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Your Stories - My C-Sections and Me

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This story mentions Caesarean Sections and medical procedures during birth.

My C-Sections and Me - Sammy Kate Maggs

I was jumping on a trampoline sometime after my first son was born and made a joke about needing to wear a pantyliner next time because of wetting myself! I was met with a curious reply: “But you had a c-section, you didn’t push.” I responded in my usual polite way by laughing it off, but it stuck with me. So little is understood about caesareans.

My first birth came unexpectedly at 35 weeks. My waters broke in bed at 10pm. As naive first time parents, we thought it was probably fine but called the hospital who said to “pop in” to be checked. We took the 185 bus to Lewisham hospital. We sat on the top at the front. I was wearing a ripped-up nappy to hold in the water. We thought we were going home again that night. I told you, naive.

We were told pretty much straight away that we would be having our baby within the next 24hours. We hadn’t packed anything but my iPad (I was used to long waits in the hospital by this point).

After hours of contractions, prodding, drugs, frantically writing handover notes for work, then a couple of hours of pushing, things started to slow down. I was a bit dazed and confused, but was surrounded by positive and determined midwives who kept me going. Next thing the baby doctor was prodding around and shaking her head. “We need to get her into theatre.” A piece of paper was thrust at us to sign. I remember needing to hold my right hand steady with my left in order to make my signature legible. Then a catheter was put in and we were whisked away. This was my emergency caesarean.

It was all a bit of a blur. For me. Not my husband, who has since told me how traumatising it was to watch his wife looking so hopeless while having her back prodded with anaesthetic (several times until they got it right!) We were introduced to all the people in the room, but there was no time for music, photos etc. At 35 weeks I’d not planned any of this anyway, so it was the least of my concerns. Only in hindsight and comparison do I feel sad about this.

I remember trying to focus on the anaesthetist so as not to faint. I couldn’t feel pain, but the dull tugging sensation made me feel quite queasy. I knew there was some commotion past the curtain, but it was only after that I found out what had happened. Because I’d been successfully pushing, our son was quite far down the birth canal and so it was proving difficult to get him out. The bed was tilted right up, my legs in the air, to encourage him back in. Then the consultants and surgeons were called in. I was blissfully unaware of the drama that lay beyond the sheet. Luckily, they got him out - my notes read that they thought they were pulling an arm out but retrieved a leg instead! As if this wasn’t commotion enough, mid-way through stitching me up, they discovered they didn’t have all the placenta, so had to unstitch me and start afresh. Again, more traumatic for my husband who is still scarred by seeing my insides resting on my stomach!

But our son was here, and, despite an initial breathing scare, he was fine. We had a brief moment together, no skin on skin, just enough time for a few photos, then we were whisked away in different directions. I still don’t fully understand why, and it upsets me when I think about it. I was taken to a recovery ward somewhere in the hospital next to a boy who’d had his appendix out and an elderly woman who was wailing. They encouraged me to sleep, and I was so dazed and drugged up, I didn’t really know what was going on. I had no idea whether this was normal for a c-section. It’s not by the way. I know that now. Two hours later I was carted back to the maternity ward via several lifts and a porter telling me to keep my baby with me at all times, in case someone tried to take him! Not what you want to hear when you’ve just had a baby who is not currently with you!

Finally I was reunited with my baby boy. I was weak, tired and could only move from my chest up. We tried asking for help - a cup of tea, toast, someone to show me how to breastfeed. But it was changeover time, so no one was able to come. When someone finally popped their head around the curtain, I was met with words that still haunt me to this day: “Why haven’t you breastfed him yet? You’ve missed your window. This is not good.” Brutal. As a first-time parent, I was devastated.

We spent 8 long, hot days in hospital. Firstly because my son had to go to into neonatal care for his breathing and then because he had jaundice and needed to be kept under blue lights. Meanwhile I was still struggling to move about and experiencing excruciating pain in my shoulders - a gassy side effect of this type of surgery I later found out. The large amount of drugs I was on couldn’t numb that pain. I was also still attached to a catheter, and would be for the whole 8 days due to miscommunication from a midwife, who told me on day two that after I had my catheter removed, I needed to drink lots of liquid then try and wee in a bedpan. I drank “a lot” of liquid, and in doing so, stressed out my bladder so much it refused to play ball. Fast forward to day 8 and the correct advice and I now have the happiest photo of me, trousers round ankles, holding a bedpan of wee! It still brings me joy.

Due to the nature of my caesarean, I was immediately told I was not allowed to give birth vaginally if we wanted a second. To be honest, I was glad - the contractions had been horrific, and I didn’t want to go through that again! It felt like a relief to have that decision made for me.

So, when I got pregnant again, I was much more aware of what I was in for. Aside from my consultant trying to persuade me that we should go for a VBAC because she hadn’t read my previous birth notes, it was a much less stressful pregnancy. I was booked in for a planned section at 39 weeks - a date which I had argued was too late given my previous birth and I was right. At 37 weeks I started to get contractions while at a soft play with my then 20 month old. Having been told I was under no circumstances to go into labour, I was surprised when the hospital told me to stay at home as my contractions weren’t close enough. I lay in my bath with my toddler and counted. 

Once in hospital, a few hours later, they certainly did not seem in any rush to get me into theatre. I was poked and prodded, while the contractions got worse. I kept moaning to my husband: “I wasn’t meant to feel any of like this!” This was my emergency elected caesarean (if that’s what you’d call it).

The birth was much more straight forward from my last. No bed tilting. No sudden appearance of new, worried faces. And I got instant skin on skin and time with my newborn. It felt more planned, less of an emergency.

I didn’t think about either of my caesareans until sometime after the last. Perhaps I’d boxed it up for fear of unearthing some of the trauma. It wasn’t until then that I started to question some of the decisions. I’m one of these people who generally just trusts. Trusts that the medical professionals, who’ve trained for years, know better than me. So, it was a mixture of naivety and trust that let it all happen around me, no questions asked.

And it’s not until you to speak to others that you realise you should’ve questioned more, that maybe your experience wasn’t quite right. Hindsight is of course a beautiful thing.

I’m proud of my births and the scar I now have. But occasionally I get a twang, when I feel my experience is being knocked, lessened because a baby didn’t come out through my vagina. I know deep down it doesn’t matter. I’m rational. But I’m also human, and we’re all vulnerable sometimes.

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