My Birth Experience - Maxine Mary Ryan
Before I delve into my birth story there is a few things you need to know about me..
I love a good routine in my life; I’m a creature of habit
I’m a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist and have been most my career. I spend majority of my days helping people recover after birth. I absolutely love my job however I am often surrounded by ‘the challenging / negative’ aspects associated with pregnancy and child-birth and see first hand how this affects people’s lives. I realise I do have a very bias perception because the people who recover more easily often don’t come through my door.
I am an avid exerciser, in particular running. This is the type of exercise that makes me feel great.
I have some over-active pelvic floor issues. This means my pelvic floor naturally has a higher tone and I can have difficulty relaxing it when I need to.
All through my pregnancy (and before) I had a fear of something bad happening and my pregnancy never felt ‘safe’ to me. Unfortunately I had the mindset that I wasn’t going to feel comfortable until a healthy baby was in my arms. This mindset stemmed from my work within the maternity hospital settings and being very aware of all the things that unfortunately can go wrong.
Now to the particulars of my baby; Maxine Mary Ryan. I was lucky enough to have my ante-natal care through the private sector and therefore had access to regular growth scans through my pregnancy. From the get go Maxine was measuring large, nothing to our surprise as I was a 9lb baby and my husband is 6 ft 4 and quite a large build (with a large head.. Sorry Sam). At my last scan at 37 weeks Maxine’s head was measuring in the 99th centile and her estimated weight was 3.7kg (meaning likely over 4kg at term). It was at this point that I weighed up all these factors including the ones I mentioned above and decided an elective Caesarean (CS) was the birth experience best for me. From this I was booked in for my CS at 38 + 4 gestation, the 21/01/22. I was very happy and content with this decision.
Before I was pregnant I didn’t realise just how controversial the vaginal ‘natural’ vs. CS debate was.
In the back of my mind I always thought a caesarean would be the right choice for me but when I fell pregnant I really came to realise the stigma associated with choosing a caesarean and the stigma of being ‘too posh to push.’ Ridiculous.
Working in the area of Women’s Health one part of my job is helping my clients prepare for labour and delivery and I honestly felt I would be judged for not going through this process myself. I even had these moments through my pregnancy where I thought I should experience labour and try a vaginal delivery just so I could say I did.. (sounds crazy when I sit here typing this). By me writing this blog I hope it allows others to feel safe to voice how they wish to deliver and minimise this stimga behind electing to have a CS if it's right for you. The way I see it is that every expecting mum has a different body, lifestlye, and history & every baby is different so how you want to birth your baby needs to be right for you.
My caesarean occurred on a Friday morning and I was first up which was great in that it meant no delay. After having to do a RAT at the hospital (thanks COVID) to ensure the CS could go ahead I went into theatre at 7am and Maxine was born at 7:37am, crazy when you think of how long a labour can be. The longest part of the CS was actually being stitched up. Maxine was pulled out in about 10 minutes from starting! This process was all so perfect for my personality. Through my training as a physio I had actually observed a CS before so I knew how this looked but I was still a little taken back at how medical the process was and this is something I really emphasise to my friends/clients about having a CS.
Here are some things I would want to know about the CS process…
There are a LOT of people (I’m going to say around 10+) in the theatre and you will not really know what they are all doing.
The medical staff may be talking about you but not to you during your procedure (I found this an odd feeling). They will likely also be having general chit chat while doing your procedure (also found this odd).
The lights are really bright and the room honestly looks like a surgery from any of the medical shows you see on TV. It is very clinical.
Having the canula inserted hurt more than I expected (a canula is the IV line inserted into your arm/hand before your CS so they can run the drugs into you).
Having the spinal inserted into my back hurt but was quick and then the discomfort resolved immediately.
The actual feeling during the CS is very weird. I couldn’t feel any pain but I could feel an immense amount of pressure and tugging. I can’t compare this to anything I’ve felt before. It's not pleasant.
You will have a catheter inserted but they do this after the effects of the spinal is in place so you don’t feel a thing (I was worried about this hurting).
The moment Maxine was pulled out and I saw her wide open eyes gazing around the room I had the biggest sense of relief. I couldn’t believe after 9 months I was finally seeing and meeting this little girl that was half of me and half of my husband. The growth predictions were spot on and our baby girl weighed 3.8kg so if I went to term she would have easily been over 4kg (a weight I personally did not want to deliver vaginally). She was handed to the paediatrician for the routine check and Sam cut the cord. Maxine was then placed on my chest and she was just so happy and content. I kept her there and Sam also had a hold while they stitched me back up. I was then wheeled to recovery which is where I first fed Maxine. To this day it still amazes me that she just instantly new what to do. She just crawled up my chest and latched straight away. I realise this doesn't come as easily for many mums so am so grateful for this. She fed for about 1.5 hours at this point and during this they wheeled me to my hospital room.
The rest of the day is a bit of a blur, it was very surreal. I just remember not believing Maxine was finally here. I couldn’t believe how perfect she was and we could not stop staring. Our lives were changed forever, in the matter of 20 minutes or so. Mind-blowing.
I got up out of bed for the first time that same afternoon, around 4pm. My catheter was removed and I had my first shower which was very painful but amazing (thank-god for shower chairs). I was surprised by the amount of pain I had the first 3 days but the improvement from day 3 to 4 was huge. We went home from hospital on day 4 and on this afternoon I felt up to going for a walk down at Tugan, our local beach walk. I write this not to say this is the case for everyone or that you should feel up to this if you have had a CS but to give re-assurance that you may recover better than you have imagined.
As I write this I’m now 10 weeks postpartum and my overall recovery has been great. I'm a true believer that keeping my fitness and strength through my pregnancy has helped my recovery significantly. I'm not going to go into the full details of my recovery in this post however I am gradually building up to the types of exercise I enjoyed pre-pregnancy. I am walking daily, have done a few runs, cycles classes, pilates, and some light strength work... please note I'm one of those people that exercised daily during my pregnancy and pre-pregnancy so don't read that list and think you can or should be doing all those things! And of course I highly recommend getting input from an experienced Pelvic Health Physiotherapist for your Postnatal Check and to assist with your return to exercise and ensure this is done safely.
Through my work I have also noticed a difference in recovery rates of elective CS vs. emergency CS and now I can vouch for this myself. It seems to me that people that have an elective CS seem to have a quicker and smoother recovery. This is likely because with an elective CS there is no labouring process so we skip the (in some cases) days worth of mental and physical exhaustion and sleep deprivation. Of course this is just my opinion.
So there you have it. A little insight into my road to electing to have a Caesarean and why this was right for me, how I found the experience of a CS, and the things I would want to know before I had one. Now I best get back to this crazy new life of mine…