birth by C-section
Labour & birth

Real birth story: Birth by C-section

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.

Not happening

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.”

birth by C-section

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.

birth by C-section

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.

More like this:

More real birth stories
Real birth story: Change of plan
My hallway homebirth


Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….


Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.