Scouring the net for a friend who is about to have her first baby I came across this lovely new app from Aptaclub, all about preparing for the birth, which gives you loads of support from that final third trimester, hints and tips, questions and advice and lots of little handy things such as a contraction timer and birth announcer.
They are also asking bloggers to impart their own words of wisdom about those little (or big) things that you just don't realise until after. Gems of information that people who are all too willing to tell you everything seem to forget to mention. Things such as do invest in heamorroid cream before you give birth; you will need it. Crying uncontrollably is not just for your baby, you too will cry without any reason and nothing will console you. Don't expect to ever be able to look at your breasts in quite the same way again. Babies get thrush in their mouths if you breast feed whilst on antibiotics, it isn't your fault... are just a few of the smaller ones I remember thinking "why didn't anyone tell me this?"
The one thing I wish someone had told me though is that if you have a c-section you have not failed to do it properly!
I had a lovely first pregnancy, right up until waking one night with that awful need to go to the loo NOW that I still remember and encounter (I really should have done more pelvic floor excercises - thats another one) and I fell down the stairs. Upstairs bedroom, downstairs loo is not a good idea whilst pregnant. Cue one trip to A&E, and one plastered broken leg for six weeks of my pregnancy. Balancing on crutches is not easy with a normal center of gravity but with a huge beached whale belly, it's nigh on impossible, so I over did it. Jumping and hopping around, trying desperately to fulfill my nesting urges, I simply overstressed my body too badly, sent my blood pressure through the roof and was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia.
Being admitted to hospital whilst feeling fine is not easy. I understood that I needed to be there, but I still resented it dreadfully. I didn't feel ill, I wasn't having headaches, I wasn't swelling up or seeing flashing lights, I just had slightly raised blood pressure. I begged the nurses, I begged the doctors, all I wanted was to go home and come back in all flustered and panicing a few weeks later in the middle of the night, having scared my husband half to death when he woke up in a swimming pool, like normal people. I coudn't understand why they were treating this so seriously. I wasn't really ill, after all if I hadn't broken my leg and over done it, I'd be fine, right? I'd rest, I overcome the urge to paint the nursery and dust everywhere including the attic, which just before I'd been admitted had been on my list of things to do. I'd be a good girl, if they would just let me go home and get on with being pregnant properly.
Once the cast came off though, my blood pressure didn't go down, the protein in my urine, which I'd brushed off as unimportant, didn't go away and without the cast, I could see that actually perhaps my ankles were slightly larger than when I'd last really looked at them. Allowed to go out for a walk one day, I also realised that my shoes had shrunk from not being worn for a few weeks. So hospital became my home for a 8 weeks. I watched all the other mums come and go, while I stayed and stayed. I had injections to promote my babies lungs, just in case, I had ultrasounds to check him out, just in case and one morning I got told, we can't wait any longer, how quickly can your husband get here, baby has to come now. Still in a state of denial that I was ill, I then got offended that I wasn't being allowed to go to term, or be induced so I could have my "birth plan" birth. I wanted a natural birth. Admittedly, I was always too scared to go without pain relief, but I wanted my baby to be born the right way, with lots of grunting, swearing and pushing; not by being whipped into a sterile operating theatre and having him cut out of me.
And this is the crux of my story, I felt I'd had the best bit taken away from me. It was like someone else unwrapping my christmas present, or telling me the ending of a particularly good film moments before I saw it myself. They had taken my ending away from me. I felt like I'd failed. After all, I'd obviously not been a very good pregnant and now I was being told that I couldn't even deliver him myself, but that I needed a surgeon to do it for me. I was angry, bitter and distraught.
I was angry about the C-Section for years, it wasn't something I felt I would ever get over. I remember still it clouding my enjoyment of my baby for the first few days, until I got out of the hospital and away from these people who had made me fail. I blamed them, I blamed my husband for not installing an upstairs loo in our house, I blamed everyone including myself and in my darkest moments I blamed the baby for not liking it in my womb.
It took me five years before I felt ready to try for another baby. This time I was determined to do it right and have my natural birth. It took some arguing as the automatic response was, no we will just C-Section again, but I stuck to my guns and made them promise that as long as I didn't get ill again then I could have my "normal" labour. I made it to term and baby still didn't want to arrive, and at 41 weeks my blood pressure went sky high again. The doctors admitted me to have another C-Section and I screamed and cried and begged and pleaded, and a really nice doctor said ok, they'd try an induction but that I had to be ready for a C-Section in an emergency. My waters were broken and lo and behold it worked, I went into labour all on my own. Finally, I was getting to experience what every other woman did, contractions! OMG, why was I doing this? They really hurt. Inductions are like accelerating 0-60 in five minutes. Within two hours I was 8 centimetres dilated and in the delivery room experiencing pain like never before. I was quite glad of the epidural at that point. Then nothing, three hours, 8 centimetres, 4 hours, 8 centimetres, and so on until 9 hours later the midwife said I could try to push. OMG, why was I doing? It really hurt. 14 long hours later, after a ventouse and forceps, I finally had my "natural birth". I was a wreck, I spent hours being stitched up afterwards and weeks healing. I couldn't walk properly, my stitches came undone and I had to be stitched again. My healing time wasn't hours, it was weeks. I endured so much pain and although my daughter was wonderful, her birth was definately not the beautiful life affirming experience I'd felt I needed to be a proper mother.
Looking back then, to my first birth I realised in that moment and in the weeks after, that it wasn't the how a baby is born that is important, it is that they are born. That they come out after your body has nurtured them, healthy and ready to live their lives is what is important. That being a mother, is how you look after them for the rest of their days, not how you delivered the baby. I'd wasted so much time, resenting my lack of control in my first delivery, yet, my second delivery, the one I'd yearned for, was far more traumatic and my recovery so much worse. If I ever had another baby I can assure you that I'd be asking for a C-Section at my first antenatal appointment.
So,my if only I'd known is that I should have looked at having my baby by C-Section after being so dreadfully ill as succeeding, or even having a C-Section at all was succeeding, I really would have enjoyed having him so much more. I also should add that it wasn't until my second child, that one of the midwifes told me that although I always thought I was fine in my first pregnancy, my notes said that my levels were so bad when they took me to the operating theatre that morning that they didn't think either I or the baby were going to survive. If only I'd known....
This post is Echoes From My Web's entry into the Aptaclub ‘If Only I’d Known…’ competition”