April is International Caesarean Awareness month. an event organised by ICAN – The International Caesarean Awareness Network.
I’ve 2 caesarean birth stories to share
As a caesarean birth mum twice over, I have been meaning to write this up for a long, long time. The after effects of my first caesarean birth are still with me now (albeit they are slowly fading with every passing year) and I want to write everything down before I forget anything.
My experiences were unique, as is every birth regardless of how, when or which delivery was given and I believe that writing your thoughts, emotions, frustrations and facts allows you to empty that space from your head and keep them locked into your computer so that you can visit, if ever needed.
I have briefly spoken about my caesarean birth stories in my podcast (The Swan Effect Mums Coffee and Chat Podcast) with my guests Dani, Jodie and Louise but have never spoken fully about what happened. So here is my story… Warts and all.
My first caesarean birth story..
When I found out I was expecting my first born we were over the moon! The pregnancy was amazing and I was your usual clichéd first time mum who was beaming from ear to ear and loved every feeling, emotion and to a point, ache that pregnancy provided.
However, fast forward to June 2018 and my hind waters broke at 11pm on Thursday 14th and at my midwife appointment the next morning I was told to visit the maternity assessment unit (MAU). Once there I was told that it was most likely a heavy discharge (sorry for the TMI) and sent home.
During that Friday I experienced those slow period pains that confirmed I was in the beginnings of labour. That evening I was called back to MAU due to a water level check discrepancy earlier in the week. Whilst there I mentioned to the Dr that I thought my waters had broken the previous evening and that I had been experiencing period pains throughout the day. Again, the Dr assured me that it was most likely a heavy discharge and sent me home.
I didn’t sleep a wink that night!! I think more due to excitement than the pain and that morning we called the MAU to tell them that my contractions were 8 minutes apart and asked for advice. We were told to wait until they were 1 minute apart and then we were to come in.
Problem was I was now exhausted from no sleep, my pains were increasing and my contractions were all over the place that day! That day was a haze of pain, snoozes and more pain. That night we visited MAU due to the irregular contractions and was sent back home until I was 1 minute apart (completely pointless visit basically, but I was really suffering by now).
That night was horrific!! I had contractions which led to shooting pains in my back and then the most agonising pain in my pelvis… Every single time. Again, my contractions were very irregular so my partner drove me to the hospital and explained that we were not leaving until I was properly seen. We were finally seen and checked out properly.
This was now Sunday morning.
I was only 2cm dilated but they moved me into a labour suite as I was screaming with back and pelvis pain and most likely scaring the poor mums on the ward haha. Once in there we had 4 failed epidural attempts (ouchie!) but by the 5th we were flying. Literally! Wow! That stuff is amazing isn’t it?!?!?!? 10/10, definitely recommended.
By the afternoon my temperature was rising and they decided to do an internal check. Once they looked inside (for the first time I may add) they found that I had in fact broken my hind waters on Thursday night and I had caught an infection in the meantime. I was put on antibiotics and informed that a caesarean birth was most likely, which was fine by me as I was completely exhausted and high as a kite by this point. Just get this baby out please!
By 9pm (yes, we are venturing 72 hours now guys) my temperature was dropping but my baby’s heartbeat wasn’t becoming worrying so for the next 2 hours they were checking regularly. At 10.45pm my baby’s heartbeat was dropping so we were set up ready for the theatre room. Again, no dramatics and everything and everyone was calm, myself included. caesarean birth happen all the time, I knew that.
It’s all about to hit the fan on the operating table guys…
Now, here comes the bit where it becomes a bit fuzzy for me as I believe the trauma has made my memory bank switch off or delete the bad bits (I wonder if anyone else can relate to this? Or if that’s just me?). Whilst lying on the operating table I began to register that my body was moving a lot more than I thought it should and when I looked up at the surgeons I could see ‘the look’ that they gave each other.
You know ‘the look’, the look is when two people have a conversation with each other but in silence and with their eyes only. Now this ‘look was not good, even I knew that and there was then silence and no fun and laughter like before and when I looked back at the surgeons I remember the concentration on their faces and more importantly, the blood on their face shields. Something was wrong and they were working like trojans to fix whatever it was.
To cut a long story short, my daughter’s head had become stuck in my pelvis and as a result her heart rate had stopped. From what the specialists have told me, they had to pull out many organs to try and reach her and then a midwife was asked to go internally to help push my daughter whilst they pulled. I’m so glad I was unaware of the severity of it all at the time because I genuinely don’t know how I would have reacted.
My daughter was finally pulled out and put on the special table where the team from the special care baby unit (SCBU) were at hand to resuscitate her. That will forever be the longest 4 minutes of our lives! My partner opened up and said that he will never forget the image of our baby, lifeless and feeling completely helpless. No parent should ever experience that.
She came out screaming… The only time you will ever like that sound trust me!
Ffion finally screamed and you could sense the atmosphere lift once again after a very tense 15 minutes. I got to kiss her before she was rushed off to the SCBU for tests and observations.
It was done, my baby was here and I knew she was having the best possible care. All was well.
I suddenly went into shock whilst they were stitching me up and shook violently for what seemed like an age. I’ve never felt more scared for my health before. They explained what was happening and gave me more drugs until I slept. Which I did for 6 hours straight. I woke up in the labour suite to see a student midwife sitting at the end of my bed.
She had been tasked with keeping an eye on me during the night. I fell back to sleep in a fuzzy haze. When I woke a few hours later, my partner was there, along with the student midwife, a midwife and a team of senior consultants all around my bed.
They proceeded to give me a step by step explanation of what had happened during the caesarean birth and informed me that I was extremely ill and had contracted sepsis. Honestly, I don’t remember any of the words as I was so poorly. I asked if I could visit my daughter and was told they would wheel my bed to see her that morning.
By this point they were feeding her through a tube but asked if I was fit enough to express milk for her, so that she could get the Colostrum. I was determined to get this for her! She had wires EVERYWHERE and I was scared. If I could do this one thing, then it would make me feel useful.
I pumped and pumped for so long, but only managed a small amount. The nurses at SCBU were so positive with me and said that even the small amount that I had produced would be a great amount for my daughter, which made me feel better about the whole sorry situation.
I was wheeled back to my room at the maternity ward, where I was giving more medication and slept for another few hours before being woken up and asked if I could go back to SCBU and try and feed my daughter. Of course I said “yes”, this was my chance to hold my baby girl finally!
By this point, my mum, dad, partner and mother in-law were in SCBU visiting my little girl. Which was so lovely and comforting for me, but also quite crowded. I remember feeling very disoriented, in excruciating pain, having a high temperature and sweating profusely but I didn’t care about any of that and told them that they would have to step out for a bit or see my breasts, as I was going to pump for my baby ‘come what may’.
After 30 minutes I was wheeled, back to my room on the maternity ward where once again I collapsed in an exhausted heap until I was woken up an hour later and informed I would be taken up again to try and pump or feed my daughter!
But she didn’t latch on and it was so complicated with all my wires, her wires, an audience and also the fact that I was now sweating what felt like buckets! No, No, this wasn’t working. I was getting so upset thinking that I was failing at motherhood already and my daughter wasn’t even 24 hours old. They said they would feed her again, whilst I got some rest. I left feeling more of a failure than I had before.
Whilst on the maternity ward I was sent to have 1-2-1 care as my condition had worsened. But during the middle of that night Ffion, my little girl was discharged and we were finally reunited!
The midwives would take Ffion every night that week I was in hospital as I was so ill. Ffion was taking the formula milk really well and was thriving! I learnt very quickly to let go of the fact that I had not been able to breastfeed as it was becoming very obvious that our main goal was for me to fight this virus and get home to Daddy, who was missing us like mad!
Overall I spent 6 days in hospital. That week was bittersweet as I was experiencing being a mum for the first time but also extremely ill and having tests, xrays etc all week.
The weeks that followed were great. The weeks that followed those weeks were not. Once all the visitors stopped coming and I was alone with my thoughts and memories I became extremely low and began becoming very protective of my daughter. It had hit me; ‘What if we had lost her?’ and then I felt so scared all the time and couldn’t quite shake that feeling off.
Even now, 3 years on I feel that way about her sometimes. I worry if those 4 minutes of her life will have an everlasting problem that hasn’t yet appeared, if the trauma may have scarred her subconscious somehow? The worry is endless.
My second caesarean birth story…
I knew I wanted to have another baby quite quickly. My partner thought I was mad of course, but I knew I could put up with the pain and worry as it was completely worth it.
With my second daughter, Veronica who was born in October 2020 we experienced a problematic pregnancy and birth and we both ended up in hospital for a week too. I won’t write too much here as I go into great detail about my experiences having a lockdown pregnancy and caesarean birth in my previous blog ‘Having a Baby during a Global Pandemic’.
The main area I will cover here is that at our 20 week scan we were informed there may have been something wrong with her adrenal glands. As they couldn’t say what and I was on my own for the scan, I had no idea how to explain to my partner that my body had let us down again.
I developed severe anxiety as a result and would find myself reminiscing about Ffion’s birth and feeling absolutely terrified that something bad was going to happen again. The trauma of my first caesarean birth had completely ruined my second pregnancy experience. Along with the isolation of the COVID-19 lockdown and not having my partner at appointments etc just made those following 17 weeks miserable.
I’m sorry if you’re reading this Veronica, please know that you were wanted, you were loved the minute we knew you existed and I would go through it all again if it meant having you every time I promise! But I’m being honest as I wish many mums would and laying my heart out for all to read and explain that not enough support is giving to new mums who experience such trauma at birth. Whether that be a vaginal or caesarean birth birth.
My anxiety was really affecting my mental health during the pregnancy and the midwife and consultants thought it would be a good idea to receive help from the Birth Afterthoughts team within the NHS where a senior midwife calls you and explains in great detail what happened in your birth.
This helped my mental health tremendously and I would definitely recommend this for any new mums struggling to piece together any traumatic births. It’s such a blur and it’s hard to remember everything and this service filled in the gaps for me. Here is the link for the Birth Afterthoughts facility within Wales: BIRTH AFTERTHOUGHTS BCUHB but you can ask your midwife or health visitor for information on this in your local area.
Final thoughts on my caesarean births
All in all, both caesarean births were very different but traumatic in their own right. I wanted a water birth with my first born and it didn’t happen. Was I upset about having a caesarean birth? Not at all. I just wish I had the motivation to work on exercising so that the caesarean birth ‘flap’ would disappear sooner that’s all (after the second.. It’s not pretty let me tell you).
Well, there you go ladies and gentleman. My very long winded story. I will copy and save this for my girls to read one day and also use against them when they give me lip in their teenage years (cue “do you know what I went through to have you both? haha).
I’d love to hear your Caesarean stories! Let me know below…