It’s taken me a little while to write this next blog in the series for a number of reasons, firstly I have been a bit pre occupied with the Oscars (Both the film and Pistorius kind) and secondly I wasn’t sure how to write this without scaring the living daylights out of expectant moms everywhere :) I tried not to be too graphic so apologies in advance if I failed.
You’ve been pregnant now for what seems like forever, your bags are packed (if you’re lucky) and you’re expectant (not ready, you’re never ready) for that little person to make it’s arrival into the world and into your life. By this time, you should already have planned on how you’d like to bring the baby into the world… There are just so many options to choose from, especially in South Africa we are spoilt for choice.
First and foremost, I would imagine that the logical and most natural option would be to have a vaginal birth. Most natural would indicate no drugs, this is where option 1 no longer became an option for me. I cannot speak for natural birth as both my children took the sun roof thanks to modern medicine, but women for thousands of years since the beginning of time have been doing it, long before the advancements of modern medicine. I take my hat off to each and every woman who has done this or plans to do this (by choice or not) the world over, you have far more guts than I do. I’ve heard comments like ‘If it was that bad, you wouldn’t have more children’ and I don’t believe that at all, I’m certain that it hurts like hell but the reward outweighs the pain. Take option 1, insert modern medicine here, we have the joys and beauty of natural child birth with a little bit of narcotic assistance. Again, I don’t speak from experience but a little bit of an epidural will take the edge off for the actual watermelon through nostril experience. Still, with either natural childbirth option, one must go into labour – This requires contractions, contractions I was admittedly too scared to wait on.
Now let’s get to something I know… Elected cesarean section – A C-Section by choice. In South Africa, private hospitals and Gynecologists are only too happy for you to elect for this birthing option. In other countries around the world and even in SA where the medical aid coverage is limited, you can’t just ask to have a c-section because you’re scared of the pain, as I was. Thankfully, I’m here and I could and of course, I did. Twice.
With my first baby, I remember knowing the minute I had accepted my pregnancy that I was having a cesarean, there was no question about it. Throughout my visits to the gynae, I emphasized my decision and though reluctant for a few reasons, my gynae agreed and we scheduled a date. I’m certain a lot of his reluctance had to do with me being a young (20 year old) female who was healthy enough to endure natural birth… My thoughts? Save the beaver, have a cesar.
Generally with a c-section, the procedure is scheduled for 2 weeks prior to your due date, allowing your baby to be as fully formed and as healthy as possible but hopefully before you actually start going into labour (thus resulting in an emergency c-section, a much more traumatic and serious surgery). Hayley’s birth was scheduled for the the 30th of December 2005, only a week before my due date, much to my concern, this was because my gynae was going on Christmas holiday and he asked that I make sure I ‘keep her in’ until he was back… Not intimidating to say the least. I was fortunate that Hayley did wait and in that waiting her weight soared to a full 4kgs at birth, confirming that I’d definitely made the right decision. On the day of the surgery I arrived at the hospital (Olivedale Clinic) at approximately 5:30am in the morning, the surgery was scheduled for 8am. We got ready to go in, tension was mounting and I was changed into my sexy backless hospital gown. At 7:30am we were taken into theatre, and I was told it was time for my ‘Spinal Block’ – I’m sorry, my what now? Now bear in mind that I was young and ignorant and whilst I used google for everything, the methodologies of cesarean’s was not one of them. I remember being told about the numbing procedures and at this point I learnt that the spinal block is the same as an epidural only one injection directly into the spine for fast action to be ready for the surgery. I was so excited, this was going to make me numb, I would still be awake, no pain! Wrong. The spinal block still remains the most painful experience of my entire life, but not so painful that I wouldn’t do it again because I did. Be prepared, do some research. I didn’t see the needle the first time, only with the second baby did I actually look but it’s a long fat needle that goes into your lower back, it hurts. I can’t remember now how long it took to take effect but I remember it being quick and the weirdest feeling came over me, like I was paralysed from the pelvis down – I couldn’t move my legs and I was not prepared for what that felt like.
With my second baby (a little more recently) I had had a similar experience to this point. I honestly had wanted to try for a natural birth by baby number two, I was feeling brave, but in May of 2011 I was admitted to hospital with a urinary tract infection. The pain was excruciating and I asked the nurses if childbirth was this bad, they informed me that childbirth was ten times worse. At this point I called my gynecologist and asked to schedule the c-section, bravery gone with the wind. (Just a note, if you have at least 18 months after the first surgery and the doctor deems you fit, you can have natural child birth, if you are braver than me). Dakota’s c-section was scheduled for the 18th of July (Mandela Day) and she too held out that long, this time 2 weeks before my due date at 2.7kgs. We arrived again at Olivedale Clinic at approximately 6am and only ended up going into surgery after 9am. This time, I was prepared for the spinal block, it hurt like hell and I knew then that the worst of it was over. I was wheeled into the theatre, medical professionals streamed into the room and Grey’s Anatomy looking work ensued. A non see though plastic sheet was propped on my chest / waist area of my paralysed body and I was not able to see the surgery happen. (Something that is now changing with transparent sheets being introduced) With both births, I did not feel any pain (thanks to the spinal block and temporary paralysis) and definitely did not feel the cut itself. While you cannot see your own stomach, you can see the doctors and their movements and you do feel discomfort while they’re busy playing in your insides. I remember watching the doctors and after realizing the cuts had been made, seeing their arms spread wide, as if pulling my tummy apart. I’m trying not to be too graphic but you need to be prepared. On both occasions, you will probably have your doctor / surgeon and then their assistant as well… 4 hands fiddling inside of you while you are awake to realize it. While there is no pain, you can feel ‘things’ moving, ‘things’ being moved around, you feel the movement and some tugging and pull on the inside. It’s extremely difficult to explain this if you haven’t felt it, it’s not sore, there is no pain, it’s just weird. The surgery itself doesn’t take longer than 5-10 minutes, it’s all over pretty quickly, but just before you think it’s over, something a little unexpected happens. With D, my gynae was a woman and so she did not appear as if she had brut strength behind her, her assistant was a burly older man who looked like he had a bit of buff going on under his pretty blue scrubs. At one point they were fiddle, fiddle, fiddle and then a comment they were ready and suddenly the assistant crossed his hands as if about to do CPR and placed them just below my sternum, then, with all his weight he pushed down and then away toward the open tummy all the while the gynae pulled the baby out – what an experience?! It did not hurt, it was just unexpected and the pressure is intense, I asked why they did it and they said it’s too dislodge the baby from higher up in the uterus… Advance warning, non existent. Immediately after that, out ‘pops’ your baby and in an almost lion king moment the doctor holds the baby up in front of the theatre light, dads, this is a great photo op! As the mom, you just have to lay for a little while as they take the baby aside to weigh and do the necessary (Dad cuts cord, it’s not as easy as it looks) and you get sewn up while you wait. Don’t worry if your baby doesn’t cry immediately, neither of mine did, they were suctioned and APGAR tests were done and then their shrill screams filled the room. The nurse will place the baby onto your chest, your first proper look at your little person :)
Hereafter my experiences differed – both times the baby was taken off with dad, bath and more tests and little things that must be done while
mom is wheeled out of theatre to recover. With Hayley, I was wheeled to my room thereafter and waited 3 hours before I saw her. She had been incubated as she was a little blue and didn’t take to breathing oxygen too well but she was right as rain fairly quickly and I had her back before I knew it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your baby, the nurses are there to help. Send dad with baby, let him get to experience the first baths etc. With Dakota, we were both back in the room fairly quickly and she was right as rain.
When you ask friends and family, they will tell you that my first recovery was quite difficult and I looked worse off and more exhausted with my first c-section than the second. I also felt like I recovered better the second time as well – I believe that if I had done the proper research, been prepared and then knew what to expect, I have no doubt my recovery would have been a lot better. Speaking of recovery, remember that the c-section is a surgery, there is cutting and stitching and all sorts of things going on. The spinal will wear off within 3-4 hours (pins and needles like feeling) and thereafter movement is limited and you will have some pain. Listen to your doctors, take the drugs they give you (even the suppository, they work) and just relax a while. Enjoy the rest, you’re going to need it and make sure you packed your hospital bag based on the toiletry list they gave you, you’ll need everything on it.
Some points to remember :
* Do your research thoroughly, forewarned is forearmed
* Take your doctors advice, they know best
* It’s not all going to be roses, sometimes things can happen, make sure you’ve had those discussions with your surgeons
* Pack your hospital bag properly and have all the toiletries you need
* Have a helping hand, dad or a family member to help you while you’re immobile
* Enjoy the experience, you will only have that experience once
* Don’t forget a camera
Wooohoo, you had a baby. Next up, how to handle the hospital stay and the joys of breast feeding.