It has taken me just under four full weeks to write this blog post about my second caesarean, because of course I have a newborn and two other children to care for and secondly because I have had to deal with and get my head around exactly what I went through which was shock and anxiety.
You wouldn’t know it from just a few Instagram images but as you hear over and over again, you never know what others are dealing with, so be nice, and for me, during my first week at home after the hospital, I was dealing with post-surgery / post-natal anxiety (I will elaborate about what I went through that week in another post, this post is about my caesarean). This only lasted one week but it was one of the toughest weeks for me as a mother.
I must start by saying these feelings are about me and not how I feel about my beautiful baby whom I love with all my heart, nor do I blame any doctor or staff member who looked after me during the operation, it is me and all me.
Let’s start from the start… (grab a cup of tea and a pack of timtam’s, this will be a pretty long story)
My caesarean day arrived, it was a Monday and it just so happened to be a day off school for my son’s Aston and Will. This was a real blessing as Josh and I got to spend our last hours as a family of four for a little bit longer as we didn’t have to leave for the hospital until 12:30pm.
I woke up at 6am to have breakfast, after 7am, I had to fast for surgery, which was hell because I was starving, but when we changed the birth date from the 13th to the 6th (a week ahead) I had to take whatever time was left and that was a 2:30pm delivery.
When it was time to leave for the hospital, my eldest son Aston was very excited, my second son Will? Not so much. My mum came over to babysit them, I gave them a teary cuddle and kiss and said, “Goodbye boys, we are going to get your baby brother out” (Yes, we found out what we were having, but this is a story for next time so hold your horses on this one and I will explain it then) and off I went with my luggage and headed to the hospital. The drive there was weird, it all hadn’t sunk in yet, I was going to have a baby, I was going to have surgery. Shit! In that moment, I remembered that I was about to have surgery to get the baby out. The entire pregnancy I didn’t really, really, think about the surgery part, I had been so busy with the boys and work, and then I started to get flustered and scared. “I hope my baby is healthy” I said to myself, Shit! I didn’t think about that lately either, “Please Lord, let me have a perfectly healthy baby to add to my little family and please bless the surgeon to have a steady hand and keep me safe.” I prayed.
We arrived at the hospital, left basically everything except my phone and my husband in the car and we went to the Day Procedure to ‘get the baby out’. We were the only ones in the waiting room and before we knew it I was checked in and ushered into a little cubical where a nurse did my obs (blood pressure, temperature etc) handed Josh and I our scrubs to put on (I had to get completely naked underneath it) and then the panic went from a five to a six. Again, I remembered that I was going into surgery just down that hall and there was nothing I could do about it, it was the only way the baby will come out. Josh saw me start to freak out, my eyes were enlarged and so he tried to distract me with silly conversation.
The nurse came back with a drink he called a ‘tequila shot’ that I had to take for some reason I didn’t ask why. Then, I was tagged on my wrist and leg for identification purposes and my darling midwife, Midwife Cath arrived, scrubs and all (and her trademark red lipstick of course).
My obstetrician Len Kliman was away and I had a replacement obstetrician whom I hadn’t met before, but something about his name seemed so trustworthy I was happy to meet him the day of surgery and not at his office the week before for a meet and greet. Cath, is Len Kliman’s midwife and my good friend and she was always going to be by my side at this birth as she was for my second birth.
All the doctors who were going to look after me in surgery came in to meet me in my cubical, things were getting realer-than-real and I could feel my anxiety starting to show from the outside. Cath noticed this. Cath started silly conversations too.
I then met Hayden Waterham, my obstetrician for the day (see, I told you he had a great name!) He basically had me at hello, he was warm, gentle, funny, reassuring, mentioned he was a father of four, cool-calm-collected, I knew I was in good hands.
It was time. I gave my husband one last kiss and one stare into his eyes to remind him how scared I was, just so he knew! Cath held my hand and we walked down that cold sterile corridor to an operating room. The double doors opened and a familiar sight, the same exact operating room I was in for my last caesarean, people in scrubs everywhere, there would have been eight people in the room. A table in the middle, ready for me to ‘get the baby out’ big lights and a Midnight Oil playlist playing, Gah! Couldn’t they vibe I was more of a Beiber girl?
Straight up it was the spinal block time, the absolute part I was dreading first, heck, my first birth I refused an epidural because I was more scared of being paralysed than the pain of birth! The second part I was dreading, was to come later after the baby was born, I will get to this soon.
There was no time for delaying or feeling sorry for me, it had to be done and I was there for it to be done.
I was sitting on the table, legs dangling over one side and I was given a pillow to cuddle as I curled forward over it. I don’t really know why, maybe for comfort or distraction or position? Cath was in front of me and my head nestled into her, another random nurse next to her also holding me and keeping me still as I could be. The anaesthetist then washed my back with something, put a square sticker (I am guessing) over my back with what felt like had a square window in the middle of it for him to then put the needle in. I was so anxious but I knew I had to calm myself, anticipate a prick in my spine and be as still as I could be. Cath’s calm voice spoke through everything that was happening so I knew what was going on. Then, just as I was warned, a prick in the spine, “Ah!” I said uncontrollably. It didn’t really hurt but I immediately felt as though a gush of warm water flooded in my right butt cheek. This was not something I felt last time I had a caesarean. I had a funny feeling about this and I knew, I just knew something wasn’t right.
My back felt like there was a needle still in it or tubes or something on my back and they asked me to gently lay down on the table but I was hesitant because I thought there was something behind me, apparently there was nothing there, it was just the feeling from the aesthetic. I was lying on the table and everyone in the room started to run around and set up for surgery, prep my tummy and get this thing going. The thing was, I was still moving my legs. They put up the bars and the material screen that blocks my face from seeing my tummy and there I was saying “Ummm, I can still feel my legs!” I was so anxious and the fact I was saying this and moving my legs was making it more heightened. I was told to wait a little longer to let it set in. Nope, still felt them! The anaesthetist tested my skin with an ice pack, putting it on my legs and up my body and asked if it felt cold,
“Yes!” I said!
“We are going to have to do it again”. He said.
And BOOM! Just like that, my anxiety went from around 8 to 20 and I was gone! I went into fight or flight mode, my face was puffed up, my eyes dilated and jaw clenched, but I was still able to mouth the words “I am scared” and “am I ok?” to Cath, my rock, my support who knows me so well and what to do to help me at my highest of anxiousness (we have been through this before).
The pillow came back out, I was sitting up on the edge of the table again, with one numb right bum cheek, Cath in front of me, a random nurse and also a second midwife there holding me. I was petrified.
I was scared that something was going to go wrong, worried that something did go wrong with the first try and I would end up paralysed or something. My brain was foggy, my jaw was clenched and I was a space cadet. I let them do their thing, the sticker on the back, the pillow, the back wash, the prick. I looked up at Cath and mouthed the words “I just want him to be healthy, I just want a healthy baby.” It was a circle of things I was anxious about, me, the birth itself and delivering a healthy child.
I laid back on the bed and this time, I could slowly feel my legs get heavy and warm. It worked. The anaesthetist tested this just to be sure as did the obstetrician, with something sharp apparently, but I didn’t feel it.
The sheet went up again and the room was living again, people doing things, running around and it was action time. They decided it was time to get Josh in. Josh came in all calm, he had been through this before and he was ready with my iphone to show me photos of our boys and Noosa holidays in a photo album I made for this very moment to distract myself, but when he tried to show me, he couldn’t quite work me out.
You see, I was gone, my anxiety was through the roof, my jaw was still clenched shut, my eyes were like a possum in lights and I wasn’t talking to him, I was staring straight at the anaesthetist. Later that night, Josh told me how he felt in that moment. He said he had no idea what was going on and what had happened to me. He said he looked around the room to see if there was any indication from any of the eight or so people’s faces, all he knew was that I was having really bad anxiety and there was nothing he could do to help me.
I was staring at the anaesthetist the whole time, I kept saying “Am I going to be ok?” I am not sure if he said yes or no or totally ignored me, I am not sure that even if he did bend down, hold my hand and said, “You are going to be perfectly fine, this happens very often” that I would have believed him, or maybe it would have made me feel better? I am not sure.
The familiar smells and sounds from my first caesarean were present, the smell of burning and then the sound of a vacuum sucking water (my waters breaking). The entire time, Cath and the ob kept me informed of what was happening, even though I was a zombie staring at the anaesthetist. Then I hear “He will be out in a few minutes” but I didn’t really care, I was scared. I knew and Josh knew, he was going to have to step up as soon as the baby came out. Then I hear “That’s a lot of hair!” and Cath starts to take photos and tell me everything that was happening. I was so scared he wouldn’t come out crying, that something would go wrong and before I knew it, I heard two things “Wow he is weeing!” and “Wawawawa” that continuous shaking crying voice of a baby taking its first breaths.
I was relieved to hear him cry, but you would never have known it by looking at me, jaw was still clenched, tears streaming down my face and then I started to feel scared and a little bit funny.
“You have your brother’s nose!” Said Josh about the similarities between Freddie and Will. They showed me my baby, I nodded and I cried and they took him away to be checked. Josh had tears also, he stood up and followed the baby to cut the cord and watch him as he was looked at by the paediatrician. In this moment when I had William, my second son, I was so in the moment and I chanted “I just had a baby, I just had a baby” whilst crying tears of joy and love and I couldn’t wait to get him in my arms.
My right arm was sore, it was kind of just clinging to the screen frame that was in front of me, whilst the other arm had a drip in it and was supported by Cath and a little stand. I started to feel nauseous and slowly I could feel the shock and shakes come on, just as I had last time. Josh came over to me with the baby all wrapped up, Freddie was crying but Josh knew what to do to keep him calm. Unlike my first, natural birth when I could just simply pop Aston on my breast and feel skin to skin, I just wasn’t able to do this this time with Freddie. Josh could read me so clearly and he totally manned up and had control of the situation with the baby and he let Cath care for me during the twenty minutes it took to stitch me up. Midnight Oil was really pissing me off and my arm was sore and still didn’t know if I was going to be ok after the double epidural and I was so self conscious that I was a new mum and I wasn’t holding my beautiful baby. Wow, five minutes for the baby to come out and twenty to stich it again.
When the obstetrician had finished, I was wheeled, still lying on the bed, into a recovery area where several midwives were waiting. Josh was holding Freddie in a chair and I began to shake uncontrollably. Imagine you are so cold, like you are naked in the snow, I was shivverying and shaking my entire body and nothing could keep me warm. Josh had told the midwives before I was wheeled in that I would need a blanket and not to make me try skin to skin with the baby. I still had heightened anxiety which totally made this situation worse, and not even a heated air blanket was helping me. A midwife came in and was wondering why I wasn’t having skin to skin or feeding my baby. Again, I looked at Josh to speak for me and he said, “No, she can’t hold him, she isn’t ready yet, she is afraid she will drop him”. Thank you, Josh, I still wasn’t capable of holding my darling boy, what if I dropped him? I wanted the first moment with my baby to be special not forced.
I was given some pain killers, probably some injections or drip or something, I was so dazed I can’t quite remember, but I remember I was in recovery, still shaking, still numb for at least half an hour until there was a room ready for me up in the maternity ward. Actually, I think I did hold Freddie for a minute, I felt so pressured to do so and I felt so terrible for not doing it that I am pretty sure I did. You see, it’s not that I didn’t want to hold my boy, it is that I was mentally not 100% as I had been anxious and I was physically shivering like crazy!
I was ready to go up to the maternity ward, the person that escorts you up (wheels me up still in my bed as I can’t walk or feel my legs) was wondering why I wasn’t holding my baby, apparently the protocol is to wheel the mum and she holds the baby. This is so the mum and baby are not separated in the lifts. Josh told them that he could wheel the baby in the bassinette and there was back and forth about this as they didn’t want this to happen, but it was resolved by having a midwife go in the lift with Josh to ‘escort’ him and then we met when we reached the maternity level.
Once in my room, I still couldn’t feel my lower half of my body, but the shivering calmed down a lot, but I was still shivering. It would have been about 45minutes and I was absolutely ready to try and feed my baby, hold him and love him. He fed straight away, we both knew what we were doing, it was magic. I knew I was having another boy, but I didn’t know that loving three children was so easy, it was like I had known him forever. This is the exact moment I wanted for me and my boy, I was calmer, the shaking was minimal so I felt safe holding him and my anxiety had gone down.
Once my shakes subsided, I still couldn’t feel my legs. It took until midnight that night for me to stop feeling numb, must be the double spinal I had. Then, after the shivering and the numbness came the pain. It is a constant aching pain where the scar was and of course when you breastfeed, you get contraction pains as your uterus contracts and starts to go down in size, oh I didn’t even mention the catheter, not that it hurt, I just had a catheter in FYI. I was on four types of pain killers from the first night, real heavy drugs like endone and tramadol and little old me, well, I don’t event take Panadol at home so the drugs worked super fast on me and made me super dizzy. This night, I was give three endone at once! I was flying!
Josh went home that first night around 10:30pm when I was able to put Freddie into the nursery so I could sleep and recover as suggested by the midwives. I couldn’t move, I was bed bound but all I wanted to do was walk and get my baby, this is something that I did with my other two boys, put them in the nursery the first night but then request for them back because I missed them. I couldn’t stop thinking about him, I was wide awake, I think I had so much adrenalin (and endone) running through me from such a big day physically and mentally but I was just stuck the bed. I could have called a midwife to bring him in to me but I knew that it was best for me to rest and at least try to sleep. Mum guilt kicked in and I felt guilty that I didn’t hold him straight away, do skin to skin and even hold him while we were wheeled from the recovery to the room I was in. Although looking back at it now, it was only around 2 hours or less from when he was born until I held him but at the time, it felt like a life time.
I ended up dozing in and out of sleep between the midwives coming in every hour to check me, do my blood pressure, give me pain killers and change my pad and catheter (all this made me feel really safe and my anxiety was completely gone) and by 5am my baby was wheeled back into my room and I was ready to start the day as a new mum to this baby. I was so eager to have a shower, to get up and walk a little and put some clothes on as I was still in the gown I gave birth in (scrubs). Josh came in bright and early and really looked after me and Freddie. He knew how eager I was to shower and get dressed and move into a bigger room, he could tell I just wanted to feel normal. They say the husband or partner sees how strong the wife is after the birth of their child, but I also saw how loving and strong my husband was during this time and just how much I needed him.
The obstetrician came in to see me (he did this every day) and he checked on me and my wound and every day, he reassured me that I was healing well and any issues or questions I had, he answered and put my mind to ease, it was such a great way to start every morning in the hospital after seeing him. If I had any inch of anxiety, I would tell him what I was worried about such as my sore right arm, dizziness etc and he put it in its place straight away and I was satisfied. If you are new to my blog or missed a blog post I wrote about my health anxiety, it is explained (HERE).
It was time to stand up for the first time. You think it would be just like jumping out of bed like you normally do, but it wasn’t like that at all. It was such a slow process and my legs were soft and I was dizzy, I actually needed to hold onto the midwife with every movement from sitting up, standing up and walking into the shower. Although I felt super dizzy and thought I might just fall over in the shower, I worked hard on focusing and staying strong as my goal was to get into my new room asap. This small room was depressing and reminded me of how anxious I was, I needed a new start.
Aston and Will my two elder children came in whilst I was in this small room and I knew that this moment would be one I would treasure forever, I am kind of glad it happened in this room as all my memories of feeling anxious and shaking and shock were replaced by images of the first cuddles between three brothers.
I was moved into a bigger room (huge room!) whilst my boys were visiting and the rest of my time in hospital was an absolute joy. I loved being alone with my little Freddie, I loved having my boys visit us and I loved the support and care I received from the midwives and staff at Epworth Freemasons. I was in the best hands and in the end, I didn’t want to leave! I could go on and on about my stay in the hospital and those first few days, but I could save that for another blog post.
You know what they say about a caesarean being the easy way out? Well it is definitely not the case. Having a caesarean is major surgery, it involves emotions and fear, documents to sign, a scar, pain, pain killers and side effects, not to mention a slow and long recovery. My two caesareans were so different, not in the procedure side of things because that was all the same (minus the double epidural) even the recovery shakes and shock was the same, but within me and my personal emotions and metal state, it was two complete opposite experiences. You know what they do say that is true? Every birth is different, ain’t that the truth!
To read about my first Caesarean with my second son click HERE
To read about my first birth (natural) click HERE