Luckily for me, I live in Cork so had no problem accessing the home birth scheme. I had always known I would want a home birth, having little faith in hospital based care and fully trusting in the birthing process. I was looking forward to the birth and had had an uncomplicated pregnancy.
Everything was going well until around week 28 (I can’t remember exactly what happened at what week as it’s 5 years ago). There was a tiny amount of bloody discharge after going to the loo. I wasn’t alarmed but decided to rest for the day. I carried on as normal until a few weeks later it happened again but this time there was more blood. I had no pain or cramp so wasn’t too worried but still felt it wasn’t something to ignore. I had an appointment with my midwife that day so went and told her about it. She asked if I’d had sex in last few days as this could cause bleeding. I hadn’t so she told me I had to go to the hospital straight away so off my husband and I went.
We waited in the busy ER not really knowing what to think. Anyway,I was called in and the nurse began to put a trace on – I asked her what she was doing as I didn’t know and the belt was quite tight. She snapped back at me saying I should know from the ante natal classes.
The doctors came and did a scan and told me that everything was fine with the baby but that I had a low lying placenta (placenta previa). They were very nice and hopeful too, saying that it could move up and a home birth wouldn’t be ruled out. I had to come back in 2 or 4(?) weeks, unless there was any more bleeding.
All my plans for a home birth gone – I was now looking at the most medicalised birth going. It wasn’t a pleasant time – I felt so angry, cheated and full of self pity. Everyone kept saying ‘at least you and the baby are ok’ – I know this is what people say but I never felt we weren’t going to be ok, it was never a worry for me so it wasn’t consoling.
The nurse came back and gave me an extremely painful injection in my butt – steroids for baby’s lungs in case she had to be born prematurely. I was sort of holding it together till then but that was too much and I broke down and started to cry. We left and came back the next morning for another injection in the other cheek. Painful, but not as bad – I wondered afterwards should I have just refused it.
So for the next couple of weeks I tried visualisations, homeopathy to try to get the placenta to move. I knew there were different degrees of placenta previa which would determine what kind of birth I would have.
We went to my next check up, hoping everything would be ok. We met with the consultant who first did a scan. We sat down while he dramatically began writing down the ‘plan’. ‘Right’, he said, with what I thought was a bit too much enthusiasm ‘here’s the plan – hospitalisation at 36 weeks, c section at 38 weeks’. I was shocked at his dramatic announcement and started to cry. He looked at me somewhat bemused and said ‘Oh, you’re upset?’.
I still remember it and even now my heart is racing and I’m sweating thinking about it. I always wonder how some doctors can forget to see their patients as fellow humans. I know they can’t get fully involved with everyone’s emotions but surely they don’t have to completely disconnect either.
(At another appointment the doctor was explaining about the cs procedure, he went on to labour the point that if they couldn’t control the bleeding they’d have to take my uterus out! Thankfully there was a younger doctor there who reassured me that it rarely happens.)
Well, we left pretty devastated. All my plans for a home birth gone – I was now looking at the most medicalised birth going. It wasn’t a pleasant time – I felt so angry, cheated and full of self pity. Everyone kept saying ‘at least you and the baby are ok’ – I know this is what people say but I never felt we weren’t going to be ok, it was never a worry for me so it wasn’t consoling. I didn’t want to feel guilty about having my emotions either. I was so looking forward to the whole birthing process – some people understood, others thought they understood my ‘disappointment’ that my plans had changed. But it was a bit facile to say it was just a change of plan. Now, I felt like I had nothing to do in the birth, my role had been diminished. It was hard to ignore that it would be someone else who would open the door between my baby’s world and this outside one. It was a head wreck trying to figure out why it had happened, was it something I did or didn’t do.
Then, after a while I just accepted that this was how it would be and began to feel lighter. I didn’t know why it happened and probably never would. It’s hard to explain but I knew I had no choice or control in this so may as well just go with making the most of it. I realised that although I physically wouldn’t be birthing her there are other aspects that I still had a role in. This was an opportunity to maintain our connection which goes beyond the physical and for us to have the best experience possible. It was humbling and ironic to realise that a doctor would have a place in my baby’s birth after all.
I met with a fantastic doula who my husband and I spent a day with. She was a birthing from within practitioner. She went through everything about what would happen during the birth. She encouraged me to still view it as me birthing my baby. This was difficult because I’d always seen a c birth as a passive birth with no involvement. She said to visualise a rainbow connecting me and my baby and keep this connection up throughout. This was the key for me as it made me feel a part of the birth.
I realised that although I physically wouldn’t be birthing her there are other aspects that I still had a role in. This was an opportunity to maintain our connection which goes beyond the physical and for us to have the best experience possible. It was humbling and ironic to realise that a doctor would have a place in my baby’s birth after all.
She was reassuring regarding the doctors – explaining to me that my situation is what they train for and that they are extremely skilled in what they do. Also, that it is their job so don’t be surprised if they talk about mundane stuff while they’re operating.
Back to the hospital where I had a few internal scans with what I call a ‘probe’! Not very pleasant but when the female sonographer asked my permission to insert it, it wasn’t so bad.
Thankfully, I had no further bleeding and the doctor said that I could stay home till week37 as we lived close to the hospital but not to be on my own. Just to explain, the placenta was totally covering the cervix and if I went in to labour I risked haemorrhaging. We were told not to have sex either, just in case.
So, in to the hospital at 37 weeks. I was hoping that the birth might be at 39weeks as it would be better for the baby. However after a week inside the hospital I was dying for it to happen. I was in a two bed room and saw lots of women come and then leave with their babies. I was getting impatient and really fed up being in hospital what with all the checks ad measurements and the daily traces.
Then the doctors came and said the birth was to be at 38 weeks, which I didn’t argue with. I felt ready and prepared. I had met with the lactation consultant about breastfeeding and the paediatrician about oral vitamin K instead of an injection.
The evening before the birth my family visited and everyone was excited. I was scheduled for the morning but it could get pushed forward if there were other emergency sections. They left and my husband stayed till late. We were so excited that we’d finally meet our little one, sometime tomorrow! For him and my family the last few months had been a worrying time. Funnily enough I was never concerned about me or my baby’s welfare. Well, every so often the thought would come that I could die during the birth but I read that a lot of women think that so it wasn’t a premonition!
The next morning, my husband was in early and we waited for the call to go down full of nervous anticipation. I talking to my baby, preparing her for what was to come. Those few hours waiting were so long. Eventually, we were called down.
I had a lovely nurse by my side while I got the injection, encouraging me to relax and stay still. Once that was done, everyone moved so quickly but very calmly. I was put on my back, curtain up, drips in – husband in all gowned up. Strange feeling of nothingness in my legs as the anaesthetic kicked in. The nurse by my head checking I was ok. I started to panic then that I’d feel something but they tested that. My husband at my other side stroking my head and reassuring me.
I felt this unusual tugging and pulling sensations and then so quickly our little baby was born. My husband saw things before me. I could see the amazement in his eyes. ‘My’ nurse brought her over to us to see what sex she was – it took me a minute! She also suggested to touch her.
I had been told beforehand that I wouldn’t be able to hold the baby straight away and was a bit worried that it might affect our bonding. Anyway, I didn’t feel confident holding her as my arms felt like jelly. The midwife then brought her over to the warming table. I kept my focus on her, remembering the rainbow imagery. She began to cry and I focused on calming her and in what was a beautiful moment she stopped. I knew I had comforted her from afar and it just perfect.
Then the nurse shouted something about vit k injection and my husband said it was to be oral. She had the injection ready to go. So then the paediatrician was called in. I didn’t know why as it had all been signed off on previously and would have been on my file. So this fellow was at my head questioning us about our decision. I kept my focus on our little girl while my husband explained our decision. I thought how inappropriate he (the paed) was behaving. There I was, on my back, being stitched up, unable to move, and he was, albeit politely, questioning our decision. Afterwards, I wished I had just told him to f- off.
I would have considered a section the worst case scenario but it really wasn’t. I know I had plenty of time and resources to prepare for it, which made all the difference, so it’s not the same as a woman having an emergency one. It was my baby’s birth and an amazing, wonderful experience.
The stitching up time took the longest and true to what the doula had said the doctor and nurses were joking amongst themselves. It didn’t matter though, me and my husband were so overjoyed. He was holding her and we were both so amazed by our little girl.
Then he had to leave to change out of the gowns and our baby was put into a cot while they moved me onto a bed to go to the recovery room. I was about to be wheeled out when I asked about my baby who was still in the cot thing. I think they momentarily forgot about her.
She was handed to me and I finally held her and snuggled her as we were wheeled out. The corridor lights were so bright that I shielded her dark grey eyes from the glare. And we both just gazed intently at each other, and that was all that mattered at that moment.
It was love at first sight, and I need not of worried about not bonding.
We were in the recovery room for a few hours. She fed away with no problem. I think they might have said something about skin to skin contact but can’t remember. I knew about it and the lactation consultant had said to do it too.
While in the recovery room, the nurse seemed to talk a lot to me. She asked me questions about what I did. I’m not sure if she was just being chatty or whether she was making sure I was ok as I did just have major surgery. Either way, I wasn’t up for talking to anyone – I just wanted to gaze at my baby.
Another thing I found was that the morphine was too much. It made me drift off into disturbing, non restful states. I told them and they gave me a different type of drug.
We all went back to the room. I had intended on co sleeping beforehand and really I don’t know how breastfeeding after a Caesarian could be done any other way. The first day and night I couldn’t get up so had to have her beside me or else call for the nurse to take her out and hand her to me.
Before this I would never have thought a Caesarean birth could be a positive experience. I would have considered a section the worst case scenario but it really wasn’t. I know I had plenty of time and resources to prepare for it, which made all the difference, so it’s not the same as a woman having an emergency one. It was my baby’s birth and an amazing, wonderful experience.