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My Gentle Caesarean Birth

I’ve been meaning to write this for such a long time but with two babies under 5 life has been a little hectic. Plus to be honest I’ve been enjoying my little love bubble SO much. After my traumatic birth with my first baby, the majority of that first year was spent surviving and getting from one day to the next with crippling postnatal anxiety. This time around without that burden on my heart I have been enjoying the journey of being postpartum so so much. Settling in to my new family of four, watching my little boy become a big brother and my husband finally a Dad of two has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Ok soppy stuff out of the way…now let’s talk about the birth. Due to my traumatic birth experience with my first baby and my history of recurrent pregnancy loss I was planning a VBAC/HBAC for my birth with Rowan. These acronyms stand for vaginal birth after caesarean and home birth after caesarean. At my 20 week scan the sonographer informed me my placenta was low lying. I wasn’t worried as I had also had this with George. Plus around 90% of placentas that are classed as low lying resolve themselves as the pregnancy continues and the uterus expands. Fast forward to later in my pregnancy and my wonderfully stubborn placenta decided it didn’t fancy moving. My placenta whilst not covering my cervix (complete placenta praevia) was too low lying to allow a vaginal delivery. I had to come to terms with the fact I may be heading for another caesarean birth.

At first I was devastated and to be honest absolutely petrified. Caesarean birth can be beautiful but up until that point my only experience was of the traumatic, depersonalised, ‘emergency’ caesarean I had experienced with my first baby. Gathering all of my knowledge and with the support of my amazing husband and doula I decided to put on my big girl pants and plan for a gentle caesarean birth.

I had some problems in pregnancy with the fetal medicine consultant not respecting my wishes for a further scan the morning of the planned caesarean. I wanted to know I 100% had no other choice but to move forward with a surgical birth. The decision to bring my baby in to the world via means of major surgery was not one I took lightly. After several meetings with the head of midwifery, a strongly worded complaint supported by Birth Rights and lots of tears and stress my request for a final scan was granted by an amazing consultant who truly understood the difference this would make to how I would feel post birth. Knowing there was nothing else I could have done has had the most profound impact on how I now feel about Rowan’s birth.

So, to the day of the birth. We woke up early. I was nervous but also quite calm. I contacted my Doula Meg who was due to meet us at the hospital. My husband and I got in to the car and I popped on my eye mask with my head phones where I was listening to my Hypnobirthing track of choice. This helped to keep me really calm and gave my mind something to focus on. People are surprised when I tell them I used Hypnobirthing for our belly birth but honestly, it was so useful. Hypnobirthing is truly for all births.

The drive to the hospital went by relatively quickly. My husband squeezing my hand along the way - his way of reminding me that everything was going to be ok. We arrived and met my Doula Meg in the car park. It was so wonderful to see her face and it instantly made me feel even calmer. We headed for the surgical pre-op ward where several people came to see us including the consultant who was performing my surgery (an amazing person who also made the effort to meet me two weeks earlier and discuss my birth plan), the anaesthetist and the midwives who would be in attendance (more on them later).

I was taken for the final scan by my consultant who confirmed the placenta was still too low and we agreed together to head in to surgery. I put on my sexy surgical stockings and gown, said goodbye to my Doula in pre-op and headed down the corridor with my husband to the operating theatre. A lovely lady met us there and informed us about what would happen next.

I decided to walk in to theatre instead of being wheeled in on a trolley. It was really important to me to feel as in control as possible. When it came to it, all of a sudden my legs felt like lead and I burst in to tears. My husband brought me back to my Hypnobirthing breathing and took some deep breaths with me. He looked me dead in the eye and reminded me we could do this. The lady walking us to theatre was so patient and kind which helped so much.

I stepped in to theatre and was greeted by a sea of smiling faces. This could not be more different to my first birth where once wheeled in everyone pretty much ignored me. I can’t remember any of the faces of the team from George’s birth but oh my goodness do I remember everyone’s face in the theatre the day we had Rowan. Once I was seated on the table, everyone went around and introduced themselves. Each person looked me in the eyes and told me what their job was.

Next I received the spinal block. The midwives and surgical staff allowed me to do my thing and concentrate on my breathing as this was something I was really nervous about. Once this was done I was laid down and my music playlist began coming over the speakers. The doctor turned to me and asked me if I was happy to begin. I said I was.

And so, my baby’s birth began. With my husband by my side the doctors began the surgery, talking me through what was happening all the while. I focused on the music and continued to breath deeply repeating some Hypnobirthing affirmations in my head. A feeling of calm came across my entire body and I felt so relaxed. I couldn’t believe it. I felt totally safe. It was the strangest, most unexpected but wonderful surprise that I felt so calm.

When it came time for Rowan to be born, the drape was dropped so that my husband and I could see him come in to the world. Just as he was about to arrive the Doctor turned to everyone and requested that they be quiet ready for the birth of the baby. This was probably one of the most significant things to happen during his birth. I felt the reverence in the room. The acknowledgement that something monumental was about to happen. After losing five of our precious babies, our son was about to be born.

Rowan emerged slowly from the incision with the Doctor gently supporting his head. With the help of synthetic oxytocin, my uterus did an amazing job of squeezing his little body in to the world. There was no unnecessary tugging or pulling. The Doctor supported him to gently emerge by himself, slowly and to the sound of my voice (and fleetwood mac!). The theatre lights were turned off so as not to shock his little eyes. For a moment it was like he hadn’t realised he’d actually been born. It was beautiful.

Once born, he was placed directly on my body. Again something that didn’t happen with my first baby. He was finally here. Suffice to say my husband sobbed. I was still so calm and just so happy he was finally outside of my womb and in my arms.

Now I need to talk about the midwives. Two people I will never forget. They stood by my side throughout the operation. Quietly observing, holding space. Supporting my choices. Rowan’s placenta was left attached for over an hour. Unheard of at that particular hospital and definitely not during a caesarean birth. They gently placed Rowan on my chest so that I could encourage him to breastfeed. Which he did in theatre. They travelled with me to recovery lovingly holding Rowan’s placenta in a little (or large!) dish as we were wheeled along. They placed my cord (still attached to the placenta and baby) on my tummy and took pictures. They used my cord tie in place of the plastic clip and even though they had never used one before they took it in their stride. They spoke gently and told me how wonderful we had all done. They both came to see us a few hours later and I tried to express to them then what a difference they had made to my birth simply by being kind and holding respect for my wishes. We all had a little cry. I won’t ever forget the support they gave us.

I honestly believe the way the birth happened truly transformed my postnatal experience this time around. I felt safe, respected and in control. This birth took a lot of advocating for. A lot of conversations and planning. But actually, on the day, it was very simple. The ‘extra’ things that happened in the room were not complicated. And even though I felt like it through my pregnancy, they WERE NOT TOO MUCH TO ASK. A little extra time, a little bit of extra care, a demonstration of understanding of just how monumental this moment was for our family. All of this resulted in a birth that me and my baby haven’t needed to recover from. And isn’t that what we all deserve as a bare minimum?

Rowan Patrick - brought in to the world by gentle caesarean birth in June 2022.

You brought me back to life.

If you would like more information on planning and achieving a gentle caesarean birth please contact me about my upcoming workshop for parents and birth workers @daniellethe_doula.

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