I had my daughter Eliza Ivy on 9th April 2020 – I elected for a caesarean following my previous induction and emergency caesarean under general anaesthetic with my now 26 month old daughter CiCi.
Throughout my pregnancy I thought I would have a VBAC – I wanted to experience going into labour the natural way and to feel my waters break and so on… Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, I started to feel panicked and decided that an elective caesarean would be the right choice for me. My husband also needed to look after our 2 year old so it became a reality that I would need to undergo the surgery alone. I was terrified and couldn’t sleep the night before. When I thought about it practically, I calmed down but it was the thought of not having my husband to hold my hand that made me quite emotional.
When the morning arrived, everything was calm – virtually tranquil. The ward, despite not being empty felt quiet and the staff at East Surrey Hospital were kind and reassuring. I was determined to breastfeed this time round after struggling and ultimately giving up the first time. So in I went with my colostrum syringes ready to store in the fridge. When it was my turn to have my baby, despite everything being explained to me, I will never forget the range of overwhelming emotions I felt in such a short space of time. Fear, relief, discomfort, ease, panic, calm, worry, joy, adrenaline, elation…
Ahead of time, the midwife in the surgery team offered to play my choice of music and to take any photos/videos I would like. In the end, my anaesthetist FaceTimed my husband so he could see my daughter being carried over the drapes – this was a new experience for us both as we had not seen our first daughter so soon after the birth. My midwife helped me downstairs to meet my husband and daughter – she took her time and didn’t rush us. This really made our reunion post birth so special.
I had skin to skin with my daughter and she fed from me straight away – our breastfeeding journey has been strong for nearly two weeks and I feel so lucky to be able to manage this time. I think that the pandemic has given me the blessing of time so that I am not rushing feeds or worrying about getting too much done at home. I’ve been able to recover at a steady pace and after he initial two days, it’s got easier each day. It’s not easy with a two year old, especially when she wanted to be carried and I can’t because of my wound but we’ve been making a conscious effort to make sure CiCi has lots of special time as well as fresh air and park visits so she doesn’t feel left out.
After my first birth which was challenging, painful and frightening, I felt so much more calm and in control this time round. I wanted to share my story with other mums to be who might be feeling quite anxious and unsure about their births. It might not be exactly what you imagine but the NHS staff are with you every step of the way 🤍
Thank you to Katrina for sharing her positivity with her birth story during this pandemic. For more birth stories click here.
Our Journey began back in May 2018 when we became pregnant with our first baby. We started planning our birthalmost from day 1 and after lots of research, discussion and involvement from various health professionals we made an informed decision to have an elective Caesarean section. I won’t go in to the ins and outs of this decision, but it was the best decision for us, it was an informed decision, not taken lightly and one we felt happy with. We were eventually given a date, I was to be 39 weeks + 5 days pregnant on this day.
We attended pre assessment the week before where I had various checks undertaken, bloods done and further questions I had answered. I had already started having some symptoms that would indicate the baby’s arrival wasn’t too far away, but we just had to wait (and hope in my case) that Monday would arrive before labour began.
The night before our baby’s birth – by this point I was very uncomfortable, mostly spending the day lying on the sofa catching up on TV we had missed at Christmas and shuffling around when needing too. We had big plans to go out for dinner, our last as 2, but in the end we just wanted to stay home and chill out, so my husband cooked us a lovely roast dinner instead. That evening was the first in the new series of ‘Call the midwife’, we sat and watched it thinking tomorrow, that will be us holding our baby. It was like the night before Christmas that night, although it wasn’t just filled with excitement to meet our new baby, but with huge anxiety, will everything be ok? Will the baby be ok? Will I be ok? How much pain will there be? It was full of lots of uncertainties that only the actual birth would give us the answers to. We went to bed about 10pm, because we knew it was an early start, I took the prescribed ranitidine then too. After about an hour we realised neither of us could actually sleep, we talked some more and then just rested with very little sleep until 6am.
The day of delivery had finally, after 9 long months arrived. 6am – it was a very cold and crisp morning, it was dark and the sky was still filled with stars, I think adrenaline kicked in with me and I wanted to join Dave in taking our 2 dogs on a short walk before they were left with my mum for a few days. I waddled around the block and after we got home, showered and changed ready to go to the hospital. Dave was kind and sat and had breakfast downstairs while I got ready as I was nil by mouth, he loaded the car with all our bags (we did take all but the kitchen sink) and the car seat and we took a final bump photo, complete with the date. The journey to the hospital is one I’m very well used to, but this morning it felt very long, I was very anxious and I remember saying over and over again to Dave, we are going to be ok aren’t we? We have made the right decision? To which he replied ‘absolutely yes!’ We pulled up in the car park, got everything out of the car and said ‘Let’s do this, let’s go and meet our baby!’ We arrived at triage at 7.30am and were asked to take a seat and wait to be booked in. Shortly afterwards, another couple arrived and we chatted with them, they were also there for an Elective Caesarean, turns out they had experience as they had had previous caesarean births, they saw the fear on our faces and said ‘Don’t worry, you’ll be well looked after, it will all be ok.’ After a short time we were taken to another room and checked in by a kind midwife, we listened to the baby’s heart beating away and I was given a gown and Dave given (much to his delight) what can only be described as raspberry coloured scrubs. We weren’t first on the theatre list, so didn’t need to change straight away, we sat back in with the other couple also waiting, and chatted for a while.
Next the anaesthetist came to talk to us he seemed to understand how anxious I was, he explained everything thoroughly, and gave me chance to ask questions and take everything in, he had read my birth plan and said everything on there was very reasonable and he would join with the rest of the team in trying to follow it where possible. I did warn him I was tricky to cannulate too but he said not to worry, he would sort that no problem (I did warn him….). The registrar then came to speak with us and consented me for the procedure. The consent process highlights the risks involved which is quite daunting and scary but as we had looked into all of these and discussed them at length, I felt happy to proceed. We were then put into a room on our own to change and wait to be called. We brought Uno to play while we waited; we dealt the cards and then decided it wasn’t quite the same as sitting on the balcony in the Majorcan sunshine sipping on a cocktail and a beer so we packed it away again. I made sure I got a photo of Dave in his Raspberry scrubs (and forwarded it to my mum, for a laugh). A very small number offamily members knew the day our baby was arriving so reading their well wishes and messages of support that morning helped to pass the time.
We were 2nd on the list that morning and were told it would be approximately 10.30am that we would be going to theatre to finally meet our baby. 10.30am came and went, we were still waiting, 11am – still waiting, we totally understood this, it’s something very difficult to put a time on. 11.15am – still waiting, 11.30am – I said to Dave,’ I will just nip out to the toilet’, and no surprises within a minute of walking out of the room, the theatre staff came for us. I arrived back from the toilet and the theatre staff told us to bring our bags as they were ready for us. I had the baby’s suitcase to wheel, Dave wheeled our holdall, I think everyone thought we were staying for the month the amount of stuff we had with us!!! I turned to Dave walking along the corridor in my gown and said, ‘wheeling these cases is like walking through the airport when we are going off on holiday’, he answered ‘we aren’t going on holiday though, we are going to meet our boy, it’s even more exciting!’ It was a very surreal feeling, after 9 hard months of waiting, the hours of appointments, the many scans, the worry and the excitement, the time was finally here, this was actually happening, we were going to meet our baby boy, we were about to become a family of 3 (ok, 5 if you include our 2 dogs).
We placed our bags in recovery ready for when we came out of theatre and went into a room next to theatre to complete the final checks. This is where I couldn’t hold the tears back any longer, I was frightened, my uncertainties were just about to be answered and I did begin to panic. Dave sat with his arm around me while the staff completed the final checklist before theatre; he was telling me over and over again that it was allgoing to be fine, something we hoped, but couldn’t 100% know for sure. The anaesthetic team were lovely, the ODP checking me in said she, herself had had 3 c sections and all were fine. Dave held my hand as we walked into theatre, I sat on the theatre table and Dave sat on a stool away from me while the anaesthetic team placed the cannula (He’s not a fan of needles). I sat and sobbed my way through this part, my eyes so blurred I couldn’t really see what was going on. The kind anaesthetist put some local anaesthetic around the site of where the cannula was to be placed, this is where I asked if I could hold someone’s hand, the ODP said no problem and held my hand until Dave could be back with me. 3 attempts later and the cannula was finally in (I did say I was tricky to cannulate!). Dave then came and sat next to me for the spinal, one of the aspects of our baby’s delivery I was very worried about. I was in a bit of a state by this point, but I needed to continue, cold spray was sprayed onto my back to clean the area and my gosh, it was cold as I had been warned. At this point I turned to Dave and said ‘Next time, you’re having the baby!’ he answered ‘Well we won’t be having anymore then!’ I think it did make a few of the staff smile. The local anaesthetic was injected which felt, as they had said, just like a bee sting, but the stinging sensation was over in a few seconds. Then came the spinal anaesthetic, it was a strange sensation of pressure and slight tingling in my legs, but it wasn’t painful. Dave didn’t see anything, but I could see the colour drain from his face, I repetitively asked him if he was ok, he kept saying yes, but after the 3rd yes, I could see he very much wasn’t and I told the staff around us who then helped Dave to the floor and got him a drink of water. Dave hadn’t seen any needles, but he said just being in an environment he’s never been in before (awake anyway) and seeing his wife so upset and apart from being there, there was nothing he could directly do to solve my worries, he found it very hard. I was working through a tick list of things happening in my head and once the spinal was in, I did start to calm down. I remember the anaesthetist saying we are going to lift your legs onto the theatre table now, I said ‘its ok I can do that,’ before he could open his mouth, I realised I couldn’t, my legs had already gone numb enough that it wasn’t possible. I was helped to lie down. The spinal took just minutes to work and its effectiveness checked with ice. I was surprised how high the spinal came up on my body; I couldn’t feel anything until midway up my chest. The drapes were raised, catheter inserted, another worry, which they told me they were inserting, but I felt nothing, it was really nothing to worry about. Dave made a slight admission to me at this at this point, we had brought a mood light speaker in the bag which was meant to come into theatre so we could listen to our chosen song while our baby was born, but he had left it in the bag. It was ok; we could still have our song played from his phone. We chose ‘Wonderwall’ an acoustic version, by Noel Gallagher which was special to us as it was our first dance song from our wedding in 2017. I remember the surgeon saying ‘Ahh a Wonderwall baby!’ I had crocheted our boy his first hat and handed it to theatre staff to place on him when he was born, this, along with our music choice was quite a talking point and before we knew it, when I asked had the operation started, (I missed them saying they were starting)they said yes and in just a second you’ll hear a lot of suctioning as we break your waters. I had my phone ready to capture the ‘Lion king’ moment when our son was born, something we had discussed at Antenatal classes with Beth.Our music played and we were ready and waiting as the surgeons worked to get our son out. People are not wrong when they say there’s no pain, but it feels like someone doing the washing up in your tummy – so true! I asked was he nearly out, the anaesthetist said,’ I can see a nose’, he was a Sunnyside up baby (he had his back against mine). This waiting seemed like forever, it wasn’t, but by all accounts, he was somewhat tricky to deliver. Forceps were used (I didn’t even realise that was a thing in caesarean delivery) but failed, we heard the emergency bell, I surprisingly stayed fairly calm, I knew we were in the best hands and everyone would do what they needed to do to help us. Dave saw a rush of people enter theatre through a door I couldn’t see from behind the drapes. Our baby boy, Jacob Charlie was finally born at 12.24pm, we had hoped for him to be held up so we could see him and have ‘The Lion King’ moment but following a few difficulties when being born, he was taken straight to the resuscitaire, which is absolutely where we wanted him to be taken for him to get the help he needed and for the team to make sure he was ok, we started to panic at this point as he hadn’t cried, but after a bit of oxygen and a good rub, we heard a brief cry. The anaesthetist came to tell us that our son was ok and that he just needed a little bit of help initially, I asked if he could take my phone to take a photo, we were desperate to see our son, he took several photos and came back to show us. I remember saying ‘is he actually ours, he is absolutely perfect and soooooo cute!’ The answer came back ‘yes he is definitely yours!’ At this point Dave whispered to me, ‘You did it, you actually did it, he’s here, he’s perfect and I’m so proud of you!’ I had completed the journey of pregnancy and I couldn’t believe I had done it, something which I wrote on a message to Beth the next day!
About 10 minutes after Jacob was born the midwife in theatreasked Dave if he would like to come and trim Jacobs cord, something which was written in our birth plan and despite having a caesarean delivery it was something we wanted if possible, Dave went over to meet our beautiful boy for the first time and was overwhelmed by love towards him, he did let out a few tears at this point. He trimmed the cord and stroked Jacobs head. The team said Dave could sit back down next to me and they would bring Jacob over for his first cuddle.
During this time I remember the doctors saying that I required a hormone injection in my leg to help reduce the bleeding and they would set up and infusion too, I didn’t feel the injection but I was warned that it may make me feel sick, which it did a little, but that was soon counteracted with anti-sickness medication. As I was being stitched up, the midwife brought our beautiful son over for me to meet for the first time, he was swaddled in lots of blankets and he had his little hat on I had made. I felt instant love towards him. I was going to have skin to skin at this point, which the staff were happy to facilitate in theatre, but with all the drapes and gown, I didn’t feel it would have been easy to do and I was happy to let Dave have the first cuddle, after all, I had carried Jacob for 9 months. We sat for about 20 minutes just looking at Jacob, we touched his tiny hands, and stroked his little face, and he opened his eyes when he heard us talking to him, our son was finally here and we couldn’t believe it. The theatre staff were more than happy to catch our first moments on camera as a family of 3 and once I was transferred back to the hospital bed, this was when I was comfortably able to have skin to skin with our boy, we were wheeled to recovery at this point, absolutely beamingfrom ear to ear, ready to start our journey as parents and a family of 3.
Some people have said to me, how can you have a birth plan for an elective caesarean? Well, the elective caesarean was a plan A for me and our baby and of course you can have a birth plan, we sat down with our very kind midwife at 33 weeks and wrote it. We said we wanted music played using our mood light speaker, we wanted delayed cord clamping if possible, we wanted skin to skin contact as soon as was feasible, to have a spinal anaesthetic, to have my husband with me at all times if possible, and for Dave to trim the cord. We also planned for Plan B, C and D if I did go into labour. I wanted my wishes to be known, in case I was unable to voice these myself and this planning helped with my anxiety.
Most people are anxious about having a baby, my anxiety wasmore than this, I had tokophobia, but with the right help andsupport we were able to make an informed decision which we felt was best for us, and our dream of having a family was able to come true. Never be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Caesarean birth is birth and can be just as beautiful as any other birth. I have been asked if I feel robbed of the experience of labour, my answer, absolutely not! This all happened just over a year ago now, the recovery wasn’t a piece of cake initially, but we thankfully have a very supportive network that helped us in those first few weeks when I couldn’t drive or lift anything more than Jacob. We both have had, since day one, an amazing bond with our very happy, content and active now 1 year old and we love being his Mummy and Daddy, it’s been the best year of our lives so far. Would I do it again? Maybe one day, if that’s where our journey is meant to take us.
If, like Sophie, you want t know all about cesarean births, how best to recover and have a toolkit of techniques to help you in all birth scenarios then…
My waters broke at 3.50am and we went to triage at 5.45am after my parents arrived to look after my 4 year old son. Mild contractions started while we were there. We went home with rough plans for either an induction or caesarean the following morning if things didn’t progress due to waters having broken and associated risk of infection. As a VBAC mum I wanted to keep my options open.
Once home I used my Hypnobirthing techniques to help bring the contractions on fully. Things that really helped:
– watching my favourite film eating doughnuts and chocolate
– having a bath with dimmed lights listening to Hypnobirthing script
– using TENs machine once out the bath listening to my favourite songs
– using the contraction timer from Freya
By 12pm I was finding the contractions intense and they were 3 in 10 minutes. As a VBAC mum I wanted to go to hospital so they could monitor me more closely.
In the car my contractions ramped up and I started to panic when we hit traffic so I used my breathing techniques and put the radio on (kisstory!) to keep myself in the zone
I contracted four times from the car to triage and just blocked out all the things around me. I never imagined I could stay focussed in the middle of GRH car park! We randomly bumped into my community midwife on the way in which was great to see a familiar face!
When I got to triage they hooked me to a monitor but didn’t offer any pain relief or gas and air so I kept with my TENS machine and breathing.
At this point things went a bit off plan, the monitor showed baby’s heart rate was dipping when I was contracting so I was admitted to the labour ward to be examined. I was allowed to use the jasmine room which is a special room with mood lighting and birthing pool a bit like the rooms in the birthing unit.
I was 3cm dilated but cervix was stretchy. I went on the gas and air and wireless monitoring whilst my husband set up the room with aromatherapy, photos and tea lights. The contractions were coming very close together and were very intense. The midwife and doctor were concerned about baby’s heart rate and the doctor examined me to find I was now 6cms dilated just an hour after the last examination. Labour was progressing quickly but baby’s heart rate was really worrying me and I found I couldn’t focus on my breathing as well. Then baby turned back to back and I had the overwhelming urge to push but knew I couldn’t. This is when this labour started to feel like my first labour. My first baby ended up being born by emergency c section and had a short spell in special care with no skin to skin for over 24 hours and my ultimate outcome I wanted this time was to avoid this baby being separated from me.
At this point my baby’s heart rate was recovering well from the contractions so I knew she was ok. My instinct was to ask for a c section. The dr explained there was no medical reason for this but they wanted to take a blood sample from baby to see how she was coping. They explained the results would take an hour. I agreed to the test but shortly afterwards decided an hour is a long time if baby is in distress so I finalised my decision to have a c section. Instead of feeling a failure as I’d expected if my VBAC failed I actually felt really empowered and that I was following my instincts for the best outcome for my baby.
Preparations were made and my midwife, Beth, was fantastic at keeping me calm and had obviously read my birth plan as she informed the theatre staff what we wanted. My playlist was put on and I heard all the staff singing along to sex on fire and mr brightside! They were all so happy and relaxed. Everyone introduced themselves and said encouraging things to me. My tealights were put out and after the spinal was put in and I was lying down the anaesthetist asked me and my husband about our son and a recent holiday. I kept watching the tealights, thought back to the holiday and my breathing and trembling (from the adrenaline) calmed down. Not long after that my beautiful daughter was born. She had delayed cord clamping, was weighed in front of me and had skin to skin for an hour while they completed the operation.
Olivia had no health problems and she stayed with me in recovery (and every minute since😂)
The doctor visited me in recovery and explained the blood test for Olivia had showed she was in distress so they would have recommended a c section had I waited for the results. There was also something about my placenta which was unknown during pregnancy which could have resulted in a serious bleed and risks for me and Olivia as labour progressed. He was pleased I’d followed my instincts and it was absolutely the right birth for me and Olivia.
Without Hypnobirthing classes I wouldn’t have had the confidence or knowledge to decide on a c section and the techniques/toolkit helped in so many ways on the day I can’t recommend it highly enough!
If, like Emma, you want a toolkit of techniques to help you in all birth scenarios then…
My baby was breech and as a full time mum the word ‘breech’ was incredibly scary and unknown, in fact I cried my eyes out when the sonographer told me at 35 weeks, to then be given my options from the doctor moments later… “c-section or to give birth with baby in the breech position”… (yes that’s a thing 😱). As a first time mum who wanted the “perfect” birth, drug free, a water birth and all that jazz, the word ‘caesarean’ scared the life out of me however I now realise I really had nothing to worry about. Society makes you feel like if you didn’t give birth naturally, then you didn’t really give birth to your baby and people will commonly use the word “easy” and say “at least you didn’t have to go through all that pain” apart from the fact that you just had major abdominal surgery but hey 🤷🏻♀. I also found that every time you mentioned the dreaded C word (caesarean / c-section) everyone’s reaction is of horror and would normally tell you how they are sorry and would treat you as if you just had some really bad news, which made me feel like it was the worst case scenario … I feel so annoyed that I let myself feel this way, as it is fair from reality!!
Once I took a few days of feeling sorry for myself, I choose what was right for me and baby and booked in to have an elective c-section. I started to turn the negatives into positives & thought to myself, at least I won’t be 2 weeks late bouncing on a ball, eating hot curry’s and I won’t need that jug of water to wee with days after 🙋🏻♀😂
Leading up to the day I was terrified of everything surrounding the word “theatre” and I can hand on heart say I worked myself up for nothing!! Everyone that is involved in a c-section are amazingly supportive and instantly make you feel very relaxed. Everyone introduced themselves to me beforehand and talked me through everything and didn’t do or start anything without my permission. Yes it was nerve wrecking but I’m sure that feeling stands for whichever way you give birth. To be completely honest, your partners are the ones to watch, mine had to sit on the floor before fainting (massive eye rolls) 🙄🙈😂.
I hope by anyone reading this will reassure them that a c-section isn’t a bad situation but it is actually just as positive as giving birth naturally and to remember that you definitely DID give birth to your baby and it definitely wasn’t the “easy” option!!! Attending the antenatal classes with TBTBC, definitely helped me feel more prepared & less nervous. One of their classes is based on educating you & your partner of every possible birth scenario (definitely my favourite class out of the 4) and if it wasn’t for acting out what happens in a c-section and explaining the role of everyone in the room, then I definitely wouldn’t of been as mentally strong as I felt after attending their classes.
I think from all of this I’ve learnt that however you give birth / choose to give birth & however your friends & family gave birth, that you are amazing and no matter how you did it, what our body’s can do as women are truly incredible and something to be immensely proud of. I’ve gained a whole new level of respect for us women!! We truly are bloody AMAZING! 💪🏼✨
If you want to know about ways to have a great birth then…
So having been told early on in pregnancy that I would need a c section as I had Placenta Previa (placenta blocking cervix) to then be told at 30wks my placenta had moved and you can have a normal delivery… left me absolutely crapping myself as it isn’t what I had been preparing for and all the uncertainties that came with it!
Then I was told about Hypnobirthing… decided to book on a course that was relaxed, informative and empowering… I came away with more confidence that I can handle labour. Not to mention meeting some lovely people to share the journey with.
Turns out on the last scan they found unusually large fetal blood vessels all over my placenta (Vasa Previa) that could tear during labour meaning you and your baby could lose a lot of blood and would end up being rushed to have an emergency c section, where neither I nor my partner would witness the birth of our first child (as in this situation a general anaesthetic would be necessary).
So I took control and requested a planned c section. I had an amazing little boy through a calm and magical experience 😍 … someone said, so you didn’t need the hypnobirthing skills after all?
Wrong, very wrong!
I used them several times:
• When being made to get out of bed and walk to the bathroom, lowering myself on to the toilet, getting myself off the toilet and back into bed – not at all easy the day after major surgery!
• Then I also needed them again after having far too many pain killer tablets over a week (too much information coming up!) which basically blocks you up badly… I felt like I’d given birth 3 times before it all returned to normal! 💩😬😱
• Throughout my recovery after coming off the blocking pills! I used them, getting in and out of bed and on and off the floor when you are sore… you need to breathe through all of that.
I also made a lovely group of friends and now meet up regularly with all our little ones, as well as having that all important out reach text group – when your baby is going through something like constipation or colic or you want to compare explosive poops 💩!!
If you want to know about ways to have a great birth then…
Two and a bit years ago I was bouncing on my birthing ball watching Bake Off, feeling a bit peeved that it was my due date and nothing seemed to be stirring. I’m a very punctual person and spend a significant portion of my life (pre-children anyway) waiting around for people/transportation/appointments. So although I knew statistically things were unlikely to kick off at exactly 40 weeks, it still irked. And then – splosh – my waters came gushing out just as Mel or Sue announced star baker. Talk about a soggy bottom.
We were living in Cornwall and it was a quick 10 minute journey to the hospital for a check. I was excitedly waiting for the first contractions and felt unnerved when the two options were to have an immediate induction or wait 24 hours to see if things started naturally. Another deadline for my poor pedantic brain. Anyway, despite some epic hoovering, nothing occurred and we trundled back in the following evening.
From that moment everything becomes a bit tumbled and jumbled in my memory – like an amazing night out but with fewer shots and more vaginal pessaries. My ideas about an active labour, ideally in the birthing pool, were usurped because I needed to lie on my back and be monitored. As the intensity of the contractions increased I moved from gas and air to Diamorphine to an epidural in a blur. After a day of this and less than 2cm dilation, a wonderful surgeon examined the baby’s heart rate and said it was time to get her out.
The caesarean was smooth and quick, our daughter burst onto the scene in perfect health and two days later we were home.
In the beautiful chaos of life with a newborn it took a while to address the fact I wasn’t ok with how the birth had gone. Countless well-meaning people said nice things like ‘well you’re both fine and that’s the main thing’. And it truly is, but I still struggled to talk about it truthfully. The strongest feeling was a lack of control; it was like something that happened to me, rather than by me or even with me. I read lots of helpful things about not letting yourself feel like a failure… made less easy when the phrase ‘FAILURE TO PROGRESS’ is written all over your medical notes.
When I fell pregnant last year I was very keen to have a different experience. The doctors said there was no reason not to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) and I tried to walk the line between hoping I could labour and deliver ‘naturally’ and bearing in mind that it might not happen. Pregnancy yoga was a great help (big up Ann at Lotus Bud Yoga in Cheltenham) and then the opportunity came up to attend the hypnobirthing with The Bump to Baby Chapter.
Aside from meeting some lovely expectant mums in a beautiful setting with regular tea and shortbread breaks, it’s no exaggeration to say it transformed how I was feeling about the birth. I had expected to learn about breathing and visualisations – and did – but it was also the practical toolkit of methods and information which enabled me to feel more prepared, calm and positive. The entire day and the book we trotted off home with made me confident that although I might still encounter the same circumstances and language and influences, I’d be in a whole new position to question them and deal with the upshot. Beth gave us each a set of the excellent Yesmum cards and the one I held uppermost in my mind from then onwards was: ‘I make informed decisions that feel right for me and my baby.’
In this new mindset I felt comfortable making contingency plans in the days running up to my highly inconvenient Boxing Day due date. As induction wasn’t a good option the consultant, midwife, my husband and I had a discussion about what to do if I was overdue. They were keen for an elective caesarean earlier rather than later but as I wanted to give the baby as much time as possible to make an appearance we compromised at eight days. As it was, on the evening of day four I had a show and on New Year’s Eve I started having contractions. I felt warm and calm and excited that things were progressing. In the car on the way in I used the time between contractions to make a new playlist of songs which suddenly seemed the most obvious tunes I would want to give birth to in the world.
I would love to tell you we rocked up, whipped out our LED candles and hopped into the birthing pool for a quick delivery with no pain meds in time to watch Jools Holland. In fact, I pretty much saw in the new year with a lovely midwife’s hand up my lady parts discovering my waters had broken discreetly some days ago (that cheeky little trickle I’d thought was an excitement wee perhaps). Knowing the risk of infection and with the knowledge there was nothing doing on the dilation front, I allowed myself to feel a moment’s disappointment that I wasn’t going to get my preference (again) and have a crack at pushing this one out, and then we moved on. That was one huge difference hypnobirthing made – months of resentment and feelings of failure reduced to about a minute of slight grumpiness. Then we got excited that we were about to meet our new daughter and made sure we could bring our playlist into theatre.
Everything we had learned and practiced during hypnobirthing came back out to bat for me during the operation. I breathed through the contractions in order to stay still during the initial spinal injection. I stayed calm when my heartrate dropped and everything swam and flickered about. When they needed to use forceps to pull out our stubborn baby and the weight and pressure felt untenable, I made myself imagine I was paddling out towards a set of waves on my surfboard, feeling the swell picking me up and then carving through the water towards the beach. It was one of the most powerful sensations I’ve ever known.
Ultimately, we have to choose what to hold on to and what to let go of. Things didn’t happen as I would have wished but, thanks to the steps and help I had taken this time, I was present and focused for the whole shebang. I wasn’t a passenger and that counts for a lot. And I got to whip out my tarpaulin-sized c-section knickers for a second outing. Every cloud…
If you want to know about ways to have a great birth then…