One week ago today, I had a baby! This was a pretty big deal so I’d like to get down my impressions before they’re overwhelmed by other Big Feels. Or, y’know, distractions generally. I also thought they could be interesting/useful to others faced with a hospital birth.

So, I was both lucky & unlucky. Unlucky because it became increasingly apparent during pregnancy that my birth would have to be what’s often described as “medicalised” ie in a hospital, with interventions, so no home birth for me. I’m extremely keen on pain relief so I was fine with that part, but who likes hospitals? Especially, once it became clear that the baby was breech and a Caesarian section was recommended, because who likes abdominal surgery?? Can’t be popular. On the other hand, in a number of ways this made me very lucky indeed as a parent: I knew in advance when & in what way I’d be giving birth, so I could be physically & psychologically prepared for it, although I still didn’t achieve most of my to-do list!; I also had my baby relatively early (38 weeks 6 days officially), which while not great from a getting-work-done point of view did at least mean I wasn’t in the miserable stage of pregnancy for too long, and just as well since the nightly cervical discomfort was getting moderately unbearable; ok, so I had horrid abdominal injuries & a catheter, but I avoided vaginal trauma so swings & roundabouts there. Hopefully I’ll also have an awesome new scar to enjoy!

I was scheduled for the morning C-section list, which starts at 7am. This meant no food after 2am and no water after 6am. I decided to stay up & eat very late instead of getting extra sleep, which seemed like a sensible trade-off really and in hindsight wasn’t a bad choice, although extra sleep would certainly not have hurt and is looking pretty sweet about now.

I was installed in my room very swiftly after arrival, but sadly I ended up last on the surgery list, so I didn’t get taken into theatre til after 12. Due to some miscommunication between the hospital & them, my mum & brother were given the impression I’d already been seen, so they arrived mid-morning hoping to greet Babby, only to find no Babby and me complaining of hunger & thirst. I think it’s like being served last in restaurants: whenever I’m nil by mouth for anything, It either runs late or I’m last on the list.

I saw a bunch of professionals including midwives, surgeon & anaesthetist, who discussed the procedure with me. This wasn’t too worrying, although only being allowed 1 person in theatre meant I had to send my mother home. The chats signalled the start of the pincushion phase, because obv a fair few needles are involved in the procedure. I also had to endure the horror that is bikini line shaving. Bleurgh. I chose assistance cos tired dyspraxic wielding of a razor blade under a hugely pregnant belly seemed like a recipe for disaster. And did I mention I hate shaving? Fortunately I like opiates, which make up the bulk of the drugs involved in C-section procedures & recovery, AFAICT.

So, I finally got taken in for the surgery about midday, after being tucked into nasty support stockings (to prevent DVT), hospital gown & cap. They insisted I put a 2nd gown on in reverse so I didn’t flash my bum at people for the 30 yard walk – I was pretty unconcerned about this as I just wanted to get the hell on with it at that point! Surely they’ve seen it all before? But no.

Theatre is, unsurprisingly, very bright & busy. I’m not actually sure how many people were involved in my procedure, I think about 7 but I can’t be sure. The anaesthetist & midwife had been called elsewhere so only one of these people was someone I’d already met. This wasn’t great. Further to that, the theatre policy about birth partners being present seems to be barely a token gesture. One person is permitted but they will not be fetched until the operation is ready to begin. For myself, I wanted the support during the preparations, when I was getting 2 cannula insertions (one of them screamingly painful, swiftly removed and the source of a cheerful professional disagreement between surgeon & nurse about the best vein – THANKS GUYS), discomforting spine prodding, several local injections, the spinal, losing sensation in my legs, being manoeuvred on the shifting table, catheter insertion, swabbing…all of that awesome and totally not anxiety-inducing stuff. After several requests of increasing panic, A. was finally allowed in only once the surgery screen had gone up, because…why? There was very little to see yet. My uncovered groin? Er, hate to break it to you, but that’s rarely a novelty for birth partners. I’d been told beforehand he could hold my phone for me during surgery but by then we were so close to starting that he wasn’t allowed to fetch it from my bag or really even get very settled himself. Hence no live tweeting despite it being seemingly feasible in theory. These surgeons & their medical priorities. They also won’t let you see behind the screen. Spoilsports.

The first part of the operation was pretty swift, maybe 15 mins or so. After some fun fairground-style table-tilting, there are some interesting & not wholly unenjoyable sensations of pulling for about 10 mins while being opened up. Then you hear the crying! This bit is somewhat sad & conflicting, because you hear the baby quite some time before seeing it, as it’s being checked for doneness first. This seemed to take around 10 mins but it was hard to tell. It was handed to A already wrapped & stocking-capped (well, tubular-bandage-capped!), having (unfortunately) had most of its vernix wiped off first, despite my saying I wanted to massage it into the baby’s own skin. Wish I’d reiterated that with SURGEON, not just midwives. Baby was given a Vitamin K shot and then ready for skin-to-skin contact, which is now generally encouraged. This was lovely, although I was sorely restricted in my ability to interact with it by being on my back with some big plastic tubes on my already-annoyed & bloodied left hand, so I was mainly having to settle for baby-face-stroking while A held it carefully up to mine. I can see why some people might feel rather isolated from their babies after such a procedure. Fortunately, baby M seemed alert & keen to interact while I was being stitched up & the placenta recovered (retained upon my request), then whisked out to recovery.

In further pointless isolation, partners are also not allowed to accompany to the recovery suite. I have no idea why, since it just involved me having the usual battery of tests for oxygen, BP, temperature, etc., plus more for recovery specifics. I could see why extra people might be a problem in a busy theatre, but this just seemed like A Rule. Baby was present of course, but being on my back I was still pretty limited in my parental interactions.

I was finally released back to my own hospital room once some tingly feeling started to return to my legs. At this point, I could have some partner support again and we could spend a bit more time on the actual baby bonding, and start the multiple day recuperative stay. Which is another story entirely.

As a postscript, birth did not cause sudden tummy deflation as is often assumed. My midriff 7 days later is probably about as it was at 6 months pregnant. Apparently this can be particularly pronounced (or not, as it were) with C-sections but it may be worth noting for future. I did have *quite* a fat tummy to begin with, though!