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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…

You can join our Hypnobirthing classes in Cheltenham. We do antenatal classes too in Gloucester and Cheltenham.

If you want all the information from our award-winning hypnobirthing and antenatal classes but from the convenience of your own home on your own time, then you can get this with our online course.

Check out our series of YouTube videos on how to make your birth better.