If you had told me a few years ago that I would have had my second child by elective C-section I would have been surprised as I am a fan of doing things as naturally as possible - especially in child birth. I believe there are lots of benefits in trusting our bodies, although many of them are unseen.
Therefore, when the doctors suggested I consider an elective C-section this time around I had a difficult choice to make. Ivy's quick entry into the world meant that my birth experience and recovery were fairly traumatic and I have been left with ongoing pain as a result (read her birth story here). Another traumatic birth experience could exacerbate these problems and leave me with ongoing issues which could last a lifetime.
Without the hindsight of how labour would go it felt like an impossible decision to make; I could be putting myself through major surgery when labour could be completely smooth, or I could be saving myself from a stressful and difficult experience which could end up with an emergency C-section anyway.
In the end I decided that I would choose the elective C-section because I liked that I would have control over the situation. Although I really didn't like the idea of it being so un-natural and clinical I didn't want to risk long-term problems caused by a natural birth, and I knew that labour would be very stressful if I was worrying all the way through.
So, on the 21st April I woke up to my alarm at 5.45am to have breakfast before I had to be nil-by-mouth for the rest of the day. As I ate my porridge, toast and fruit I tried to evaluate how I was feeling, but honestly I just felt numb. Although I was excited about meeting our daughter I was also dreading the surgery and recovery and I tend to shut down my emotions when I get stressed.
Ivy was still asleep when we left for the hospital at 7.45am (my Mum was looking after her) and I was sad that I didn't get to say a proper goodbye, especially as when we returned everything would have changed and she'd no longer be an only child.
We arrived at the hospital at 9am and got settled into a cubical in a ward of four beds. Josh will testify that I zoned out quite a bit from this point on - I was pretty stressed and nervous and couldn't really concentrate on anything. I had been worried that I would be really hungry and would feel ill but thankfully it never got too bad and the time seemed to pass quite quickly.
At 12noon a midwife came and got us and we moved to the labour ward to get prepped ready for theatre. We sat in our room for about an hour with Josh cracking jokes to try and cheer me up and me mostly staring at the clock feeling nervous.
At 1.30pm we walked to theatre and everything moved very quickly. I didn't expect it to be such a big spacious room or for it to be filled with so many busy people. The radio was playing as they ushered me onto the bed and quickly began to put the cannula in and start inserting the spinal anaesthetic. Everyone was really friendly and nice but it was very overwhelming and I felt scared; mostly of the pain that I knew was going to come once the anaesthetic wore off!
Once everything was sorted and I was laid out on the table Josh was able to come and sit by my head. I expected the surgeons to talk to me more than they did and I wasn't really aware that they had already started operating. I could feel a few tugs but no pain, then after a huge push that felt like someone had punched me in the diaphragm we heard our baby cry for the first time. She was born and I had only been on the table for around ten minutes! It was a wonderful moment.
Josh helped wipe my tears away and they brought Alys over to us after they had cleaned her off. I couldn't hold her because of the way I was laid so Josh held her close to me so I could see her properly. He was able to cut the cord and she was weighed too.
I was a little itchy, shaky and spaced out from the anaesthetic but we were able to stay together while they finished stitching me up and then we were taken back onto the labour ward. Although I didn't feel great it was still an improvement on my experience with Ivy when I was wheeled off alone to theatre straight after she was born without a chance to do skin-to-skin or feed.
This time I was able to hold Alys as I was taken out of theatre and try feeding within thirty minutes of her birth.
The next couple of hours are a bit of a blur. I remember feeling quite sick at one point when I tried to send a text but as long as I laid quietly I felt okay. I loved holding our new daughter and getting to know her and Josh was able to stay until 9pm.
One of the reasons I hate hospitals is that your partner cannot stay with you overnight, even when it is the time that you need them most! I don't think I slept much for those two nights in hospital, especially the second night when I was able to get out of bed and so did the nappy changes and feeds by myself. One positive is that the wards were very quiet so I was able to have a room to myself both nights.
Once the anaesthetic wore off I was surprised at how manageable the pain was, but moving was still very difficult, especially getting up and down off the bed as the stomach muscles are pretty much out of action! By day two (Thursday) I was more than ready to get home and we were able to leave hospital just after lunch.
So far my experience of having a C-section has been very positive and I'm glad I made that decision. I will obviously never know what would have happened if I chose a natural birth, but when I left hospital with Ivy I was exhausted, in shock and hadn't eaten for two days; my body was in shut down! This time I continued to eat well, showered and felt a lot more prepared for the pain and recovery needed. I really appreciated being in control!
However recovery is a long road and my body reminds me daily (when I try to do too much!) that I have had major surgery and I need to rest, rest, rest. At the moment I'm just enjoying bonding with my new daughter and learning to be a family of four.