My C-Section vs. Natural Birth Experience

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Our last photo together before we became parents!

I’ve had this post drafted since Week 2, post-partum with Elodie. She is now almost 5 months. Oops. So I guess that answers your question of has life changed with 2 kids? (I’m basically either with one child or another and yes my husband is a big kid so is totally included in this 😉 Life is full of mayhem, giggles, raised voices, love and a shocking amount of nappies, thanks for asking.)

Anyway – onwards with the super-long post!

Not only have our little Lee family been blessed to have been able to bring two beautiful beings into the world, I also feel fortunate enough to have experienced both a C-Section and a natural birth (or in my case a.k.a. VBAC – vaginal birth after C-Section).

It’s totally normal to feel trepidatious about the whole birthing experience; but from our experience we can happily say that both forms of birth can be empowering and positive when you’ve got the right frame of mind going into it.

So sit back and allow me to share my personal recollections for both births for posterity’s sake and our shared amusement.

C-Section / Caesarean Section

Holding Adelyn for the first time, whilst being stitched back up

If you find yourself in the more prepared position of knowing that you’ll be having a C-Section, I’m sure you’ll have Googled the crap out of procedure as I did. We were planning on having a natural birth and had been preparing using Natal Hypnotherapy. I remember crying about being denied the opportunity to push when we were told we’d have to have a C-Section. But ultimately we accepted that all that mattered was that we had our baby girl safely delivered into our arms.

As Adelyn was stubbornly breeched from Week 28, our first birth was via C-Section (was elective but my waters broke early so became an “emergency” but honestly was as chill an experience as we could have hoped for). I remember walking into theatre, music playing through speakers in the room and the medical team chatting with me, Hubs in his scrubs beside me the whole time. I was more excited than anything; after they extracted her from me and we heard her cry out for the first time I burst into happy tears.

Did You Know…?

  • The baby comes out quickly! – Like…the procedure itself probably took about 45 minutes in total, and Adelyn was out in the first 12 minutes!
  • Your first wee after your catheter comes out. The hospital have this weird checklist of things you need to have done before they can release you. Peeing a certain amount of mls was one of them and it was the funniest/most frustrating pee of my life. Imagine really needing to wee but discovering that your body has apparently completely forgotten how to relax. And you have to pee into a measuring receptacle. And you have no core strength to hold yourself up because – hello? Surgery. It took me twenty minutes.
  • Your first poop – kind of terrifying because of the stitches and you have to use your tummy muscles somewhat. Don’t worry, you’ll be prescribed stool softener so it’ll make thing errm..easier.
  • That enema – you might be given a pain-killer enema as part of your C-Section. I kind of forgot that they’d done that as I couldn’t feel a thing down that way and it was with a false sense of strength and stamina that I was able to get out of the hospital bed to wander to the loo for that first pee about 12hrs after surgery. I was all “oh this isn’t so bad!” about moving. Yeah it felt very different after that painkiller wore off.
  • British Painkillers on offer – I was expecting to be discharged with some morphine but apparently I’d been reading rather American sources beforehand because I got sent home with a week’s worth prescription of Paracetamol and Ibuprofen, like I had a really bad headache and not major abdominal surgery (but don’t worry, it does the job nicely).
  • Really bad gas. So something about having the C-Section means that some air kind of gets trapped in there…you’ve just grown a human in you though so you’re already pretty amazing and strong so what’s a little wind eh? Only it’s a lot of it and it feels super uncomfortable. I imagine this is what colic feels like, so have a little empathy for your newborn when they have a gripey belly.
  • 10 days of anti-blood clot injections – to me, this was actually the worst bit of the recovery process because they sting. But they are so essential as part of your post-op recovery and if motherhood teaches you anything, it’s that you NEED to be fit and able to function as a mother. You don’t want to have gone to all the effort of having a baby and then have complications due to a clot.
  • Walking in general. It’s tempting to not move but at the very least you’ll need to use the toilet haha…I’d read that “in the days after surgery, avoid using stairs”. I live in a townhouse, people!! Stairs are fine, just go slowly. In fact, just move like you’re training to be a Lady – think slow elegance and fantastic posture.

Tips

  • Sodding Heat Rash – take a breathable cotton nightshirt – for some reason I stayed in the hospital gown for 2/3 of the days we had to stay there and ended up with heat rash from being laid up in a plastic wrapped hospital bed and synthetic fibre gown. And the maternity ward is HOT.
  • Practice calming breathing – natal hypnotherapy and Yoga helped to school me in how to chill, which you might need for the bit where they inject the numbing goodness into your lower back or when your abdomen is being shaken about as they work that baby out of you only you can’t feel anything at all and it’s entirely bizarre.
  • Hold that baby – If you want to, you can totally ask to hold your baby ASAP after delivery – we weren’t able to have skin to skin straight away but I was able to hold her on my chest as they sewed me up and it was amazing. KS was the first to have skin to skin with Adelyn as they finished up on me, which was a beautiful bonding experience for him, and I was able to have skin to skin with her as soon as I got to the recovery room.

 

Natural Birth – VBAC

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Moments after giving birth to Elodie, cracking on with breastfeeding!

With Elodie she was head down for most of the 2nd and all of the 3rd trimester so we were in as good a position as any to proceed with a VBAC (with the apparently entirely usual dire warnings of “you have to birth on the hospital maternity ward in case your C-Section scar ruptures” etc – but honestly the medical team have to keep telling you this more as an FYI to cover their butts rather then the unintentional affect of making you kinda paranoid about the integrity of your body’s healing powers.)

Again, my waters broke early and 24 hours later the contractions still weren’t strong enough so we ended up being induced via Syntocinon drip (I’d literally only dilated 2cm in about 40 hours…you need to be 10cm to be in the final push stage). It’s a synthetic version of oxytocin which helps get contractions moving along and boy did they. Contractions went from being manageable tightenings that I could still eat my chicken Caesar Salad through, to requiring silence and my absolute focus and energy to be able to breathe through each wave.

Natal Hypnotherapy – I couldn’t have gotten through this VBAC without it. Interested in it? I’ll do another post on it soon but in the mean time I’ll happily answer any questions about it!

The “Meh” Bits

  • Waiting to dilate – can take a while….like, long enough for one’s husband to binge-watch Altered Carbon on his iPhone in the labour ward.
  • Using the toilet with contractions – so natal hypnotherapy only worked when I could focus and breathe.  But when you’re in active labour for hours, you’re still going to need to use the toilet and yes I am woman hear me roar – but I can only multitask so much and OMG I felt the overwhelming sensations of the contractions when I had to switch tracks to focus on getting my body to pee.
  • I read about the Self-Doubt stage and thought I’d remember when it came that it means you’re almost at the finish line – and after hours of steadily harder-to-manage contractions, being told I was 6cm dilated made me want to throw in the towel. I wanted a mo’fuggin epidural or a C-Section by this point because I couldn’t bear the thought of having to work through another 4hours to get another 4cm dilated. (Read Highs as the story continues…)
  • Pushing so dang hard I burst a few blood vessels on my face and chest. When I got to shower afterwards I was like “WTF are these red dots?!” (they went after a few days)
  • Saying “I think I’m going to poo myself!” during the pushing stage (for the record I didn’t).
  • Husband curious about the business end – I definitely said beforehand that I didn’t really want him to look down there during. He did. He…was more awed than anything, or so he tells me haha…
  • Narrowly avoiding an episiotomy but ending up with a few stitches anyway – did not care at all by that stage but they felt pretty damn uncomfortable for 2 weeks after I gave birth, mostly because one of the sutures was pulling awkwardly every time I moved.
  • Laughing in the face of the home-visit Midwife Team when they started politely enquiring if I’d considered contraception now that I’d given birth – do they not recall how unrecognisable one’s undercarriage area is at that point in the post-partum phase?! Everything was so swollen.
  • Being mystified as to why the hell my whole upper body ached so much for days after the birth (thinking “are my arms really that weak that holding a 3.5kg baby is giving me muscle ache?!”) and then having flashbacks to clinging onto the bed frame in the hospital to essentially push against when I was actually pushing.

The Bits That Made Me Feel Like A BOSS

  • I went from 6cm to fully dilated in 1hour 8mins 🙌🏽 Could not have done it without having done Natal Hypnotherapy – contractions were astonishingly animalistically overwhelming if you let the intensity take you over (you make the oddest noises). Being mentally prepared to breathe properly through ever-powerful contractions and reminding yourself to let your body essentially hug your baby down took a LOT of focus so when I was told “OK you’re fully dilated” I was literally like “huh? Really??”
  • The pushing stage, though damn tiring, felt so so so good. After having to work on calmly accepting every wave of contractions for hours and hours, being able to physically help move things along and to feel her head crowning was simply amazing. Anyone else remember that Friends episode where Ross is all like “how are you doing this???” to Rachel – that was basically my husband.
  • I miraculously didn’t swear at all
  • Feeling proud that we managed to impress the Midwife Team with our team work and my pushing skills!
  • Feeling proud (and lucky) that we were equipped with Natal Hypnotherapy to give us the empowering birth we hoped for
  • Feel a lot more confident in myself now and will definitely be calling on this newfound strength in any future incidences of self-doubt.

This is already a really long post and I still haven’t covered even the half of it.

For me personally, I found that giving ourselves time to mentally prepare to be calm once we were in surgery/in labour helped to bring an element of feeling in control and understanding what was happening at each stage – for both types of birth.

Now I’ve done both I feel like I can achieve anything with a bit of support and a forkload of focus.

Whatever fears you may have about giving birth will be over the moment that baby is out. And then you realise that being a parent is way scarier than giving birth – hah!

7 Differences between my First and Second Pregnancies

Let’s take a look back on the past 38 weeks compared to my first pregnancy.

1. Energy Levels

FIRST PREGNANCY – Growing life inside you really takes it out of a girl, so I was lucky to have worked with a company at the time who allowed two-hour lunch breaks and gave me permission to work from home a couple of days a week as I got bigger. I remember sitting on the sofa watching TV with a PB&J on toast at 2am from Third Trimester insomnia.

SECOND PREGNANCY – Growing life inside you when you are working, mothering, wife-ing and home-making makes me feel like fricking Wonder Woman. I am capable of ANYTHING (but I need to be tucked up in bed by 20:30 or I’m more the Incredible Sulk). Since the Third Trimester insomnia hit me, I’ve just taken to trying to Yoga breathe my way back to chill, or failing that making To-Do Lists and online shopping. But seriously though, it has been more tiring this time around so I’m even luckier to work for a company who have allowed me to work from home since January :D.

Having said that, time has gone by a lot faster so I haven’t felt like I’ve had much time to wallow in the limited energy levels.

2. Marvel at the Bump difference

FIRST PREGNANCY – Adelyn was a breach baby from like Week 28, wouldn’t turn no matter how many inversions I did or even after attempting an ECV (just, no never again). Her head was permanently wodged beneath my right rib – so my Bump was a bit flat and high up for the whole time.

SECOND PREGNANCY – Baby 2.0 has been nicely head down for a while now and I’ve found that I can actually still bend down to e.g. do my shoes. The bump has been way more pronounced and poked out early – all of which the Midwives tell me is because “everything’s looser this time round”. 😳 This time round the Bump has been relatively low (and dare I say comfy?), and yet compact. In my mind I like to think that you wouldn’t be able to tell I was pregnant from behind.

However – I’ve been feeling a lot more aches and heaviness in the pelvic area this time round due to her head knocking around down there, yet none of the ankle bloating I had with Adelyn.

3. My Husband’s Attention

FIRST PREGNANCY – he read a bunch of books and attended the Natal Hypno sessions with me. Wouldn’t let me lift a thing if he could help it, I remember him helping me out of the car, carrying bags and opening doors for me. Aww. He even insisted on taking weekly photos to document the Bump growth.

SECOND PREGNANCY – Literally forced refresher Natal Hypno notes into his hands and begged him “PLEASE STOP PLAYING DESTINY 2 TILL 2AM AND PREPARE FOR THIS BIRTH”. Take my own bump selfies (when I remember) and carry my own damn bags, with a lot of huffing and muttering.

4. Spend Less, Same Result

FIRST PREGNANCY – take the whole pregnancy test thing – I was in NYC for work and bought the most expensive Digital Blue Test I could find.

SECOND PREGNANCY – A pregnancy test is a pregnancy test OK? You’ll only get accurate results from taking it when your period is due and not the day after you made with the love. For our Second, I was at home and used a remarkably low-key Boots own brand test.

Completely different Positive test experiences, same excited, mildly shell-shocked thrill.

5. Knowing Your Own Limits

FIRST PREGNANCY – was too scared to bend over to put shoes on in case of squishing the unborn. Had a Personal Trainer at the gym to walk me through “safe” workouts to help me stay strong.

SECOND PREGNANCY – I’m coming up to 38 weeks now and in the past couple of weeks I’ve been carrying rails down from the top floor to the garage, breaking up tree branches to put into the Garden Waste bin, lugging kilos of laundry up to the top floor to dry and carrying Coco across particularly precarious paving on our walks. My “alarm” that I’ve overdone something and need to chill the frick out has been a muscle pain in my left side.

6. Different Anxieties

FIRST PREGNANCY – With everything new and never-before-experienced, it was easy to fret about a lot of things. Is her heartbeat normal? Is she growing ok? Am I putting on too much weight? Am I overdoing things? Does the alcohol in anti-bacterial gel harm the unborn baby? Don’t even get me started on parabens, nail varnishes and lipstick.

Also around the birth itself – first we were prepared for natural birth, then we had to have a C-Section because of the Breachness.

SECOND PREGNANCY – Well my first pregnancy was a lesson in itself about the amount of chemicals we apply on ourselves (creams, make-up, soaps) and ingest so I kind of continued along the more conscious route meaning everything I’ve been using has been pretty low in weird unpronounceable chemicals. And it’s amazing what pretty nails can do for a knackered Mother who’s battled with her toddler over dinner time for the umpteenth time.

This time we’re determined to have a natural birth (even with that awful midwife I keep getting who always likes to bring up C-Section scar rupturing) – so it’s basically like being a first time mum as I’ve not experience labour before…but I’m kind of excited for it 🙂

7. Making Better Purchases (to suit our needs)

FIRST PREGNANCY – without the personal experience, we found that we relied on anecdotes from other parents we knew and/or what we were reading in books and online for advice on Prams, Cots, Carriers, Newborn Toys and Muslin material (?!!)

SECOND PREGNANCY –  this time we get to feel quite jammy because we can repurpose everything from Adelyn’s early years and only buy things that we know we would’ve found so useful the first time around. E.g. a side-Cot for night feedings and kimono-styled onesies so you don’t have to awkwardly pull clothes over the tiny being’s head at 2am.

One thing hasn’t changed though, the wonderment and gratitude of having been able to have another tiny kicky little being growing inside. Truly heart-warming whenever Adelyn mentions her little sister or comes to give the bump a kiss and a cuddle. Just this morning when we were snuggled up in bed she was pointing to the cot saying “Little Sister coming soon?”

Bring on the new addition to the growing Girl Gang!

Kx