"I Never Wanted A C-section Scar On My Body"
By Andrea Lane
Hi I am a mum of 4 now school aged children.
I know first hand the journey you are going through right now with all the emotions related to having a c-section...Which at the time felt like it consumed my thoughts but looking back now it was just a blip in my parenting journey, however at the time I remember how much their arrivals impacted on how I felt as a person and more so as a mum. I felt like a failure and it really impacted on my first few years of parenting, which I managed to hide behind a mask of happiness, but in reality the sadness and emotions were eating away at me.
I had what I call a taste of all types of deliveries - my first two were emergency c-section. Number 1 was an elective / emergency c-section, Number 2 was a natural labour / c-section, Number 3 was a natural birth and my last was a planned c-section. Reflecting back to how 3/4 were c-sections and my 3rd was my only natural birth I can see the positive and negatives of all 4 very different births.
Through my stories I will share my experience of each birth and share the good and the bad of each one, surprisingly to me my planned c-section was actually the best delivery I had out of all my babies.
For now here is the story of my first born and my entry into parenthood.
Back in April 2008 I was a day off being 42 weeks pregnant with my first baby and well and truly ready to meet my little girl. I had the nursery sorted, the hospital bags packed and a birth plan all ready to go....little did I know, but only one thing on that plan was going to happen, all the rest quickly faded into a distant memory of what I would have liked to happen and never ever got acknowledged on the day.
It was a Friday morning and I was feeling a little tired, baby was very quiet for her and not moving much. I was having a very emotional day and over being pregnant. My midwife rang to check in as I was very overdue and after some discussion she decided I needed to come in to be checked out. A friend was visiting so she dropped me at the hospital where I met my husband and we went in for a check up. After an hour and a few chats with the Dr the decision was made that I needed to stay and start induction. The thought of an induction never crossed my mind and to be honest was something that scared me as it was not part of my plan.
In my ideal world I would have had a nice easy water birth and we would have welcomed our baby into the world with just the midwife and my husband in the room.
I spent the weekend on the ward in a room with a mum who was 25 weeks pregnant and trying to get her baby to stay put, while I was across the room with a baby who just didn't want to evacuate.
I remember thinking how ironic it was being in the room with this mum who's baby was trying to enter the world far too early while mine just wanted to stay snuggled up inside.
On Monday morning a hospital midwife came and cheerfully said "are you ready to meet your baby today" I must have been in shock as in my head i remember thinking, but i'm not ready, I haven't had a single contraction....this is not how I imagined having my baby.
To make things a little more complicated my husband had his PhD examination that same day and there was no way to change it. I really wasn't ready as this was not how I planned for my baby to enter the world. My midwife was amazing as she knew this was happening so arranged the Dr meetings and how the day would roll out around my husbands oral examination.
By 8am I was hooked up to the drip to start the induction and my waters were broken. By 9 my husband had changed into his suit and he was heading out the door for his Exam. Thankfully the examiners were understanding and he could keep his phone on and they tried to make it as short as possible. He was due back about 11, however didn't make it till 12:30.
My amazing midwife sat with me the whole time chatting about anything to keep my mind off the induction, she even went and bought me lunch as she decided I needed a much nicer option than what the hospital was offering.
By the time my husband returned the Dr. was in the room discussing the next move and had started to turn up the drip to get things moving. The rest of the day was a blur as the contractions started rolling in...but I do remember getting one thing on my birth plan and that was a lovely warm bath. My midwife begged the Dr's to let me get in the water to see if that would help move things along as there was very little progress. Thankfully Dunedin Hospital had cordless monitors so I could enjoy the bath and still be monitored.
After 2 hours I had a check up and the decision was made soon after that there was some progress, but not as much as they liked so I had to get back into the birth room. What they hadn't told me until now was that when they broke the waters there was a large amount of meconium in the waters which was concerning. My contractions were coming in so fast and hard that I didn't get a chance to relax and have a bit of a break. I was exhausted and starting to feel deflated.
They offered / told me that an epidural was needed and they had hoped that by 9pm that would have helped and we would be ready to have a baby. I remember sitting on the edge of the bed as the contractions came rolling in trying to keep still and breath as the anaesthetist tried to get the epidural in. Once in It was almost like instant relief and finally after hours of strong rolling contractions I was able to rest for a bit.
9pm rolled around and the Dr was back to check in, still no progress. The baby's heart rate was showing signs of distress. They monitored me closely, however by 9:30 they decided a c-section was needed. I clearly remember hearing them say that and tears rolling down my face before they came to chat with me face to face. This was not how I imagined having my first baby. This was my worst nightmare and I felt sick to the stomach with worry.
I was wheeled into the theatre just across the hall from my room and they started to prep me. Back then they tested if you were numb by using ice. They had one small piece of ice left when I went into the theatre, however it melted so fast that they didn't get to check if all of my tummy was numb. They started the procedure and as they cut I felt a sharp pain in the middle of my stomach. I was shaking and in pain and starting to panic. It turns out that the middle of my stomach was not numb and I could feel them cutting through.
To this day I still remember that feeling and remember the anaesthetist asking me questions and trying to calm me down as they continued. In the end he gave me the option of sedation or trying to up the pain killers. So I chose the painkiller option as I wanted to be there when she entered the world. If I was knocked out it would be a couple of hours until I could meet her and her dad would have to leave the room.
Once she arrived I could hear her crying and a little bit of relief came over me, however as I was so drugged up I was shaking and drowsy and my brain was in a constant fog. I don't remember much other than her first cry and that they tried to get me to hold her but I wasn't interested. Once in recovery the midwife unwrapped the baby and put her on me for some skin to skin and to get her to start feeding.
I remember saying to her that I didn't want skin to skin, but she told me that it was nearly 2 hours since her delivery and it was important for the baby - so she just started to do it for me.
Unfortunately due to the drugs I was so drowsy that I have very little memory of this and only remember most of this from a photo. My midwife was great at making sure each milestone was photographed for me to look back at a later date. I do remember coming across these photos a few weeks after her birth and just crying as it bought back so many memories. They then got tucked away and forgotten about for many years until my second was born....but I am so thankful now that she did take photos so I had proof that I did hold her.
Once I was taken to my room for the night my husband was able to stay the night and support me with feeds or caring for the baby. For two days I was in bed, high on morphine from pain and not interested in seeing my baby. She would spend nights in the nurses station with a friend of ours so My husband could sleep and I could rest / recover. My pain was through the roof and everyone kept telling me it was because of post birth contractions. After two days one midwife came in and said it was time to get in the shower - I laugh at this now but at the time when I realised what had happened I was horrified. The midwife handed the baby to my husband and said she would get me sorted in the shower. She got a change of clothes and everything I needed and before I knew I was in the shower with her washing me with a flannel and soap....It was the best thing ever to be moving and having a shower, but one she had dressed me I was horrified that someone had actually showered me and I couldn't do it myself.
I stayed for 5 nights in the hospital post birth and left still in so much pain but I simply put it down to having a c-section. The drive home was horrific. every turn, small bump I was trying not to cry. As soon as I got home I hopped into bed and went to sleep. I am so thankful that my husband took over parenting duties. He did everything for the baby and when she needed a feed he helped me get comfortable and sorted. After 2 hours at home I was feeling hot and sick.
We rang the midwife who asked for me to take my temperature. I was 40.2, shaking and dripping with sweat. The midwife on call was an obstetrician back in her country and working as a midwife in NZ, so she knew something was not good. She spoke to the Dr who did my surgery and organised me going back to the delivery ward for an assessment rather than ED.
It was late at night and freezing cold, so we bundled up the baby in the car and drove down. It was clear to the staff that I was unwell as I could hardly move and was vomiting from pain. The scar was clean and no infection so it really had them puzzled. They hooked me up to antibiotics and morphine and let me sleep. In the morning I went through many tests and finally a CAT scan showed that I had a hematoma the size of a toilet roll growing inside me along with an infection.
Before the CAT scan I had to take some radioactive fluid that they kept telling me was safe to breastfeed after. They kept pushing for me to drink it, but didn;t have the research to say it was ok. My husband works with scientists and my dad works with radioactive fluid and both were saying no I needed to pump beforehand to have enough food for at least one feed after. The hospital was adamant that it was safe and would not bring me a pump to express, however they could not provide me with the appropriate research to say it was safe. The time for the scan was getting closer and no one had a clear idea if this was safe or not.
So I fed the baby and decided that if need be it would be safer to give her a bottle of formula after as it was too late to express now. After the CAT scan and more research from the lactation consultant and the midwives they decided that they still had no conclusive research so if I wanted to feed her a bottle and pump and dump two feeds that was my choice....But I had to sign a consent form and only I could walk down the hallway to use an assigned tin of formula to feed our baby. I also had to sterilise and make up the bottles as well as sterilise the pump.
My husband was not able to make it up for me as it had to be my choice to do this. This was almost impossible as I could not move let alone stand up. So with the help of a midwife we walked down the hallway very slowly to make up a bottle to feed my hungry baby. There was no way I was taking the risk from what I had read....a bottle of formula was much safer.
After the bottle issue was sorted I settled in for a long stay in the hospital. The midwife was great and moved the bed so I could see out the window and put a cot in the room so that I could change the baby without bending over. They also helped heaps with getting me out of bed and with changing her. She was a big 9.9lbs baby, so lifting her was hard at times. The midwives on the ward would come and visit all the time, some would come and watch the morning news with me while changing babies nappy, giving her a bath and getting me sorted with feeding. We were like a permanent resident by the time we left.
From the start of the induction to leaving for home it was 2 weeks I had been in hospital and so pleased to head home. I am forever grateful that the Dr on the night we went back was the same Dr who did the c-section and the fact that it was roughly 24 hours after I left they were able to admit me to the post birth ward rather than sending me to ED and a generic ward in the hospital.
If I was on another Ward baby wouldn't have been able to stay with me and I would have had no support from the amazing team.
I also learnt that the hematoma was caused by the Dr as she accidentally cut some muscle and a vein which she cauterised. This didn't stop the bleeding and it continued to grow an infection and the hematoma that was attached to the muscle causing the pain.
To be honest I was grateful that the pain I was feeling for the first few days was not in my head and that It was caused by something. I did start feeling like I was going crazy and no one believed me that I was actually in so much pain.
The second time around going home was a much more pleasant drive. Now the pain was gone. I could actually enjoy cuddles from my baby and start bonding with her, but it was a long journey to recover both physically and mentally.
One piece of advice I had from this experience is to talk about your feelings. Looking back I did have postnatal depression and some post traumatic stress from this experience. It took me ages to move on from this and it haunted me with each pregnancy, but in time I had an experience that helped heal the hurt and anxiety that I had. Looking back I just wish I had told someone how I was truly feeling, my midwife kept asking as she knew I was not right, but I just brushed it off and said everything was ok. So do speak up if you know you're not feeling right, there are so many supports out there to help mums with depression or post traumatic stress from birth.
Thankfully not every C-section is like this and there are ways to have a C-section that is not traumatic and can be healing.