When I was pregnant for the first time three years ago I was petrified of giving birth. Then we did The Wise Hippo full course and it gave me and my husband the techniques and confidence to go for the home birth I really wanted.
And my first birth went exactly the way I’d hoped – it was a calm, relaxed and natural birth in a pool in our kitchen. It had such an impact on me that I trained to teach the Wise Hippo. And one of the things I have always loved most about the course was the focus on the right birth on the day. That actually it’s not about having an all natural home birth, it’s about control and empowerment – giving birth however and wherever is right, knowing that all the decisions were yours and that you had the best possible birth on the day.
And I can say hands down that the twists, turns, drama and waiting involved in the arrival of our second baby, has given me first hand experience of how the right birth on the day doesn’t have to be a certain way.
A surprise discovery
At 40 weeks we went for a routine scan – I had been having scans every 4 weeks from 26 weeks due to my Papp-A levels, (something some hospitals now test for, a deficiency in a hormone produced by the placenta that means there’s a small risk of the baby not growing properly in the last three months), every scan had been completely fine, so me and my husband were a teeny-bit resentful that we had to go in again!
We dropped our daughter at my parents and said we’d be back to pick her up in a few hours. We were wrong.
As soon as the sonographer said she couldn’t find the head – I knew that our baby was in a tricky position. She thought it must be because his head was so far down (fully engaged), but I asked her to scan the hard lump near my right rib cage and sure enough it was his head, meaning he was in a transverse lie. Head wedged under my rib, spine all the way across my tummy (really low down) and feet up by my ribs. As my consultant later clarified ‘you can get a ladder out of a window vertically, whether it’s upside down or not, but you can’t get a ladder out of a window horizontally’.
I cried during that scan because I knew that our son couldn’t come out in the way I’d wanted him to. I also gave into fear and started worrying about how long I’d be away from our daughter – the fact I wouldn’t be able to drive etc. Then after the initial shock I realised my mindset needed to shift.
My husband was amazing and got straight into birth partner mode – a kind midwife asked us to come and sit in a quiet room as she could see that I was upset. Rich held my hand (and gently squeezed it – birth partner’s script) and started doing the breathing techniques with me. He calmed me down completely and helped me to focus on all of the positives. Our baby was healthy, our baby was safe, we were in safe hands, and our baby clearly just wanted to make a very different entrance into the world from that of his big sister.
Then we saw the consultant – who was lovely. I’d been seeing him about the Papp-A, something which now had no relevance. I let Rich ask all of the questions and gave myself time to listen and take everything in.
Rich found out our options – 3 in total , but one thing was non-negotiable – I was not going home till our baby was here. I had to be hospitalised as there was a very small but significant risk that if my water’s broke, because there was no head or bum plugging the gap, I could have a cord prolapse. So I was staying put in hospital.
Then he gave us our 3 options:
1. Wait it out – I was 40+3 days and could wait till 42 weeks in hospital in the hope that he would turn before then or turn as I went into labour.
2. I could have a stabilised induction in theatre – two people would carry this out, one would try and turn my baby and if it worked the other would hold his head in place while the first broke my waters and induced labour.
3. I could choose to have an elective C-section.
None of the options really appealed to me! But I ended up working my way down the list.
1. Waiting it out
At first I quite liked the idea of waiting, but how long would I want to wait on a hospital ward when I wasn’t allowed out? On the first night there was a woman labouring in the bed opposite me, I found it hard to sleep and I missed my daughter – one night of waiting turned out to be enough for me. I’m not very patient. Plus after speaking to various consultants it didn’t seem likely that our baby would move. He had been transverse for most of my pregnancy – I’d taken action around 34 weeks (reflexology, spinning babies and hypnotherapy) and he’d been head down at my 36 week scan, and my subsequent midwife appointment – the consultants were pretty shocked that he’d moved from head down to transverse so late in the day.
2. Stabilised induction
I thought about this one a lot and at one point it was at the top of my list – but after a few honest conversations with consultants and my husband I eventually decided against it.
As the consultants pointed out they’d be trying to turn our baby about a 270 degree turn – he was pretty much in the most difficult position he could be in. They thought there was around a 25% chance it could work and if it didn’t it would be straight to a C-section. After a heart to heart with my husband I realised that what I wanted was control and to do the least stressful thing for me and baby, and by choosing and preparing for a C-section I felt we could do that.
3. Elective C-section,
And so the option that I least wanted at the start became my favourite. We talked with anaesthetists, consultants and midwives about aspects of our birth preferences we could use in theatre. Yes we could have our music, aromatherapy oils, photos and affirmation board.
The more we chatted about it and visualised it the more excited we both became. We knew we could still use so many of the techniques – breathing, soothing strokes and countdown to my relaxaing place – my favourite ones anyway.
The only worry – and the reason I probably took a while to come to what now seems lke a quick decision was because of previous back surgery I couldn’t have an epidural – instead I would have a spinal (diamorphine), and they couldn’t be positive that this would work. They would attempt it a few times and then give me a general anaesthetic. I wanted to see my son arrive and so I didn’t even allow myself to think about the general – the spinal would work no question.
Waiting it out again
I was hospitalised on the Wednesday am and although I decided not to wait on Thursday morning, we didn’t end up going into theatre till the Friday afternoon. The hardest part was the waiting, as we had no idea when we would be called up. Neither me nor my son were at any risk, so of course any emergencies went into theatre before us as did pre-booked C-Sections. Plus it was September, which as we’d been told throughout this pregnancy is the busiest month for babies because of all the Christmas pregnancies!
So we waited and tried to pretend we weren’t waiting (time distortion techniques came into play). I stopped looking at the time, we started doing the things we’d planned to do in the early stages of labour – cue watching episodes of Modern family, even just before theatre the midwife chatted with us about how much she enjoyed the show too.
We also listened to our playlist and played Monopoly deal to help the time pass. I couldn’t eat my favourite foods as I had to be starved each day, but instead I visualised eating and drinking my fave things, which strange as it sounds spurred me on. And I’m pretty proud that within the first 10 minutes of coming out of theatre I was eating and drinking my M&S goodies – yes there were Percy pigs.
We had a few false starts – the cannula was put in my hand and I got my lovey gown and stockings on on two seperate occasions, but emergency C-sections took precendence. This just meant that by the time we were called up we were beyond excited.
We also kept telling ourselves that it wasn’t really going to happen – just incase it didn’t. Once we were in theatre there was something incredibly special and magical about the fact that we knew our son would be with us in about 30 mins.
Also, I believe our waiting paid off as we had the nicest team, which turned out to be 8 women . They completely got the atmosphere we wanted to create and helped by making jokes, standing out of my line of sight to put the drip in, and asking questions about my photo and affirmation board. The room itself was much nicer than I’d imagined, bright white and radiant – at least that’s how I saw it.
The techniques that completely got me through were the 5,4,3,2,1 breath, countdown to my relaxing place, soothing strokes and Rich also did acupressure on my hands. He was busy the whole way through. He held my hand the whole time, and one of the aneasthetists stood right by me, encouraging and reassuring me. I felt completely loved and supported throughout.
I have to say for me, the first half was easy – I was off in my relaxing place – the hot tub in the woods outside the tree house we’d stayed in for my birthday, sipping Ginger beer and eating roses (the chocs, just incase that sounds weird) . Rich kept talking to me about my relaxing place and doing soothing strokes. He also kept making me laugh – which helped loads, but I was asked to stop laughing as it was making it difficult for the poor surgeon.
Then in what seemed like no time at all, they lifted our perfect baby boy Noah Zachary Pryn out, well actually it turns out his bum and balls had been out for a while as his head was properly wedged under my ribs! Any way as they lifted him, Rich played the Circle of life and the whole room laughed. We then had skin to skin whilst I had my stitches.
Unfortunately It was then that my spinal started wearing off – well they think that perhaps it never completely worked as I still had movement in my legs – and I started feeling discomfort. The anaesthatist suggested a general anaesthetic but I did’t want to close my eyes, or miss a thing (to paraphrase Areosmith), so I used my surge breaths! And I didn’t think I’d get to use them, but they totally got me through.
I was then wheeled out totally elated with my baby on my chest and he fed within the first hour of being born. Our daughter came into meet him a couple of hours later. I had that night in hosiptal just me and him and we were back in our own bed the following evening.
I can honestly say that it was a truly special day and one that I’m so very proud of. On paper it was nothing like the birth we’d planned. But the fun, relaxed and special atmosphere was exactly what I’d wanted to create. Yes we were thrown a massive curveball but the techniques and choices we made mean that I only feel happiness when I think about Noah’s birth. If I could go back in time, I honestly wouldn’t change a thing.
Because I have now had two extremely different births, a pain relief free home birth and an elective c-section, I can safely say that it’s not about what happens on the day but about how you feel. And in both instances the techniques and knowledge we had not only got us through but made both births memorable, special and enjoyable.
Noah is a very chilled out little dude, who from week one has been sleeping 6 hours in a row most nights. We are loving being a family of four and Immy is very much enjoying being a big sister.
You can also watch a video – a Facebook live I made about my elective C-Section –