I’m going to try and make this as easy as possible without scaring anyone who may be reading. Most of these things I’m about to talk about can be avoidable, I just had to learn the difficult way! When I found out that we were going to have to schedule a c section, my first thought was “I’ve never had surgery in my life and now the first time I have an operation I’m getting a baby out of it” so naturally, I was nervous. Not only was I nervous to have major surgery but my first child was about to be born! It was a lot to take in. I went home and looked on the Internet at how to prepare for a c section,
the process, the scale of pain I may be in (I find those who say “I was walking around Asda the next day” to be total bullshitters but correct me if I’m wrong!) and how long on average I’ll be in the hospital. I read that I’d be on strong painkillers for days, I’ll be going home around 3 days after the surgery and that I’ll have nurses to help me shower and walk around the day after. So it all looked hopeful and I was feeling ready to become a mum! When I first got told I’d probably be having a c section I was the tiniest bit disappointed that I’d not experience a natural birth but 17 months on and I couldn’t care less how Dexter arrived. He was breech so I’m just happy that he arrived healthy and that I was okay too but my main focus was on him and to make sure he got here the safest way possible. For us, that was a c section.
It was surreal waking up the morning of the birth and getting ready as you would any normal day, knowing that you’d be coming home with an extra person and that your life would never be the same again. We went to the hospital where we were brought into a room with six beds filled by nervous expecting women with their men sat next to them with fear in their eyes. We all gave each other an uncertain but supportive nod and I was shown to my bed. All women were there for c sections that morning and we got told to put on our gowns and stockings, after doing so it was only natural to take some selfies of myself in such sexy attire.
The doctor came round and told me what would happen, who was who, I got weighed, they examined me and then they moved along to the next lady who I noticed had the same anxious shaken voice that I had whilst answering their questions. It could be any moment now that one of us was called. It was suddenly very real. I was trembling and tense, part of me wanted to run out of the doors and say “nah not today! I’ll come back another day!” I was here for the long run and that was the end of it! As I looked over at Jamie to tell him that I was scared, I noticed that he was asleep in the world’s most uncomfortable chair and all I could think was “HOW CAN YOU BE NAPPING RIGHT NOW?” I let him sleep until a doctor came over and said “they’re preparing theatre for you now” yikes. I shook Jamie awake calmly, trying to settle the panic that was beginning to emerge and said “Babe. You’re going to have to wake up now as it’s our turn.” Maybe it was the calmness in my voice, maybe it was just the fact we were about to become parents but his face froze, his eyes wide, his gaze wandered my face and I wondered if he was trying to work out if I was being serious or if he was trying to work out how I felt. I had already told him not to ask me too often how I was feeling. This was ACTUALLY happening, I’d been waiting for the moment I met my first baby for nine months now and I was about to so I told myself to take each step I was about to make as it comes.
Step 1. Go into theatre. Don’t think about much else until you reach step 2.
Step 2. Have the spinal injection. Don’t think about much else until that’s over.
I must have counted around 20 steps and it went a little bit like that. Just don’t think of the entire process all at once because it’s too overwhelming.
Jamie laughed at me walking into the theatre room where I casually strolled in and said “I’m here for a baby, where shall I sit?” They told me to sit on the edge of the bed where I’d be given some drugs and my spinal injection. The surgeons were amazing people, they made me feel so comfortable and looked after, they made chit chat and they laughed amongst themselves just like any old day at the office but always communicated professionally. The nurse who was looking after me and Jamie during the surgery asked if we had prepared a CD beforehand so we could have it played during the birth (one of the best things we did was making that cd, I absolutely highly recommend it) and she put it on just before I had the injection in my back. It stung a lot and I had thought it was just one injection, turns out there are a few infections you have in your back. But I took a deep breath, held jamies hand and listened to the lyrics of our songs. I still had my eyes closed when they told me to lay down, I hadn’t felt any effect whilst I was sat up and was waiting for my legs to suddenly feel like they didn’t belong to me. Instead, they started to lay me down on the bed and that’s when I noticed that my legs were numb. Kind of. I literally can’t explain what it felt like! I couldn’t feel anything but whenever someone touched my legs it felt like pins and needles. That’s the only way I can explain it. Anyway, when I noticed that I was numb I panicked, it was such an alien feeling and then it felt like I was going to cry because it became real that I was about to die. (Not even being dramatic. I was petrified of dying!) I shouted “OH MY GOD I CAN’T FEEL MY LEGS” in a horrified manner whilst the surgeons and Jamie laughed. My sarcastic man said “did you not want to be numb whilst they cut into you?” Perfect moment, Jamie. Thanks for reminding me. Then they told me that the bed was going to be tilted and again, I panicked because I had visions of me falling and landing on my bump so I looked at the nurse and said “please don’t let me fall when they tilt me”… turns out they’d tilted me minutes beforehand. I sound like I was a panicking mess but I only had a couple of humorous moments to everyone else, I was comforted by the surgeons saying how calm I am and that they have women nearly passing out sometimes. God I’d have hated to have been that anxious!
“Can you feel anything?” The male surgeon asked, and when I said I couldn’t, bracing myself for that first incision, he said “good, because we’ve already started the surgery” all of my panic demolished and instead I was filled with anticipation. A couple of after care assistants had come into the surgery at this point and I was explained that they were here to check the baby when it’s first born and that they’d be in the recovery unit with us too. I smiled at them and noticed that one of them was young, blonde and had a friendly face who smiled excitedly back. The other was middle aged, dark hair and looked bored; I over heard her complaining about her lunch schedule and gossiping about work colleagues whilst I was having my first ever baby, talk about time and place. Instead I focused on my song that was playing and listened to each word, it was the song I had picked that I hoped Dexter was born to (‘One day like this’ by Elbow) and I remembered how just two days beforehand I was in the waiting room at the doctors on my own, at my last ever midwife appointment, when this song came on and I was filled with crazy emotions that made me cry with a combination of happiness and suspense. The song struck a chord and I went home to Jamie saying that it has to go on our c section cd; and here we were having our baby. I drowned out the gossip, the people who were talking to me, my thoughts and just listened to this song until…
The most beautiful sound in the world.
I heard my baby cry for the first time, I was filled with instant love and a desperation to hold him in my arms after such a long wait. Does he look like me or Jamie? Is he okay? Please let me have the experience of seeing him like I would have done if I wasn’t strapped down to this damn bed. All of those thoughts in a split second went rushing through my mind, I felt like I couldn’t breathe because I was holding my breath waiting for just a snippet of a single vision, the sight of our son. I was looking ahead desperately trying to see over the sheet which they’d propped in front of me (to avoid me seeing the surgery). I had written it loud and clear in my birthing plan that despite having a c section I wanted the same experience to see or even hold my baby first but at that moment I looked over at Jamie who was crying and gazing in another direction. Why wasn’t he looking at the surgeons with expectancy like me? Was my baby already somewhere else with somebody else? Then I noticed two tiny feet laying in the corner of the theatre room, being weighed and checked by the ladies that had joined us later. He had already been born and held by someone else. I shook myself out of the disappointment and told Jamie to go and see him, I just remember asking over and over “is he ok? Can I see him?” Jamie turned around with our baby wrapped up in a blanket in his arms, joy and emotion pouring down his face whilst he walked over to the bed. It was only about ten steps away but it felt like I was watching him walk over with Dexter for what felt like a lifetime. He was placed next to me on the bed where I craned my neck trying to get a good look at his small face but could only make out his nose. “He has my nose!” I stroked his head which had a small amount of dark hair as he cried into my ear. I whispered to him that I was his mum and that it was nice to meet him (how British of me).
The next few hours felt like a blur. I was tired and felt sick from the drugs as they finished the surgery, I was put into a bed to be escorted to the recovery unit where I got to hold Dexter in one arm for the first time. 40 minutes after he was born. One of the surgeons told me that we were both healthy and that I had very minimal bleeding that wouldn’t require any iron medications unless I bled during after care. I was pleased that we were both here and safe, I couldn’t have asked for better surgeons.
The recovery unit was busy and I was monitored for a few hours, wires sticking out of me, everything blurry and bright from the drugs still. The bitchy woman from theatre was my main Carer in the recovery ward and she seemed passive towards me, I wasn’t sure if she was just busy or just not very nice. I said to her “I didn’t get to see my baby in the theatre” Just looking for some reassurance or comfort but she said “well sorry but I had to take him to get weighed. Surely you didn’t want your baby to be freezing cold?” So it was her who decided to not let me have a one second glance in the theatre. I ignored her comment and just gazed at Jamie cradling Dexter, my two boys.
Minutes later the same woman comes back and says “we have to get you cleaned up” and starts trying to roll me over onto my side with the help of the friendly nurse who looked sympathetic towards me. I’m not surprised to be fair, I looked like a zombie who had shat herself. Literally. Now I had only just come out of surgery and was still numb, I couldn’t feel anything at all except how heavy I felt when someone moved me. So when this woman tried rolling me over to clean me she tutted, huffed and said “TRY TO HELP ME for God sake” but when I explained that I couldn’t move on my own she pushed as hard as she could and I ended up with my face almost against the bed rails, a piercing pain racing through my insides where they were being pushed into the sides of the bed. The younger girl tried helping so that there wasn’t as much force but it didn’t work, she was shoved as much as I was by this moody nurse.
I clocked her shaking her head at her work colleague but I switched off, I told Jamie not to look at me whilst she cleaned me (I mean come on, I was having my arse wiped) and I watched him cuddle our newborn son. It wasn’t until the nurse muttered “disgusting” that I felt like crying at how undignified it all felt. I mean I’ve never cared about what health professionals think of me in any state because they’ve seen it all before but this woman was acting like she would rather be anywhere else than there at that point. I get it, she was wiping someone’s bum so she probably did wish she was elsewhere but why make me suffer? Why make me feel disgusted in myself?
She then told me she needed to take my blood pressure again and slammed my arm straight (onto the metal bed frame), I told her that it had hurt and she said “Don’t be silly, you need your blood pressure taking” with no apology or acknowledgment that she’d unintentionally hurt me. So I did as I was told, but when she walked out of the room I told Jamie that she was a horrible person. He said he’d say something if she carried on behaving that way but I was adamant that it didn’t matter and wasn’t going to ruin anything. Just at that moment she was in the room again, this time she took Dexter straight out of jamies arms and said to me “your care plan says you want to try breastfeeding?” (Oh so she DOES know how to read care plans) I nodded whilst she helped me to unravel my gown and positioned Dexter into place. He cried and looked like he didn’t know what to do, every time he tried to drink anything he looked like he wasn’t getting anything and to me it felt like I was being nipple crippled by iron man, it was so painful! The woman persisted to help and told me that we’d try again soon when my milk had come in properly. She came back and tried over and over and over again until she said “he’s getting something, look your milk is coming out just fine” but I didn’t see what she was talking about. She asked if we had a onesie for Dexter so we got out his first outfit which was a pair of newborn trousers, a top, cardigan, socks and a hat. Jamie had never changed a newborn baby before and I still couldn’t move from the bed so he asked her to help him but the reaction she gave Jamie was once again, rude and disrespectful. “So I have to put him in this outfit rather than a onesie? I guess I don’t have a choice if neither of you can do it. But you’ll have to learn.” I wanted to yell at her that she needs to learn some fucking patience and respect but for the first time in my life, I forgot how to be opinionated and instead worried that if we spoke up we’d get treated even worse. She helped Dexter into his outfit and the nicer nurse came in to run more tests on me, it all got too much and with the drugs mixed in too I quickly said to her that I needed to vomit, she got the bowl to me just in time for me to vomit an entire bowl full. That was the start of a six hour vomitfest!
Every time I tried to position myself to hold Dexter or have a sip of tea, I’d vomit. Every time I coughed or laughed, I’d vomit. Every time that evil woman came back in the room, it filled me with anxiety and you guessed it… I’d vomit.
One of the times she was in the room she looked at Dexter and said “HIS HAT HAS FALLEN OFF! If that happens again he will have to go to the special care unit.” and then walked straight back out. I burst into tears. Jamie was angry. She was ruining everything. But the next time she visited she looked at Dexter and said loudly “He has a nasal flare. Nasal flare! We need to get the specialist from ICU to come and have a look at him. He may be struggling to breathe and might need to be taken down there instead” and again just walked out. I was panicked, I was scared he wasn’t breathing as well as he should be. That lady said those things urgently and rushed out of the room but an hour later we were still waiting for the pediatrician to take a look at our boy (nicest lady in the WORLD by the way), and when she turned up she took one minute to come up with “I honestly don’t know what she was talking about. He’s absolutely perfect.” She was smiling at our perfect boy, asking us questions about him and asked if she could do anything for us. It brought me so much joy knowing that someone as friendly and reassuring as her was working on a unit for babies and families who truly deserve somebody like her. At least my boy was healthy, I’m blessed for that. I still couldn’t help but feel disappointed when the mean woman came back in. The difference between her and that pediatrician was evident and she lacked any compassion. But luckily for us she came in and said “Everything OK? Do you need anything?” I looked at Jamie surprised by her friendly tone and wondered if someone else had complained. When we told her that everything is fine and we don’t need anything she smiled and walked out shouting “Right everyone. I’m off for four days now so I’ll see you all next week! None of the ladies need anything, they’re about to go onto a ward.” So that’s why she was suddenly friendly, she was going bloody home! But I was so relieved to be leaving the recovery unit to be looked after on a ‘proper’ ward!
I was still vomiting in the evening on the new ward, I was in a lot of pain where I had got my feeling back and I was being given painkillers every few hours. God I remember feeling so tired but nurse after nurse came in and tried getting us to breast feed our son, I was ready to give up until I realised that our formula had gone missing or we had misplaced it on our journey around the hospital. I was tired, sick, and in a lot of pain so maybe they were right. Maybe Dexter WAS feeding fine after all and I was just being over emotional! I couldn’t fall asleep because of the vomiting and I still hadn’t held Dexter properly, nobody warned me about the sickness. The nurses kept coming in and giving me new sick bowls until I eventually said to one of them “is there nothing you can give me instead of a bowl?” The nurse said “Do you want an anti sickness injection?” ERM. FUCK YES. Why did it take someone so long to even offer me this enlightening creation? I had one shot of the stuff straight in the leg and didn’t vomit again. (It was amazing. I need some of that stuff for mornings after I’ve been partying with my bestie!)
I finally went to sleep for a short while until something woke me (read on at your own risk, it’s gory and TMI), I felt clots passing out of me. Big clots that made me jump with each passing and a gushing down my legs. I pressed my alarm button and a nurse came in who told me that she’d be back in a minute with some wipes and some pads. I was falling in and out of sleep and felt weak, I pushed my alarm button and the same nurse came in and said “i brought you a tea quickly, sorry I was longer than expected. I’m just bringing those wipes.” I waited again and heard nothing. The bleeds had settled down but I felt it all down my legs and on the sheets, I hadn’t noticed that I wasn’t wearing any knickers or a pad until then. I couldn’t try to get up because I had a catheter inserted and I was in agonising pain. I tried calling out for Jamie or for a nurse but where I’d been sick or had drugs that day, I’d also lost my voice. So I reached for the alarm button again, not caring whether or not I was being pushy as I felt so disgusting and undignified laying there in my own blood. But instead I found that my alarm button had gone. The woman who had brought in my tea placed it on a table with my alarm button and had instead moved the alarm out of reach! I thought to myself “please. Not again. Not more shit care” and cried. Instead I found the baby wipes she was bringing me next to my tea so I assume she left them for me to clean myself. I started cleaning myself, the wipe being scorched with red instantly. I got through nearly an entire packet when Jamie woke up and said “what are you doing? Why didn’t you ask me to help?!” He rushed out of the chair he’d been sleeping in and listened to me whisper what had happened. He was furious because we expected someone to at least communicate with us that they were too busy to help, so Jamie lifted the quilt to clean me and he froze. I knew instantly that it must look awful but he calmly put the covers back over me and said he’d find a nurse. Behind the curtains he might as well have screamed “HELP! OMG. BLOOD. EVERYWHERE.” because when he said “could someone please come and look at my partner? Her bedsheets are covered in blood. I think she’s lost too much” I knew that it must have looked bad. A woman came in that I hadn’t ever seen and looked shocked at the sight of me, she came back a minute later with a flannel, warm water, some pads, knickers and helped me get washed and changed the bedsheets. She was so friendly and gentle with me, thank God I didn’t have to get Jamie to clean everything up. She noticed I still had my catheter in and said “well it’s 6am now. Do you want me to remove it for you?” As she did she winced and said “that was in there the slightest bit too high so you might have a stinging sensation when you wee.” (OUCH. IT DID STING. A LOT.)
Hours later it was breakfast time, the trolly came round and I was given cornflakes. Just dumped at the end of the bed on a tray. She walked out. Jamie tutted and said to me “some basic bloody care wouldn’t hurt anyone would it?” But I didn’t care anymore. I was in too much pain. I was stinging in my lady area, I had pain all over my stomach, I felt sick and my nipples were starting to bleed from the constant pushing to breast feed. I didn’t want to eat anyway (which was just as well because when lunch came round on the trolley, they missed myself and two others mums out and we ended up with scraps from the kitchen, yum!).
Eventually I confronted a midwife and said “I’m being told that breastfeeding is working but he seems constantly hungry, he won’t stop crying and I’m in pain. Our formula has been misplaced so I’m wanting to discharge myself and son today” and they said they’d get a doctor to come and look at me before allowing that. That was at 10am.
I tried getting out of bed so that I had more chance of being discharged but it wasn’t happening. It felt like I was being ripped apart from the inside, I had never known pain like getting out of bed for that first time. To this day, I can’t remember what it was like because I’ve blocked out that pain. I was sobbing and when a nurse came in I said “there must be something stronger I can have to make this easier? What pain relief have I been taking?” I had just been popping those bad boy pills when they were given to me, not even questioning what I was putting into my body. The reply that came back shocked me.
I had been taking paracetamol since I had my c section. I assumed I’d be taking something much stronger than that, it doesn’t even touch the sides of a bloody headache. I was mortified and said “well, can I have something else?”
She suggested morphine. Why wasn’t that offered before?! I took the morphine and 15 minutes later I was slowly walking around the ward. NEXT TIME I NEED TO RAID THE NURSES CUPBOARD AND STEAL MYSELF SOME ANTI SICKNESS INJECTIONS AND MORPHINE YO’!
My mum came to visit me first and then jamies parents did. The breastfeeding attempts came to and end when a nurse walked in whilst we had visitors, didn’t say a word to me and just pulled down my nightie and attached a sleeping Dexter to my boob who suddenly started crying. I was in shock that someone had just handled me like a milking cow in front of our family (breastfeeding is natural I get that, but they should ASK to get your breasts out instead of hitching down my nightie) and I said “That’s it. I’m done. I want to go home NOW. We’ve been waiting for ten hours to see a doctor and this whole experience has been awful.” They all sat there in silence as I explained that I’d like to be discharged. The nurse actually said to us all “you’ll probably have better care at home anyway”. Shocking.
When I was discharged they told me that I had blood loss from my surgery and I’ll need to be on iron tablets for a couple of months. I didn’t believe that, the surgeon told me I had minimal blood loss (20ml) and won’t need any supplement medications as long as I don’t bleed during my aftercare. I think my blood loss was during the night when nobody came to me and they were passing it off on someone else. I took them and looked at the woman in the bed opposite who had also had a c section and had a similar experience. She’d been crying for hours and she nodded at me reassuringly, I knew I was doing the right thing by leaving. I walked at snail pace out of the hospital, the day after surgery, taken aback at how the whole experience went. Sure it could have been a hell of a lot worse but it could have been much better too. I was grateful for the nurses who showed us empathy, care and maintained my dignity – they stick out in my mind the most. The pediatrician I met for example, I’d rather someone like her work with the babies and families that needed the best care (ICU) than taking care of a healthy baby and mum. I can deal with a few crap moments in my birth experience knowing that we got out healthy and happy.
Dexter was checked over weeks later by a health visitor who instantly noticed he had a tongue tie, she said that it was very short and there was no way he could have breast fed. I was angry that nobody had picked up on it after all of the breastfeeding fuss at the hospital but relieved that my maternal instincts were correct. I’m glad that I went home and gave him formula milk.
I know and have met many individuals in the care industry who are fantastic at their jobs. This post wasn’t to discriminate against the NHS or health care professionals in any way, it was just my journey. Unfortunately I know that being understaffed is only too real and have experienced that burden personally whilst working in care homes. But being understaffed doesn’t excuse some of the ignorant behaviour and awful terminology that I received when I had my baby. I’m well aware that having a c section made me ‘harder work’ but instead of making me feel bad for that, they could have taken a step back and thought to themselves that i’m just there to have my baby. I didn’t mean to cause more work or fuss, a lot of these things that happened could have been avoided with the correct care or if I’d complained sooner. Luckily I DID meet some people along the way who did exactly what I’d expect. They cared completely. I thank those people and all of those who work in a care job who DOES inevitably care.
I’ve worked in care homes and have come across good and bad so please don’t think I’m dissing anyone’s difficult job or work ethic! I’m just naming the things that emotionally traumatised me after having my baby for a short while. As little as these things might seem, it was my journey and I feel that I loved each moment despite the bad times because I was united with my son. The love of my life. I came out of this rocky experience with a healthy little boy when others haven’t had that chance and for that, I’m truly grateful and couldn’t have done that without an amazing team of professionals to make that happen.