Shortly after having Noah I promised I’d write about his birth here. I’d massively underestimated juggling life with a new born and pre-schooler, running a home and managing a growing business, and I’m sorry it hasn’t happened yet. Noah turned one this month and as April is Caesarean Awareness Month, I thought now would be a good time to share our story.
I’ve already written about my experience birthing Henry (you can read it here, if you’d like to). I had an emergency c-section with Henry after a long induced labour, and whilst I would have loved a natural birth this time around I felt genuinely frightened at the thought of a long labour followed by another emergency operation. I’d been unable to birth Henry naturally as, at 4.25kg, he was simply too big, and the hospital physiotherapist advised me to consider caesareans for future births.
We chose to have Noah here in France, and soon found out that caesarean sections are only carried out if medically necessary. All appointments and check-ups, in our case, were carried out at our chosen hospital, by my gynecologist or a midwife, and I remember asking at each appointment if I could have a planned caesarean, but each time was unable to get an answer. Noah measured big at each scan, so during my third trimester I had a number of growth scans, and, eventually, it was agreed I would give birth by caesarean section due to foetal macrosomia (also known, apparently, as ‘big baby syndrome’).
Noah’s birth was planned two weeks before my due date (which is classed as 41 weeks here), and I think I had five days notice, so I’d gone from thinking I had over two weeks to wait to scrambling to organise childcare for Henry, packing my hospital bag and making sure our gites were ready for guests staying over the Easter holidays.
I went into hospital at 6pm on the Tuesday evening. I had a private ensuite room, which is pretty standard here and was paid for by my mutuelle insurance. I was instructed not to eat after midnight and to take a shower and wash my body and hair with iodine the next morning, ready for the operation. I was asked what the name of our baby would be by three separate members of staff, so the birth certificate could be organised at the local mairie after the birth – luckily, we knew we were having a boy and had decided on his name.
I’d checked in advance that my OH could be in the operating theatre, and that Noah would be given to me, and could stay with me, after his birth. When the time came to wheel me down to theatre the orderly said goodbye to my partner and asked him to wait in my room, but we were able to explain that he was to come with me. Once in theatre I was given a spinal block (an epidural is standard but I’d had a spinal block before Henry’s birth and this had worked well for me) which made me feel very sick, but then I quickly lost sensation in the lower half of my body, and the operation began!
Noah Gabriel Smith was born at 09.21 on the morning of Wednesday, 12th April, weighing a bouncing 3.91kg, so a healthy size but not quite as big as expected. He was taken to be cleaned and I could hear him crying but didn’t get to see him for a few minutes. He was given to me very briefly then taken away, with my partner, while I was stitched up. I was then wheeled to a recovery room with other post-operative patients for two hours, until the sensation returned to the lower half of my body. I didn’t have my glasses and couldn’t see properly, and I remember crying and saying ‘Ou est mon bebe? Je veux mon bebe’. It was pretty distressing. Eventually I was wheeled back to my room, where Noah and my partner had been enjoying some major skin-to-skin, and I was then able to spend some time cuddling and establishing breast feeding. Henry came to see us later that day, and we spent some time together as a family.
We stayed in hospital for a total of five days, which I was thankful for this time around with a pre-schooler at home. I didn’t feel any real pain at all during Henry’s birth, but the pain from my operation and the after pains were pretty bad this time around, possibly because I was older and it was my second pregnancy, or because of a difference in general procedure.
Noah lost a lot of weight in the early days, to the point where I felt under pressure to give him formula before my milk came in. Luckily I was able to speak with a sympathetic midwife and we managed to get through it and all was well, but I wonder if it was because of the delay in establishing breastfeeding after his birth
In honesty, I’m thankful this wasn’t my first birth, or my first caesarean, because as a whole the experience felt pretty brutal (and even traumatic) in comparison to Henry’s birth. I felt so cosseted and cared for when I had Henry and I look back and see it as a completely positive experience, despite it being an emergency and despite it being so far removed from what I’d originally hoped for: a drug-free water birth in a midwife-led unit. I understand there will always be cultural differences and differences in medical procedures, but ultimately I had to push to have my partner in the theatre with me, and I was separated from my baby for over two hours after his birth for no real reason – it wasn’t an emergency situation and the operation went smoothly. I think the separation, coupled with the pain I felt in the days after his birth, meant that Noah and I didn’t bond as quickly. However, one positive part of the whole experience that I’ve tried to focus on is that my partner and Noah had some very special bonding time right after his birth, they have a closeness and my partner is able to soothe Noah quickly, in a way that he wasn’t able to with Henry. I wonder if this is because of those early hours they had together…
Did you have a caesarean birth? I’d love to hear your about your experience.