BIRTH STORY: (Caesarean) "I felt like we were a team, we were in it together"
I’d had a long labour ending in an emergency caesarean with my son in 2013, and was determined that this birth would be different.I had hired a doula and during our meetings had discussed Archie’s birth at length. We reviewed the notes at the hospital to truly understand what had happened and to process the leftover emotions so I could move forward with this new pregnancy. I had heard about The Positive Birth Movement from my doula so found a local group and went.
This is where I first met Miriam. It was amazing to be in a room with women who wanted to help other women, with midwives from the local hospital who really care about women’s experiences of child birth, who want to move labour on from the archaic view that it is long, painful, and something that we should just put up with. These women really listened to every story. I was humbled by everyone’s honesty; the tears being shed were so real and even though I didn’t know these people I felt their disappointment and their elation like it was mine.
As we had hired a doula we couldn’t afford the full hypnobirthing course Miriam offers, but luck would have it that we won an introduction session in a Mother’s Day competition – best present ever! Even in the few hours we got with her we learned some crucial skills to help us both focus and relax and without it I’m not sure this story would be as positive as it is. I had planned for a homebirth, which was complicated as I’m considered ‘high risk’. After meeting Sian Dudgeon (Antenatal Services Matron) at PBM we wrote up an individual care plan and hoped that I would make it to 37 weeks (Archie was born at 36+3). I had cholestasis which meant my liver wasn’t working effectively and lead to itchy skin and can potentially increase the risk of premature and stillbirth. The symptoms were under control with medication so I was still going ahead with the homebirth. Despite not wanting any intervention to begin with, I chose to have a sweep at home. I thought if all I need is a sweep to get things started then it’s minimal. However, I didn’t want to know any numbers when it came to dilation. Alison said she could feel her hair. It all became very real. There was a little girl just a few inches away who would be earth side soon and this journey would be over. There were certain birth affirmations that really struck me. Taking time each day to think about them really helped me bond with the baby. ‘Each day brings me closer to my baby’. I felt like we were a team, we were in it together and I was just excited to finally meet her and breathe her in.
The medication stopped being so effective so my consultant wanted to induce labour. This was one of my biggest fears – last time the drip hyper-stimulated my uterus and that was the point I just couldn’t cope any more. We had decided previously that if induction was mentioned that we would rather go for another caesarean. Thanks to the hypnobirthing, the empowerment of the PBM meetings and knowing I had so many people ready to help and support me – I didn’t panic. Yes, the Drs wanted to induce me, but it was my choice. I wasn’t ready to have the baby yet – I had done a lot of research and felt that we could wait. I wanted to give my body, and my baby, the best chance of having a homebirth and for me, that meant waiting. I agreed to daily monitoring as a compromise. On Tuesday 24th May I went for my daily monitoring and my blood pressure was raised so they wanted to bring the induction forward. I still wasn’t ready but I didn’t want to risk anything so I called my husband – Jim, to come into hospital. We talked things through and agreed to come in the following morning so we had time to prepare and arrange child care. I had been texting my doula throughout but at this point she had done her job so well I felt confident enough not to call her in yet. On Wednesday morning we said goodbye to Archie and went to the hospital, knowing that if I felt uncomfortable at any point I can ask for a caesarean. In my ‘Birth wishes’, as well as not wanting to know numbers when it came to vaginal examinations, I didn’t want a cannula ‘Just in case’, I wanted immediate skin-skin (no wiping off the vernix) and I wanted to keep her with me until the first breastfeed and delay measuring her. So, I had the pessary and we were left to it. We walked and talked and tried to make the most of the baby free time! We walked all around the hospital and did laps of the golf course in an effort to move things along. It was a very long day. At one point, I could feel baby was so low down I could barely sit on the toilet so I asked for an exam to see if they could break my waters. A new midwife had come on shift and Jim had gone to relieve our friends of Archie. She did the exam and when I asked if she thought she’d be able to break my waters she said ‘Absolutely not, 100% we will not be able to break your waters’. I was crushed. She left me on my own crying. I called Jim and he came back in to talk things through. Later on, I said I wanted to go home, I knew I wouldn’t sleep on the ward and if I couldn’t sleep she would never come on her own. The same midwife as before said I was ‘not allowed’ home once they started the induction process, even though I wasn’t having contractions. I was prepared for this ‘allowed’ conversation. I made it clear that the only way I would be staying in hospital would be if I was in a side room – this was also not ‘allowed’. I asked to speak to a supervisor and a lovely woman from the delivery suite came and talked to us, we were then moved to a private room so I could sleep.
Thursday morning came and we spent the day doing laps of the golf course and up and down the corridors again. Jim tried very hard to help me relax and kept conversation light, but it was hard. As the day progressed I felt like my ideal birth was slipping further and further away. In the afternoon, I asked if they could break my waters, something I didn’t think I would want. But after all we had been through, it seemed like I should try just in case it was what we needed to make it happen. We were already so far down the intervention ‘rabbit hole’, what did we have to lose? Then we went walking again. The midwife kept saying I should stop eating and drinking ‘just in case’, they wanted to put a cannula in ‘just in case’. Each time anyone said that I felt like they had given up on me. Every ‘just in case’ was another voice saying ‘It’s not going to happen’. It felt like they had seen women like me countless times before and they knew how it was going to end. This sort of intuition can be beautiful, but I could see in their eyes they thought I was wasting my time. But I had to believe. Throughout my pregnancy, I had done everything right. I had visualised my birth, I had changed the belief in myself, I deserved a beautiful undisturbed birth, I deserved to be the first person to hold my baby, to smell her head and feel her warmth on my skin. I wasn’t going to let that go, ‘just in case’. So, I went to sleep in the side room for the second night, still no baby. In the morning, I ate my breakfast but I had already decided it was going to be my baby’s birthday today. This was my choice. I can’t say what changed overnight, but I finally felt ready to meet her. I had to think of Archie being passed around between friends, even though I knew he would be having the time of his life I wanted to get our new family back together as a four and start the next adventure. We called our doula and let our families know we were in hospital and she was going to be born soon. We had kept it quiet up until then. We had to wait seven hours after breakfast, so I carried on walking and watching Modern Family on the iPad. Our doula arrived and we decided to share her name – I had only told my close friends up until this point. Remi Joy. The surgeon came and talked through the procedure, and I signed the consent form. I felt so happy signing the date – 27th May would be Remi’s birthday. Already this felt like a special date. While we waited, I listened to the hypnobirthing tracks on my phone and leaned on the birthing ball on the bed. Jim was getting very nervous now and stepped out of the room to listen to his own music. Someone came with a wheelchair which I declined. I didn’t feel unwell, I was having a baby. So, I took Jim’s hand and we walked to our baby’s birth as partners, equals. Like we had walked out of the registry office years before, like we had walked into hospital 3.5 years ago to have Archie, and like we had been walking around the golf course for the past two days. I made sure I had one arm out of the hospital gown so she could be slipped under it easily, and they put the heart monitor sticky tabs on my back and shoulders, and the blood pressure cuff on my other arm. I was adamant that I wanted her to be placed on me, with all the goo. They kept laughing but I was obsessed with her not being wiped – why should I miss out on that just because we are in surgery. When I laid down on the bed I suddenly was overwhelmed. I missed Archie. In the physical sense but I also knew the next time I saw him it wouldn’t be the same and I longed to hold him one last time while he was my only child.
The surgery started and before long, I heard her cry and she was here. She was placed on my chest, goo and all and it was just so lovely. It was everything I wanted it to be. She was here, she was safe, and she was skin to skin. She stayed that way for hours in recovery while my spinal wore off and we just stared at her. She looked just like Archie – I couldn’t believe how similar they were! She started feeding on her own. She was magic. She stayed down my top for about 4 hours, they took her out to be weighed and measured and then she was put right back again.
My recovery was not an easy one. I had to go back for emergency surgery as some of the internal stitches had come undone, I had an infection which needed treatment with IV antibiotics so I spent an extra 4 days in hospital. I was very depleted but coming home was the best feeling ever. I had my two little people and the best husband looking after me. I’m eternally grateful for my amazing mama tribe for helping with Archie in the weeks after Remi was born, they took him out for play dates, bought us food round, donated breast milk when I couldn’t make enough, sent lovely messages and kept me going through some very dark days. Even though Archie and Remi’s births were quite similar on paper, they felt very different to experience. I didn’t feel alone, I felt so supported throughout and I knew where to go for help. Archie is the reason I set up MiLK (Dorking NCT run feeding support group) and I’m so glad I did as I met the amazing Jill Shephard (Breastfeeding Counsellor, Lactation Consultant and all round wonder woman) who supported me through an incredibly tough feeding journey. Here we are at 1 year old, and she feeds like a dream and still spends a lot of time snuggled up next to me – and there is nowhere I would rather her be.