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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Jake’s birth story – Lisa Edwards

lisa edwards 1Lisa contacted us about her traumatic birth story and the arrival of her son Jake. Her compelling tale of induction followed by an emergency caesarean, and all the fear and uncertainty that went with it, is a tough read. However, I think it is important to share the trials that some mums unfortunately go through, and I hope it helped Lisa to write about it.

Lisa is a 28 year old stay-at-home mum who lives in the Midlands with husband Jamie and 9 month old baby Jake. Prior to having Jake she worked in procurement but decided to give it up to have and raise a family. She started her blog, The Life of Wife, at the start of this year as a way of keeping her brain in gear, whilst documenting their adventures as a family and keeping connected to the wider world.

Lisa blogs at thelifeofwife.com

I was originally planning to write Jake’s birth story on his 1st birthday. However as it turned out I found the birth quite traumatic so would rather spend his birthday celebrating him and looking to the future. I have found that writing things down does tend to help me come to terms with the things that have happened to me so hopefully telling the story of Jake’s birth will help me let go of the negative feelings I have towards my experience.

I had a brilliant pregnancy; no sickness, just some nausea in the early days and some tiredness. I was a completely happy healthy pregnant lady; I didn’t even get a single stretch mark (really its true!).

Towards the end of the pregnancy I did start to get a bit fed up, as every pregnant woman does I’m sure. So we did loads of walking as my due date approached to try and get things going, but to no avail. On my due date, probably due to the frustration that a baby hadn’t magically appeared, I started to worry that something may be wrong, so we popped to the hospital and asked to be checked. At the hospital I was put on a monitor and told everything was fine; a scan showed that Jake was looking to be larger than my “bump measuring” had indicted (they estimated him to be 9lbs 3oz) so they gave me a sweep – which I found very painful and uncomfortable.

Despite the sweep nothing happened. So we continued to do lots of walking as I got more and more frustrated and uncomfortable and upset that my larger size was causing me to have some mild bladder control problems (pregnancy is not glamorous!). Five days after my due date I was particularly annoyed and fed up and burst into tears telling Jamie how upset I was that I kept weeing myself whenever I stood up. After I had calmed down I started to think that perhaps this could be my waters??

lisa edwards 2So off to the hospital we went again, and lo and behold they told me I wasn’t weeing myself but my waters had been very slowly leaking. Now I like to think of myself as an intelligent woman, so how 5 days over my due date I didn’t realise my waters were breaking I do not know – let’s just put it down to extreme baby brain stupidity!

The hospital told me to come back in the morning to be induced. At 7am we got to the hospital, where we were left on the ward until midday. This was very frustrating, as if they weren’t going to start the induction until midday why didn’t they just let us stay at home? Anyway, once they came and collected us we were taken to a delivery room and I was put straight on the induction drip (I don’t know what the actual term for it is); it was administered via a cannula in my hand, which again was a process I did not enjoy.

Every half an hour the drip dosage is increased. Now from this stage I really started to lose the concept of time, so apologies that I can’t be too exact with everything that happened. The drip did start to do its job and I was getting regular contractions; all the while the drip strength was gradually being increased.  I complained a number of times about the cannula being uncomfortable in my hand; each time it was checked and I was told it was fine.

I kept complaining about my hand feeling strange to Jamie and he started to notice that it was looking quite swollen and blue. Jamie went to find the midwife to get them to check the cannula (again). When they came and checked it this time, they realised that it hadn’t been inserted correctly and some of the “induction juices” had been pooling into my hand. The cannula was removed, and reinserted which again was extremely unpleasant. Then the midwife massaged my hand, pushing the “induction juices” down towards my arm – and this is when my problems started.

lisa edwards 3It was like I was hit with a triple whammy of super strength “induction juice”; my contractions got much stronger and much more regular extremely quickly. I was quickly put onto gas and air, and very shortly after administered an injection of pethidine. In my birth plan this was as far as I wanted to go with pain relief as I hate needles so really, really, really, didn’t want an epidural. Despite the fact that the drip had now been reduced to try to steady my contractions, they just kept coming; the problem was I was getting little to no break in-between. After about 40 minutes of a more or less continuous contraction the midwives convinced me that I needed to have an epidural.

I always said that I would do whatever was best for the baby and would take the advice of the midwives. So I agreed to have the epidural. I was absolutely terrified whilst the epidural was administered; I think they only thing that stopped me from moving during the procedure was my extreme fear as my contractions were still coming thick and fast. Once the epidural kicked in, it did feel like a welcome relief and allowed me to have the first rest I’d had in hours. Unfortunately the midwives still couldn’t seem to control my contractions, and they started to discuss a C-section.

I am petrified of the concept of a C-section; before getting pregnant I had never even given blood. The concept of any kind of operation scares me senseless. My whole birth plan basically revolved around NOT having a C-section. The consultant was brought in and I was strongly advised that a C-section was needed as the constant contracting was becoming too much for the baby, and I had been stuck at 6cm dilated for hours. By this point I was crying near hysterically, but agreed to the C-section as I was told it was necessary.

Within minutes of the decision being made I was taken down to theatre. I can honestly say I have never been more terrified in all my life. The anaesthetist tried to console me and offer me reassurance; my main question to him being is it possible for someone to actually die simply from being so scared and what if my heart stops because I become so frozen with fear? (In hindsight I had completely lost my mind, but this just shows how scared of operations I am).

To top things off (as if all this trauma wasn’t enough!), the anaesthetist declared that my cannula still wasn’t correctly inserted into my hand (no wonder my contractions couldn’t be properly controlled) so it was removed and reinserted for the third time. Once this was done Jamie was allowed to join me in the theatre and the section was started. All I remember is saying to Jamie over and over “keep talking to me, keep talking to me” and I have to say he did an amazing job of providing me with a constant running commentary of complete random conversation, despite me being unable to in any way say anything other than “keep talking”.

lisa edwards 4Jake was successfully born at 3.47 am weighing 8lbs 15oz; the first thing I remember Jamie saying was “look at his hair”. I saw Jake and was happy he was ok, but to be honest I was too lost in my fear to really experience any other emotion. As soon as Jake was out of me I was given a sedative to help me to calm down. Though I still felt extremely panicked through the rest of the procedure.

I had never really been told how long the sewing you back together part of a C-section took, but it started to feel like there was a lot of activity on the other side of the blue curtain and I quickly became panicked that something was wrong. I wasn’t told what was happening just that everything was “fine”. After what seemed like a very long time, the procedure was over and I was moved to recovery.

I was hooked up to a morphine drip and given a quick cuddle with Jake before he was whisked away by a doctor. It was Jamie who then told me that whilst the C-section was being performed, the surgical team had noted that my placenta smelled “off” which to them indicted that it had become infected. The reason it took so long to close me up was they needed to very thoroughly clean everything out.

The infected placenta meant that both Jake and I had the infection in our blood stream and we both required IV antibiotics (via the dreaded cannula!), and would both have to stay in hospital until the infection was gone – they hoped we would be in hospital for three days. In the end we were kept in the hospital for six days!

During our extended stay in the maternity ward both Jake and I had to have our cannulas put back in again (that totals four times for me and twice for Jake!). I generally found the stay in hospital ok, and am convinced Jake and I both found breastfeeding so easy due to the extra time and care we had from the midwives to help show me what to do.

lisa edwards 5A couple of days into my stay I did have a panic attack where I was re-living the birth experience, which was distressing for both me and Jamie as I basically started writhing around on the bed as if I were in labour again! It took me a long time to calm back down and made me quite on edge that the panic attacks might happen again, but thankfully they haven’t.

In summary, my birth experience was everything that I didn’t want and everything that I feared all rolled into one. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with what happened and I still find it difficult to look at my C-section scar. I didn’t fear childbirth throughout my pregnancy but now when we get pregnant again I think I will struggle with the fear of the same thing happening again and know I will require a lot more emotional support.

Follow Lisa on Twitter @thelifeofwife1