Birth Story - Ceara and Niamh: My Empowering Caesarean Birth

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Baby: Niamh

Mum: Ceara

After having a very difficult time getting over the pretty traumatic birth of our 2 and a half year old son James, I was not really in the best state of mind for birth at the start of this pregnancy, even after all of the counselling I had done to process the trauma of James’ birth. I tried to do some of the classes I really enjoyed whilst pregnant with James, but just didn’t find they worked for me this time around.  But then I came along to a LushTums class and I LOVED it.

The environment felt safe and supportive, and you could share if you wanted to, but never had to go into too much detail, so I wasn’t anxious about appearing negative to other mums-to-be. It was also so lovely as it was time for me and, very importantly, let me focus on THIS baby and THIS pregnancy in the here and now, rather than thinking about previous experiences.

My husband and I also attended the Preparing for Birth workshop which we both found really beneficial. Neil found it really useful to re-cap on the stages of labour and what he could do to help at each stage. We both found it really useful to talk about some of the negative elements of James’ birth and get some impartial input on ways we could ask for some things to be done differently this time around. We came away feeling like we had so many more options than we thought and also felt much more informed and empowered to question things that we weren’t happy with.

As we were getting closer to due date I was being monitored more closely. At my 36 week scan they flagged that baby was on the cusp of being classed as “big”, and at the 38 week scan they confirmed that baby was already 8lbs 8oz and so they were now getting concerned about me going overdue and having a vaginal birth after having had a caesarean (VBAC) last time, which is what I wanted.

However, I felt confident enough to ask them for an alternative. All of my questions were received very positively and it was agreed that I would be booked in for an elective c-section 3 days after my due date (on 6 December) but that I would have weekly sweeps to try and get things going naturally. 

As the end of November came, I was starting to get really anxious as I was running out of time! This is where I found the yoga movements and breathing I had learned so useful, and I used them to try and keep me grounded and accepting of the fact that I had very little control over when baby decides to make an appearance, and to remind myself that I was happy with my decisions and my course of action. I was just so frustrated that I felt so close (was still having cramps most evenings) but was just going to miss out on a VBAC due to time!

Then on 1 Dec I got out of bed and my waters went! I was so excited, I almost skipped into Southmead Hospital! After over 7 hours of monitoring the swab showed that yes, my waters had gone! I actually squealed with delight, and was so excited and proud that I had listened to my body.

The only issue was that nothing further had happened the whole time I was in hospital. I had 24 hours from when my waters broke to go into labour and I had spent over half of those precious hours sat in a bed being monitored! I was desperate to get active and get things moving!

Nothing happened at all over night and I thought I would have been heartbroken to have come so close and still not get my VBAC, but I wasn’t. I woke feeling excited and calm as I knew what the plan of action was now and there was nothing more I could have done. I was pleased that baby had given us a little sign that they were ready to come, that their arrival was still sort of spontaneous (rather than being the 6 December which had been looming on my calendar) and that their birthdate would still end up being a surprise to everyone.

The midwife, anaesthetist and consultant who would be performing my c section all came and met me in the assessment unit, introduced themselves to Neil and I, found out what I wanted from this delivery and we even had a bit of banter. I felt like my opinions were really valued and they had all already taken the time to read my birth plan before coming to see me and all said they were focused on giving me a much more positive experience this time around. They even joked about my appendix op and said they would check for any inflamed organs whilst they were in there to save me a trip back to A&E this time!

One of the nicest things they asked me was “what is important to you and what do you want to get from this delivery, apart from your healthy baby”. I explained that I wanted it to feel joyful (no standing in silence with just beeping machines), I wanted them to talk to me so I knew what was going on, I really wanted skin to skin and, basically, to feel as involved as I could even though it was a medical procedure. The midwife stopped me at this point and said, very seriously and empathetically “of course you are involved, this is your birth and your baby”.

They were so accommodating and said that all of my requests were completely reasonable and feasible and that they were going to give me a great experience this time! I even asked if it would be possible to see baby being born and, after a bit of thought, the consultant said they could angle the main theatre light so that I could look up and see the reflection in the mirror, if I wanted to at the crucial time! They could not have done more to make me feel involved, accommodated and excited about meeting my baby.

It was a very strange feeling walking into theatre and the nerves started to kick in at that point. But everyone was doing what I had asked to help keep the atmosphere light- we had our own music playing and they were all really reassuring. I used the golden thread breath to try to keep calm. I also used that breath whilst getting the spinal (which took 4 attempts and was very painful and required me to sit in a very uncomfortable position – I was almost in tears but knew I had to stay as still as possible so that breath worked wonders!)

Finally, the spinal was successful and surgery began. Soon I hear them telling me they had baby and that they were about to be born so to look up…but I couldn’t see! I didn’t care as the next moment they were holding this messy, crumpled baby up and Neil was telling me that it was a girl! I was speechless, he had tears in his eyes and I was crying too! It was such a wonderful surprise. She had to have a little assistance in clearing her lungs so I didn’t get skin to skin straight away, but they invited Neil around to see her and take some photos for me.

Eventually, just as the surgery finished, I got to hold my beautiful baby girl. She was crying and as soon as I held her in my arms she stopped. I have never felt more like superwoman in my life! The bond and rush of love was instant! I then got my golden hour with just some very gentle monitoring in recovery. The midwives came to help with breastfeeding, but Niamh had already latched on. That hour was just as magical as I remember it being with James and the tea and toast tasted even better after such a long fast! 

When she was weighed, she was only 7lbs 8oz, so not the whopper everyone was expecting!

The way I feel now could not be more different to how I felt after James’ birth and it really has cemented that you can have positive birth experiences, no matter what form of delivery. I look back on Niamh’s birth as a truly magical and exciting time and feel so proud of myself for going through that to bring my beautiful babies into the world.