So let’s go way back to the start of October when I had my 36 week check with the midwife. Everything was good, we discussed my birth plan and as everything was low risk we wanted to use the pool at the birth centre. I’d been practising hypnobirthing and felt really positive and excited about giving birth.
I’ve never been so relieved as when I heard baby’s heartbeat on the monitor
But later that day I started to suffer from really bad back pain. I was working from home and managed to get to about 4pm before crawling into bed. By about 9pm I decided to phone the maternity assessment centre (MAC) as I was worried I couldn’t feel the baby’s movements. We headed in and I’ve never been so relieved as when I heard baby’s heartbeat on the monitor. The baby was fine but the midwives weren’t certain that baby was head down and wanted to do a scan to confirm. So at about 11.30pm, feeling exhausted and emotional, I had the on-duty registrar deliver the news that our baby’s head was quite comfortably nestled under my ribs.
I was devastated. Suddenly instead of the beautiful water birth we had planned I was researching how to turn a baby and the relative risks of caesarean sections versus vaginal breech birth. All of the fears I had about giving birth came flooding back. I spent pretty much the whole of the next day in tears. I felt like something must be wrong with me and my baby. Everyone else’s baby was able to get in the right position, why was I in the 3% of babies that are breech? I wouldn’t get to experience a natural birth so what was the point of doing the hypnobirthing guided relaxations and practising breathing anymore?
Instead I spent hours doing inversions, laying with my feet in the air and using ice packs and hot water bottles to encourage the baby to move. I regretted not doing more earlier in my pregnancy. I felt I’d been misled – my community midwife had told me at every appointment that the baby was head down. When did the baby move? Had my midwife been wrong all along (turns out my baby had a very bony bum making it really difficult to palpate her position).
I felt confident that baby had turned
I was booked in for an external cephalic version (ECV) on the first Monday of my maternity leave. I spent the day before rushing around the shops getting everything I needed to pack my hospital bag just in case I needed an emergency c-section (a unlikely but possible outcome of an ECV). The morning of the ECV I felt confident that baby had turned but yet again the scan showed the baby sitting upright so we proceeded with the ECV. I concentrated on up-breathing to allow the consultant several attempt to turn the baby – I was determined that the baby would turn. But no, the baby turned halfway but would not flip over. The consultant suggested that perhaps there was something preventing the baby from turning, like a short cord, but it was impossible to know from the scan. I started to accept that maybe my baby would just be breech. We discussed with the consultant birth options – I wanted to give the baby as much opportunity as possible to turn so asked about having an unscheduled planned c-section. By waiting for spontaneous labour we would know that our baby was ready to be born. The consultant agreed that there were benefits to this approach but also wanted to do a positional and sizing scan to assess whether vaginal breech birth would be possible. I was booked in for the following Tuesday and spent the next few days trying to relax and enjoy my maternity leave.
As I got up from our table and walked to the counter to pay I felt a sudden gush of liquid down my legs
On the Sunday we headed over to Skipton to get out of the house and have a look around the shops for bits for the nursery (having put together the furniture the day before). We had a late lunch of fish and chips and as I got up from our table and walked to the counter to pay I felt a sudden gush of liquid down my legs. My first thought was that I had somehow wet myself but no, my waters had broken rather dramatically. I threw my wallet at Neil for him to pay for lunch and rushed into the disabled loo. The liquid would not stop coming, I was soaked and when Neil came to check on me I sent him to the clothes shop across the road to buy me some leggings to change into. I did my best to clean myself up and put the new leggings on and while Neil bought a towel for me to sit on in the car I phoned MAC and told them my waters had gone and that my baby was breech. They told me to head straight to the hospital.
The reality of the situation started to sink in – we were at least an hour’s drive from the hospital and breech babies tend to come quickly. But as we drove I started to relax – I wasn’t having strong contractions yet but this was it, we were going to meet our baby! While we were in the car I started to put together a playlist of songs – something I hadn’t had a chance to do yet. After all the worry about having to have a c-section I felt completely calm. This was simply how it would be.
We went home to pick up my hospital bag and I had a quick shower and changed again and then we headed into the hospital. When we arrived at MAC the midwives did a scan straight away and confirmed baby was still breech. I decided to proceed with a c-section. Unfortunately because I had eaten before going to the hospital I would need to wait at least 6 hours with no food or drinks before having the anaesthetic. I consented to having an internal exam which confirmed that my cervix was still closed. As it was a Sunday night everyone was keen for me to wait, if possible, for the next morning for surgery and so we were moved to a room on the labour ward where I could be monitored as I wasn’t in established labour.
The contractions were starting to become more intense
And so we waited. I knew I had to get to at least 10pm for the anaesthetist to be happy to proceed. The contractions were starting to become more intense and I was starting to feel uncomfortable but couldn’t do anything that would make labour advance like bouncing on a birth ball. I focused on my up-breathing and decided that next time the midwife came in I would ask for gas and air even if I wasn’t in established labour.
But when the midwife came in at about 8.30pm she said that she could see from the monitor my labour was now established and asked if she could do another internal exam. In the two and a half hours since the last examination I had progressed to 5cm. “I can feel the head!“ was the comment from the midwife, but nope, that was baby’s bony bum. Shortly afterwards I noticed that there was a little bit of meconium in the waters (yep, still leaking, let’s be honest birth is a messy affair).
Then things happened very quickly. The midwife went to speak to the consultant and came back with scrubs for Neil – we were going to theatre. I’d changed from a category 3 c-section to a category 2 – meaning there was an immediate risk to life if the operation didn’t happen quickly (what most people describe as an emergency c-section). Neil grabbed a set of clothes and hat for the baby and off we went.
I continued to breath through my contractions while the spinal was administered and felt immediate relief when it took effect. Neil put my phone next to my head playing my playlist (we couldn’t get it on the theatre speakers) while the team got to work. At 9.54pm our daughter was born while we listened to For Me This Is Heaven by Jimmy Eat World. As the surgeon lifted her above the curtain and we saw our baby girl for the first time she decided to do a huge poo. I had no idea of course as I was just crying, completely overwhelmed. But as they rushed her to the side of the room to clean her up and check her over I held my breath until I heard her first little cry. Neil helped put a nappy on her and then they brought her back over to me and placed her on my chest. It seemed to take an age for the operation to be completed (apparently it took a long time to confirm all the placenta had been removed) but eventually we were taken to recovery and then to the ward. The whole time I just stared at this tiny little person. Although I couldn’t move due to the spinal we managed to get her to latch onto my breast so that I could feed her.
Suddenly I was left alone with this tiny baby
We were taken to the ward and Neil had to say goodbye and go home and suddenly I was left alone with this tiny baby. I managed to feed her several times during the night while the midwives and HCAs monitored me every half hour and helped me to turn regularly. Eventually dawn came as I lay awake, watching the weak light filter through the window. The Health Care Assistant on duty came to tell me I had to go for a shower. The HCA and a midwife helped me to the bathroom across the corridor and helped me to sit on a shower seat and wash myself off. The midwife helped me up and then handed me a towel to dry myself with. I remember standing and looking at myself in the small mirror on the wall, looking at the dressing over my wound. The next moment I felt the midwife grab me and hold me up – I’d passed out.
After checking I was ok and getting dressed, a second midwife came to help me and we started to walk back across the corridor to my bed. But suddenly I was on the floor again, unable to work out how I’d got there. The first midwife commented that I looked fine and therefore had taken them by surprise. I remember thinking that the walk from the bathroom to my bed was a really long way, in fact the bathroom was almost opposite the door to the room I was in , perhaps three or four metres in total. I was really surprised by that later in the day. But at the time everything was a complete blur. I hadn’t eaten since about 4pm the day before and I’d lost a lot of blood during the operation. I’d also declined tea and toast when it had been offered to me as it was the middle of the night and it didn’t feel right. In hindsight I should have had some. After my shower I remembered that I should probably eat and I finally got my tea and toast. Shortly afterwards it was breakfast time so I had another round of tea and toast (and weetabix) and that certainly helped to get me back on track as I didn’t pass out again.
In all I spent three nights in hospital. Those nights were long – I spent my days in a blur of breastfeeding, snoozing and nappy changes but at least I had Neil with me to share the load. At night it was just me and R and although the midwives were incredible those first few nights were difficult, trying to work out what she needed. I was so happy when we were finally discharged and able to go home on the Wednesday evening.
So there we have it, my very long birth story. If you’d asked me early on in my pregnancy if I would be ok with having a C-section my answer would have been no. But in reality it wasn’t that bad. R arrived safely and to her own schedule.
What are your birth experiences? I would love to know so please do leave a comment x.