April is Cesarean Awareness Month so I'm going to share my elective C-section story.
I make no secret of the fact that I battle with Anxiety. It's something I have had to manage over the years and continue to cope with today. When I fell pregnant, my Anxiety levels increased ten fold. I know that It's very common to experience some levels of Anxiety during pregnancy, but if it's all consuming (to the point of feeling panic stricken most of the time) then i urge you to speak up and seek help and support. That's exactly what I did.
I have always been fearful of childbirth. It's just not something I ever really had to 'deal with' until of course I was pregnant. Then it became so very real. It might sound crazy to most people, but the fear and worry would keep me up at night. The thought of a natural labour filled me with dread. All the things that could go wrong, all the complications, the length of it all, the pain of it all. The unknown and disorder terrified me. To top it all off, I had a genuine disbelief that i'd be able to do it- Actually push a human out! I hated how these thoughts were beginning to overshadow the pregnancy and I started to feel incredibly guilty. Like i was already failing at motherhood somehow. After all, women have been doing this (quite literally) since the dawn of man. I know that c-sections also come with huge risks and possible complications, but on balance, I still believed that was the right choice for me. The C-section felt controlled. Theres a step by step procedure. Someone else (other than me) is in control, a team of professionals. People I trusted to make sure my son would be delivered as safely as possible.
I was lucky and had a fantastic midwife. She listened to all my fears and concerns and I explained that i believed a cesarean truly was the right birth choice for me. I had such dreadful health anxiety over the baby too and even though I'd try and tell myself how irrational I was being, I just couldn't shake my fears. I was referred for cognitive behavioural therapy and this did help to some degree, but ultimately it wasn't going to change my mind on the cesarean. After several thorough discussions with consultants at the hospital, my elective c-section was agreed and we were given a date. Despite battling ongoing anxiety during the pregnancy, I did feel like a huge weight had been lifted. I felt like I could relax more and enjoy the rest of my pregnancy. I was able to look forward to the birth rather than dread it.
I was booked in for the c-section on the 21st of June. They say the devil laughs at those who make plans, and on the evening of the 19th of June, I started to feel something..... REALLY feel something. It started like period cramps and progressively got more intense as the night went on. By 3am I was experiencing pretty strong contractions sat in my bath tub, whilst Ant was perched on the loo in a panicked state eating a pot noodle. The hospital agreed we should go in. I was monitored, and the contractions were coming every couple of minutes, but when i was examined (cringe!) I hadn't dilated at all. The midwife vanished for a few moments, the reappeared with scrubs for Ant and said "they can take you into theatre now". We were both in shock, we were about to meet our baby!
Because the contractions were strong and painful by this point, I had no fears of the spinal. To be honest, I just wanted the pain to stop. The team were amazing, really chatty and helped to put us at ease. The whole thing felt so quick, and suddenly at 6.57 am we heard a scream. Our little boys first cry and we both burst into tears. Sidney Finch Cole was born on the 20th of June, weighing 7lbs 6oz. Ant was the first to hold him whilst they stitched me up. I had already known this would be the case before hand, so I was prepared for it. Seeing our baby in his arms was a feeling like no other. Pure happiness.
The next morning I had my cannula and catheter removed and stood up VERY SLOWLY. It did feel strange (like I might break in half!) and I was a bit dizzy at first. They removed my bandage, and I was scared to look at the incision but I was so surprised to see a clean, relatively neat stitched up line. How on earth did my baby fit through there?! I shuffled to the shower which was exhausting, but it felt amazing to be clean again. I only stayed in hospital for two nights. By day three, being on the ward felt stressful and I was desperate to get home. I probably did more physical things than I should have done. The adrenalin, painkillers and the way the incision looked, made it easy to forget i'd actually just been through a major operation. Ant was brilliant though, and kept telling me to take it easy. He noticed if I got up too quickly and constantly reminded me to slow down.
Despite what some people say about Cesarean births, YES I did give birth and yes it was magical. Every mother is different and every birth is different. If you struggle with anxiety, you are not alone. Please speak up because there is so much support out there. I haven't written this to 'promote' c-section births, it's just my story and personal experience. I am in complete awe of any woman who gives birth, natural or otherwise. As long as mothers and their babies are healthy and safe, that's truly all that matters.