Emergency vs elective caesarean – Ali Shattock

RB pic - AliIn a brilliant post, the wonderful Ali shares the birth stories of her two children Harley and Lola – a tale of two caesareans. After finding herself in a potentially dangerous situation in her first labour, Harley was born via emergency c-section safe and well. Ali was then faced with the dilemma that many women have in a second pregnancy – to attempt a VBAC or opt for the elective c-section.

We’d be interested to hear your experience of c-sections – have you had a VBAC or more than one caesarean? How did you feel about making those decisions? What influenced your choices, and did you feel you had one? Get in touch on Twitter @BlogsForBabies or via our contact form if you’ve got a story to share.

Ali blogs at mylifemylove.com

when harley met lola
When Harley met Lola

I often get asked about the labour and delivery that I experienced with both my babies. In truth, both experiences were so completely different even though I had a caesarean section for both of them; the only difference being that one was an emergency and the other elective. So I thought I would share my experience of both, for expectant mums.

At just over 40 weeks, I felt my waters break; well it was more of a trickle but I was pretty sure that this was the moment! I rang the maternity unit and was told to go down, only to be sent home again because they said that my waters hadn’t broken yet. I thought that I was going mad because I kept having the sensation that everyone talks about – when your waters break, you can’t stop it like you can if you’re going for a wee. The next day it was exactly the same, so I went to the maternity hospital again. This time they agreed with me and kept me in.

I started having contractions through the night but the minute my husband arrived in the morning, everything stopped. I was later induced. Before I knew it, I was 5cm dilated and was asked if I wanted an epidural. At that point I wasn’t in any real pain so couldn’t decide whether to have one or not. In the end I took it, as it was offered. I didn’t want to regret it later on when it might have been too late to have one.

Labour lasted 16 hours. I remember watching the Big Brother final on TV and topping up the epidural whilst my husband slept on the floor! Despite being rather drawn out, everything had gone to plan so far but the turning point was when I had my final assessment. The midwife who had been with us throughout the whole labour was due to end shifts. She swapped over with another midwife and a student midwife.

I was told after the examination that I was fully dilated however the student disagreed and felt that I was still only at 9cm. The experienced midwife overruled this and so I pushed for an hour. But sadly nothing was happening and I was getting so tired. The doctor was called and was very disturbed to see that I was not fully dilated and should not have been pushing at all. It was similar to pushing my baby against a brick wall! He then said that I would need an emergency section to prevent further distress to baby. I distinctly remember begging them not to send me home or to make me wait for the op!! The doctor humoured me and said it would have to happen right now.

baby harley
Harley

Luke was ushered out and changed into his scrubs and I was wheeled into the operating room. By this point I was so unbelievably tired and pumped with drugs that I remember drifting in and out of sleep on the table. It was precisely 8 minutes from the start of the operation to getting Harley out. I remember Luke and I holding our breath until we heard his first cry. Harley needed a little bit of oxygen but other than that he was a happy 8lb 9oz baby boy.

I lost 2 litres of blood but fortunately, I didn’t need a blood transfusion and I felt really well. For me, the hardest part about it being an emergency section was that I wasn’t allowed to hold Harley. Luke took him into another room. Even now it breaks my heart that I missed that first cuddle, that first skin to skin contact.

My recovery from the operation was remarkably very quick. Within 5 days, I had no pain at all and we were going for a short walk around the local park. I could move around as normal and wondered why on earth I wasn’t allowed to drive for the next 6 weeks as I felt so well. In hindsight, I now know that I was simply incredibly lucky, as recovery from my second caesarean was not nearly so easy.

For my second pregnancy I was offered a section if I wanted it because of what happened last time. I was actually very surprised that I was offered one and that it took me many weeks to decide what I wanted to do. I weighed up both options as I had done similarly with my sister who was in the same boat, a few months previously.

As much as I wanted a natural birth this time, the memory of last time didn’t leave me. All I could think about was the mistake that the midwife made and the harm that it could have caused my baby. I didn’t want to run the risk of that happening again. Equally, because my recovery from the operation was so quick, that was also leaning me towards choosing an elective.

There was part of me that was expecting the hospital consultants to sway me towards choosing a natural birth but they understood my experience of last time was very traumatic. They assured me that a planned section would be completely different from an emergency, inevitably in a good way.

So I was booked in for the day after my due date. Because Harley was a week late, I never thought that my daughter was ever going to come early – if she had we would have crossed that bridge when we came to it!

So I was given some tablets to take at set times the night before and on the morning of the op and by 7.30am I was down the hospital ‘checking in’.

There were 3 other mums in the ward with me booked in for the same day and it was lovely to see us all so calm. I had an underlying nervous anticipation but ultimately I was excited. My excitement turned quickly to nerves when I was told that out of all of us, I was going to go into theatre first and that I should get changed into my gown.

It was so unbelievably different, walking into theatre as opposed to be being rushed there on a bed. This time, I made the mistake of scanning the room and seeing all of the equipment and the many people in the room with us. It was all a blur last time and I was completely unaware of what or who was around me.

I was so nervous when the anaesthetist put the needle into my back but I remembered the position I needed to get into from last time. I remembered the hideously cold spray which was sprayed up my body to see where the spinal block was working. It took all of my efforts last time, to concentrate about feeling the spray, but this time it was much calmer, I think I was actually smiling. The anaesthetist was fantastic, both times. She stood by my head and talked me through every stage.

baby lola
Lola

Whereas with Harley it took 8 minutes for him to enter the world, everything was much longer this time and it was 43 minutes for Lola to make her appearance. (My bladder was stuck to my uterus so a surgeon had to come in to separate them, which is why it took a little longer than it should have; it didn’t help that he wore a massive mask with ‘Splatter Shield’ written on it – nobody needs to see that!!).

This time, I was holding my beautiful 7lb 12oz bundle while I was being stitched back up. It was so lovely to have that moment that I had lost with Harley.

I lost less blood this time, so I wasn’t in the High Dependency Unit afterwards. However, my recovery once home took much, much longer. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t enjoy my baby because it was too painful to move. I was frustrated that I had to rely on my husband to do everything. I was frustrated with myself for not healing as well as I did last time. I had expected too much of myself. It was a good 3 weeks before I started to feel comfortable sleeping and moving around. All of this was simply due to having a second section and the surgeons having to cut through previous scar tissue.

harley and lola bath
First baths at home!

We don’t plan to have any more children, but if I was in the situation again, I wouldn’t think twice about have an elective caesarean again. I took comfort in it being planned and having a ‘date’; it was calm; it was reassuring; I knew everything that was happening.

They came into the world via the same route but in very different circumstances. Both are beautiful, in my eyes.

Follow Ali on Twitter @aliandlucky

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