Mary Brandon, 39, a videographer, lives in Bedfordshire with husband Mark and daughters Olivia, 7, and Lydia, five months.
From the start of my second pregnancy, I knew I'd need a c-section.
I'd had bowel surgery a few years earlier and had been warned a vaginal birth may lead to problems again. Planning for a scheduled c-section was fine by me. A set date meant I could arrange childcare, make a music playlist for theatre and emotionally prepare myself for the birth. My first labour had lasted three days and was a bit of a rollercoaster, so this time I loved feeling in control.
What I hadn't anticipated was my waters leaking early. I was only 36 weeks when I woke up feeling damp and uncomfortable. The day before I'd been nauseous, sensing something wasn't quite right. I'd brushed it off, but this time I didn't want to take any chances.
A friend collected our daughter, Olivia, then my husband Mark drove me to hospital, where I was monitored. Despite not feeling any pain, the trace on the machine showed I was contracting. And after I was swabbed internally, a midwife confirmed my waters had definitely gone. That was a surprise! I'd been expecting to feel a big gush when the time came, not a tiny trickle.
“We'll need to rush you in for a c-section,” a surgeon said. That definitely wasn't in my birth plan!
The doctor explained that they didn't want to take any chances with me because of a hiccup I'd had in late pregnancy. A few weeks earlier my mucus plug had come away, and I'd been admitted for a few days. The baby was monitored and found to be perfectly fine, but now my amniotic sac had ruptured the safest option was for an emergency c-section.
'This is it,' I thought to myself. I was three weeks away from my scheduled c-section date and the idea of having an earlier one hadn't crossed my mind. I didn't have childcare in place, or a dog sitter – not even my music playlist was finished! And when I found out the female doctor I'd got to know - and who was due to be carrying out my c-section - wasn't on shift, it was hard not to panic.
My fears didn't last long, though. Another lovely doctor popped in to see us and instantly put me at ease. He explained that even though my c-section would be classed as an emergency, it would be calm and positive. Far from being rushed into theatre, Mark and I were able to chill out on the ward. As soon as we'd made arrangements for child and dog cover back home, I relaxed and even got excited.
It wasn't long before I started to feel mild contractions in my bump, a bit like strong period pains. During my first labour I'd felt everything in my back, so the sensations at the front this time were unfamiliar. Despite feeling uncomfortable, I stayed positive. The knowledge my baby was guaranteed to arrive that day and that there were to be no surprises this time, kept my spirits up. I couldn't wait to hold her in my arms.
I still chuckle about what happened next. I was scheduled for the next slot for theatre, but due to a mix-up, another mum-to-be accidentally took my place. By coincidence, another woman with the same surname was waiting to go in – what are the odds?!
Even the very apologetic midwives said they'd never had two mums named Brandon in at the same time! It may not have been ideal, but at least it gave us a laugh and lightened the mood! Besides, my baby was doing fine, and I was coping well with the increasingly strong contractions.
Although we were still waiting on the ward, I found the quietest spot and focussed on breathing slowly and steadily. Having had just a couple of paracetamol to take the edge off, I felt proud and empowered by how well I was doing. I stayed 'in the zone' for the next few hours, pacing the ward, breathing slowly and chatting to Mark between contractions.
The afternoon flew by in a blur until, eventually, a midwife popped by. “It's your turn now!” she smiled.
By now it was almost teatime, and while I was relieved my time had finally come, my nerves threatened to overtake. I held Mark's hand as we were taken to theatre, unsure of what to expect. I needn't have worried. While this wasn't the carefully planned experience I'd originally expected, it was nothing at all like an emergency situation. As soon as we entered the room, two female doctors greeted us with huge smiles. “Within twenty minutes, you'll get to meet your little girl,” one said.
The mood couldn't have been more positive or relaxed. I could just sense that everything in that room was totally routine for them. As we chatted and laughed, I looked over at Mark who was already welling up! I think he was as relieved as I was at how lovely and laid back the atmosphere was. We were overwhelmed with happiness, and our baby hadn't even made an appearance yet!
I sat up on the bed, leaning over a pillow to be given the spinal block. It was over in a flash, and so easy. Lying back, I noticed my body, then my chest, starting to feel numb. “That's all perfectly fine,” the anaesthetist reassured me when I remarked on how high the numb sensation was creeping up. I'd assumed the anaesthetic would only travel as far as my stomach but felt instantly calm once everything was explained to me. The lovely anaesthetist stayed by my side the whole time.
A screen was put up in front of my chest and I shared an excited smile with Mark. Yes, I was nervous but deep breaths and focussing on the fact we were about to meet our daughter kept me positive and calm. Plus the smiles and friendly banter from all the medics meant I couldn't possibly panic. And it didn't matter one tiny bit that I didn't have my birth playlist on!
I expected to experience that numb 'washing machine' rummaging sensation, but I didn't feel a thing. Within a few short minutes of the screen going up, my baby girl was lifted over the top, and immediately let out a loud cry. I joined her with the tears! Seeing her appear like that, so healthy-looking and perfect, I felt amazed, overwhelmed and shocked.
The doctors checked Lydia quickly then placed her onto my chest. Holding her against my skin, I could hardly believe she was here. She may have been a month early, it may officially have been an emergency situation, but there was nothing scary about what we'd experienced. In fact, it couldn't have been calmer or more positive.
After a few more standard checks on the neonatal ward, Lydia was found to be perfectly healthy and we were home after two days. I was pleasantly surprised with my brilliant recovery – another thing I wasn't expecting. In fact, everything went so smoothly that I often say I'd do it all over again – not that Mark would let me!
I'm such a big advocate of c-sections now, and I tell everyone who's pregnant not to panic if they have to have what's classed as an 'emergency c-section.' The reality is that it doesn't have to be scary – it can even be as calm and happy as mine was. And as for the mum who took my place in the theatre queue, I later found out she'd had twins so there were three baby Brandons on the ward that day! It all added to my unexpected, unplanned, and ultimately brilliant birth.
Three things I'd tell my friends:
- No matter how straightforward your pregnancy is, always be prepared for an unexpected c-section. Remember, just because it's classed as an emergency doesn't mean it can't be positive.
- Consider contacting a local placenta encapsulation specialist. I took placenta pills after Lydia's birth, and I'm convinced the extra iron and nutrients in them helped me to bounce back after birth.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions during labour, even if you think they're silly. The more you ask, the more support you'll get.
Picture credits: Samantha Jayne Giles, Woburn Photography
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