In HuffPost Birth Diaries we hear the extraordinary stories of the everyday miracle of birth. This week, Ella Reynolds, 30, shares her story. If you’d like to share yours, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve done C-sections on guinea pigs, cats, dogs, cows and sheep, so having a caesarean with my twins wasn’t daunting for me. I’m a vet. It’s the language I speak, you could say, Rather than lying silently in theatre, I asked the surgeon to explain exactly what he was doing. Some may think I’m crazy, but I needed it. The room was pretty packed – student midwives asked if they could stand in and considering I’d been in similar training myself, I said yes to anyone.
“Do not ask if I’m okay,” I told the surgeon. “I’ll lose it. All I want is you to explain exactly – in technical terms – what you’re doing.” And he did just that. He told me when he was making an incision and where, and he told me where he was retracting the muscles away, too. I heard it all. When you work in a medical job, professionalism kicks in and you can override your emotions.
And that worked, up to a point.
But being a surgeon became my downfall when things went a little wrong. I guess you could say “hideously grateful” is how I would describe my birth.
Finding out you’re having twins is a moment you’ll never forget. I remember seeing straight away on the scan that two babies were there – and I was absolutely, utterly, over the moon. Were we prepared? Of course not. We were in tears. Happy tears, though.
I knew my babies were going to be big (I don’t know why, I just did), so I chose an elective C-section. I was super lucky that I made it full-term. But I was huge, and I mean I was vast. Before I fell pregnant I was 58kg; when I went into surgery I was 96kg. In fact, by the time they operated on me I was so heavy they had to get extra people to lift me on the bed – how embarrassing!
Seeing as we were having twins we were expecting complications, so every day I was pregnant was a bonus – a heavy bonus. I had a scheduled C-section on the Thursday, but my waters broke at 1am on the Tuesday. Twin births need a lot of staff, so the hospital wanted us to wait until morning to go in to ensure they had enough bodies to actually deal with us.
The morning drive in was nothing to write home about. I took my nail varnish off in the car – you can’t have it on for surgery – using my trusty nail varnish remover I’d left in the door for this moment. Sadly, it wasn’t a case of arriving, going into surgery and meeting my babies. The hospital was so busy that morning the surgeon came (and failed) to get us three times.
“Laying in theatre I was overwhelmed with a mixture of calmness and anticipation – I was about to be a mum!"”
We kept being delayed for women more urgent than us, one of them my friend who had a home birth gone wrong. She bumped us further down the line, but her little girl was born safe and well. When my turn came, I was so ready. Laying in theatre I was overwhelmed with a mixture of calmness and anticipation – I was about to be a mum.
Ivy, my girl, came out first, screaming and happy. Oscar was stuck under my rib cage, so it took a little longer to get him out. He was still in the amniotic sac when he was born, which is wonderful and rare. He had no idea he’d been born until the surgeon really delicately broke him out his bag.
When Ivy was handed to me, it felt like the whole world paused, and I had that same euphoria with Oscar, followed by slight panic because he didn’t cry straight away. Being born in the amniotic sac meant there was no point of trauma to stimulate his scream. It only took about 30 seconds... and I felt my body relax the moment I heard him.
It was around this point that my vision went blurry and my face started itching. I couldn’t even coordinate my hands to get to my face. Emergency staff rushed in. Oscar had been out only a few moments before the doctors realised how much I was bleeding, leaking underneath one of the drapes. It was scary listening to them at that point. As a surgeon yourself you understand what’s going on. It made me realise how serious the situation was.
The medical staff were incredible. My partner Rob took Ivy and I had Oscar – I even started feeding him in theatre while the doctors were still operating on me. They stopped the bleeding and stitched me up, but I still had to spend a night in the high-dependancy ward. I lost two and a half litres of blood that day.
It’s strange, I had eight months panicking that my babies would be tiny and premature, and they were absolutely fine – I was the one needing extra care.
I spent two more days on the low-dependancy ward before I was discharged – and we left hospital as a family of four. I felt bad, I’m not going to lie. My body had taken a battering and the C-section was taking its toll. But I had this weird tank of energy – I call it the “mum reserve tank” – where it doesn’t matter how crap you feel or how tired you are, you just do it and get on with it.
My birth advice?
Prepare for all eventualities. Educate yourself as much as possible. Trust the doctors. And when you get home, take all the help offered to you.
As told to Amy Packham.