Sunday, 19 February 2012

A Tale of Two C-Sections

When my daughter was born, she was delivered by Caesarean section. This was primarily due to her being in the breach position. We had a date set and relaxed with some certainty of when she would arrive.

I’ve blogged previously about her impatience and she decided she would arrive three weeks before the date we had been given, throwing us into a panic in the middle of the night. With hindsight, we had all the time in the world, but with your first one you don’t really know that, so we grabbed all we could and rushed to hospital.

It was a very foggy night, and I could hardly see a few feet in front of me, which made the relatively short 15minute drive feel like hours. One thing I will never be forgiven for was stopping on the way at an all night garage to buy sandwiches, drinks and Pringles. My wife didn’t see this as urgent funnily enough, but I always like to be ahead of the game and knew I’d be in need of some sustenance in the long hours ahead. Always be prepared. (Disclaimer, I do not recommend you do this, possibly for medical reasons but your wife may not see the funny side either, especially if her contractions are only a few minutes apart).

On arrival at the hospital, we were eventually taken to a ward with absolutely no urgency at all. A couple of hours later someone bothered to turn up, had a look at my wife’s punani and said there was no need to worry, we’d be booked on to the schedule for the section and we’d just have to wait our turn.

This was more than I could take. My precious soon to be first-born child was now just a component waiting on a production line. I had a quiet word with the charming ward sister to sort out when our slot was, and to see if I could wangle an earlier one. You can imagine how that went. I think I was lucky not to be thrown out.

What seemed like the best part of a day, but was really just a few hours passed and we were given the nod, my wife was given the spinal/epidural or whatever they call them now and we waited. A helpful doctor showed me to a little room, which reminded me of a school common room with mismatched chairs and some old battered lockers in the corner, and I was told to get my “greens” on. I proceeded to put on the trousers, top, facemask, washed my hands and then saw the room led into the Theatre. I walked through the door, nervous with anticipation and was immediately shouted at by one of the surgical team to get the hell out of there.

Someone rushed me out and then explained to me that I wasn’t supposed to put the greens over my clothes. Doh! I just thought they were like a boiler suit, nobody told me I had to remove my clothes because it was a sterile environment.

Once I had made my apologies, I was escorted back in and led to my wife’s head. It was the only part of her visible because there was a green sheet raised in front of her. Four or five masked up and shower capped wearing surgical staff were all standing up on the other side and I was aware of them moving their arms and talking to each other. This seemed completely surreal but I could imagine them cutting my wife open and sensed them rummaging around trying to extract the baby.

Within a few minutes, I saw them lift my daughter out and she was whisked away to a table opposite. I waited for a cry, but didn’t hear one. I panicked – there is that few seconds, maybe half a minute where there was nothing. I could see one of the team furiously working away on our baby. My wife could see it in my face and asked me if everything was ok, she looked helpless and was unable to move. I could see the colour drain from her face….and then it came, our baby cried. I’d never felt so much relief. Our world had changed. I thanked God at that point, and coming from an agnostic, I’m sure he appreciated it.

My son was also born by Caesarean section. This time my wife had been through the best part of ten hours of labour, she was 95% dilated and it seemed like a natural delivery was on the cards. The midwife had fitted a monitor to the baby’s head earlier and all had been fine, but suddenly the pattern changed. She came back into the room and realised our son was showing signs of distress.

We were told that a C-Section was needed about 4.30am; they said it was not an immediate emergency but it would be done very soon. There was some discussion outside the room with a consultant and the midwife, and I could tell something wasn’t quite right. We waited, and waited. My wife had been coping very well with the pain up until this point – but was becoming increasingly distressed herself with the lack of progress. I was also becoming more anxious. I can’t describe how horrible it feels having to watch someone you care about being in pain. We waited two hours and by this time I was climbing the walls, I actually went and got a hold of the consultant to try to find out what was going on.

He told me more than he should have done, because he admitted that the problem was they only had one anaesthetist on duty and couldn’t open up the second theatre as a result. It wasn’t the time to argue, but it explained why we were being kept waiting. Another section had been in progress when we were first told it was necessary but afterwards a woman also required emergency treatment. This also pushed them close to the shift change at 6am, so in effect we had to wait for the staff change over.

Eventually my wife was rushed through to the theatre and I grabbed my greens like a seasoned veteran and entered to hear someone shouting, “We have to get this baby out NOW!”

I could see the staff were not hanging about; they all rushed with a degree of panic I didn’t expect. From my vantage point, I still couldn’t quite see my wife’s tummy, but the eyes on two of the team told me something was wrong. The way they looked at each other told me they were worried. It seemed to take much longer to get the baby out this time – probably because he would have been further down the birth canal. I think there may have also been an issue with the cord. He was immediately whisked away to the table. Again, I didn’t hear a cry for a while but could see the oxygen and hear the suction tube being put in his mouth and then it came, he cried, we relaxed, our baby was handed to us and all seemed right with the world. He was born on a Sunday at 06:28 and for those of you who have any interest in numerology associations; my birthday is June 28th

I still feel uncomfortable about the delays we experienced today. We were lucky, tragically, some people are not and while I am grateful we have our son, a small part of me wonders whether his autistic disorder may be linked to his birth trauma. It’s just a gut feeling, an instinct I have – probably unfounded, but it’s there nevertheless.

Research on autism is a hotch potch of studies, theories and hypothesis and when you throw in to the mix all the non-academic opinions and political spin you don’t know what to believe and if in fact there is any real truth about what causes the condition. I’ve given up looking and I’ve given up reading about it because it was taking over my life. I spent the last five years doing that.

I wouldn’t dream of criticising the hospital staff either. They were incredibly busy that night and probably saved a woman and a child’s life. In fact, they probably do that every day; we all have to be thankful for that.

This post is part of a "linky" hosted by actuallymummy and if you have a birth story to share, you can join in here


  1. Doesn't make it ok though does it? No-one should have to wait when a situation is urgent. I have a friend who wasn't so lucky in a similar situation. It destroys lives, and that cost is immeasurable. I'm so glad you wrote this and linked it up :)

  2. goodness, so powerful and really well written. really nice to hear this from the dad's point of view although your wife is a bit of a star!

  3. thanks for your comments - yeah, perhaps should have given some more credit to the wife lol ;-)

  4. Good to read a man's point of view. I've had two traumatic births which were pretty tough for my OH. Understand why you wonder whether birth trauma is linked to autism. My autistic son was a traumatic delivery and for years I wondered the same thing; now I wonder whether his autism caused the difficult birth.