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!

Things I Learned About Breastfeeding

This is my honest Ode To Breastfeeding. I’m not going to bother extolling the virtues of it because at the end of the day a fed and nourished baby is happy baby, regardless of breast or formula.

And for my guy friends – this’ll probably wander into TMI territory – you have been warned.

Tendu 100%

Throwback to a feed at 8 months old

At 14 months, Adelyn’s still getting breastmilk straight from the source (we really really tried but she just absolutely refused the bottle). Even though I’m back at work, and with her eight (!) teeth we still manage to get a morning and a bedtime feed in – I’m not in a rush to stop as I love the bonding time we get and I know it won’t last forever (because I have no intention of being GoT’s Lysa Arryn).

I’ve had some of my funniest, most memorable experiences of being a mum because of breastfeeding – from wandering outside with my nursing top still in feed position (i.e. exposed), to enjoying a walk in the woods with Adelyn dangling in her sling nursing happily. From leaky boob situations out in public (always wear a dark colour!) to now; prising her little hands away as they seek to pull my top down to get access.

I thought I’d read a lot of stuff to prepare for a baby before Adelyn came along and I was still surprised by so many things when it came to breastfeeding. Though I guess it was a nice surprise to discover that you (usually) don’t get your period if you’re Breastfeeding loads!

The Beginning:

We had to have a C-Section to give birth so I had the worry about skin-to-skin and not being able to breastfeed straight away – I’m so grateful that she didn’t sense any apprehension and simply suckered on for a good 40 minutes as soon as I was able to hold her to me.

A lot of the books talk about the importance of getting your milk supply up and maintaining it – I was so worried about “what if I can’t produce enough milk for my baby?”. So imagine my surprise as I realised really quickly that the opposite was actually possible; Overproduction.

Milk went EVERYWHERE.

My bra size went up to EE, which I didn’t even know was a thing.

When you’re feeding your newborn baby on demand every few hours and your milk is literally spraying all over said baby, do you realise how many time you have to change them into dry clothes?!

Breastfeeding Adelyn always meant frantic screaming for “more muslins!!”, many bibs, those milk cup collector things and even that wasn’t enough to stop my poor baby from getting soggy.

I went through so many breast pads, and I tried all the brands (from supermarket to eco-friendly to bamboo pads to branded) and can honestly say that Lansinoh are the best (this isn’t an ad by the way). They could absorb a stunning amount of liquid and stay dry against your skin whilst staying quite discrete.

The Let Down Reflex:

My biggest shock was that when you experience “let down” it happens in both boobs – i.e. your baby is suckling on one boob and as the milk starts coming out (basically of it’s own accord as a trickle or a stream or a downright watering-can-style-spray) it comes out of BOTH nips.

It felt weird too – like a pins and needles feeling. Kind of shocking because who the hell is used to having pins and needles in their jugs, for goodness sake.

Hearing Adelyn cry would sometime trigger my milk let down. Having a hot shower would also set them off. Literally spent at least the first 5 months of being a mum with SOMETHING held to my breasts.

A Favourite Breast:

As we had a C-Section, it made holding her bloody awkward in those first few weeks – thank goodness they come out tinyish.

For some reason Adelyn was fine feeding from Left but struggled to latch and would get frustrated about Right – which meant Left was making a lot more milk than Right and I was panicking. The Rugby Hold didn’t work too well (as a way to try to let her feed as if she was being held to the Left but actually feeding on the Right) and I was NOT impressed when the health visitor thought it’d be a great idea to nurse lying down sideways – how is a woman who’s stomach muscles have just been cut through supposed to sit back up again to wind the baby? With said newborn conked out next to her?!

We managed in the end though, through perseverance and improving the latch and my nifty pregnancy pillow turned feeding pillow. I did dread feeding from Right for what felt like an age but was probably more like 3-4 weeks.

Nipple Changes:

I now take it for granted that I’ve been able to breastfeed for a year now without much thought – she knows what to do and can basically attach herself from any angle. It’s not unless I stop and reminisce about the early days that I remember the extreme discomfort one’s nipples experience as they learn to get used to having a little being attached every few hours through the day (and night). I never had to use any balms but I do remember a hint of blood blistering and tenderness (it hurt to feel clothes against them FFS) – but thankfully that only lasted a couple of weeks and I barely remember it now.

They definitely got darker in colour too – I wonder if that’s to help the baby hone in on them…?

They go back to normal after a little while!

Pumping – Bloody Annoying:

After I discovered my alarmingly overzealous milk production in the form of poor Adelyn spluttering during her feeds, I found I had to pump a teeny bit before our night feeds (as she’d sleep for a little longer between feeds) to basically ease the pressure. I would also have to wake up in the middle of the night to pump even when she didn’t wake up for a feed because guess what? Breasts that are full of milk get pretty damn swollen and uncomfortable.

Top tip: a manual pump was easier than an electric one. That thing went with me everywhere at one point. On holiday, trips to the shopping mall – if I was out of the house and knew there was a chance that Adelyn would miss a feed, it was a boob-saver.

14 Months On:

Before I had Adelyn, I kind of figured I’d probably have stopped breastfeeding by 12 months. Yet a year went by and it still didn’t feel like it was time (even though 4 teeth had come through by then).

Yeah I have my days where I feel like this:

 

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From Bored Panda’s 10+ Animal Expressions That Sum Up Being A Mum

And sure, she’s developed a habit of sticking her other hand down my bra and slapping me mid-feed.

But hey – I don’t know how much longer she’ll want to come to me with her arms thrown wide – so I’ll happily go on for a bit longer.

Kx

My First Day Back At Work

Last Pre-Working Mum Selfie

Let’s live-write this experience, shall we?

0104 – crying for milk feed. Mmmm sleepy cuddles.

0244 – crying AGAIN. WTF not even two hours since last feed. Remind self to treasure sleepy cuddles. Can she sense she’s about to be getting less milk?

0304 – what I should wear for my first day back…?

0525 – can hear her mewling. Go back to sleep baby it’s 35mins too early and I’ll miss you but I’m not ready for cuddles yet.

0555 – KS asks me what time it is. Then we ponder the merits of calling in sick. (Note to employers – I’M SO JOKING)

0610 – marvel at the luxury of being able to get ready without an audience as MiL takes Adelyn and KS has gone to make his breakfast.

0614 – bring her back upstairs to keep me company anyway (Adelyn, not the MiL). Contemplate dressing smart for first day back but it’s cold out so double leggings and slouchy jumpy it is. Jazzing it up with some hoop earrings that I can actually wear today without fear of being yanked.

0640 – sit down for breakfast and entertained watching someone else deal with the squawks/spoon swipes/when-she-pushes-food-back-out-by-sticking-out-her-tongue.

0655 – bye bye to Papa. Commence play time!

0725 – getting sad again. My “little sister” at work tells me she’ll make baby crying sounds in the office if I miss Adelyn too much. Makes me smile. Must remind self to live in the NOW and not mope.

0748 – OWW forgot I had hoops on till Adelyn made an enthusiastic grab at one during cuddle.

0800 – MiL says I can go get dressed now. Have to explain that I am dressed. She manages to keep face neutral.

0830 – cry my way through putting Adelyn down for her morning nap. She looked at me like I was crazy – this was actually helpful. Breaks my heart to think of her waking up and finding I’m not there. Oh god want to cry again FFS.

0845 – nearly miss the train. For once am grateful for Southeastern Rail delay. Looking like slightly deranged bag lady with my layers and puffy red eyes.

0859 – just realised have got my headphones on but not actually playing any music. This doesn’t bode well for my attention span.

0907 – ugh this feels like a break up where you start crying at anything that reminds you of them. Should probably turn off James Bay’s sad songs. Geez. Ooh Bruno Mars can cure all blues! 

0915 – have been back to office many times over my Leave. First time coming back in as official Colleague – daring to let myself feel excited at being part of a Team again. Get your game face on – LET’S DO THIS

0919 -ÂŁ6 effing 20p for a peak time single?!?!! WTF.

0922 – quick check in bathroom to make sure am less deranged looking.

0930 – let the work begin!

1045 – sweetest hubby sent flowers to the office for my first day – such a thoughtful surprise.

1430 – interesting sitting through training sessions for tools I helped create or processes I helped develop haha

1625 – full on refresher day. Knackered. Must get Outlook and Skype set up again.

1630 – ooh where’d that Pandan cake come from?

1645 – 10,144 emails. Actually less than expected considering it’s a year’s worth. 

1650 – Marked all as read LOL

1657 – Time to leave for train. Huh I can’t zip up my coat – boobs have apparently gotten that full

1658 – hah can still do the 75 steps at Waterloo East *victory dance*

1723 – Good Lord this feels like the slowest train ever.

1753 – home

REUNITED! (I swear she was happier about it than she looks)

Kx

The First Year of Motherhood: Expectation vs. Reality

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(Left: this time last year and 35 weeks pregnant, Right: Now, with the most serious Elf ever)

I read heaps of books when I was pregnant. I re-read them again in the months after Adelyn was born. I Googled things to prepare for what changes to expect. I remembered things from TV shows (for the record, Catastrophe has been pretty accurate in terms of tone). I had a vision of how I’d spend Maternity Leave and as it draws to a close, I had a little look back at how that panned out…


EXPECTATION: A whole year to get down the gym to regain and then surpass my pre-pregnancy physique.

REALITY: have not stepped foot in a gym. Went to a swimming pool a bunch of times though but holding a baby in the water doesn’t really get the ol’ heart pumping.


EXPECTATION: Worrying about not being able to produce enough milk and stocking up on foodstuff to help with milk production.

REALITY: Surprisingly leaky. Had to read up on how to reduce milk production as I ended up having the opposite issue (which I had no idea could happen) where I had a little TOO much milk going on.


EXPECTATION: Whole days spent soaking up culture in the V&A/Natural History/Science Museum.

REALITY: The thought of trying to get Adelyn up London and then across it by Tube and walking around and carrying stuff and…do you see where I’m going with this? It’s logistically exhausting trying to plan it let alone execute on it. And what if she has a crabby day and doesn’t want to sit in her pram? Or won’t nap? Or won’t eat? Or won’t stop eating and I run out of food?


EXPECTATION: Chatting and Knitting with Yummy Mummy groups in local cafes and baby groups.

REALITY: Finding that my local playgroups were oddly cliquey amongst the mothers so only attend them occasionally. Spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to distract Adelyn to steer her clear of the snot-streaming babies.


EXPECTATION: Plenty of free time to travel the world and not have to rush to get back home because you’re on Maternity Leave for a whole year yay!

REALITY: The most f**king stressful experience I’ve had. Going away is not a holiday any more. It is an inconvenience and a chore and exactly the same routine as being at home only you have none of the comforts of being at home and a crabby, probably ill baby. And you’re paying for it!


EXPECTATION: Being too tired/baby-focused to get dressed/wash/brush hair.

REALITY:  Even when trying to avoid touching or looking at my C-Section wound in the early weeks and not really knowing what time it was any more, I always maintained personal hygiene. The only thing that changed is my love of elasticated pants to the point that my Mum expressed surprise that “oh wow you’re wearing actual bottoms for once”.


EXPECTATION: Being adamant that we would not become a household drowning in baby things.

REALITY: I have bubbles, wet wipes, a baby nail clipper, two sets of baby slippers, the baby Elf hat, a baby sock (just one) and a baby cardigan all within arms length from the computer chair.


EXPECTATION: That I’d have the time to pick up new crafting hobbies/finish old projects.

REALITY: There is a cross-stitch tapestry that I have had since before we even got married that is still sitting next to the sofa in it’s bag, untouched since I was pregnant. I have not picked up a crochet or knitting needle since the birth because solid pointy things are not baby-friendly and also because when I do get time to myself, I’m generally dozing. Or writing things like this when I should probably actually be sleeping.


EXPECTATION: That I’d quite like being a Mum.

REALITY: I F**KING LOVE IT 🙂

Kx