My Two C-Sections - What Happens in Hospital?by Ellie Thompson
I’ve clocked up two C-sections now, both sort of planned. The first came after a hideously ulcerated hematoma on the perineum, and the second, pretty much a direct result of having already had a c-sec, with the added complication of gestational diabetes with baby number two.
I say the first was ‘planned’, but it was more of a necessity. Two weeks before giving birth I was in a constant state of agony. An external ulcerated hematoma on the perineum has to be the most painful experience of my life.
Long story short (believe me, you don’t want to know anymore) the saga continued until I got to see my consultant at the hospital, who took one (quick) look, uttered a horrified gasp and sent me upstairs to get booked in for a C-section delivery the next morning.
The walk to theatre
We got bumped that day and I had to wait another excruciating 24 hours until C-day, but all of a sudden, on the 1st June, we took an exciting walk down to theatre. I was in my hospital gown, sexy DVT knee-high socks and slippers, with Jamie next to me, also dressed for the occasion, in scrubs and borrowed hospital crocs.
Trembling with nerves and anticipation, I’m not going to lie, I was terrified. The theatre was big and there were so many medics waiting for us.
First impressions of theatre
I was so relieved to see I had two young female surgeons assigned to do my op. They were both lovely and immediately made it seem like more of a procedure rather than an operation. Much less terrifying.
We had an anaesthetist well versed in the art of distraction, flattery, and general cheese. He was in his fifties, and I imagined him to be one of those ‘heartthrob’ docs on Holby back in his day. He came to the operating table with his A-game. I mean honestly, he thought his banter was first class.
What happens with a spinal block?
I sat down on the edge of the hospital trolley and I was asked to lean forward over a pillow while they opened the back of my gown (OH MY GOD, EVERYBODY CAN SEE MY BACK FAT!). Then, they proceeded to spray my lower back with a cold numbing agent. The cold spray is not a pleasant sensation, you brace yourself and are told to keep still, but it’s still a shock when it hits your skin in an already cold room with no clothes on!
Then, in goes the spinal block (a huge 9cm long needle to be precise) which wasn’t that bad, to be honest. I couldn’t see it (big bonus!) nor feel it at that point.
The sensation of being numb from the waist down came about really quickly and I had to have help to lie down as my legs quickly felt like trees – complete heavy lumps. I could feel the sensation of the catheter being inserted and was both thankful, and a little bit disappointed when the screen was placed over my tummy so they could get to work, and I could pretend it wasn’t happening.
Distractions and banter
Oh god, I was so scared. The constant chatter in the room is to distract you, but probably also to make sure you’re still compos mentis.
A friend of mine told me to expect it to feel as though they’re doing the washing up inside you, but for me, it felt as though they were having an aggressive boxing match with my intestines, and I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if I’d have seen my legs flying up in the air, slapstick style like something out of an episode of Bottom. It was so odd.
Suddenly, I began to feel unwell. I just wanted to be quiet. I felt sick.
That’s when I sensed something wasn’t going quite right. Suddenly, the banter stops, and the anaesthetist started a discreet but not-so-discreet argument with the lead surgeon.
“No, don’t give her that, you’ll ruin her day!” he insisted. “We HAVE to.” She said.
I think I’m going to die
I whispered to Jamie “I think I’m going to die.” Although I might have just looked at him, as I felt so strange I’m not completely sure if the words came out of my mouth. In any case, he looked back at me as if in agreement, and then looked down at his feet. I later found out his hospital crocs were swimming in a pool of my blood.
The hematoma meant I experienced quite a bit of extra blood loss, and although there was a transfusion on standby, luckily it wasn’t needed.
After the longest fist-fight in the boxing ring that was my womb, things suddenly became even more intense, and then finally, over the top of the screen I see a tiny reddish, blue-ish waxy (not to mention angry) looking baby being foisted into the air as she took her first breaths in the real world. It was then I saw our baby girl for the very the first time!
What a moment!
Next thing I know she’s being plonked on my chest and she has this cute little woolly hat on.
It’s all a bit of a blur, but the closing-up part seemed to take forever (much longer than I’d imagined, both times in fact!). In reality, it took about 40 minutes or so to stitch me back up.
Leaving theatre after a caesarean
The next job was to transfer me from the operating table onto a proper hospital bed, and that made my stomach heave. A huge maternity pad was stuffed in between my legs and one of those puppy-training pads was slid expertly underneath my backside, I was lifted and I was lowered.
I managed to avoid throwing up in theatre but as soon as we entered our recovery room, it started.
Being sick after having abdominal surgery is less than ideal. Simultaneously retching while imagining your newly stitched scar is bursting open and spraying out your insides is not what you want right at that precise moment.
The consultant and the anaesthetist dropped by to tell me for some reason, the morphine wasn’t doing its job, but I’d had the maximum dose so there wasn’t much more they could do.
I spent the next six hours in a hospital bed in absolute agony.
I felt so weak I couldn’t speak to articulate myself. Jamie took care of Maddie in the corner of the room. Helpless, I could not contribute in any shape or form.
He tells me now that as he was busy tending to her, wiping away the sticky meconium poo, putting on her first nappy and getting her dressed for the very first time, he was filled with dread, and picturing life as a single dad. – He thought I was dying too.
Help with colostrum harvesting
To get my breastfeeding journey underway, a nice midwife assistant lady stood by my bed, got my boob out and started massaging it for colostrum. Ordinarily, that might have struck me as weird, or funny, but I was too consumed with feeling like shite to even care.
It took the best part of that day for me to be back in the room.
But there’s good news.
A C-section can be a lovely experience
Fast-forward to around 23 months later, and Billy’s C-section in comparison was completely different, and an occasion I look back on with fondness.
There I was, almost two years later, back in the same theatre, equally as terrified. This time I was also worried I’d end up in the same state post-op as the first time.
At one point during the operation, before Billy appeared, I felt as though I was going to be sick, so the anaesthetist lady quickly zapped something down my IV line to adjust my sugars, and et voila! I instantly felt better.
What effect can gestational diabetes have on a c-section?
Looking back, I’m pretty sure that might have been part of the problem first time around. I tested borderline for gestational diabetes during my first pregnancy, but no further action was taken. I’m pretty certain had I been tested again a few weeks post result it would have been positive.
Getting out of bed the next day
My key piece of (personal and un-expert) advice is – the morning after your operation if you are healthy and there’s nobody telling you otherwise, ask to have your catheter out and get moving! Even if it seems like the last thing you should be doing.
The first time, I was in bed until the afternoon of the second day waiting for my catheter to be removed. The second time, I was in bed until four o’clock waiting for the consultant to authorise the removal of my drain.
I hadn’t paid much attention to the ‘drain’ in my wound, but when the midwife pulled it out with some force I knew all about it then. Some long-arse tube was yanked out from my insides with not even a warning to brace myself. Emotional.
Being stuck in bed when you hit the pm of a second day, the panic well and truly sets in.
“You need to get out of bed.”
“I can’t, I don’t want to, I can’t!”
“You have to, you have to!!”
“No!!! I can’t do it!!!”
And as the hours creep on, you’ll start to feel even more anxious.
I cannot tell you how much I was dreading the pressure of standing on my feet. Having a caesarean makes you feel as though your whole body has been sliced in two, and your brain is only interested in telling you that standing will make things worse.
From behind the curtains, the ward sounded almost empty. The midwife had taken out my catheter and promised to return to show me how best to get out of bed so I could go to the toilet.
An hour later, she still hadn’t come back. All alone with Maddie sleeping next to me, I decided to try and get out of bed myself. I ended up half in, half out, with my legs tangled up around the hospital overbed table. In pain and feeling like a complete dick, I burst into tears.
The midwife rushed back into the cubicle with Jamie hot on her heels and they both levered me gentle back into bed. From there, the three of us tried again.
Eventually, I was upright. What an achievement.
I say upright, I was bent over like the Hunchback of Notre Dame as I slowly limped across the ward to the toilet past at least three couples with their babies, suddenly acutely aware of my blood-soaked nighty.
The first wee post-birth usually involves a lot of blood so you’re given a jug to collect it, for the midwife to check your waterworks are in order.
There we were, Jamie propping me up in the toilet, diligently holding a jug underneath me as I leant over his shoulder, peed out a gallon and wondered whether we’d ever see each other in the same light again…
But back in bed, I felt pretty good. It meant it was nearly time to go home.