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  • Writer's pictureJoanna Brown

Elective Caesarean section in Ghana - Gretal's story

Gretal kindly shared her first birth story here, and has generously written about the birth of her son Zed, below. Happy reading!

This pregnancy was very different, and more difficult, than my previous one. This may be because this pregnancy was mostly spent in an African village. The first 3 months involved low appetite and weight loss that I wasn’t able to regain till I was 6 months pregnant. I had deep cravings for what felt like everything that wasn’t available. Another thing that made this pregnancy seem extra hard was a bout of malaria at 33 weeks. Thankfully it was a rather mild case, but it came right over the time that our electricity went off for several days. The malaria was quickly followed by a mega head cold that made breathing nearly impossible when lying down. Not that I was sleeping that well anyway since it was 90 some degrees, humid and we had no fans.

My husband and I are both nurses and volunteered at a local clinic. For prenatal care my husband and I would check my weight and blood pressure every month and listen to babies heartbeat with a small Doppler we had. We had an Ultrasound done at 14 week thanks to a class we were taking at the time to further our education. At 21 weeks we had another one done.

I am Rhesus negative blood type so we had to also search for a pharmacy that sold Rhogam (special medication given when the mother’s blood type is rhesus negative to protect future babies). Before the birth we again needed to buy Rhogam and keep it in a series of fridges and ice chests until after the birth. Early in my pregnancy I had packed an emergency hospital bag including cord clamps, gloves, etc. Thankfully we never needed it.

We had decided early on to do an elective c-section for this baby. There were many reasons we chose this route. One being that a vaginal delivery overseen by a Dr was not possible unless we traveled 12 hours or more. Also because we lived in a village the unpredictability of when labor would start would mean traveling to the area of the hospital a week or two before the due date and possibly spend up to a month there should the baby go over due. Childcare was a factor. Also see Noah’s birth story for my previous experience. I made a poster during nursing school comparing elective c-section to vaginal births. So I knew our decision was not exactly popular. But given our circumstances and everything considered we opted for a planned c-section.

I had my hospital bag packed. I compared my "hospital bag checklist" with the one sent me. Mine included things like bed linens, pillow, baby bed and mosquito repellent.

After we were admitted to the hospital on the morning of our due date, a nurse ushered me into the delivery room where I had spent about 7 hours pushing 3 years before! Oh the memories... They prepped me for surgery and then had me wait in the maternity ward until surgery.

The nurses finally let us know they were ready for me and wheeled me down to the OR. I had to leave my flip flops behind and walk barefooted and sheet clad into the OR and onto the table. My husband got scrubbed in and joined me soon after. The anesthesiologist dug his nails into my back, marking where he intended to poke me. After sanitizing the site the needle went it and soon my toes started getting numb.

Meanwhile my abdomen was being scrubbed and things were getting exciting. The doctor soon came in and said a quick prayer for all to go well and began. In just a few minutes. they had made an entry way for our baby low on my abdomen. The doctor got a hold of the baby's head while his assistant pushed down hard on the top of my abdomen with both hands. There was an immense amount of pushing and pulling and I remember thinking, "I’m going to be really sore after this!".

At 10:10am I heard the suction machine doing its job and then a little wail. My husband told me it’s a boy! Our ultra sound tech had been right! Zed Justice it was, and not the little girl everyone had predicted. My sweet nurse stepped up to receive the baby with a clean flour sack covering her arms. My husband had purchased this from the hospital when they asked him for a receiving blanket. We had only brought blankets for the baby to be wrapped in after he was cleaned up. She spread the baby's legs to show me that he was indeed a boy and then whisked him away to weigh and measure him. She soon came back with question marks over her face...where was the grandmother? Who would dress the baby? My husband quickly offered to do this himself and dressed him while they finished stitching me up. I was starting to have a lot of pain and finally said so. They gave me fentanyl. Immediately I felt like I was about to drift off to sleep and I started crying. This is precisely what happened last time I had a C-section. "Mama, the pain is too much?" the anesthesiologist kindly asked. "No, this medicine makes me cry, nothing is wrong" I blubbered. About 20 min later the whole scene repeated itself. "Mama, are you ok?" "Yes, this medicine makes me crazy!" I said, tears streaming down my face while trying to politely smile. I was wheeled back to the ward where my husband and baby Zed were waiting for me...Then I could not entirely blame the tears on the pain medicine.

The next 6 hours were spent flat on my back, enjoying my baby, and napping. I was just getting ready to call my mom when they gave me another dose of pain meds. The combination of hearing your own mom’s voice from a world away just after giving birth and the meds, made for a tearful, and croaky phone call! My mom was understanding and said she always cried after her babies too =)

I had not been allowed to drink or eat anything since midnight and by now I was so thirsty! We were in the middle of harmattan weather, when it is extremely dry, and I kept using chap stick and nearly hallucinated over water. We suddenly realized that we had not thought to bring antiseptic soap or a bucket for them to use to clean me up. So my husband rushed out to town and bought them. After my 6 hours were up two nurses graciously cleaned me up and helped me walk to a private room. My husband brought me water and I drank bag after bag (Yes, we drink bagged water, not bottled) ;).

I did deal with quite a bit of pain after my surgery unlike my previous birth. But overall this birth experience was very peaceful and uncomplicated for which I am very thankful. I look back on it as a very positive experience. And our son is as healthy as could be!


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