Geraldine Walsh recounts her daughter Allegra’s birth story: birth by C-section.
Our daughter, Allegra, was born by emergency Caesarean-section on a damp and dreary Wednesday in October, in 2013. This was clearly not in my birth plan. In fact, a C-section was something I blatantly refused to imagine would ever be a possibility. Either through fear or ignorance, I decided that I simply was not having a C-section – so I didn’t prepare for one at all. At all! I’m not exactly Mother Nature.
You would imagine that working as a senior library assistant in a maternity hospital would mean I have a wealth of knowledge on obstetrical and gynaecological conditions. Yes, while I know and claim to understand a fair amount of issues, everything went out the window once that stick screamed pregnant.
Small Baby? Big Baby?
Throughout my pregnancy, Allegra was classed as a small baby. I had very little to complain about, being wonderfully neat and glowing. I did have awful morning sickness though that only gave me a two-week break in July, but I suffered through it.
Despite the usual kidney infections, morning sickness and regular aches/pains and troubles of pregnancy, I managed well. Especially when I developed a craving for BBQ Rib Doritos, I was a happy lass on my first pregnancy. Every appointment was a dream in the Rotunda Hospital as I visited my obstetrician in the private clinics.
Ignorance is bliss
I was scared and nervous and decided to know little – a Caesarean section was never really mentioned throughout my pregnancy. Everything was going to be okay, but things don’t always go to plan.
Regardless, a section wasn’t in my mind at all. I was however booked in for an induction on my due date as Allegra was a small baby and my obstetrician didn’t want me to go any further than the 40 weeks. That’s fine, I thought, we’re almost there. A million women have done this before me, it’ll all work out.
The induction was not nice. I’ll be honest I hope I never have to go through that again. Awkward, uncomfortable and painful. I was attached to the trace machine for hours, small break, back on it again, small break, back on it again. I started bleeding at midnight and was told that it can happen from the induction, not to worry and just keep an eye on it. But to me, there was just a bit too much blood to causally toss it to the side like that. I worried and worried and worried. Stage two of the induction occurred at 8am and I was still bleeding. It was unusual, I was told, but that was why I was still on the trace machine. I went through pad after pad after pad – apologies to the squeamish.
Despite it all, I failed to progress and developed clots. I was frightened because I was bleeding so much and was praying that my consultant would arrive and deliver our baby. My husband was incredible. He arrived back in at 8am after having been asked to leave at 11pm the night before. He kept me calm and supported me even though he was just as nervous and scared and knew just as little as me. At 2pm my consultant arrived and suggested that he wait outside as we had a giggle over his fears of childbirth (as all men have!) and blood, blood, blood. So Barry stepped out, examination took place and the consultant said, “It’s going to be an emergency C Section. And now.”
My face dropped. I’m sure I turned a hellish grey and I simply cried. This wasn’t how I wanted my first baby to be born. I feared the complications, the surgery, the pain, and everything that was unknown to me about C-sections. If only I had educated myself.
At 2:10pm Barry came back (he ran to shop and bought a sandwich – clever lad!) Turns out he would have needed that extra jolt of energy to get him through the next bit. I was talking to the anaesthetist and was being prepped for lines. By 2:30pm I was brought to theatre, given tablets and water, which I obligingly took because you do what you’re told in these situations and don’t ask questions – or at least I don’t.
Things happened quickly
The team in theatre, my obstetrician, and the anaesthetist were all simply incredible. In fact, they had me laughing at various points as they prepped me for surgery and my obstetrician was teasing Barry for being ‘the colour of the walls’ as he waited outside.
I had zero time to think about what was actually happening and I remember gently shaking as I sat on the table as the epidural was administered. A theatre nurse came over to me and held my hands and told me not to worry. Her poor hands were white by the time I let go, I held on to her that hard.
The staff danced around me. They seemed to effortlessly glide with instruments and ice cubes as they tested if I could feel anything in my legs and abdomen (a trick I was confused about and then realised what was happening – I was oddly impressed with the ingenuity of using an ice cube. I thought they’d use pins!).
And suddenly, they ushered Barry in and he was sitting by my side, holding my hand, asking me was I okay. The tears and worry he had seen before I entered theatre were gone, and I said, “Hun, epidurals are amazing,” and laughed. Everything was over in seven minutes. Allegra was born at 3:03pm, a time we will never forget. She was perfect and beautiful. She still is. I had a slight hiccup with vomiting on the table after the surgery, but as far as I know they simply lowered the dosage of whatever drug I was on and I was hunky dory again.
My top 3 tips for C-section recovery
If it were to happen again though there are three things I would do – plus a million others. But these three are near enough essential for those first few weeks during recovery. Next time, I’ll listen to myself.
1. Don’t Lift.
You’re not supermom and those stitches could easily burst open. Two weeks after the section I was lugging the baby’s car seat and buggy from door to door. I got a right telling off from my Mum who caught me one day. Of course I said, “Ah sure, I’m grand.” In hindsight, the risk is just not worth it. I was lucky to not cause myself any damage. Don’t be an idiot like me and just don’t lift any heavy loads. This leads me on to my next point.
2. Ask for Help.
Having a baby is tremendously hard on your body. They say it takes up to a year for your body to fully recover from the trauma and experience of it all. Throw abdominal surgery into the mix and you’ll do well to ask a friend or two for help. I was lucky that after Barry went back to work my mum came to our house and helped me get some much needed rest from exhaustion and to recuperate from the C-section and those first few exhausting weeks. She would arrive about 9am or 10am and with a hug and a smile she’d hop back into the car and drive home just before Barry came home from work.
Those two weeks were immeasurable. Not only did my mum help me to care for Allegra and teach me a thing or two about babies, she also gave me confidence. By the middle of week two she would come to my house and simply kept me company. I failed to notice, but she had gently stopped caring for her granddaughter as I took over and she looked after her own daughter instead. She made me realise that, yes, I could do this.
Once those two weeks were up, my folks jetted off to Spain, followed by Christmas and then they were gone again to visit my brother in Australia. They had four very busy months. I didn’t realise how much I relied on my parents and as my maternity leave moved on, I didn’t ask anyone else for help when I desperately needed it. By January, I was suffering from mild postnatal depression and still I didn’t ask for help when I needed it. It does you no good to suffer on your own. Just ask.
3. Take your Meds.
My obstetrician sat on my bed after surgery and said “take everything they throw at you.” And I second that. You can’t do it without medication. If you know you’ve missed a dose, ask for it. It helps. I managed relatively okay with the pain after about day three or four, but those first few days are painful. Take your medication and you’ll be okay.
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