When Birth Doesn’t Go to Plan – A positive Daisy Birth story by Gemma Bray
I am having a C-Section tomorrow. That’s a sentence I never expected to write!
As I sit down to write this my head is spinning (My section was only confirmed to me about an hour ago) so please forgive me if this is more of a stream of consciousness rather than an ordered account of my story so far!
I am a 34 year old Daisy Birthing Teacher and Doula from Sevenoaks in the UK. This is my third and last pregnancy and for the last few months I have been diligently planning and looking forward to my perfect home birth. I have been slowly stockpiling extra towels, preparing my kids for what its like to be present at a birth, organised my own doula, had pro photos done each week to create a stop motion video to timeline my increasing bump! I was even in the process of organising a photographer to be at my birth. (Hi Janet, Emma and Hannah!) So I had it all planned, all my ducks were in a neat little row.
But you know what they say.. Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. So at around 34 weeks at a routine community midwife appointment it appeared that baby was breech. No problem I thought, I can turn him there’s loads of time! As the weeks went on I started putting into practise everything that I knew that could help baby get into a head down position. You name it, I did it!
Handstands in the swimming pool (I am not the most graceful person so I went at 7am on a Sunday morning to keep embarrassment to a minimum!)
Breech tilts on an ironing board
Forward leaning inversions
Cold peas on the top of my bump
Music at the bottom of my bump to entice him down
Talking to him
Visualising him head down
But the scan at 35 weeks showed he was tranverse and then at 37 weeks he was oblique. Go to hospital they said… your baby is not in your pelvis and you are at risk of a cord prolapse if your waters go, they said. I was in hospital for 2 weeks prior to the birth of my baby. I missed my little boys so much! This was not how I wanted the last few days of my pregnancy to be.
My dream of a home birth was looking less and less likely but a little part of me really thought that baby would turn. Thing was I started to panic, how can I be a doula and have a baby by a planned section, would people judge me? I started to think that maybe I was not fit to be an antenatal teacher or a doula and that by that logic my career was over – this was awful and I started to feel depressed. I didn’t want a vaginal breech birth. I didn’t want a vaginal birth at any cost, if my baby was breech I wanted a c-section. I couldn’t help but feel that this meant that I was not a true champion of birth.
I reached out to my fellow Daisy teachers and friends who worked in the birth world (of which I am lucky to have many) and I want to thank each and every one of them for the support they gave me when I was coming to terms with my new birth plan. In particular I want to thank Lucy who really was there for me to sound off to when I needed it most.
My hospital stay was pretty depressing. I was still coming to terms with the rising possibility of a section but at the same time was being told that at any time baby could turn. So my mind was in a total muddle. At 38 weeks they offered me an ECV and I thought that as I had tried everything else it would make sense to try this one last thing. I could then say that I had done everything in my power to turn him. But it failed.
That was the worst day. I cried… a lot. I was horrid to my husband (I love you Mike).
So here I am in hospital, in my very sexy compression stockings, coming to terms with the fact that this baby will be born via a section.
In less than 24 hours I will be holding my baby. I am so excited about that I can’t even describe
it! And I know his birthday already, that’s pretty cool! I am trying hard not to forget the end
game here and that is that I am going to have another beautiful son. I am focusing on that. I
don’t want to think about the painful recovery or the operation that I will have to go through,
the fact that my baby’s microbiome won’t be seeded and that breastfeeding might be harder or that there is a higher chance of my getting post natal depression…. and all the other negatives
that go hand in hand with a c-section.
I want my birth to be positive.
I am lucky I have had weeks to slowly come to terms with having my birth plan changed. I have had the luxury of time to get my head around having major surgery other c-section mums aren’t as lucky. They sometimes only get minutes as they are getting rushed down for an emergency c-section. I have asked all the questions I can think of …. walked through what will happen countless times in my head so I am mentally prepared. We have planned to have the curtain dropped at the birth, delayed cord clamping and skin to skin.
I am thankful for this.
So little Ben Bray is earth side and has been for the last 3 weeks. (Happy 3 week birthday little man!)
I had my elective c-section three weeks ago and my body and mind have just about recovered enough for me to sit down and write this concluding part of our birth story.
I am going to be really honest with you because I think its vitally important that we talk about c-sections and that we talk about them in an honest and matter of fact way. We talk about vaginal births all the time. So not why not sections?
A c section is not an easy option. Recovery hurts both mentally and physically. I have had three babies and this was by far the hardest birth out of the three. I guess a section is one of those things in life that you can never truly understand or identify with unless you have had one. I had no idea.
To all the section mammas ….. Respect! I salute your bravery and selflessness!
The day of the section was pretty surreal. I remember being very hungry because I had been nil by mouth since the night before and I would have given anything to have had a piece of toast or better a bacon sandwich! I was fourth of the list which meant I was last and would be taken down to theatre around lunchtime.
The morning was a blur of consent forms, consultants, midwives administering pre op meds and anethesatists all wanting to talk to me and get me ready for the birth of Ben. There was no way I could take all of this information in, so I found myself just nodding and signing forms. The risks of a section are pretty intense, I tired to block them out … by watching Judge Rinder!
This was a completely different ritual to the slow build up of contractions that I had thought would signal the impending arrival of my baby. There were no contractions, no period pains, no waters breaking or careful filling of the birth pool. No candles or Silver Lake playing and my boys were at home and I knew they were worried.
It was a short walk to the operating room where I was greeted by an all female team, all smiling, all happy and it was actually quite fun chatting to the people who would help me give birth. My Daisy breathing came in very useful during the administration of the canula, the catheter and the spinal! It was very overwhelming.
What else do I remember? It was fast!! I asked if they had started but by this time baby was almost here.
I heard them say.
That is my most vivid memory. The consultant said it with such tenderness that it made me sob instantly.
But the curtains didn’t drop I didn’t have skin to skin and I just saw him sail over my head – I saw the white cord cut and clamped and a beautiful head of red hair. I don’t know why they didn’t drop the drape, I had asked them as they were putting it up. I had told most of the people I had seen that morning that I wanted it dropped. Ben was healthy, there was no reason why not. I will never forget the image of him being carried passed me. It replays in slow motion in my head whenever I think about it. It makes me cry when I talk about it. He needed me and I needed him at that moment but we weren’t together.
They asked me why I was crying. I said I was relieved he was well but I wanted to hold my baby.
I wanted to hold my baby boy.
I wanted to count his little fingers and toes. I needed to feel him against me and feel the rise and fall of his breath. I wanted to see him in all his freshly birthed state…. I wanted to to say hello.
My husband who had been sat by my side the whole time went to the table to cut the rest of the cord and took him from the midwife and brought him back to me. Ben was placed by my head but I could only see his right eye.
I got the most awful neck ache straining to see all of him whilst they finished off in the theatre. That really sucked. I wasn’t the first person to hold my baby. I think I was about fourth in line, after the consultant the midwives and my husband.
When they wheeled me through to recovery I set about making things right in the best way I knew how. We had our skin to skin, we breastfed whilst I ate chips and drank tea. He was gorgeous and healthy and latched on straight away. I was so proud of him. He had coped with his rude awakening so well. I had my little boy he was perfect and he was safe.
I would do anything for my children I would die for them and at that moment knowing he was safe was what mattered. Nothing else. The drips and monitors I was attached to thankfully faded into unimportance as we connected.
There started a 24 hour solid feeding party where Ben only want to to be held by me. (perhaps he thought it was pretty sucky too that our first cuddle was delayed so he was making up for it!) and he fed and we bonded so incredibly well that night whilst hubby tried to snatch as much sleep as he could on the hospital floor.
I wouldn’t let Mike leave, I like to think I am quite a strong resilient woman, but I felt so vulnerable that first night. I couldn’t be alone. I needed someone to protect me. I couldn’t even reach over to lift my baby. I am pretty sure this was instinctive. I couldn’t move so I needed to make provisions to make sure my newborn was safe, Dad stepped up!
Later that week I ran a bath turned off the bathroom light and lit a candle. Mike brought in Ben and lowered him into the bath on top of my tummy. It was magical and extremely healing to feel him relax into the water completely. We lay there listening to SilverLake and I spoke to him about how I had planned for his birth to be gentle like this. I cried big silent tears.
When I was ready Mike came to take him and dry him. I looked down at my tummy and his cord and the cord clamp were lying on my belly. It seemed very poignant and beautiful. That bath helped to cleanse my mind a little.
People have asked me since how I feel about things. If I am honest its a mixed bag, I have lots of feedback to give people who I came into contact with me on my journey (some good and some not so good!). But I have my little man. I am healing well both mentally and physically.
I no longer feel like I am not a valid contributor in the birth world. On the contrary, I feel I am in a great position to support mums. I have had three completely different types of birth – I am the same woman but I have had a different experience each time!
Daisy Birthing classes are inclusive of all birth choices and I am proud to be part of such a supportive group of women. I drew on so much of their knowledge and leaned on them when I needed it and I am looking forward to repaying the favour to other mums as they negotiate their birth journey when I return to teaching and my doula work in the Autumn.
Sometimes no matter how much we prepare the universe has a different plan. Even if it seems like the odds are in our favour you might be part of the unlucky few. 97% of babies are the right way round at birth. Ben was one of the 3%. Someone has to be!
We have a saying at Daisy … “you can’t control the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
And I think that sums up my journey perfectly. With the tools from Daisy and the peer to peer support Ben and I surfed our way through it together.
I have my baby and he is very loved
… and in case you were wondering, I hold him all the time now!