Holy shit, I’m a mum! How did that happen? Well, I know how it happened but what I mean is, I never saw myself having kids. Then one day, I discovered I was pregnant and it was the most magical, beautiful, ill-timed surprise ever.
Suddenly, motherhood – which I had never even stopped to consider – was on the table. I mean, I had always been good with kids. In fact, kids loved me. And I loved kids (the kind I could hand back after an hour anyway). But did I want one of my own? Did I have what it takes to shape the mind of a tiny human? What were my credentials aside from “awesome taste in music?”
As I squinted at the faint blue line on not the first but the third stick I’d peed on, every fibre of my being pictured a sweet, dark-haired little boy wrapping his tiny fingers around mine.
Yeah, I thought as the line grew darker still, I can do this. I’d make a pretty amazing mama. Now how the hell do I tell my boyfriend?!
But you didn’t come here for my whole life story, did you? No ma’am. You wanted to know about my delivery experience and more specifically my caesarean section. Maybe you’re a good friend (who’s too polite to ask me) or perhaps you’re someone about to have your first baby and you simply want to know more about c-sections, in general.
Well, sister… go make a cup of tea, grab a snack and settle in because I’m not going to hold back. All your gross curiosities will be answered. I have lived the nightmare… Just kidding! Erm. Sort of.
Disclaimer: I am writing about my own personal experience and it is important to note that every birthing journey is unique. My opinions should not overshadow the information or advice given by any type of medical professional.
The Morning Of My Caesarean
The good thing about a c-section (aside from keeping your downstairs cute as a button) is that you know exactly when your baby will be in your arms. You can plan for it. Within reason, obviously. Some babies might decide to arrive early, although most will stay put and make a fashionably late entrance.
We knew exactly when we could expect to meet our little boy: Tuesday, the 8th May 2018.
Having a date meant that we were able to use our final week prepping for his arrival: Last minute shopping, touches to the nursery, research about what to expect and what we’d need to make life easier through recovery and our first week as new parents. (Answer: Freezer muffins, bake looots of muffins and freeze them so you can shove them in the microwave for 3am boobie feeds).
On the morning of my caesarean I was oddly calm. I had fasted from the night before and the hospital had provided me with an antiseptic sponge to bathe with the morning of the procedure. Right before stepping out the door, I took a pill to neutralises my tummy’s acids (also provided by the hospital to prevent vomiting from all the drugs) and gave my mum a call to put her nerves at ease.
We arrived at Pre-Op and commenced the fun task of filling out paperwork and began to wait…
I still wasn’t nervous.
Over the course of three hours, we met with our midwife, our surgeon and some lady who worked for the hospital collecting cord blood to treat children with serious illnesses.
Some time later a nurse called us into a private room to take my blood pressure, temperature and listen to my lungs. Once she was satisfied with my overall health, she measured me for a gown and compressions socks. Shaved my pubic hair with an electric razor and gave me the most horrendous paper underwear to put on. No seriously, tissue paper underwear — no back or front, just one big hairnet of adult diaper. Oh so sexy!
What to Expect During Your Caesarean
We returned to the waiting area, where we sat for less than ten minutes before a nurse called my name. It was showtime. I left James (my partner) and followed the nurse into the operating theatre where I was introduced to the anaesthetist.
After administering a local anaesthetic, he inserted a cannula into my hand and then proceeded to paint my back with antiseptic for the spinal (epidural). Call me crazy, but the idea of a needle in my spine didn’t scare me as much as a catheter — am I wired backwards or what?
“Have you ever peed in a wet suit?” The anaesthetist asked, as he inserted the needle through my skin and into a space between my vertebra. When he injected the contents into my spine, muscles across the right side of my body began to dance. I felt a warmth spill down my legs as though I was peeing myself (I wasn’t) and within seconds my legs were totally offline. My brain searched for them and it could see them, but it couldn’t communicate with them, which was super weird and kind of scary.
Now I was nervous.
I was placed in a crucified position, with arms outstretched – one arm strapped with blood pressure and heart monitors and the other arm feeding me a cocktail of wonderful, calming drugs. Someone from somewhere chimed in, “We’re just inserting the catheter now.” And it was news to me that someone was even pottering around my downstairs.
A curtain was raised below my breasts, to keep the surgical area sterile (and, let’s be real, to keep a lot of partners from vomiting, fainting or both at the same time). James was brought into the room, to sit by my head and feed me sweet reassurances. “I can see all of the monitors, your vitals look great, you’re doing amazing.” (I later learned he couldn’t see a damn thing… cheeky bugger).
Within moments the surgeon had started to deliver our baby.
There was a lot of pulling and tugging, but zero pain.
“What are you having?” asked the anaesthetist, a welcomed distraction.
“A little boy. Well, that’s what we were told anyway… let me know if you see something else.”
(On a side note: Hands up if you’ve ever had a casual conversation while someone cuts you open and plays with your insides — I mean, what in the world!)
It was a good ten minutes or so, although only felt like seconds, before our son was raised up into the air and let out his first cries. I can’t put into words, and won’t even try to Mumsplain, what it feels like to see the baby you’ve carried for 9 months live and in the flesh.
“I don’t know much about babies, but that looks like a boy to me!” The anaesthetist smiled.
Baby Boy was taken across to a bench to be checked over by a paediatrician, cleaned and wrapped before being placed into James’ arms. A moment I’ll never forget… looking over to see that little puffy, red-faced screaming baby for the first time.
Love at first sight <3
It took twenty minutes for them to sew me up and lift me onto a bed with, what is essentially, a giant puppy “training pad” on it — to catch all the gross stuff that’s happening down there. In fact, the week leading up to the surgery, I was dreading the indignity of it all but it turned out to be no big deal. You think you’re going to hate it and feel humiliated but when you’re in the moment, you could care less. The drugs and the euphoria from holding your baby numb everything out.
I was also told to buy granny panties and giant pads, but ended up not needing any of it. I can’t speak for every female, but for me, there wasn’t much blood or gore. Typical “time of the month” stuff and not the major crime scene I was expecting… Maternity Ward bathrooms on the other hand — yikes!
Anyway, back at the operating theatre, James was asked to leave the room and wait for me in the Maternity Ward and I was moved to the Recovery Unit (for 30 minutes of observation).
How To Make Recovering From A Caesarean Easier
Please don’t confuse the word easier with easy, be mindful that there is nothing “easy” about healing from a serious abdominal surgery. However, there are steps you can take to improve your physical and emotional recovery…
1 . Don’t be afraid to tell people what you need
If I can give any piece of advice, it would be to tell people what you need. Make your wishes known. The day you welcome your child into the world is about you and them, not everyone else. It’s important to safeguard such a beautiful moment in your life and not have it turn into a crazy sideshow.
This does not make you selfish. Seriously, welcoming a human being into the world is a big fucking deal.
Keep it special, protect the magic of it all and make it count.
Weeks before, James and I had told family and friends that we would appreciate it if everyone could give us our space following Baby Boy’s delivery. Truth be told, we didn’t know what we were walking into, how we’d handle it or how we’d feel after it was all over. Basically, we asked that people stay away on the first day unless we contacted them directly and needed the extra emotional support.
As it turned out, even though I was in a lot of pain, it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t share the moment with the people we love. So we called our family to come see us and meet their adorable, new great grandchild/grandchild/niece/nephew, etc. But the point is, we didn’t know if we’d have much energy left and it was within our right to ask for space.
I spent two days in the hospital following my c-section and although I was exhausted and dying to go home, it really wasn’t long enough. At least, in my opinion, as someone who has gone through it…
Recovery was a bitch.
I’m not going to lie to you, having your insides cut open, rummaged around and stitched shut will cause discomfort (keep in mind also that everyone’s pain tolerance is different). And that’s just the surgery. I was unlucky enough to get a bladder infection from the catheter which made going to the bathroom even more of a party!
Having said that, it is only temporary and recovery gets easier with every minute that passes. Plus, your baby is a huuuge distraction from it all.
2 . Get up and move around as soon as you’re able to
Even before being admitted, I knew that I wanted to get up and walk the ward within hours of surgery. This may sound crazy to some, but I was determined to walk myself to the bathroom and shower the same night. After resting all day, around 8pm I asked for a top up of painkillers and by 9pm, I carefully pulled myself out of bed and stood. It felt how you’d expect it to… really, really shit. A deep, hot, pinching sort of pain.
Hunched over and unable to straighten my back, I took my time and shuffled down the hall to the showers (where I bathed and walked myself back to bed) without the help of a nurse. At that point I’d had enough of people in my personal space and honestly, it felt good to do something for myself.
I also believe this helped to speed up my recovery.
Think about it, the more you’re trying to use your body, the quicker your body heals to meet your needs. Get up and move around if you’re able to, but don’t feel bad if you can’t. After all, you’ve just had a serious surgery. It’s okay to be determined, it’s also okay to take it easy.
Feel things out and decide what’s right for you and your body.
3 . Do a quick audit of your house or apartment prior to delivery
Thankfully, I’d done my research on caesarean recovery (which included watching YouTube videos of real women discussing their own, unique caesarean experiences). Because of this, I knew to audit my house long before D-day. If you can, walk around your house and see what — if unable to raise your leg more than 2 inches off the ground — might become an issue for you.
Our house has a shower that is also a bath, so stepping over the edge of the bath was impossible. I had to go to my in-law’s to shower for three days after being discharged from the hospital. I’m not sure if buying a step box from Target or Ikea would have helped, but I imagine it couldn’t have hurt…
Other things to navigate are stairs, a low set bed (particularly getting up through the night or in the morning) and the toilet. Honestly, no matter which way you swing it, going to the bathroom is just going to suck for at least a week following your kiddo’s delivery. Regardless of how you’ve chosen to birth your baby – au natural or cesarean section – that first poop is a nightmare. Just remember to BREATHE and you’ll get through it.
Keep in mind that you just did something incredible and baked/birthed a freakin’ human being. It’s bound to bang up your body a bit. Be kind to yourself. My only regret was that I became frustrated with not getting my full range of movement back fast enough. If there’s a next time, I’ll have more patience and understanding of the trauma my body is recovering from.
Our bodies are truly amazing. Go easy on yours.
4 . Have a good cry if you feel like you need one
Sometimes, between the overwhelming love, agony and the sleep deprivation, you need a minute to have a good cry. After all, you’re going through a lot. Healing from the delivery, keeping a newborn alive, navigating an epic hormone crash, adjusting to the giant shift occurring in your life (the one where you don’t even have two minutes to pee, reply to a text, eat breakfast, know what time/day/year it is anymore…).
Taking the time to cry means that you care about your pain — And you should! It’s important to listen to your feelings and take care of you. If you fall down, your baby goes with you. Healthy mum = healthy bub. Besides, you can’t go past a healing cry sesh.
Mourn your old life and make way for your new one…
It’s going to be so incredibly beautiful.
(Especially when your baby finally lets you sleep 😉 )