Prepared For Everything.... Except a C-Section: Birth Story
On a Tuesday in late March, I went home from my office for what would be the last time. It was 20 weeks into my uneventful first pregnancy when things started to get a bit more interesting.
I worked from home at my kitchen table for the remainder of my pregnancy, beginning my maternity leave by logging off early with some supermarket cupcakes my husband bought to mark the occasion.
I was lucky enough to be able to continue seeing my OB in person, albeit with masks on for a maximum of 15 minutes per appointment. However, tests such as the GTT (Glucose Tolerance Test) were cancelled as it was considered too risky to send pregnant women to hang around a hospital for that length of time.
I spent 20 weeks of my pregnancy in various stages of lockdown, cut off from all my family interstate and even my friends.
Despite early concerns about my blood pressure my pregnancy continued with both myself and bub in perfect health. I was feeling confident that I would be able to have the vaginal delivery I so desperately wanted.
Previous trauma had left me terrified of catheters so I was adamant that I didn’t want an epidural. To that end, I requested no admission cardiotocography and no vaginal exams.
At 37 weeks, my baby turned posterior after having spent the previous month in perfect position. I dove deep into the research hole of how I could ensure a smooth delivery of my posterior bub, especially if they were in the small minority that didn’t turn in labour.
I was confident that if stayed upright and active and spent lots of time on my hands and knees, that bub would turn and I would have the delivery I wanted. When labour began at 3.00pm on a Saturday afternoon, I washed and dried my hair, put the final touches on my hospital bag and started walking around my dining table, where I had spent the previous 20 weeks working.
By 9.00pm, my contractions were three minutes apart and about 40 seconds long so I headed to the hospital- only for labour to stall almost as soon as I walked in the door. After waiting for my OB to come in and check me, we headed home at about 9.00am on Sunday. As soon as I got in the car, the contractions started again, every five minutes like clockwork.
At home, I continued walking around the table. At the hospital they had told me baby was not only still posterior, but actually still not even engaged. I had a CTG while I was there which I tried to resist but managed to get my way on no vaginal examinations. I was determined to flip this baby and get it out!
Several baths and a million kilometres around the table later, at 1.30am on Monday I had quite a dramatic gush of blood, and we headed back to the hospital. I hadn’t slept since Thursday night and was exhausted but still hopeful!
At the hospital we waited until my OB arrived at 6.00am. By this stage I wasn’t able to avoid a vaginal examination, but the good news was I was 4cm dilated and in active labour! The bad news was that bub was still posterior and still not engaged.
By 12.00pm, nothing had changed. I was exhausted and crying through contractions but baby wasn’t moving. At this stage my OB recommended we try the epidural and the peanut ball to relax my muscles and move baby down. I reluctantly accepted.
At this stage I was miserable and worried. I sat through six hours of the epidural, with the peanut ball and later a pitocin drip in the hope baby would finally get their bearings.
At this point, my OB told me she recommended a Caesarean section. When she said it I felt like I dropped through the floor. I felt such a total lack of control and like I had failed my baby despite trying everything that I had read online and in books.
During this time, stage four lockdown had been announced in Melbourne and I knew that there was no way that I would see my family any time soon. I was so, so tired and was dreading taking my baby home to our small dark apartment to spend an unknown length of time cut off from our support network.
I agreed to the c-section and 45 minutes later my daughter was born. I felt like a sack of potatoes being lifted onto the table. I have never felt less like a human being at what should have been one of the most human experiences of my life. All the medical staff were whispering about the impending lockdown.
When I saw my girl for the first time my arms physically ached to hold her, but all I could do was reach up to stroke her as she was placed next to my head. She was so perfect and I was filled with instant love and a desire to protect her always. Unfortunately, as it was an emergency c-section the hospital didn’t have an extra midwife on hand to assist, so my daughter was sent to the ward while I waited alone in recovery.
I don’t remember being brought to the ward, but my husband tells me I held my daughter as soon as I could. The next few days are foggy but I remember clearly her soft fluffy head nestled under my chin. In the first few weeks of my daughter’s life I cried much more than her. The trauma from birth and the disappointment and pain about being cut off from all my friends and family ate me away inside.
Our hospital allowed fathers to stay as long as they wanted but they couldn't leave. I remain so grateful for that as many women had their partners sent home after birth. As a c-section mum I would have really struggled without help in that first day.
As it has gotten warmer and restrictions have lifted I suddenly have much more good days than bad and now rarely remember anything other than the joy of my new baby. However, I think I will always look back on that time of my life with an undertone of fear and sadness. I’m so happy for the women giving birth now- with their friends and family around them in this most life changing time of their lives.
I wish I knew that sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you read or prepare, there are aspects of birth you can’t change with hard work.
Like the lockdown, my c-section was not my choice, it was just something that happened, and not a reflection on me as a mother.
I am still coming round to the idea that I didn’t fail birth needing a c-section, but every day it gets a little bit easier.
Special thanks to the wonderful Ellen for sharing her story.