Two days before my due date, I had an appointment with my obstetrician who had just come back from a conference. Initially she had been okay with letting me go over by two weeks but in this appointment, she had changed her mind. I knew I was always considered a high risk pregnancy because of my age and I wasn’t at all surprised when she brought up medical induction – to occur at 41 weeks instead of seeing if I would go into labour spontaneously. Spontaneous labour and a natural birth was the ultimate goal but I was sick of being pregnant so I agreed to an induction on the following weekend (which would’ve put me at 41 weeks pregnant).
I spent the week waiting to see if anything would happen. I had two acupuncture sessions and was taking the most foul tasting herbal mix, full of stuff that is meant to bring on labour. But nope, nothing happened. In the end, I tipped the herbal mix down the sink because all it was doing was making me feel sick (which wasn’t helpful).
So, on Saturday 25 April at 3pm, I was at Frances Perry House to start my medical induction. I was put on a CTG monitor to see how the baby was doing. After about an hour of monitoring, the obstetrician (one of my OB’s colleagues) arrived to give me the prostaglandin gel which that was meant to get my labour started. More lying around and eventually we were allowed to leave at 6pm to go have some dinner with instructions to return by 9pm for even more monitoring.
So, I got to have one final dinner out. Such a small moment in the grand scheme of things but it’s something I’ll always remember because it was our last dinner out where it was just the two of us. My last meal as a woman without a child. (Also, it was delicious and I can’t wait to go back there!) Then it was back to the hospital and even more CTG monitoring with a super active baby. (I probably shouldn’t have had profiteroles for dessert.) After two hours of monitoring and me getting decidedly jack of it, I was finally allowed to go home with instructions to come back at 7.30am the next day.
7.30 the next morning and we were back at the hospital with more monitoring to see how the baby was doing. My OB arrived at about 8.30 and gave me a second lot of prostaglandin gel as it turned out for all the cramping and general discomfort I was in, nothing was happening. Then we waited. For six hours. To see if anything would happen.
Which it didn’t.
At about 3pm, I had a very apologetic midwife come in and ask if I minded giving up my room in the birth suite because they had a woman who was desperate for an epidural and getting pretty close to giving birth. Whereas I had nothing happening at all except some cramps and mild back pain. Another visit from my OB to check on what was happening which turned out to really be nothing.
So we had the serious discussion about options. I was almost maxed out on the gel but could have tiny bit more. I could be stay overnight to see if anything would happen. Then in the morning, we’d have another chat about what was happening. And possibly (probably) need a cesarean anyway. Or I could have a cesarean that day.
It’s a really tough and strange situation to be put in. You have to make a life-changing and to be honest life-threatening decision and it has to be made reasonably quickly.At 4.15pm I told my OB my decision – to have the c-section – and at 5.14pm she was born. It was all so quick. Once the decision is made, there’s no messing around. I was taken to a share room where I could change into a hospital robe and I signed the consent forms. The anesthetist came to talk to me to explain what he was going to do. He put a cannula in my wrist and gave me some antacid. Then about 15 minutes later I was wheeled into an operating room where he put in my spinal block.
Nothing can prepare you for a spinal block. The first needle is a local anesthetic and it hurt so much. I couldn’t help it, I flinched on his first effort so he had to do it again. It was at this point, the fear really set in and I wanted to make it all stop, say I’d changed my mind and that I’d wait but it was too late. It’s a frightening, isolating experience to be in an operating room with strangers, all dressed in operating scrubs so you can’t see their faces. I did feel panicked, especially so when my legs went completely numb and I realised that I was trapped there, incapable of moving or doing anything. I couldn’t get up, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t even roll over if I wanted to.
The surgery itself was over relatively quickly. I could feel things being moved around, bits of me being tugged on but there was no pain. Then all of a sudden, she was out with comments of “she’s a healthy size!”.
A baby abruptly appeared in my field of vision, looking very blue and not crying or making noise. Her arm flailed out and she hit me in the eye and wiped goop all down the side of my face. This is not an ideal introduction to your child because naturally enough, I flinched and pulled away (as much as I could). Richard went with her for her first measurements and immunisation shots. I was lying on the table, wondering what was going on and why she wasn’t making any noise. She cried when she got one of her shots so at least I knew she was breathing okay. They brought her back (cleaned and wrapped up) and placed her on my chest so I could finally see her and kinda hold her but that only lasted for about 10 minutes because I had to get her taken off me as I felt like I couldn’t breath. Turns out my spinal block was creeping up my chest which why I felt so strange.
It takes over half an hour to stitch a woman up again after a c-section and then you spend time in the recovery room so you can be monitored. On your own. With only medical staff around and no one you know. It’s not a fun time. I wasn’t aware that I would start to shiver uncontrollably and violently – which I did. My nurses were lovely and caring but all I wanted was someone that I knew to be there which wasn’t allowed. We had always planned that if I had a c-section, Richard would go with the baby and get some skin-to-skin time with her because I wouldn’t be able to do it myself. But I didn’t really think about what would happen to me.
It was hard being on my own. I hadn’t considered how traumatic a c-section would be. I hadn’t really thought about how I would feel at all. I guess I thought I’d just cruise through it all and everything would be fine. I didn’t expect the complex mess of emotions I would feel and how hard it would hit me.I’d never though that a c-section was the “easy” way to have a child but I know there is a preconception in society that it is. Right now I’m telling you it’s really not. My uh… girly bits might be in better shape and I have a pelvic floor that still works like it did before but now I have a stomach that looks like a half deflated pool toy (thanks Olivia Wilde for that description!) and a pretty large scar as well. I think it kinda gets forgotten that a c-section is major abdominal surgery. I had three layers of stitches. I have a scar that’s about 12 centimetres long – although technically it’s still a wound as I don’t think it’s healed 100% yet. It hurts when I sneeze and it feel irritated pretty much all the time. Still, it gets a tiny bit better every day and to be honest I’m a bit too distracted to think about it that much.
Motherhood has definitely come as a bit of a shock. No one can prepare you for it. You can read every single book ever written on it but all the words in the world simply can’t convey what it’s like, how utterly life altering it is. I’ll be the first to admit that the suddenness of Juno’s arrival has affected how I’ve bonded with her. Being smacked in the eye by your baby isn’t exactly a great bonding experience.
There have been so many what have I done? moments. I’ve cried more in the last four weeks than I think I’ve cried in the last four years. At the moment it feels like the hard stuff is outnumbering the good. But the good moments are cute, adorable, funny. She may drive me mad sometimes – having a baby screaming into your face for two hours can be wee bit wearing – but I am glad she’s here. I’m holding on to the hope that it will get easier and better as she grows.
I guess the other thing that’s thrown me completely is that I did expect to be a different person once she arrived – who I thought I’d be, I have no idea – so it was a bit of a shock to realise I was exactly the same as I was before. I’m not sure yet how to incorporate the of idea that I’m a mum now into my identity. I often think I’m not doing a very good job because I feel so conflicted about the whole thing but it’s too late. It’s not like I can give her back or anything. She is my responsibility and I have to do what’s best for her.
It’s been an overwhelming, confronting and relentless experience thus far. I’m still struggling to find my feet but there are moments I look at her or she does something that makes it worth it.