medical term!) they don’t leave them in past 40 weeks. I had booked my maternity leave from 38 weeks exactly – that was before I learned in ante-natal class that fullterm is considered from 37 – 42 weeks. So at about 34 weeks I made the call to finish a week earlier at 37 weeks.

I finished work on Friday and went into labour on Wednesday. LOL.

Labour

My first two days on leave (Mon, Tues), I did not much. I painfully eeked out some cholostrum while watching Presidential Primary coverage on CNN. I know how to party.

On Wednesday I was awake from 4am with my third trimester insomnia. I waddled down the road for my midwife appointment. At this stage, I was booked in on a Monday at 40 weeks, 3 days or something for the c-section. I didn’t really have any questions for the midwife. I complained that it was still ages away and that I’d just have to wait. The waddle back up the hill was tough going and I was really breathless. Hadn’t really experienced that yet in the pregnancy.

We had a normal dinner and goody-gumdrop icecream for dessert. I complained to Andrew that there weren’t enough gumdrops in my serving. I was serious and demanding some of his. And fully ready for bed. Sitting on the couch, I felt like I’d wet myself. I stopped talking and waited, still. I started to explain to Andrew what I felt and as I changed position it happened again. Just a little squirt (sorry, I don’t really like that word but can’t really describe it any other way). Then I stood up – another. Went to the bedroom to get a pad. More. I had no idea what was happening or what to do. So I jumped on FB and asked my August due group of course.

Andrew: Why don’t you call the midwife instead of waiting for FB to answer.

Me: You don’t know this group, they’ll tell me straight away. We’re all hypervigilant.

Also I didn’t want to bother the midwife as I’d just seen her that day (!)

So my FB gal-pals told me that was my water breaking. Weird. I had expected a full-on soakage as per the antenatal class description. So I took this party to the toilet with my phone and called the midwife. “It could be nothing but…” She told me to wait a couple of minutes and she’d call me back. Cool, so that must mean that it’s nothing. Stand down. She called back again from the car and told us to get to the hospital immediately, no mucking around (this is because of the baby being breech and the risk associated with a natural delivery). So we went into a buzz of nervous excitement, me stuffing clothes into a bag. I’d packed baby’s bag, but was planning on cesting in my preggo clothes for a few weeks longer before actually needing them for after.

Hospital

We drove to the hospital, with more waters breaking along the way. I’d kept the original pair of undies as we were told the midwife would want to sniff them — I’m thinking this is to rule out urine!! I was whisked into a consult room where the midwife wanted to confirm if my waters had broken. I helpfully offered her my undies. She was impressed. But still wanted to have a look. So pants off and off we go.

As she began to examine me the rest of my waters took their leave all over the bed and floor. This is actually happening. Shit, Andrew we only have a girl’s name picked out! Shall we text our parents? It’s 10pm at this stage.

What to expect c section

  • I get changed into a gown
  • hooked up to the strappy monitor thingo,
  • meet the student midwife (I had a choice and said yes, I look after training at work, so am passionate about new learning opportunities)
  • the SMW set to my pubes* with the clippers while I was given some nail polish remover to try and get the shellac off my fingernails (I thought I had a couple more weeks!!) *you are not to shave or wax for a month before the c-section to reduce the risk of infection
  • I saw the surgeon who was just about to do another c-section and I’d be next. Sign papers about risks and blood transfusions.
  • The midwife tells me I’m having contractions – I don’t feel them and are none-the-wiser

Then the worst thing about the whole experience happens: the midwife puts the IV line into my hand. It takes 30 whole seconds and I didn’t cope very well at all. It was excruciating and would continue to hurt for days. The only good thing about this, is that everything to come was nothing compared to that pain and I was able to keep telling myself that. Next time, I would insist the anaethetists does it and I’d also like it in the side of my wrist to free up my hand for baby-holding.

  • Then waiting
  • Got wheeled down to a pre-surgery waiting room
  • Midwives and Andrew got into their surgery gowns while I saw the anaesthetist for more questions. He talks to me about the side effects of a spinal epidural – shakes, nausea…
  • I was holding out for midnight so that J’s birthdate would be 4/8/16 – I prefer even numbers!
  • General tired chit-chat from me to SMW
  • Got wheeled into theatre
  • Saw the anaesthetist on the way and notice him wince at my IV line
  • Andrew got left outside intentionally in hindsight
  • There were at least 8 people in the theatre
  • A lady introduces herself to me. I think she assists the anaethetist
  • They sit me up on the side of the bed to flush my IV line (terrible pain) then prep to insert the spinal. That’s why they’ve left Andrew outside. I could turn around and see him through the window, but at this stage helpful lady stands between us to obscure my view
  • Spinal goes in – not a problem. It doesn’t hurt. My hand still does
  • I get carefully put back down on the bed and Andrew joins me, sitting behind my left shoulder. He is reasurring and lovely.
  • My arms are (strapped) out either side of me, crucifix-style.
  • I’m worried the anaesthetic won’t take hold in time, I tell Andrew. My legs are shaking as they are coaxed apart, my knees pointing out either side.
  • I’m afraid they won’t put the partition up high enough and I’ll see something. I tell Andrew. The partition goes up.
  • Now I really am numb from my waist down, but I don’t trust it.
  • I am so nervous.
  • The surgeon is giving me a running commentary of what he’s about to do, and when he does it and tells me he’s made the incision.
  • I have no idea how long this takes. I can’t wait to meet my baby. I hope he/she is ok. What if he/she’s not? I just want to hear him/her cry.
  • Lots of tugging and pulling. This was explained to me prior, but there’s no way to imagine it until it’s happening. At first, it’s not too bad, but then I start to feel really sick.
  • I tell them I’m going to be sick.
  • I think the anaesthetist gives me something for the nausea.
  • Then I start shaking. Andrew trys to calm me and I tell him I can’t help it. My whole upper body is fully shaking.

12:18am and our baby is born. Just after the surgeon tells me, our baby appears above the partition and I hear crying. I’m so happy!! They take our baby over to the resuss table to do their checks and I’d love to know who him/her is! I send Andrew over, but he comes back quickly saying that he couldn’t tell (I don’t think he could get a look-in). The midwives call him over to cut the cord. He comes back and says: “we don’t have to worry about another name.” We’re both crying. But now I feel sick again and the shaking is as bad as ever. I want to know how much longer and the surgeon tells me not long. I don’t know if it was another 10-15 minutes to get all of the placenta and staple me up, but it’s a long time when you want to hold your daughter for the first time and you’re feeling pretty rotten.

I’m all stapled together again, and transferred carefully to another bed. Now my face is itchy. And they’re about to wheel me out of the room. I’m so anxious to meet Jessica! They hand her to me for about 15 seconds, but then they needed to take her to the SCBU as she was under 2.5 kg (2.2kg) and I needed to go to recovery. I had to put aside any feelings of upset at not being able to have some precious skin-to-skin time and just focus on getting back to her as soon as possible.

That’s a long blog – so I’ll break it up into two parts.

Next time: Recovering From a C-Section.

As always, happy to answer any questions you might have – I’ve likely left out a lot. This is just my experience, every birth story is different.

What to expect c section2

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