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our second baby’s birth story | elective c section

Flinders is three weeks old tomorrow and is fitting into the family so well. I thought it was time we shared our second baby’s birth story.

We always knew that Flinders would arrive by elective c section. Tibby’s birth wasn’t unusual, but it was gruelling and difficult both psychologically and physically. I asked for an elective caesarian to help us come to terms with Flinders’ arrival, which has always been a source of anxiety for me in particular, and, also, to help us plan, plan, plan.

Three weeks before

I had a midwife appointment which revealed that Flinders was breech. This would have been a reason to book a c section in itself, but, as it was, the midwife was happy to book me in on my reasoning alone. She literally got out the birth unit’s planned c section diary (paper!) and put my sticker in on the day which was exactly 7 days before our due date. And, just like that, we knew what day our son would be born. WEIRD.

Three days before

I headed to the hospital for my ‘clerking’ appointment where my blood, urine, and other things were checked, and the midwife ran through the day’s procedure. It started to feel really exciting when she measured me for my horrible pressure socks! This was also the first time I came to terms with my niggling fears about the operation itself. I started to feel totally calm.

The day of the birth

The first part of the day was hard. David had to drop me at the hospital at 7.30am and then take Tibby to nursery. We had of course told her that Mummy was going to hospital to get Flinders, and her cheery little face, her waving, as they drove off, had me in tears. I wanted to run after them and say that everything would be ok, nothing would change. Instead, I shuffled into the birth unit.

At RUH Bath, you can buy a room of your own for the duration of your stay, for £150.00. David and I had discussed this and decided it was what we wanted. I get really upset by bright lights and other people’s distress, so, I wanted to hide away. Luckily, the team on the birth unit listened carefully to my worries and put me in a room as soon as they could. I spent the first part of the morning reading a book on a six bed ward, trying not to get too hot (birth units are always roasting, aren’t they?) and thinking about how matter of fact this all felt.

All around me, couples and mothers were in different stages of newborn craziness. Almost every scenario occurred. The gentle father hunting out breakfast for his wife who was grappling with feeding. The woman rushed by to theatre, bound for an emergency section. The long, low moans of a woman, deep in late stage contractions. Spend 30 minutes on a birthing unit if you ever want to see love at work. It really is all around you.

The c section

Soon enough, we were led down to a small room which was a little like a men’s changing room at a gym. Small piles of men’s clothes lay in each corner. David was told to put on some scrubs and crocs and the cap. We wondered if he would have to wear a beard snood (sadly not). Then we just waited there. It felt like I was waiting to either take part in a gladiatorial battle at the Colosseum, or go on stage with Guns N Roses at Wembley (both things I’d kid of like to do, but am a bit scared of).

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The midwife came to get us, and, this was the weirdest bit, we walked hand in hand to the operating theatre, the doors opened, and it was full of people. They all just got on with their jobs. The anaesthetist was the most talkative and her and her colleage got to work on my spinal block whilst the other 15 or so folks got ready to deliver Flinders.

Yes, the spinal block bit was hard. Keeping that still whilst somebody does that critical injection is difficult. I also hate cannulas, but they stuck a couple in anyway for the fluids and the other drugs. The anaesthetist said I would feel as if someone was pouring warm water on my seated bottom, and then my legs would go dead. And sure enough, within three minutes I couldn’t move.

They lay me down and tested my pain with cold jets of air to see what I could feel. I felt nothing below the boobs, aside from the numb sensation of being moved manually. Up went the curtain.

David was sat to my left, facing away from the curtain, holding my hand. He looked so happy and relaxed, and I just kept staring at him and talking to him and feeling like, actually, there was only the two of us there, until the midwife said, “they’re just going in with the forceps to bring him out, do you want to watch?”. David said no.

A minute later, probably less, David stood up and took pictures as Flinders came roaring into the world. Absolutely singing his heart out. I felt so, so calm and happy. Nobody spoke, nobody shouted, everyone just let me and David soak up the moment.

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David cut the cord, and I’d asked for skin on skin, so they brought him over briefly so I could say hello. Then he went away to be wrapped up a little bit, as all of a sudden, it felt quite cold.

Shortly after

Within 15 minutes we were in a curtained recovery area, and my beautiful son was on my chest, pink, gummy, still singing away. I had the tea and toast of dreams, and Flinders had his first feed. I’ll talk more about our feeding journey another day, but, it did come more naturally this time.

We couldn’t stop smiling. We still can’t.

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The recovery

We opted for just 24 hours in hospital, which, although my physical recovery has been slower this time, still makes sense to me, because I was desperate to get home to Tibby and Mack.

That first night, just me and Flinders against the world, I barely recall much of. I know I tried to watch the Apprentice(!), and I know I listened to three episodes of the Archers whilst feeding him. I just wanted it to be morning so I could see David and Tibby too.

My catheter came out mid morning and I had my first shower. Standing up was really hard. The stiffness and pain second time around was worse, even without any labour beforehand.

Getting assessed to be discharged was much easier, and much less nerve-wracking than after an emergency c-section, and, with Flinders in the best of health after his paediatric check, we were home for dinner the next day.

The next few days

I’ll just summarise the next few days in a few bullet points, it might be useful for anyone considering an elective c section:

  • The first night was tough. I slept with him on my chest for a few hours, then lost the plot about it and put the Sleepyhead between me and David, and we both faced him, with a hand on his little body. He went straight to sleep, as did we!
  • My milk came in on day three. Last time, it was the night of day 4/5. It was less of a mind-melt this time, but no less emotionally and physically taxing. I found warm showers, sleep-bras and ibuprofen really helped.
  • Unfortunately, I was hospitalised a further two times in the next week by ambulance and visited myself another three times due to a hematoma, which is a pool of blood under a wound. A small blood vessel was discharging into the area under my c section wound, which in turn kept itself slightly open to let out the blood. It was very scary first time round, but ended up just being annoying by the sixth or seventh. The NHS was its usual wonderful self and I got the best care. It’s all healed now and I’m better every day.
  • If I had to pick three essential products for the first week, it’d be Lansinoh Nipple Cream, Boots Breast Pads and my Medela pumps (hand and electric).
  • Flinders was a respectable 7lb 15oz but lost 9.7% of his birth weight. Three weeks later, thanks to his extensive feeding strategy, he’s back up to above and beyond that weight. His record length feed was 3.5hrs on day 9, overnight, with 5 dirty nappies during it!
  • I pump four ounces of milk each morning and feed it to him in the ‘dead of night’ feed (2am usually) when I’m at my most feeble and he’s starving. We use Dr Browns bottles as he’s quite windy, and we also use Infacol, which is working a treat this time.

So, my boy is here, we’re nearly ready to leave the house and have some new Bristol adventures together, and with his marvellous sister, and as a family of four and the dog. I can’t wait!

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11 Comments

  1. This was so interesting to read. I’ve never had a c-section, and I loved the way you wrote about it so matter of factly. It actually sounds, apart from the longer recovery, really lovely!

    • That’s exactly what I want people to think Jo, it’s a major operation with some risks of course, but it’s not a terrifying, medically invasive and clinical thing – it’s the birth of a lovely baby!

  2. I’ve just had a little cry reading this. That moment when he’s brought “roaring into the world.” Beautiful description and it got me! Really interesting read and I’m sure this will be reassuring to anyone about to go through their own elective c-section.

    • Thanks Molly, although sorry for the tears! He really did roar – and still does, he hates being cold, which makes him even more gorgeous to cuddle.

  3. HJ HJ

    Reading this is bringing tears to my eyes, firstly as it’s a story filled with so much love, but also as it brings back memories of the planned c-section I had with my first. I experienced some similar things I think, the relative calmness as you prepare for theatre, but above all the wonderful NHS and how they do their job but are utterly brilliant while you’re in theatre. I remember them talking to me a lot as the surgery started, but as soon as my baby was born, they left us to it, just me, my husband and our new baby, while they stitched me up. It was amazing.

    • Thanks HJ! You’re so right, the NHS is the total BOSS of baby delivery, and we are so lucky to have them to support us.

  4. Well done you for sharing this, so clearly and full of useful stuff for others who will follow. He is absolutely gorgeous and I am glad it was so smiley and you were so well looked after. I’ve had two unplanned ones and always wondered what a planned one would be like – seems so calm, although actually both of mine felt very calm (once I finally got to them). You definitely feel part of an amazing NHS machine in theatre. I did love your description of going in to the room 😉 So well done and welcome Flinders! xx

  5. I can’t believe he’s here already, it doesn’t seem that long since you announced you were pregnant. I’m so chuffed for you all – enjoy your gorgeous little family lovely xxx

    • I know, right? In retrospect that was a really quick pregnancy!

  6. Aw, Eleanor! This is just so lovely. I’m so thrilled for you that this was the experience you needed. And can’t wait to meet the little fella. Lots of love x

  7. HJ2 HJ2

    This is so lovely. I have just found out that I will be having an elective c-section and a colleague (HJ, above) recommended I read this blog post. Thank you for detailing so thoroughly the process and portraying it in a positive light! It has made me feel a lot better about our upcoming adventure! X

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