We caught up with public figure and mum-of-two Millie Mackintosh to find out all about her planned abdominal births.
Many parents might think Millie Mackintosh is mad, having two children under two years old, but it's something she's excited about. "Me and my sister are actually only 13 months apart and we still have a really close sisterly bond," she tells us. And it seems going from one child to two wasn't as scary as you might imagine.
"I would say I didn't find it as much of a shock as it is going from zero to one. I was really unsure how I was going to find it and I asked a lot of friends and reached out on Instagram and asked other parents how they found a jump and I found such a mixed response. It just completely depends on the situation of the child, birth, recovery, how the baby sleeps, if the baby's got digestive issues, everything!"
Thankfully Millie's eldest daughter, Sienna, who is nearly two, has taken to becoming a big sister to five-month-old Auerlia swimmingly. "It's so amazing seeing their bond and how close they are," she gushes. "Sienna is at the age now where she really wants to help. She wants to get involved with nappy changing and feeding and it's really cute that she's so obsessed with Aurelia. We have to just stop her from being too forceful with the affection as she doesn't realise her force!"
As with Sienna, Millie had an abdominal birth with Aurelia. "I have had two really lovely, straightforward, and magical abdominal births, which were pre-planned. The first time there was more fear involved because it was quite unknown. I've never had surgery before and you're giving birth but you are also having surgery while you're awake, which is a pretty trippy thing to go through!"
Millie has always been keen to open up conversations around C-sections as a birth. "A lot of people associate a C-section in a negative way. I know a lot of women who wanted very much to have a vaginal birth and if for any reason, they had to end up having a C-section, they felt like they were robbed of the birth they want.
"Obviously it completely depends on your birth and your circumstances, but if you are in a situation where it's not an emergency, you can request for it to be what's called a gentle C-section, or a natural C-section, which I did," Millie explains. "I highly recommend that people like to look into it and research it because you can control the environment a bit, so play your music, dim the lighting in the room, talk to your obstetrician about the options for your scar, what kind of method they're going to use stitches and dressings. Being informed can help you have a really beautiful and calm experience. For my second birth, I opted to drop the curtain so I could actually see Aurelia being born, which was incredible."
Millie credits her PICO dressing for a much smoother recovery after her abdominal births. "My Obstetrician applied a PICO dressing in theatre after both of my births, as he had seen some great results in terms of wound healing. I did have worries around the surgery and wanted to do whatever I could to have the best chance of a smooth and swift recovery."
The PICO sNPWT is a wound care system, which provides suction through a dressing, known as Negative Pressure Wound Therapy. This draws out excess fluid from a wound and provides a compressive force, protecting the area from contamination to help promote healing. If you are interested in finding out more, you should talk to your midwife or a healthcare professional.
"I would say it made me feel calmer before my surgeries. And also afterwards because it feels like it's kind of holding you in a bit and giving you a bit of support, the way it's quite taut on the skin. I found that it made me feel a bit more confident to move around, obviously very carefully, in those first couple of weeks," Millie explains. "You just have a little device that I just clipped on. I was wearing big cotton knickers - and adult nappies! - and just clipping it on, or if I was just wearing like a robe around the house, I'd just like have it in my pocket."
Many of us love following Millie on social media because of her openness about motherhood, but the juggle of sharing the reality and still maintaining a private life is one she's still trying to navigate. "When I'm in the middle of something with one of the girls or going through a difficult phase, I can often feel like just isolating a bit and pulling back and not kind of going online and not talking about it. But what I've found is when I do actually share those raw, uncomfortable difficult moments, flip it and go 'This is what's going on,' I've been flooded with support and the most amazing connection to all these other parents who are going through the same thing."
The mum-of-two is aware that there's a line however and admitted she was apprehensive when she recently opened up about her decision to stop breastfeeding. "It's a particular topic I found people to be very opinionated about. And for me, I'd shared throughout the journey that I was having some difficulty and one thing that I found quite difficult was when I was saying, 'I've had mastitis, I'm really in pain. It's really hard. I don't know how much longer I can keep going' and while there was a massive amount of lovely advice, there was some pressure there to keep pushing through and keep going, offering 100 different remedies to try. I felt like a lot of people were like putting their opinion of what I should do onto me.
"I had to ultimately think what was best for me, my child, my mental health and my happiness. Ultimately, I can't be a good mum if I'm struggling and not sleeping and finding it really difficult. I battled on for another few weeks ago, got mastitis again and I was like, 'Do you know what, I'm done, I'm just done!'
Hero image credit: Oda Eide