C-section. Would I Choose It Again?

Now I’ve had the section, it’s impossible not to ask myself, did I do the right thing? Should I have actively rejected the status quo of vaginal as I did, or should I have accepted it? 

I will never know if vaginal would have caused me less pain overall than the section or if I have saved myself from severe physical and mental trauma by choosing the section. However, I’ve harped on long enough about my theoretical reasons for choosing a section I feel I should talk about my experience. Plus, I like talking stuff through…

Avoiding the pain and labour of labour, and delivering Runner Bean quickly and safely, were motivating reasons for my section. The section went effortlessly (for me). I bounced into hospital at 7.40am. Met my midwife, anaesthetist and surgeon by 9am, and went to theatre around 11.30am. We were out within an hour. 

Another attraction of a section was avoiding any mental trauma from a scary or ‘difficult’ vaginal labour. I use the word difficult cautiously – aren’t most vaginals difficult in absolute terms, even if they’re not relative to other’s more difficult labours? The atmosphere was calm and friendly, jovial even. Both my husband and I were excited. We were finally about to meet our child. My fear of flinching during the spinal was unfounded. I lay back on the bed, my husband by my side, and lost the sensation from my boobs down. One thing spun me out a little – I thought my legs were bent when they were flat on the bed. I figure my brain last recorded them bent, so when the medical team moved them flat my brain thought they were still bent. However, the drugs I had and the confidence and calmness of everyone around me made me calm.

Avoiding any physical trauma to me or Runner Bean from vaginal labour – especially vaginal that can lead to incontinence in later life, or Runner Bean getting trapped in my body – encouraged my choice of a c-section. There was no pain in my tummy, it was uncomfortable, I could feel pressure, but there was no pain. My husband sat by my side watching. I was behind the screen. I spotted the reflection of my tummy in the lamp above me so they moved the screen higher. Turns out I wasn’t okay with watching as I’d thought I might be. Though I didn’t have long to look. We were in and out of theatre in an hour. Runner Bean was out very shortly into the operation. The majority of time was spent either in the set up or in stitching me back up.

The physical side I hadn’t considered was my tummy and the now separated abs I didn’t want vaginal labour to put greater strain on. The three people I know who’ve had elective sections had great recoveries – after her third section, my sister was on the school run on day five. About five minutes in my husband pulled a face and said ‘You should see what they’re doing… actually, I’ll tell you later’. The two surgeons were either side of my body yanking my abs apart as if they held either end of a tug of war rope. That delayed Runner Bean’s entrance by a few seconds as my abs got in the way. Then my husband announced the sex and cut his cord, they took RB to rub him down under the lamp and handed him to my husband for skin to skin

I was stitched back up and wheeled to a recovery room for 20 minutes with Runner Bean. The second weird leg thing happened when they moved my limp legs for me. I saw a slab of flesh that I didn’t recognise as my leg. Then the same thing happened with my second leg. I had to hide behind my hands as I found it so strange. That lasted for about four seconds.

After that, we went to our hospital room and marvelled that we had a child and looked at RB through our heart shaped pupils.

The drugs started to wear off and I felt pain in my tummy. Morphine helped enormously. The first dose didn’t do much so I had a double dose then failed to recognise our midwife. I was high as a kite and having a great time.

The morning after I decided I shouldn’t have morphine to prevent the high, sober up, high, sober up cycle. The midwives encouraged me to shower at 9am. I took paracetamol and ibuprofen, tried to get up, swore loudly and bailed. I had insane burning pains in my stomach. 

I let the painkillers kick in more and tried again. I swore, got to the toilet, swore more and my eyes started to flash with white. I got to the shower chair, my sight went more white and I thought I was going to faint from the pain. It shot through my body as if I was being seared with hot irons. I imagined soldiers on a battlefield and how battlefield surgery must feel like you’re dying. Midwives rushed in as I sat naked. After lying in a room with my pregnancy swollen fanny out, surrounded by 10 people fully covered in scrubs, I had no notions of personal privacy. My body was no longer sexual or aesthetic but a tool to birth and nurture this child. Besides, the pain eclipsed any desire to hide my naked body as I was fanned by a midwife. I didn’t succeed with the shower and was helped back to bed. Then I had some morphine. A few hours later I succeeded and showered. It still hurt but less so. I needed to shower to prove my recovery before I could move to a room my husband could sleep in overnight. He provided the incentive to get through it. 

I knew I would have to recover from what is serious surgery but in all my section mental prep I wasn’t prepared for that hot searing pain. No-one I’ve asked who had a section has had it, or had it so badly (though they also were given stronger take home pills than I was – I got paracetamol and ibuprofen. Those well known hangover pills…) The pain has stayed with me, now seven days in. I get it when I get up from a chair or bed, when I’ve moved or done too much and when I sit on the loo, which is awkward as relieving myself puts less pressure on my tummy. Especially if it’s a prized poo. They come once every two days at the moment. Constipation post section is common.

At first I thought it was my skin stitches, and that one side was stitched very tightly. Then I had irrational thoughts that my surgeon did it to get me back for defending sections, she seemed to be anti them in the pre-op meeting. Maybe I’d affected her subconscious desire to do her best (Why Verity? Can’t you hold your tongue for once? Not the time, place or person to debate ideologies). I realised it was inside my body, above my skin scar line and feared it was internal stitches splitting. Then I read online it’s the cut nerves and people complained for months afterwards. Finally, a nurse friend said it’s probably my abs as they were quite strong and that puts more tension on the stitches. The ab tug of war strengthens that theory. As does another friend telling me her doctor friend had warned her the one thing you don’t want with a section is strong abs. Severe screw face smiley.

Until now I’ve shuffled around the house. My husband is doing nearly everything and I feel pretty useless not pulling my weight. Thankfully we’re both elated by our child so it’s not depressing, though today for the first time I felt sorry for myself. I left the house for the first time and walked about 0.3 miles which took 20-30 minutes. When I was nearly home I’d decided I’d been stupid, destroyed my body and fucked it all up. After a sleep I accepted my childish impatience – I had serious abdominal surgery a week ago – and pulled myself together. This is my only real section downside (touch wood) and it should be temporary.

My tummy is numb though I’ve started to touch it again gently. It deserves my love and respect for being so strong and doing so much for me and my family. I hope that whatever is causing the pain will heal quickly and that the pain will go. It will be horribly ironic if a choice I made to protect my body leaves it in a worse state than if I hadn’t made the choice. 

The exercise I’ve so missed will take longer to resume after my section. That would be one upside to vaginal, though I knew that before. As would being able to snuggle on the sofa with our dog, who’s being wonderful but seems a little sad that he’s not our only one anymore. Our sofa isn’t great for my stitches – it’s too deep and encourages my back to arch – and my tummy is too delicate for him to sit on my lap in a chair. Obviously, the wonderful walks we went on daily, especially over maternity leave, are impossible for now.

When I stop with the self-pity and think rationally, even though I now know about this tummy pain, I can’t imagine I’d have chosen vaginal labour. I can’t let myself believe it’s between this and the dreamy vaginal labour that we’re encouraged to believe in. Enough of my fit and healthy friends went in for that dreamy labour and came out physically and mentally battered and bruised after hard labours and emergency c-sections. Or they had to sit on cushions for a month. I hear a sonographer telling me my big (I prefer to say capable) feet would make childbirth like shelling peas, then that notion was overridden by this incredibly beautiful article about childbirth.

I’ve heard ‘it’s all about positivity’ when it comes to birth but positivity won’t change the laws of physics if a baby is stuck. A lack of positivity doesn’t explain childbirth being one of the top natural killers of women throughout history. And I hear my neighbour telling me that she thinks it’s barbaric that women are encouraged to labour vaginally. Her first birth was so traumatic she insisted on a section second time round. It was 17 years ago but she told it with real and fresh passion on our first meeting. I hear the lady in the supermarket casually tell me she had a prolapse after her second child, but don’t worry you forget about the pain. 

So, would I choose a c-section again? Hopefully we’ll be lucky enough to have a second child. I guess I’ll answer for definite then as I’ll have a better understanding of the impact of a section on my body. For now, based on my experience (which seems to include more pain than others I know) I figure that a c-section is taking a plea deal where a vaginal labour is going to trial. With vaginal labour I might have got away scot free with 0 years or I might have got 15 years. With a section, I’m guaranteed 5 years. That certainty was something I wanted, and something the c-section delivered.

Finally, I guess there’s no such thing as a pain free childbirth. With vaginal, you’re guaranteed to feel the pain beforehand, and maybe you’ll feel some lesser pain afterwards. With sections, you feel no pain beforehand but maybe greater pain afterwards. At some point, I have to pay my pain dues and it seems they’re here now.

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