Mother and Baby

"I loved knowing when my baby would arrive!"

Meet Debbie, who gave birth to her breech baby with a planned c-section... 

Debbie Harvey-Barnes, 39, co-founder of littlebundlebox.com, lives in Stockport with husband Rowan and daughter Ariana, 2.

Giving birth to my daughter was a massive achievement for me. I have a genetic condition that makes getting pregnant and carrying to full term difficult and, after a year of trying to conceive naturally, my husband Rowan and I had three rounds of IVF. So, when we found out we were expecting Ariana we were elated. After the journey we'd been on, though, we were also cautious. Getting to the 24-week mark, then all the way to 38 weeks, felt like a miracle.

At the time we were living in Australia, which has a different healthcare system to the NHS. Our health insurance covered private antenatal care, and we were assigned to a lovely obstetrician whose job it was to monitor the baby, right through to actually delivering him or her when the time came. One of my scans discovered the baby was in the breech position and, with my due date looming, it was time to think about our options. ‘We could try and do a manual turn, but it's not guaranteed to work,’ the obstetrician told us, explaining that the process may place the baby under a bit of stress. The thought of someone pushing on my bump like that made me feel a bit stressed too!

The other option of a c-section seemed a better option. Yes, it's major surgery, and the recovery time is longer, but I liked the fact I'd know exactly what to expect – after a turbulent time trying to get pregnant, it was great to have some certainty. To the hospital staff, it was a routine procedure that they did every day. I knew it was 100 per cent the best option for me and my baby.

I'd been working from home right up to two days before I was booked in at 38 weeks. Because we'd planned all the aspects of the day, I could relax in the knowledge everything had been taken care of. Even on the day when Rowan and I arrived on the hospital ward, I felt positive and excited. ‘You're going to meet your baby today!’ one of the midwives said, smiling. The atmosphere was so upbeat.

Once a few external checks, like the baby's heart rate and my blood pressure, had been done, I met the anaesthetist. We'd already spoken on the phone, so I felt a sense of familiarity. He talked me through the spinal anaesthetic, and I felt totally prepared for what was about to happen. It was great to see my obstetrician too. ‘Hello team!’ he grinned at us, and I felt instantly at ease.

Rowan and I were given theatre gowns to change into, and we started messing around making silly jokes. I think we were on a bit of a high! Being prepped for the anaesthetic while Rowan waited outside changed the mood temporarily. This is really it, I thought. I was asked to lean forward over a pillow on the bed so the spinal anaesthetic could be administered. Everything felt familiar, though, because I'd been talked through this procedure several times. One of the midwives distracted me with friendly chat as I felt the needle go in. The sensation was more than a pin-prick but wasn't too painful.

I lay back on the bed as numbness crept over my legs until I couldn't feel a thing. It felt odd, but not unpleasant. The weirdest part was looking down at my legs like they weren't my own – I could see the staff moving my limbs but couldn't feel any pressure! But I took comfort in the fact that everything was working as it should be.

Next, I was wheeled into theatre, Rowan walking by my side. I took a moment to process seeing all the equipment, and acknowledge my nerves, as a screen was put up in front of my bump. Rowan looked at me, and we laughed excitedly. ‘You're going to feel a slight pressure now,’ said the obstetrician and, sure enough, I felt a painless pressure on my bump, and a kind of 'rummaging' sensation. They must have been pressing down hard to try and get the amniotic fluid out. We'd already agreed with our anaesthetist that he'd go behind the screen and take some photos of the baby being born. It wasn't what I wanted to see right now, but I was keen to capture the moment and witness it later on! He snapped away with the camera and I breathed deeply to stay relaxed.

‘Come and have a look if you like,’ the obstetrician said to Rowan, beckoning him behind the screen, and he moved over to watch our baby being born. It wasn't something I ever expected him to do, but I'm glad he was able to experience such an incredible moment. It all happened in a split second: I saw Rowan's eyes widen as a look of shock, joy and disbelief crept over his face. ‘Wow!’ he said. ‘She's here.’

I listened intently and, sure enough, within a few of seconds our little girl let out a loud cry. Relief flooded my body as she was brought straight round to me for a cuddle. At the sight of her, I gasped. Baby Ariana looked swollen, chubby and completely beautiful. I was over the moon, and could hardly process the fact that our longed-for baby was finally here. Looking at her face, it hit me what a huge mountain we'd had to climb to get to this point. It was hard to comprehend the fact I'd finally managed to grow and give birth to a new life.

Before long, we were taken to the recovery room where a midwife helped me to latch Ariana on. That first feed was so special. I was ecstatically happy. Looking back, I wouldn't have changed my birth experience for the world. While part of me wonders what it would have been like to have gone into labour naturally, I think a c-section was definitely the right choice. After such a long journey to a successful pregnancy, I needed the certainty of knowing exactly what was going to happen with my birth. And in the end, it couldn't have gone any better. I'll always be grateful for how calmly and positively baby Ariana came into the world.

Three things I'd tell my friends...

  • If you have a c-section, make sure you pack high-waisted knickers and jogging bottoms for when you feel like getting dressed, so the waistbands don't press on the scar area.
  • Constipation is common after a c-section. I packed some peppermint tea and prune juice in my hospital bag to keep my digestion moving, and lots of water and high-fibre foods help to settle everything in the following weeks.
  • In anticipation of a longer recovery due to the c-section, we bought a fairly lightweight pram. It was extremely easy to push, and eventually, pick up and put into the car, when I felt ready.

Read more: How to recover from a c-section at home
Photo credit © Heather Mackenzie_

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