Why C-Sections Need to be Taken Notice Ofby Gemma Campbell
April is C Section awareness month. Did you know 1 in 4 births are now C Sections? And yet still many antenatal courses only make passing reference to this type of birth.
Rarely could you prepare for a C Section, as in the UK elective sections are very difficult to obtain. Yet, if 1 in 4 of us require them, there needs to be more information. Not just about the procedure but more importantly about the recovery.
With my first, it was a real genuine emergency C Section. As I’d had an epidural earlier in the hopes of managing a natural birth, I simply had a top-up. Spraying me with water the anaesthetists kept asking me if I could feel it and unfortunately every time they sprayed it, I just said yes. Realising very quickly that all my senses were heightened with the sheer terror of what I didn’t really know what was about to happen, I had to shut my eyes for that particular test to work. I was petrified that if I could feel anything re water, then I’d feel the operation itself. Thankfully other than a weird sensation of tugging, I felt absolutely nothing during the operation itself and I’d asked the team if they could whisper as I just did not want to know what was happening. I was truly terrified.
With my second, it was a completely different experience – much more relaxed. Whilst I still didn’t know the intricate details of the procedure, the room was calm, we were all chatting and the only bit that was a little tense was when the spinal block was being administered and I had the sensation of an electric shock. The command ‘lean over more’ was almost funny in that I literally physically couldn’t lean over anymore due to the bump. But my goodness I tried extra hard as I did not fancy the needle hitting the nerve again.
Recovery was again very different. With my first I had 5 full days in the hospital. Day 2 I was told to shower but nobody thought to explain it wasn’t just to be clean. The shower was to help remove the enormous padding over the wound. I had my shower. Spent forever trying to figure out how to get dressed (knickers is a whole other story!) and then waddled back to bed. I fell asleep and then was woken by 2 very worried looking nurses. My bedding was soaked, I was shivering yet had a temperature and they couldn’t understand how my clothing and bedding were so soaked through. Finally, we figured I’d left the padding on and it had soaked through hence my shivering. I was sent back to shower and remove the dressing – which took forever, as by getting wet and then partially drying out had become super sticky! The next time around, I was sent home on Day 2 still with the padding and had the pleasure of removing it carefully in the comfort of my own shower, at my own pace, without nurses knocking on the door every few minutes asking if I was ok. Although when I left the bathroom my partner was standing there with a very worried look on his face as I had been “ages!”
For a number of women I’ve spoken to, who have had more than one C Section, it seems the feelings and experiences are very similar – the first is always terrifying – the unknown and unexpected. And for most the feeling “of being cheated of a natural birth”.
Many of these friends went in for an Induction as well and it was “all very clinical”. Recovery is slow, scary and more than a little painful. Who knew laughing used that many muscles! An overwhelming response as well was the idea of everything being out of your control – decisions were made about you, not with you. From the birth itself to even how the feeding occurred with one friend saying her baby was “given a bottle” straight away without any discussion with her first.
The second for the majority, was much more relaxed, with two of my friends likened it to being almost “enjoyable” although one friend was so terrified she “just wanted the baby out!” Most people who commented bemoaned the fact that with the emergency first C section they “missed out on skin to skin contact” and lots of women reference the feelings of “guilt” although a few have said they were just “thankful” everything was ok. Whilst I was lucky in that only 30 minutes after my operation, my daughter was on my chest trying to feed, a number of women I’ve spoken with, never got that experience. When my son was born, the very first thing he did was wee on the surgeon, which got a real chuckle from them all and then as they were trying to clean him and do the APGAR obs he was desperate to make eye contact with me and so he was wheeled closer to me as they stitched me up and we had the most special few minutes just staring at each other and me having a little chat with him before we got our skin to skin.
There is lots of advice on how to care for your wound and statements like ‘don’t do any heavy lifting’, and yet at the same time, you are lifting your baby – out of Moses baskets, into the feeding position and even just for cuddles. But quite honestly and in all seriousness – don’t do too much. One friend stated she “lost a stitch or two overdoing it” thinking she was wonder woman and she quickly reverted to doing nothing (or at least a lot lot less). Leave the housework. Get somebody else to make you brews. And follow the advice re cleaning the wound and not touching it too much.
You will still need the maternity pads, as just like after a natural birth, you bleed. You need massive knickers – like boob high style and opt for loose dresses so as to not put pressure on the wound. And find your comfortable position for sitting – a few pillows to help you recline so as to not ‘scrunch’ the wound when sitting normally, but not totally lying down as it seems to take forever to get back up, especially when that newborn is screaming for you. After the two weeks paternity leave – make sure your other half leaves things within easy reach for you. I’ll never forgive mine for buying a massive carton of milk and then putting on the bottom shelf of the fridge. I had a whole day with no brew. And Corporation Pop just doesn’t cut it. Take either a hooked umbrella or litter picker around with you. I dropped everything on the floor and as for putting my own knickers on, these things were absolute godsends! And finally – keep a stash of those maternity pads for your first period. There’s blood and lots of it. There are clots – mine were the size of ping pong balls and my midwife told me if they became the size of tennis balls is was time to go to A&E.
And if there are any questions or queries just ask – ask a mums forum for general advice, check the NHS website for more medical aspects or just ring your midwife/Health Visitor. No question is ever too stupid to ask.