Positive Caesarean Birth
I read heaps of books, lined my bathroom mirror with positive birth affirmations and listened to hours of hypnobirthing scripts in preparation for the arrival of our first baby. I felt as prepared as one can be, when a scan at 34 weeks to check that my low-lying placenta had shifted showed that baby was breech. My midwife sent me home with loads of information on different ways to encourage the baby to turn in the remaining weeks of my pregnancy, and explained that if baby did not turn on her own that I could go into clinic for a consultant to attempt an External cephalic version (ECV). After 3 weeks of trying everything to get baby to turn on her own, I went in for the ECV at 37 weeks. Unfortunately, after 3 attempts the consultant said “Sorry, but baby is quite happy where she is!” and I left clinic feeling very deflated but armed with information leaflets and a consent form for a scheduled Caesarean section.
Immediately, I felt disappointment and defeat—like I was being deprived of the “real birth experience.” Whilst I knew I wanted a hospital birth, I was hoping for a midwife-led, very non-medical experience. Also, I was nervous about the realities of major abdominal surgery and the potential complications and recovery time involved.
5 days after the unsuccessful ECV (37 + 5 weeks pregnant), I had just drifted off to sleep when I suddenly awoke with period like cramps and a light trickle down my leg. I woke my husband and told him that I was having some pain, before heading to the bathroom. He found the wet spot on the bed and said “I think your waters have broken, we better call the Maternity ward.” At this point, I was in denial – thinking I had probably wet myself (not uncommon for me in late pregnancy) but off the hospital we went.
We arrived at hospital at 1am, where the midwife and registrar confirmed that my waters had indeed broken and that I was 1 cm dilated – looks like I was having an emergency c-section! The doctors explained that as baby was not yet 38 weeks gestation, they would like to administer a steroid injection now, and another one 24 hours later to help strengthen her lungs before delivery, with the hope that my labour doesn’t progress too quickly. So I had the injection, was given my cannula and hooked up to the monitors to keep track of my contractions and baby’s heartbeat before I was wheeled up to the maternity ward to labour and wait.
I continued to have regular contractions (I got to experience some labour after all!) which grew stronger and closer together. By about 3:30am, I had a very long (nearly 3 minute) contraction during which the baby’s heart began to decelerate – my husband alerted the midwife and nurse who decided I needed to go back down to labour and delivery ward. The doctor came back to examine me and found that I was now 5cm dilated and that we would have to get to theatre as quickly as possible. I was taken to a room to be prepped for theatre and met with the team who would be delivering the baby in theatre – 2 surgeons, 2 midwives (1 for me, 1 for baby), anaesthetist, and paediatric doctor on call.
As I was wheeled into theatre, I was introduced to the wider theatre team and was quite happy to see that every person in that theatre, apart from my husband, was a woman. I don’t know why, but that in itself gave me comfort. My midwife held my hand whilst the anaesthetist talked me through what she was doing. I told my midwife that I wanted to have skin-to-skin with my baby as soon as it was safe to do so. She explained that as the baby was a little bit early, they would need the paeds doctor on call to check her over and make sure her lungs sounded as soon as she is born, but that they would bring her back to me as soon as it was safe to do so, but that my husband could go with the baby to be checked over.
The room felt calm, quiet and quite peaceful as I laid back and waited for the numbness to creep up my legs and over my abdomen. Once the anaesthetist was satisfied that the epidural had done its job, the surgeons said they were going to begin. My husband and the anaesthetist talked me through every step so that I didn’t feel that I was missing anything. My midwife was constantly checking with me that I was happy and felt ok and calm. I still felt very much a part of the birth and that I had some sort of control.
Only 3.5 minutes after the operation began at 07:10am, Charlotte Rachel Le Cuirot came into the world – feet first. After insisting, I was given a quick look at her before her midwife took her back for the paediatrician to check her over. I am forever grateful for the anaesthetist who kept me relaxed and constantly reassured me that my baby and I were both ok -- the entire time Charlotte was with the paediatrician. Though it felt like a lifetime, it was only about 7 minutes before my beautiful, healthy, 6lb 90z little girl was placed on my chest where we locked eyes and I fell instantly in love. Charlotte was alert and calm and appeared to just be taking it all in. I got to keep her on my chest whilst the surgeons finished closing me up, and I held her as they wheeled me into recovery where Charlotte latched on for her first feed. After 1 night in hospital, I was feeling good and discharged from hospital around 1pm the next day.
A c-section is still a major abdominal surgery, and of course regular pain management and recovery time are part of the deal—this included staying in bed for 3 or 4 days, not driving for several weeks and generally “taking it easy.” However, I had my husband at home with me to help and I loved being given “permission” to lift up the drawbridge and take the time to connect and bond with my new baby at home without too many visitors or distractions.
Looking back, I absolutely loved my c-section experience. I left hospital feeling positive and empowered. I do not feel that I am any less of a woman who delivers their baby vaginally. I had my body cut open to bring my baby into the world as safely as possible, and it is not necessarily the “easy way!”
Now, I am expecting our 2nd baby in late May and am looking forward to my elective caesarean section. I have considered the pros and cons to both a VBAC and a repeat c-section, and have decided that I feel most comfortable choosing a delivery that I am familiar with and truly enjoyed the first time around. I am going into it knowing exactly what to expect, feeling empowered and confident instead of disappointed and afraid!