For those of you who are about to have your first baby and you are having a C-Section, this might help you prepare for what it will be like.

For me, my first birth was filled with SO much joy and yet also so much frustration, disappointment and anger.

On August 3rd 2011 I became a mom for the first time. I always knew I wanted to be a mom. I was 30 when I had my first son, I thought I was ready, but I soon realised that I was not informed well enough about the whole experience. I so desperately wanted to have a natural birth and specifically chose a Doctor who was also pro-natural, as to not have to fight with a doctor about my choices.

At my 36 week check-up, my doctor told me that he is 99% sure that my baby’s head will get stuck and that I would need to have a C-section. I then, of course, burst into tears, because this is not what I wanted and had planned. I really wanted a natural birth. My doctor calmed me down and started explaining to me. He said that there are 4 ways of delivering a baby. The first being natural birth; this is the best/safest way to deliver a baby IF everything is in order. The second safest way is an elective cesarean as the doctor is in control of the situation. Next would be an induction, but he said he is not too fond of doing inductions, as they tend to end up in emergency caesareans. And lastly is an emergency cesarean. This is the riskiest. He said that if he induces me and baby becomes stuck or becomes distressed for any reason they have to do an emergency c-section.  After chatting to him about this I felt a bit better about the procedure but was still not happy.

Thinking back I should just have gone for a second option, but family members told me to just listen to the Doctor as he knew best. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen to my gut and decided to go with the C-section. I was very confused as so many people that I had spoken to who have has C-section complained about the pain afterward, one friend said she could barely pick up her baby. I knew that my husband had to work I would need to be able to do everything on my own. This was one of the many reasons why I didn’t want a C-section. I ended up going for the C-section, my husband had to travel during this time for work, so being able to plan around the c-section date, did help with my anxiety about everything that was going on.

The big day had arrived. We had to get up early; we had to “check in” at the hospital at 6am. I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything after 10pm the night before. We got to the hospital and we were taken to our room. The nurses told me to get unpacked and settled in. During the next couple of hours, nurses came to check my blood pressure and temperature. They also attached an ultrasound transducer to my abdomen to check my baby’s heartbeat. I thought I would be super hungry but I was so anxious that I could barely think of eating.

Next, the anesthetist came to introduce himself and he also had a bunch of medical questions and does his calculations.

My time in theater was booked for 11:30. At about 11:00 the nurses came to wheel me off closer to theater. They took my husband to get dressed in his scrubs. I now became very, very nervous. Suddenly it dawned on me. I am about to have major surgery while being awake. I wasn’t scared or anxious about becoming a mother; I was petrified at the thought of having this surgery. 

I saw my doctor and his assistant, I suddenly felt very calm. He always made me laugh. They helped me onto the “table”. I was now becoming nervous again. I wasn’t aware there would be so many people. The anesthetist came over and told me it was time to start. My heart started racing, I hate needles. Is it going to hurt? How big is the needle? Luckily he was awesome, he kept chatting to me and explaining everything he was doing. This helped calm me down. My doctor was also great at distracting me. I receive a spinal block not an epidural.

The anesthetist told me that he would be giving me a small shot to numb the area before he doesn’t the spinal block. I was so grateful to hear this; I almost kissed him, as I was most afraid of the needle going into my spine. He told me the shot would pinch/burn a bit, and it did, but it wasn’t too bad. He then told me that he is now going to do the spinal. He said it would feel “warm” as the liquid goes into my spinal fluids and starts spreading. A friend of mine said that for her it felt like water running down her back. I had both sensations. I felt the warmth of the anesthetics spreading but also the sensation of water running down my back. It is a very strange feeling.

Once he was done the nurses helped me to lie down on what kind of looks like a crucifix. They placed a screen up, just above my stomach. On my one arm they placed a blood pressure monitor, which will help the nurses keep track of your blood pressure. On the other hand, they place a drip, the anesthetist can control your pain relief with this. My husband was given a chair right by my head. 

One nurse inserted the catheter and another had to shave me a little bit more, I apparently didn’t do a good enough job. My doctor told me that he is just going to check a few things and then he will start. 5 min later his head pops over the screen again and he says “can you feel that?” and I say “No” Suddenly I could feel a lot of pushing and pulling and it is becoming uncomfortable, now this was the most bizarre feeling ever. Feeling but also not feeling.

Both the doctor and assistant were both sweating. I hear the assistant say to my doctor “wow its hard work assisting you today” Apparently my little boy was quite happy where he was and did not want to be taken out. As the doctor had him he turned around. The doctor had to take him out with forceps in the end. The poor little guy had quite a few scrapes and bruises.

I got to see and hold him for a few seconds, then they took him away. Just behind my husband the paediatrician examined him and cleaned him up a bit. He also sucked out the fluid in his lungs. Perfectly healthy, all we ever wished for.

Finally, I got to hold him again. But also not for too long before they told me that he had to go into incubation. I was confused but so happy, relieved that he was ok, so I didn’t think anything of it. I told my husband to go with him. The doctor started closing the wound pain. Once the doctor was done closing the wound, I was taken to recovery for a couple of minutes. I asked the nurses where my baby was and why I could not hold him. They said because he was a “prem” (he was born at 38 weeks, which to me was not prem) he had to go into the incubator. I was so confused. He was 3,62kg and healthy, why? I moaned at them and finally they brought him to me, by now it was 3 hours after he was born. I was so upset. I was only now able to let him latch. He latched and started drinking. The remainder of the day was spent with my husband and little man in the room

The next day, just after 6am, 2 nurses came to clean my wound, clean the bed (bare in mind you are bleeding and you haven’t moved since the surgery) The one nurse removed the catheter. It didn’t hurt at all, the first time going to the loo did burn like a bladder infection, but was soon over.

The nurses asked if they need to assist me to take a bath/shower. I said no I will manage on my own and I did. My doctor told me that if I want to have a quick recovery I need to get out of bed as soon as the catheter is out and walk around the room. After my shower I felt like a new person, ready for action. I walked to the nursery to get my baby.

The 2 remaining days I was in the hospital was so crap, I just wanted to go home. I would fall asleep with my baby next to me, only to wake up and find that he was gone. I kept walking to the nursery to get him. I asked them why they kept taking him and they said: “you need to rest”. Yet people are in an out of the room the whole time, the baby never bothered me, they did.

My whole experience the first time around was not what I had expected or wanted.
1) I wanted natural and was told I had to have a C-section. Once I started doing research for my original Mommy Says website I realised I should have just gone for a second opinion. When I met one of the founders of Origin Hospital at the Cape Town Mama Magic Baby expo in 2014 as well as a maternity nurse who spoke openly to me about how doctors bully mom’s into having C-sections, just because it is more convenient for them. I was shocked at some of the stories. I felt very upset with my doctor. Why promote yourself as being por-natural when you are actually not.
Now I did find out the day after I had my son, that my doctor had lost a patient a few weeks before. The mom insisted on having a natural birth even though he had advised her otherwise. There were complications and the mom didn’t make it. Was he being overly cautious with me? Were there in fact signs that we would have had complications? I don’t know.

2) The fact that Henri was taken from me and I was only able to let him latch 3 hours after birth. I am 100% sure that this is why I struggled with breast feeding with him. I was only able to breastfeed him for 3 months. And only once a day because my milk supply was so low.

3)Besides that 3 hour gap, the other reason I think we struggled was that the nurses were feeding him NAN, without me knowing about it.
I was so upset. I walked into the nursery. Saw my baby listed on a board and next to his name it said NAN and then 10ml or 20ml. I asked them about it and they said it was “top up feeds” I mean, were they not suppose to discuss this with me?

So all in all this first birth was not ideal. But in all honesty, I have made my peace with it. For a very long time, I felt so guilty. I felt that I had failed my boy. I didn’t do what was best for him. I felt ashamed that I didn’t “give birth” to him. I felt like a failure. But you know what. He is a strong, healthy, kind, loving, happy 8year old boy. And that is all that matters. No, I did not “birth” him. No, I did not breastfeed him till 2 as I did with his brother. But he is perfect, in every way.