This blog post is my own personal experience of a C-Section under private health care in the UK and of course I have no medical background. I’m aware everyone has a different experience and I would love to know about yours in the comments.
Through every stage of my pregnancy I enjoyed reading blogs and watching YouTube videos by people at the same point… but when it came to labour and delivery stories, I was hesitant to start reading them. But as soon as I did, I became hooked reading different stories that varied from traumatic to calmer but each beautiful in their own way. That was the day you met your baby and however scary and painful, it was worth it in the end! That being said, I wanted to document my own birth story. Though it isn’t a ‘One Born Every Minute’ tale of drama and trauma, I wanted to reassure people that a c-section isn’t the worst case scenario as it is often touted and it can actually be a rather peaceful experience.
If you read my previous post you’ll know that at 34 weeks, our doctor discovered a problem with my placenta and we were told Baby S would need to be delivered early. What followed were nearly three weeks of fear and constant monitoring of baby plus a big decision about whether he’d be delivered by c-section or induction. I noted the pros and cons of each delivery method in my previous post and though I’d always leant towards the c-section option, the decision became easy when it looked like Baby S was in trouble and I just wanted to get him out and have him in my arms.
Mr S and I had chosen private healthcare for our pregnancy journey and I will say in all honesty it’s very pricey but I felt totally worth it as we had frequent ultrasounds so the placenta problems were picked up immediately and we were able to have baby S monitored every day thus keeping him in as long as possible and getting him to (early) full term. I was gently mocked by my family for choosing the Lindo Wing (I’m known for being a princess and the Lindo Wing is well know for being the hospital of choice for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Princess Diana before them), the private wing at St Mary’s hospital but I thought if it’s good enough for Will and Kate … 😉
We were booked in for 3.30 in the afternoon on the 18th of July and had to be nil by mouth for about six hours before the operation. I had my breakfast and after that, there was no eating or drinking…it was pretty hard to not even have water when you’re feeling that nervous! That morning I hadn’t felt Baby S move much so that just added to my nerves and I had started to worry that we’d left it too late but when we turned up to hospital we were led into one of the private rooms where I was put on the CTG monitor. Baby S passed the test for movement and heart rate within 15 minutes and while my nerves didn’t melt away, I could feel excited again for his impending arrival.
As it got closer to 3.30, a mid wife came with a hospital gown for me and scrubs for Mr S, she then put some compression socks on me to help prevent against blood clots. I would be wearing these night and day for two weeks. Next the anaesthetist came in and casually asked me about any allergies but actually seemed more concerned about learning to use our camera. ‘Not to worry, I’ll take lots of photos for you so that you can really experience the moment.’ Having read so many blog posts about the experience of a planned c-section, I wasn’t too surprised by his casual attitude, after all this is something he does multiple times a day… but I was of course really nervous…I’d never had an operation before and thought of what was about to happen was very much on my mind! We were led down to the operating theatre and first things first, Mr S hooked up his iPhone to their speakers… we’d put together a playlist to welcome baby to the world and the team were very happy to play it for us.
I saw the familiar face of our doctor, who we’d seen on a regular basis from around week 13 to now, week 37. There was around ten other people in the room (if you’re having a c-section, expect there to be lots of people) who introduced themselves – do expect to have a bit of an audience. A few people told me that the consent form that you have to sign is a little scary but it didn’t say anything that I didn’t already know so with that done and dusted, we were ready to begin. First a cannula was put into my arm and I’ll be honest, this was the only bit that hurt as the anaesthetist found a good vein to insert it. Next I was given an epidural anaesthetic into my back this numbed the lower part of my body so that I would still be awake for the procedure. Some people require a general anaesthetic and will therefore be asleep when the baby is born, but most people do not. My back was numbed before the epidural needle went in so I didn’t feel that at all, the catheter went in next and I didn’t feel that either as the epidural had done it’s work.
Rest assured there is a screen up so that you can’t see the operation taking place, and Mr S stayed firmly at my side of screen… he didn’t want to see what was going on either! The operation commenced at 16.20 and at 16.28 baby S was out of me as our playlist tinkled in the back ground. While I don’t remember the exact moment all that clearly, we have a video of it on our phones and I’m saying ‘oh my god, oh god…’ as the doctor lifts him up. The first thing she says is ‘he’s perfectly healthy,’ as he cries at the top of his lungs. Because he was three weeks early there was a worry that his lungs won’t have matured, plus babies born by c-section don’t always have the fluid pushed out of their lungs, so there was a chance he’d have to NICU and be on oxygen. Fortunately, that didn’t happen. Mr S cut the umbilical cord and the baby was immediately placed on me for the all important skin to skin contact. As incredible as that first moment of seeing him and holding him was, it was honestly a little hard to experience the magical moment when I knew what was still going on behind the curtain – I was also really thirsty having not had water since 9am. It was at 17.02 that the operation finished, the whole thing lasting only 40 minutes. The doctor closed the wound with surgical glue as opposed to stitches which made the whole process even quicker.
Baby S was wrapped in a blanket and I was able to hold him as I was wheeled into the recovery room. Feeling very weak, I asked Mr S to take him so he could have so skin to skin time. At this point I started intensely shivering and shaking which was one of the most scary parts of the whole day but I was reassured that this was perfectly normal and after about fifteen minutes it calmed down. Also having read so many blog posts on people’s experiences, I knew this was common after birth.
The midwife then help me to breast feed for the first time which was a little overwhelming but it actually wasn’t too long before I got the hang of it. I also remember being desperate for water, and this appearing fairly shortly after we got to the room. My mum arrived soon after and said hello to her new grandson and stayed with Mr S and I for a couple of hours. We were also bought some food, advised not to have anything too heavy, we had lentil soup and vegetable lasagne… honestly I didn’t mind what we had, at this point I was so hungry that it was the best lentil soup I’d ever tasted! Later that evening we were moved to the room that would be our home for the next few days which included a fully reclining chair meaning Mr S could stay with us the whole time.
I didn’t sleep well that night, having to lie on my back and worrying about moving too much with various tubes and still in me. There was also the fact that we had our brand new baby! But the Mr S and the midwives were great at taking care of him overnight, all there was for me to do was concentrate on feeding him and trying to recover. The next day my sister and her son Jackson visited while I was still unable to move from bed and then hospital photographer came to our room at about midday. I hadn’t been able to have a shower but I quickly put make up on despite really not feeling photo ready. I’m so glad that we did the mini-photo shoot cos even though I felt like crap, they’re some of my favourite ever photos.
As my operation had been later in the day, I was given around 24 hours to lie in bed before it was time to get me moving. Apparently getting out of bed and moving about early on is a great way to aid c-section recovery but I was pretty scared of it seeing as some blog posts mentioned that it was the worst part of the c-section and you felt like your internal organs were falling out.
So when the midwives arrived to get me out, I was nervous… but first they asked if I wanted my epidural topped up… er yes please… then they removed the catheter (I literally didn’t feel a thing)… and then they got me on my feet. I can honestly say I felt zero pain, I still had the effects of the epidural plus I was taking pain killers. That’s not to say it wasn’t difficult to get up, my stomach muscles didn’t work so my legs had to do all the work and I basically just made a slow shuffle to the bathroom to go to the toilet (which again didn’t hurt just felt weird), wash my face and brush my teeth properly. Those small things felt really good and went some of the way to making me feel more human! That evening the doctor came to see me and surprised me by saying she’d remove my dressing… ‘don’t worry it feels just like a bikini wax…’ ok not particularly reassuring but yet again it was completely fine. You also have to have nightly injections to prevent blood clots, personally I didn’t mind this as I’m not a needle-phobic but with a total of ten injections, Mr S had to do six of them at home which wasn’t fun for either of us!
The next day I was able to shower – it’s totally fine to shower with your wound and I was advised just to let the water and soap wash over it and don’t rub it or anything. A shower and a hair wash really helped! Mobility wise it was still hard to get in and out of bed and walking was more like shuffling but it was getting easier and keeping on top of my pain medication meant I still felt pretty much pain-free. I’d heard about people getting terrible trapped wind in their shoulders, personally it’s not something I experienced but it’s something to be mindful of if you’re having a c-section, apparently peppermint tea works wonders. I was also weary of holding the baby as I felt weak, and I’d only hold him sitting in bed where there was no danger of anything happening.
We ended up spending four days in hospital, sounds crazy but I really enjoyed my time there (I’ll be writing a separate post about my Lindo Wing experience) as I felt like I was just in a bubble just the three of us in our small room. Mr S, Baby S and me. Our little family. We had great care from the mid-wives, three meals a day and lots of visits from our family. Honestly, I never realised a hospital stay could be so pleasant. By day four I was still a little slower than normal and a bit weak and hunched over but I was 80% back to normal. The next day I honestly felt 95% back to normal but I was still on all the pain medication. Two weeks later, the injections were finished, I no longer had to wear the surgical socks and I almost off the painkillers – I’d have a paracetamol once a day if I was feeling a bit sore but overall pain was very minimal.
I’m publishing this post five weeks post birth / c section and while I do experience the minimal discomfort after standing or walking for a long time, I feel pretty much back to normal and will very occasionally have a paracetamol or something for the discomfort. The scar is still there of course but it is small (the size of his head) and serves as a happy reminder of the day I met baby S!
So there we have it, my experience of a planned C-Section. I’d love to know your birth story too!