At midday on 5th July 2018 as I was wheeled into theatre, a part of me wondered what on earth I had done. Choosing major abdominal surgery to bring my second daughter into this world couldn't have been more different to the months of hypnobirthing practice and my assumption that Etta would slide into the world under water and practically pain-free. How wrong I had been then, and how right my decision to elect for a c-section would be for the birth of now 3-week of old Uma.
I won't go into the reasons for my choice to elect, but I was met with approval and acceptance from my hospital, health professionals, friends and family - and that is all I could have asked for.
So many women are faced with this agonising choice after a traumatic first (second or third) birth. Full of fear of the unknown of how the next labour will play out and whether to make the decision to start with a c-section, as supposed to potentially ending with one. And whilst of course elective c-sections can have complications within surgery or recovery, there really is a tremendous difference in the actual procedure and recovery between an emergency section and a textbook planned one. So this is my take on it.
2 days prior to the section I went into Southend General for the "pre-op" - effectively a series of tests, observations, information and consent forms - all of which would have been either skipped, worked around or a blur during a non-elective section. It took 4 hours and was oddly the scariest part of the week as they have to point out all the risks, explain the procedure and how the day will play out, all of which gets your mind racing with all the "what ifs". I was sent away with 2 x drink supplements, a body wash, anti sickness tablets and antacids, along with strict instructions of when to take them the night before and morning of the op. (Annoyingly my section was then delayed a day so I had to go back in for more blood as they need it to be within 48 hours of your operation, but it was a minor annoyance in the grand scheme of things and clearly another lady's need was greater than mine).
The night before the op you have to have a normal meal and then at 10pm I had to take one of the drinks (refridgerate it ladies - it's not disgusting as it's like a flat lemony lucosade, but definately better ice cold) and one of the antacids. I predictably didn't sleep well but was able to get some rest knowing that it was the final hurdle. I was also an emotional wreck when I said goodnight to Etta as I knew I wouldn't be seeing her in the morning so felt all at sea.
The morning of the op I'd set my alarm for 5.45 to have a quick shower with the anti-bac wash, take the second drink at 6am as instructed as well as taking the other antacid and the anti-sickness tablet. They were all small-ish so easy to swallow (I'm a wimp with tablets fyi...) We waved goodbye to my mum and set off in a cab at 7.15. On arrival at the hospital we were given a bed in the post-natal ward so were surrounded by tiny newborns. The waterworks turned on instantly as the reality of the day set in and the sheer excitement of meeting our little girl.
That morning the anaesthetist came to say hi and check my details, as did the midwife who'd be at our section. They were both warm and friendly so they made me feel at ease thankfully. I was second, so at 11.45 I was wheeled through the halls into the delivery suite and I won't lie I was bricking it. The operating theatre was large, bright and calm with Heart radio playing the background. The friendly anaesthetist was there with his huge smile and he calmly and confidently removed my fears that the spinal would hurt or that I'd definately get the shakes of be sick mid op. The spinal in fact was painless, far better than getting bloods taken or the canula inserted, and the pre op prep was as much interesting as it was scary. Chris was in his scrubs and instructed to get the camera ready as this time I wanted the curtain to be lowered so that I could witness Uma's entrance into the world. It's worth mentioning that Chris is super squeamish, but somehow rose to the occasion and got some of the most incredible snaps of Uma being delivered. I was so very proud of him at that moment as i'll always cherish how normal and controlled the whole procedure felt.
Before I knew it my legs were like warm lead and I was being spun round onto my back at a slight tilt on the table (to take the pressure off that main artery which means we shouldn't sleep on our back during pregnancy) then the curtain was up, I was being sprayed with cold spray on various points on my body and we were off. I did feel a wave of sickness very early on, but like our anaesthetist had promised he popped anti-sickness meds into my drip and it was gone as quickly as it had come on.
Literally minutes later Chris was told to stand up to take photos of Uma's arrival. I had a lady mopping my brow with a cold tissue whilst stroking my hair, bless her, and Uma was born at 12.14pm with a lovely big gooey scream.
They cleaned her up, weighed her and Chris had the first cuddle. I had wanted skin to skin but given that there was so little room on my chest between my neck and the surgical curtain it wasn't really going to work, so instead I gave her a kiss and got stitched up. 17 minutes after the operation had begun I was done, it was astonishingly fast and thankfully textbook. I'd only lost 300ml of blood, as supposed to the 1.5 litres with Etta, so they were able to sew me up and get me into recovery in record time (I could tell they wanted to high five over their speed, which made me chuckle, whilst also hoping they hadn't left a watch or something in there in their haste!)
Into the recovery bays just outside of theatre and Uma was on me for 1.5 hours of skin to skin and breastfeeding. It was magical.
Slowly the feeling in my legs came back as did a voracious thirst and hunger, as it had been 6 hours since I'd last had a sip of water and 17 since I'd eaten. When they were happy that I wasn't bleeding excessively they let me have a lucosade, and boy will that forever be up there as the best drink of my life, that's before we get to the buttered toast 30 minutes later... heaven!
As we were wheeled back to the same ward where we'd been waiting I felt nothing but elation. My baby was here safe and well and I couldn't have asked for a better surgical experience. We'd laughed and cried and delivered a healthy baby, which is all ultimately any of us want.
A mere 6 hours later (so 6.30pm) I was told to stand up and have a walk. This is part of the hopitals' "enhanced recovery" programme where c-section patients are encouraged to move about early to speed up recovery and mean that they can leave the hospital after just 1 night (all else being well with both them and the baby). It was scary trying to move, but by this point they had my complete trust and I did it. Dragging a catheter bag behind you isn't the most glamourous of looks but who gives a damn at this point - but I've found that there is no room for pride in your appearance during pregnancy and labour!
Over the course of the evening I slowly became more mobile, managed to fill my catheter bag a suitable amount and even had a quick shower. I had dissolvable stitches so had a huge dressing over the wound, which was taken off on day 5 during a midwife home visit.
The next day at 2.30pm after all the paediatrician tests of Uma and the doctors sign off on my movement, wound, pain management and bodily fluid function were were sent home. It was pure joy, but also alarm when I found myself at home with 2 children and incredibly limited movement. It almost felt too soon to be discharged but at the same time there is no place like home so I wouldn't have changed a thing.
My recovery has been faster than with Etta, with every day bringing less pain, more mobility and more emotional stability! You do still bleed with a section, and it is in fact the best indicator of "over doing it" - something which i'm still not good at avoiding. I had to have 10 days of blood-thinning injections, which I got Chris to do. They hurt a little but after sussing out a technique of standing, ice-ing the area and administering the injection on a slow and calm outbreath they were over in no time, but boy did they bruise. I also had the most agonising referred wind pain in my shoulder - my god it was worse than any wound pain, and totally unexpected. Peppermint tea eased it up, but I couldn't even lie on my right shoulder for a week because of the discomfort.
I could go on and on, but hopefully it's given you an insight into a standard elective c-section. I can honestly say I made the right decision for Uma and I, and sitting here exactly 3 weeks later I feel probably 85% recovered - which is pretty good going.
So my parting thought it that whatever you feel you need to do for you or your baby, it will no doubt be the right decision. Trust your instincts and try not to worry about the op, it's major but it's routine and at the end of it all you get your baby, and that's all that matters.