Kindly shared with us by Alice B.
I have two beautiful framed photographs in my sitting room. Taken a few moments after birth, they show each of my daughters cuddled up on my chest, relaxed and happy in skin-to-skin contact. My husband and I look amazed, elated and like we just can’t believe our luck.
Looking at those precious pictures reminds me of two lovely labours and two beautiful births. I often wonder, though, what visitors think of them – in both, my husband is wearing a blue theatre hat and scrubs, and I have heart monitoring leads on my chest. Both my daughters were born by emergency caesarean section.
During both my pregnancies, I hoped for a relaxed, calm and intimate environment for labour, minimal medical intervention, immediate skin-to-skin contact after birth and early breastfeeding. Being the planning type, I gave some thought to how this could still happen if my babies needed extra help to make their entrance into the world – and particularly if this was in an operating theatre.
Caesareans can be elective (planned) or emergency. Many emergency caesareans are relatively unhurried and nearly all are done with a spinal block (numbing injection), or by adding extra numbing drugs to an epidural if one is already in place. A general anaesthetic (being put to sleep) is very rarely needed. In my case, daughter number 1 was beginning to get distressed and wasn’t going to come out any other way, but our progress towards theatre was fairly stately. Daughter number 2 was suddenly very distressed and stuck during the pushing stage and her caesarean needed to happen very quickly. However, for both births I was wide awake and very excited as I waited to meet my babies for the first time.
My husband had brought his ipod into theatre for each birth, so our girls were born to our choice of uplifting, joyful music. There were quite a few nurses, doctors and midwives present but, for us, this felt supporting and friendly (especially as they were enjoying our party playlist!). There was a real atmosphere of excitement and anticipation. I made sure that my gown was just draped across my chest so that it wouldn’t get in the way of skin-to-skin later. The lights were bright, but – particularly if you know that your baby will be born by a planned caesarean – you could ask the surgeon if they would be happy to have the lights dimmed. For the birth of daughter number 2, there were no drapes so I had a good view of her as she entered the world – you could also ask to have the position of the bed adjusted just before the surgeon begins to lift your baby out so that your head is slightly raised, giving a better view. Each time, the surgeon lifted our baby up without identifying her gender, so we had that wonderful first view and moment of discovery for ourselves.
Both our girls needed a quick check-up by the paediatricians in the corner of the theatre before being given to us but within a few minutes they were wrapped in a towel and handed to me for a skin-to-skin cuddle and lots of photos. At this point it didn’t matter to us where and how our babies had been born!
I breastfed both babies in the recovery room – an area adjoining the operating theatre where we were closely monitored for about the first hour. However if you wished and the situation allowed, your midwives could support you to give the first feed in theatre before the surgeons have even finished their work. After the dramatic entrance of daughter number 2 I sniffed lavender oil to help me relax. The arrival of daughter number 1 was celebrated with tea and chocolate! My lovely girls stayed cuddled close to me in bed, dressed in just a nappy, whilst we were taken to the ward.
Both my lovely, healthy babies were born by emergency caesarean section. Both had beautiful births. Looking at their birth pictures now, I feel truly blessed.
Every Bit As Magical
An article about a surgical technique providing gentle, gradual delivery in a planned caesarean.
“Birth skills” by Juju Sundin
An Australian book which I found invaluable during my labour with daughter number 2. It provides you with a whole repertoire of coping skills for managing contractions, and also gives information and birth stories about many different possible experiences during labour and childbirth, including caesarean.
www.caesarean.org.uk gives some really useful ideas for a caesarean birth plan, as well as details about vaginal birth after a previous caesarean (VBAC).
My local midwives offer a “birth reflections” service, which offers an unhurried appointment with a specially trained midwife to go through notes and discuss your previous birth or births – It might be helpful to find out whether something similar is available in your area.