This is a guest blog post by Rachel, in her own words.
Spoiler alert – my story has a happy ending, a not-unhappy start, and happy middle too.
Info – I am British and live in Swansea in the UK.
Eight years ago I was pregnant with my first baby. She was breech. I agreed to the external cephalic version or ECV (the doctor turning baby round through external manipulation) at about 36 weeks.
I went into labour the day before my due date and all progressed nicely. After many hours in a birth pool at the hospital, I was fully dilated and pushing. But my babe’s heart rate dropped with every push. Apparently they could see the cord over her head.
So the midwife calmly explained we needed to go to theatre where they would try forceps and if no joy then for caesarean birth. I was kinda high on gas and air as well being in the end stages of labour so I just did what she said.
The forceps didn’t work (they did grab her head but the cord wouldn’t budge) so the caesarean went ahead.
It is routine to have a spinal anaesthetic or an epidural for this. I was able to sit still and my husband was with me.
Soon enough Hannah was born weighing a decent 7lb 8oz. She needed oxygen for a few minutes but we heard her cry and I could hold her then. They explained to me after that the cord was over her head like a child’s hair band so she simply couldn’t get out the normal way.
Breastfeeding was hard work but with the help of lovely midwives we cracked it.
My birth wound got an infection but one course of antibiotics sorted that. Afterwards I took comfort in the fact that I had experienced real labour, almost to the end, and that caesarean was the only way she was going to get out. I didn’t feel like a failure, or cheated, and I certainly didn’t feel I’d been bullied into anything.
Fast forward two years.
I had a miscarriage at 6weeks ????
The following month I was pregnant again and guess what? Breech again. My babies just like to sit up ????
Anyway this time I declined the ECV, as I felt sure it was the ECV that tangled the cord up last time.
The doctor advised me to book elective caesarean birth due to the breech position. I tried all the techniques at home to get babe to turn but no joy. I felt peaceful about the elcs but nervous about the physical recovery with a toddler to look after too.
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Anyway the day came and it all went smoothly. The whole thing felt so much more relaxed and calm this time. It helped as we knew what to expect. I did get a blinding headache during the birth but the anaesthetist sorted it out.
Oliver was born at 39 weeks weighing 6lb 12oz. Afterwards breastfeeding was much easier and physically I recovered so much faster. When talking about the birth etc I found myself wanting to defend the ‘choice’ of elective caesarean birth (elcs), but him being breech made that a fairly easy one to me.
There were times when I felt like I had ‘missed out’ on a normal birth. Times when I was sad about the way my belly looked (my scar is very high up) and wished it didn’t have an ‘overhang’) but those feelings passed and I accepted this is how it panned out.
Fast forward to last year. After a fair while of waiting, I was pregnant with our final addition. I researched a little into vaginal birth after 2 caesareans (VBA2C). I was quite prepared to head down the normal delivery route as long as babe wasn’t breech again!
I was nervous at the prospect of it of course! I watched various videos on YouTube to try and prepare myself. This time he turned himself round before 36 weeks ???? However, the doctor advised 3rd section was safer than vba2c.
So I took her recommendation and we booked the elcs. I briefly wrestled with the thought that I should have fought harder to ask for vba2c. My husband was so relieved that it was an elcs. (He was so frightened the first time and didn’t want that to happen again. I now know that the whole situation was very serious and the threat over her life was substantial).
I made my peace with the planned section and set about preparing for it.
If you have a life, birth or other story you would like to share, please email me HERE.
I knew I might struggle with body image again afterwards. So I discussed it with a good friend who was suitably encouraging and understanding (even though she’s never had caesarean section scars) and I felt better knowing I had told someone my worries.
I saved the whatsapp message she sent me and reread it when I needed to. I was also finding it a bit hard telling people I was having a third section. I could see the look of sympathy/ disappointment/ disapproval on people’s faces sometimes.
The best way I found to handle that was to remind myself that this was medically advised, that my baby would be safely delivered, that I knew what to expect, and that it wasn’t their business actually.
My baby. My story. My choice to follow the doctor’s advice.
Plus I also knew from experience that the moment of the birth is a short one, and that the lifetime of raising a child is a much longer one. I did other things to help myself too.
I stopped following vba2c boards on Pinterest and Facebook.
During the course of my social media perusings I had come across ‘gentle caesareans‘ – I didn’t know what that meant! It seemed to be more of an American thing. What I hadn’t known was that women can have the drapes lowered and can watch the baby being pulled out! Again though, I thought it was just an American thing ☺
YouTube showed me a video of a woman having this kind of birth on Torquay (on the south coast of England). Well Torquay is a very ordinary place so it got me thinking maybe I could have that too!!
My midwife said it would depend on the surgeon. So on the day I asked the surgeon.
I thought it might be a big deal, asking to watch etc, but it wasn’t like that at all. I asked the Surgeon who came to see us just before we went to theatre, he didn’t bat an eyelid, he just said ‘yeah sure’, like it happens all the time
He added the caveat that it was fine as long as there weren’t any complications etc. It was so simple!
So that’s what happened. And it was amazing. I saw him being pulled out (the major gore was obscured by the bump????).
He was facing me, all vermixy, opened his eyes straight away and gave a great cry. It was amazing. A memory I will never forget. Ever.
Joseph was born at 39 weeks weighing a much bigger 8lb 5oz. Breastfeeding is the easiest so far. Physically it took longer to recover. But I did.
And I’m managing much better with body image too.
I’m usually a size 12 but needed size 16 jeans post birth. I’m now in size 14 four months later, and quietly accepting of the fact that it’ll take a while to get back to the 12. It’s very freeing when you stop worrying! I have the benefit of being older and wiser now too of course ????
If I have any regrets it’s that I didn’t know about watching the delivery for my 2nd. But I don’t lose sleep over that. Now that I’m in the throes of new babydom alongside mothering an 8 and 6yr old, I rarely give a thought to how they were born.
I felt like my third birth was the very best it could be, and I look back on it now with such peace, and happiness.
Honestly. I try to be content with how things are. I can’t go back and change anything. I have three lovely children. And I have peace for which I am very grateful.
So that’s my how-my-babies-came -out story. Xx”
“Rachel’s journey was a long one – her request for a gentle caesarean birth was treated as it should be – with respect and consideration, too many women have to fight for the births they want, however that is – I love the positivity in Rachel’s stories – the births she had were the right births for her and the joy with which she describes her third birth and the ready acceptance and open mindedness of the consultant brings a happy tear to my eye – knowing as I do of women who have been declined caesarean births and undergone traumatic, unwanted, vaginal deliveries. This is birth as it should be.
My blog post on gentle caesarean birth including maternal request caesarean, Reclaiming Birth For All Women, is HERE,
For further information – NICE Guidelines On ECV, Royal College of Gynocologists “Management of Breech Birth“, NICE Guidelines “Caesarean Section“.
Also feel free to join our local South Wales Birth Circle.
Samantha Gadsden walks with women on their life’s journeys. She is an experienced Doula, based close to Cardiff in South Wales, mother to 4 children and wife to Eddie, more information can be found on her facebook page, Samantha Gadsden Doula and her website, Caerphilly Doula. SOS Doula, Telephone and online support is always available.
If you are interested in writing a guest blog or sharing a life or birth story please feel free to contact her HERE.
“Your Journey, Your Body, Your Baby, Your Birth“