Penelope’s Birth Story

It’s been three weeks to the day that Penelope came into our lives. With this baby I knew I wanted an elective Cesarean due to the crazy labour I faced with Evelyn. I didn’t ever put into words my birth story for Evelyn for two reasons. 1: I could barely remember what happened due to it being long and complicated and 2: I didn’t really want to recount it at the time. Now I do look back on that experience with (semi) fond memories but it taught me that if we were ever lucky enough to have another baby I wanted to have more control over how it played out. The overwhelming exhaustion and trauma from my first meant that the first few weeks after Evelyn was born I wasn’t in a great place and it led to me making decisions I may have made differently.

So, baby number 2 would be delivered via planned c-section. Still scary and by no means the easy option but my body failed to start the labour process last time and I didn’t want to be faced with that again. Tuesday 20th April was my given date. We had to be at the hospital for 7am. The previous day I’d been for all my pre-op tests and examinations which took longer than anticipated. Due to covid I had to attend all these appointment by myself – which as a second time mum didn’t phase me too much. I was pleased to hear that Adam could come to the hospital with me on the day of the operation and would be allowed to stay with me until I went to the recovery ward. The hospital I chose had new covid visiting rules which meant each bed was allocated a morning or afternoon slot for one visitor and we wouldn’t find out which we had until after the operation.

After a pretty restful nights sleep and a shower we drove to the hospital and were shown to a private room to wait for our turn. We were informed that we were third on the list and estimated our time would be around 11:30. At 11:30 on the dot, all suited and booted, we were taken to theater. It’s strange walking to the theater in scrubs and a hospital gown. It’s quite a big team that’s present for a c-section. There’s people in charge of the equipment, surgeons, midwives, anesthetists and others doing general monitoring. All talking in ‘operating room jargon’. With my emergency c-section I didn’t register any of those people, I didn’t really know what was going on. It was fast and a blur. This time I was aware but not panicked. Everyone was lovely and really attentive to keeping me informed, talking through each step and making sure I was ok. By 12 midday the epidural was in and I was numb from the ribs down. It’s such a surreal and undignified feeling – no pain, no feeling apart from a tugging and slight pressure. Meaning they have to move you around and you can’t help. Zoning out from the conversations of the surgeons is easy with the material partition they place between you and the anticipation of a cry is all you are waiting for. With Evelyn, she was out around 2 minutes after they made the first incision. With a planned section I was told they generally take their time but by 12:25 baby still hadn’t been born. We were later told that she was wedged high up around my ribs and needed forceps to bring her down. I finally felt that weight lifted from me but they didn’t drop the curtain. I heard the surgeon say “Can we page the crash team. Get a call to PEDS.” There wasn’t that initial cry and they didn’t hold her up for me to see. Adam said he saw her and that she was fine but she was floppy and unresponsive. The next 2 minutes felt like 2 hours. A whole other team of people came into the room and huddled over by the baby. No one was really communicating with us and being paralised I couldn’t even sit up to see what was happening. Finally we heard that magical first cry – although faint. The pediatric doctor informed us that baby initially wasn’t regulating her breathing and the shock of the birth meant she needed a bit more time to realise she’d been born. No extra intervention was needed aside from monitoring every few hours while we were in the hospital.

We were then finally able to meet her. Penelope Rose Hart. Swollen and pink but perfect in every way. We were moved through to recovery where they monitored her and me some more and we were able to do skin to skin and feed. It felt so much more relaxed this time and I was able to be more present and alert to what was happening. After another hour or so we were able to be moved to the ward. We were lucky enough to get a bed with an afternoon visiting time so Adam was able to stay until 6pm with us – and bring me food (nil by mouth since 12 midnight is tough for a breakfast lover like me). The ward I was on had 3 other beds all with women who’d had c-sections. I know it sounds strange but that first night, on the ward, in your own little bubble, is so precious. At the time it’s not great. Catheter in, sore from the scar, bleeding, tired, unsure what to do – but you do it and you spend the night not really sleeping but staring at this little bundle that was inside you less that 12 hours ago! I was determined to be discharged the following day. I’d been told by the midwife that if I’d eaten; gone to the toilet and been mobile, along with P’s tests all being clear, we’d be able to go home. Plus I remember from my previous section that getting out of bed and moving around little and often really helps the wound to heal.

The next morning (after minimal sleep) we were served breakfast, painkillers and given a talk on breastfeeding/ bottle feeding/ looking after baby. Our medication was prescribed and Adam came to pick us up around 2pm. I only have good things to say about the care I received this time around from my hospital. I felt listened to and felt that everything was well organised. I know in light of covid there have been difficult decisions to be made when it comes to hospitals but we were lucky. Whether that was due to the fact I had a planned section, the restrictions at that time or the hospital. Either way, Adam was able to be there for most of our birthing journey and at no point did I feel like we’d been denied those precious moments.

Getting home was wonderful. Evelyn meeting her sister for the first time was magical and her face said it all when she first saw her. My parents had come down from Nottingham to be part of our support bubble so they were able to be in charge of Evelyn while we were in the hospital. My recovery was good. I don’t do well sitting around and doing nothing so I kept myself mobile as much as I could. My top tip for those who have a section is to get out of bed and have a shower – even if you go back to bed afterwards. It soothes the scar, soothes your breasts and generally makes you feel more human.

And that’s it really. Here we are. Three weeks later. We’ve faced agonising breastfeeding, tongue tie, a trip to A&E and three majorly explosive poos… but it’s all worth it.

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