Stephanie's Birth StoriesApr 19, 2022
Stephanie bravely shares here not one, but two birth stories: her first emergency C-section birth, and her second, which was eventually a planned C-section birth.
Tell us about your first pregnancy…
My first pregnancy, in 2018, was relatively smooth: no morning sickness, felt pretty good, stayed active with personal training and regular lake walks, and continued working full-time until 36 weeks.
Things changed quickly at 36+5, when I woke up feeling terrible. I was extremely swollen.
Fortunately, I had an obstetrician appointment that morning. I quickly learned that I had developed pre-eclampsia and would be induced.
I was induced later that night, but by the next morning when I was put on the drip to speed things up, the preeclampsia was making things dangerous for both myself and my baby.
Each contraction was causing my baby’s heart rate to significantly drop. I was very unwell with high blood pressure. I hadn’t progressed beyond 4 cm dilated in 4 hours.
17 hours from the initial induction, after consultation with my obstetrician, I was prepped for an emergency caesarean.
This was a scary prospect, because the things I’d previously heard about C-section were daunting.
But, the moment my obstetrician held up my baby, and told us we had a daughter, all of that worry faded!
It is a memory I look back on with extreme joy, pride and love.
After being checked, she was quickly placed on my chest and I was able to instantly create a bond with my daughter, enjoying skin to skin cuddles and practising feeding, while my husband fed me a lemonade icy pole in recovery.
We stayed together throughout the whole process.
The days following the birth of our darling girl were filled with love.
I was extremely lucky to surrounded by an amazing husband and supportive family who assisted in my recovery.
I learned quickly that my body had been through major surgery and I needed to accept the help from those around me.
Unfortunately after being home for 2 days, I experienced high blood pressure and needed to be readmitted to hospital.
I spent 24 hours in intensive care, where my baby couldn’t stay with me. My husband and Mum, stayed with my daughter at Rotary House at St Johns, so they could bring her over for feeds.
I am so grateful for my caesarean birth and the safe arrival of my beautiful babe.
But, the experience with preeclampsia and intensive care was very traumatic and left me with high anxiety about developing preeclampsia again, and going through the same thing during my second pregnancy/birth.
My second pregnancy…
My second pregnancy began much like my first. I didn’t really have any morning sickness; I was busy chasing around a 9-month-old, and working 2 days a week.
I completed the routine GTT, and then received the dreaded phone call to say I had Gestational Diabetes. I was able to manage this with diet only until 36 weeks, then needed insulin injections for my overnight fasting levels.
This was a whole new experience but I was strict in monitoring my levels.
Gestational diabetes can often mean larger babies, so I also had extra growth scans, but each time my baby looked a good healthy size.
My second birth …
I was grateful my obstetrician knew about my history of preeclampsia. He provided reassurance that it was unlikely to happen again, while providing extra monitoring.
I was open to the idea of trying for a VBAC, if things were all good, but was also comfortable with the decision of a planned caesarean.
My husband and I discussed with my obstetrician right from the start that there was no set birth plan; we’d wait and see how the pregnancy progressed before deciding what was best.
At 36 weeks, my baby had turned breech, was sitting very high and the umbilical cord was positioned around his neck. Due to having gestational diabetes as well, I knew that it was likely I would need to be induced.
Based on all of this, I made the decision to book a planned caesarean, and discussed potential dates with my obstetrician.
Making this decision felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.
I felt empowered making a decision that was in the best interest of my baby and myself, and I could relax and enjoy the last few weeks of one on one time with my daughter.
What happened on the day of your Planned C-section?
We were booked in to attend the hospital at 1:30pm.
We were taken to the maternity ward and allocated a room to put our belongings, where we would soon be returning with our new baby.
I changed into hospital robes and my husband changed into theatre attire, ready for the doctors.
Although the actual process was the same as my emergency c-section, it was a much more relaxing experience, especially having the spinal block. It was all planned, and wasn’t done between contractions, like when it was an emergency.
I felt excited, calm and well informed as I was taken into theatre, as I was talked through the whole process.
I was transferred to the operating table and minutes later, we were looking at our gorgeous, healthy, perfect little boy, Nate.
Despite one being an emergency and one being planned, the events that directly followed both c-section births were the same. I had Nate placed on my chest, we had skin to skin, and spent the time together in recovery breastfeeding.
Can you share the positives of your birth experience?
The ultimate positive about both my births were that my babies were born healthy and safely, and my health was a priority.
I loved that my husband was able to spend the whole time with me, and the three of us were all together in recovery, before moving back to settle into our room.
Having a planned c-section was an extremely positive and empowering experience and I am so grateful that the decision was mine.
I certainly don’t feel like I missed out on anything birthing my children this way. My biggest priority was giving my babies a positive, safe entry into this world, and that’s what I achieved.
The recovery for my planned caesarean was also really positive, and took me less time to get up moving: as soon as the catheter was removed, I was able to shower and felt comfortable taking small steps to get to my baby when he needed me.
For me, it definitely wasn’t like some of the overwhelming stories you hear about not being able to attend to/dress/change your baby after a c-section.
I accepted the help offered by my loved ones and didn’t do anything that made me uncomfortable or cause pain, but I was confident in my ability to get up and moving around sooner.
What was unexpected or surprising about your birth?
After an emergency c-section, I was surprised how calm and stress-free the process of a planned caesarean was. The whole time I was being prepped, everyone was so calm, talking me through what was going to happen; I felt really supported.
Prior to having my first child, one of the things that concerned me about a C-section was seeing old videos when the father needed to dress and take care of the baby, because after the C-section, the baby left with the father, while the mother was cared for and in recovery.
I was worried that if I was to have a caesarian, that would be a given, but for me that wasn’t the case.
When I went in to have my second child, I had a much more positive mindset, and that made a huge difference.
What was your physical recovery like?
After the birth of my son, was overall pretty good.
I felt like my recovery was quicker with him, my 2nd, than it was after my daughter’s birth. The first few days were understandably quite painful, as I’d just had major surgery, but I felt better when I was able to get up and moving (slowly).
My son was born in the afternoon, so the next morning the catheter was removed and I was able to shower.
After this it was nice to be able to move around my room, pick up my son when he needed me and change him, eventually working up to slow walks around the maternity ward.
It was also great having a Physio visit in hospital to discuss exercises and stretches I should do to assist with the recovery.
Holding a pillow onto the scar while twisting to get in and out of bed or coughing was a huge help in those first days too!
In the first few weeks at home, I continued to go on slow walks to keep moving, as I found that really helped with the recovery process. I lived in a double story so the stairs were a challenge initially, but I took it slow and made sure I felt comfortable.
I think the biggest thing for me was asking for and accepting the offers of help: carrying heavy things, lifting my toddler, hanging washing etc caused discomfort in those initial weeks, so I accepted the help of others and adjusted to do these.
After 4 weeks, I felt I was able to do most things again without any pain or discomfort, but I waited to get clearance from my obstetrician before driving or getting back into more strenuous exercise.
What tips would you give your pre-C-Section self?
- Be informed!
- A C-section certainly isn’t the easy way out and shouldn’t just be seen as ‘the backup’ plan.
- The experience for me was a positive one, and given the choice, I’d do it all again.
- Do your research and listen to other people’s experiences and stories- they’re all different, just like any birth.
- Listen to your instincts and listen to your body, if you need help during the recovery, ask for it, you don’t need to try to do everything all at once, allow yourself time to recover.
Thank you so much Steph for sharing!
I loved hearing about the differences of her two births, planned vs emergency.
I also loved hearing how Steph felt empowered, informed, and in charge during the decision making process. This has such an enormous impact on our overall birth experience!
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