Warning: This post contains images of caesarean birth
Many of you will have read about my previous birth experience with my son six years ago. In a nutshell, after 12 hours of labour my son was in distress and I needed an emergency section. I was unable to hold my son or have skin to skin due to the emergency nature of the operation, thoughtless staff and me being unwell afterwards. This, in turn, contributed to my PND and Anxiety experience.
I was determined to have a totally different birth second time around and even decided to write an elective section birth plan. I gave a copy of this to the staff who took care of us and voiced my desires to everyone in the lead up and during the birth itself. And I’m so glad I did.
On 17th May our daughter was born and it was the most incredible, beautiful experience and completely different from my first c-section. The staff truly listened to and respected our wishes, and went above and beyond to ensure our section was as close to a natural delivery as possible. I feel so fortunate. Here is our story.
We arrived at hospital at around 7am as arranged, I was just over 39 weeks pregnant. We were checked in and given a bed on the postnatal ward. It’s a really strange but exciting experience to be in a ward with mums who’ve just given birth and their brand new babies while yours is still wriggling around inside you!
We waited a while for staff to speak to us but then many came at once – the surgeon, the anaesthetist, the midwife – all to have a little chat and to sign final consent forms etc. We were told we were second on the list which was a relief as I was worried we’d have to wait well into the afternoon.
At around 11.30am they came over and said it was time. My stomach dropped to the floor and butterflies kicked in – things suddenly felt very real.
We walked down to the theatre, which Hubs thinks is the same one where my son was born but, truthfully, it looked totally different to me, and this is probably a good thing, as I didn’t want to think about how scary that experience had been at that moment.
They sent Hubs off to change and I walked into the cool, bright room and was told to hop on the bed (well, table really). There were lots of staff involved, I think we counted more than ten at one point. This is totally normal but felt a little intimidating, especially when they all stand around you to go over their final verbal checks.
Next was the part I was really dreading – the spinal anaesthetic. I’d had an epidural when my son was born so I wasn’t too worried about the pain but I had been warned that, due to having small gaps between my vertebrae, they may have difficulty getting the needle into my back.
Unfortunately, this part was difficult and did take quite a long time. I was in a very uncomfortable position and feeling quite distressed by the whole thing. Thankfully, my anaesthetist was amazing. She was so gentle, positive and encouraging. At one point I was getting really worried that it wasn’t going to work and I’d need a general anaesthetic (my biggest fear) and she quickly reassured me and said “Don’t worry, we’re going to stay here as long as it takes” which helped me to relax. The midwife who was helping me to lean forward and keep position was also very kind and supportive.
I should also say, for anyone worrying about an epidural or a spinal, it’s not as painful as you might imagine. Staying in position is a little uncomfortable and the local anaesthetic injections sting a fair bit but you don’t feel the main needle go in at all and the warm numb feeling that comes afterwards is strangely pleasant!
Once the spinal was done they quickly laid me down and got to work. I felt quite sick almost immediately (this is common I because the anaesthetic can cause low blood pressure) but I told the anaesthetist and she gave me some magic drug which made me feel instantly better. This happened a couple more times too but I felt in such safe hands with the anaesthetist taking care of it each time.
We asked if they could lower the sheet at the moment of birth and they went one better. They lowered the sheet and encouraged Hubs to take photos but they also did what is known as a “gentle c-section”.
I’d seen this once on a You Tube video but didn’t even bother to mention it in my birth plan as I figured it was probably something NHS doctors wouldn’t bother with. However, they did and I’d encourage anyone needing an elective section to ask about it. It was amazing! Essentially, they deliver the baby’s head and then allow the baby to slowly make it’s way out over a few minutes in the style of a natural delivery, with some assistance of course.
Hubs was able to watch and photograph this entire process and the anaesthetist actually held my head up to allow me to see as much as possible myself. For as long as I live, I’ll never forget the moment they lifted Beatrice out and I was able to see her the moment she was born, as opposed to the 20 minute wait I sadly experienced with my son. I deeply wish I could have seen Teddy in that moment too but I understand that emergency sections are completely different and his safety was the priority.
We had asked if Hubs and Beatrice could stay in the room with me the entire time and, despite being told previously they had to go to recovery ahead of me, the theatre staff were more than happy for them to stay (again, please insist on this if you feel strongly about it as there doesn’t seem to be any reason to be separated).
After a brief look over by the paediatric team, Bea was brought over to me and I was able to hold her straight away. It was such a special, emotional moment.
In recovery, I was able to have skin to skin that lasted for a good hour or two (my concept of time is a bit hazy at this point as I was blissfully high and sleepy!). After some time and checks we were moved back up to the ward and I had more skin to skin; there are no words for how lovely it was.
We are so grateful to the theatre team who listened to everything we asked for and were able to give us the birth we wanted. Some people don’t refer to a section a birth but rather an operation or procedure, but this truly felt like a birth to me and I believe it has set me on a good path in terms of preventing and reducing PND & Anxiety