When my daughter was born in April last year, I was planning a calm, relaxed water birth with yogic breathing techniques and no pain relief apart from maybe gas and air. Well, best laid plans and all that.
My waters broke at 38 weeks and six days but contractions didn’t start until 12 hours later. Once they started, it took another 10 or 11 hours before I was far enough along to go to hospital.
Unfortunately, from there it went from bad to worse. I was 3.5cm dilated and had high blood pressure. The midwife advised me I couldn’t give birth in the midwife-led unit as I was nearly 24 hours past trauma. I could, however, stay there until a room was free on the delivery ward. This took three hours, during which time I could only be given some codeine and paracetamol. Unbeknownst to me, my labour had suddenly decided to speed up too. By the time I was taken to the delivery ward I’d already gone to 10cm and was starting to push.
The problem was, no one had told my daughter that this was when she should make her grand appearance. Over two hours later, I was still pushing and she was not budging. At this point I was told I’d need a forceps delivery which I agreed to readily. At this point I just wanted my baby out.
Five hours, one healthy baby, one retained placenta, one spinal block, one manual removal of said placenta, 2.5 litres of blood lost, and two blood transfusions later I was finally reunited with my husband and baby daughter. But the damage had been done.
I was completely traumatised. I’d missed skin-to-skin and the chance to breastfeed within the first hour - all of the things that you’re told are super important. I genuinely believed I was going to die in theatre to the point where I was scared to sleep at night because I thought I’d die if I closed my eyes. What was meant to be the best time of my life had become some sort of nightmare and I felt robbed of my chance to enjoy being a new mum.
Luckily, I had a great health visitor who recommended a local counselling service and, in time, I got better, although I still have flashbacks occasionally and struggle looking at photographs of my daughter when she was very new.
When my husband and I decided to have another baby, the thought of giving birth again worried me, but it was a kind of abstract concept, something that wouldn’t be happening for ages so I tried not to let it play on my mind. When I found out I was pregnant at the end of February, I thought I’d probably try for a natural delivery again. I mean, what were the chances of the same thing going wrong again?
Quite high, as it turned out. My community midwife advised me at my booking appointment that, in actual fact, a retained placenta was more likely to happen the second time if it happened the first time and that I should consider my options carefully to decide what was right for me.
So that’s just what I did. I spoke to friends who’d had C-sections, I asked online (I know Mumsnet gets a lot of stick but some of the advice is invaluable) and I read reports by hospitals, the RCM and obstetricians. I also spoke to the people I trust most in the world: my husband and my mum. After weeks of research and careful thought, I decided a planned C-section was definitely the right thing for me and, at my 16-week midwife appointment, I brought the subject up.
I was incredibly nervous, thinking she might try to put me off as has been the experience of so many women in other trusts, but she couldn’t have been more supportive. She agreed that it would be the best route for me both physically and emotionally and offered to refer me to a consultant immediately.
I was expecting to have to wait until near the end of my pregnancy to see someone but, low and behold, an appointment came through the post within a matter of days and, a couple of days ago at 23 weeks pregnant, I attended the hospital to speak to the consultant who’d make the decision. Once again, I was very nervous in case she put me off, but, again, the support I received was amazing.
After discussing what I went through the first time round and how long it took me to recover, she offered to book me in and I was given a date for my C-section there and then. I was also offered all kinds of other help, such as an appointment with the consultant midwife to discuss the emotional support the hospital can offer me. At one point in the appointment I found myself rambling on. I apologised for my nerves and explained that I’d heard of other women who’d been told they could only have a C-section if it was a medical emergency. I feel so lucky to have such a supportive medical team and I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off me now I know I won’t have to go through the same birth scenario again.
I know not all women are as lucky as I am and that some trusts are cutting back on planned C-sections. I think this is completely wrong and I agree with my consultant: a doctor can’t know what’s going on inside a mum-to-be’s head or how birth might affect her psychologically after trauma. So, listen to the mum – she’s the one who knows herself best.