5 November 2020

My Birth Story

Maggie May's Birth Story

I’d always loved to read people’s birth stories, even before becoming pregnant. Hearing about all the different ways in which babies entered the world fascinated me; whether at home, in water or in an operating theatre, I found each account quite magical and moving. Even those births which perhaps didn’t go to plan, or were more traumatic than others, still had beautiful elements to them - namely the mother getting to meet her newborn baby at the end. 

Therefore I knew I would always want to share my birth story on the blog too; partly for expectant mums who are looking for reassurance and positivity, partly for those of you like me who just enjoy reading about all things birth and baby, and partly for myself. There’s something incredibly therapeutic - and important - about reflecting on those moments. It’s a once in a lifetime event; no matter how many children you have, each birth is unique. 

As Hollie says in her excellent book*, there is no such thing as a perfect birth, but you can have a positive one - and I’m delighted to say that our birth ended up being far more positive than we ever imagined it would be.

At the beginning of pregnancy, I started to panic about childbirth. Through my work I had been fortunate enough to witness many deliveries, however a lot of these were traumatic in some way, or were emergency situations, and I think those negative memories had stuck with me. I spent many nights lying awake genuinely worrying about how I would cope with the pain of labour, and fearful that I would let both myself and my husband down. Before long, I started to read some recommended books about preparing for birth; The Positive Birth Book by Milli Hill* is a brilliant choice, as is Your Baby, Your Birth by Hollie de Cruz* as mentioned above. I also completed The Positive Birth Company’s digital hypnobirthing course, and generally read up quite a bit about hypnobirthing. I enjoyed practicing my breathing, preparing my playlists and imagining how our labour would play out, and before long I found myself incredibly excited about giving birth. The fear had gone!

Unfortunately, there was then an unexpected turn of events. As the end of my third trimester approached, Baby Maggie May was refusing to move from his breech position inside me {meaning he was bottom down with his legs folded up towards his ears - the wrong way for being born!} Everyone was pretty relaxed about it when he first got into that position, saying he still had plenty of time to spin back again. But as time went on, and he got bigger and bigger, the wiggle room became less and less! Despite my best efforts to encourage him to turn {envisage me practically standing on my head in the evenings, attempting all sorts of positions which various sources recommend to try and flip your baby naturally}, he wouldn’t budge. Just a couple of weeks before my due date, I went to hospital to see if they could turn him around in a procedure called external cephalic version (ECV). Two doctors covered my bump in talcum powder, gave me an injection to relax my uterus, and pushed, shoved and squeezed Baby Maggie May in an attempt to get him to move. I gritted my teeth and let out the odd moan of pain, determined to let them give it their best shot so that there would still be a chance of having a natural vaginal birth - someone had told me beforehand that it would be uncomfortable, and all I could think throughout was that they were a big liar; it was PAINFUL, not uncomfortable! The success rate of the procedure tends to be fairly low, especially for first time mums, and unsurprisingly it didn’t work.

This meant we were left with two choices: wait to go into labour naturally and give birth vaginally to a breech baby, or opt to have a planned Caesarean section. Neither of these options were at all what we’d hoped for. A vaginal breech delivery has many risks attached to it, and having spoken to lots of different people and researched it ourselves, it did not feel like a safe option for our baby. This left us with the Caesarean section.

We were both so disappointed. We’d spent so long talking about what it would be like when I went into labour - that Mr MM would be on bath-running duty; how regular my contractions would need to be in order for him to phone the birth unit; what snacks I thought I should have on standby; my playlist for the latent phase of labour, and what songs I wanted for when I began pushing.

Suddenly, the whole vision had been snatched away from us. I’d dreamt of the moment when I would give a final push and see our beautiful baby slip out into the world, when he would then be placed on my chest for immediate skin-to-skin contact and we’d be left alone as a family of three for our "Golden Hour". Being cut open on a set date, regardless of whether my body had given any signs it was ready to labour or not, under bright lights in an operating theatre felt so far away from what I wanted. But we both knew it was by far the safest way for Baby Maggie May to be born, and so the decision was easy.

We left the hospital after the ECV that day, with the operation booked for just 10 days time, when I would be 39 weeks pregnant. We told only our parents, wanting to keep some element of surprise and normality to the birth. It felt incredibly bizarre to go about our normal business, knowing that we would definitely have our boy the following week! We booked in a food delivery, Mr MM arranged his paternity and annual leave, and before we knew it, the big day arrived.

I’d been to the hospital for a pre-operative assessment a few days before, and they’d told me I was last on the operating list. This meant we didn’t have to turn up until about 11.00am, which I found disappointing as I wanted to have him first thing! We inevitably got there early and sat in the waiting room, laughing at how surreal it all felt - literally sat in a waiting room to have our baby...

Maggie May's Birth Story

Dress - Seraphine | Mask - Etsy

After what felt like an agonising wait - especially as I was starving having fasted since 10.00pm the night before - the midwife appeared and said they were ready for us. The consultant did a final quick scan of my belly to check his position, and then it was time to get changed and walk down the corridor to the operating theatre. Having been waiting for a couple of hours - well, nine months in fact - it felt like a matter of minutes from the time the midwife appeared to us walking into the theatre.

As I perched on the operating table so the anaesthetist could administer my epidural, the midwife chatted to me and got my husband to prepare our Spotify playlist. The mood was relaxed which was great, but I remember saying even at that point to the midwife that I was disappointed I wasn’t going to be pushing my baby out. I know a lot of people don’t get this - one woman said to me, “Why would you want to if you can have a section?” Because that’s what I’d always imagined. Because for me, that’s what giving birth meant. Because although I had been frightened about the pain and the duration of labour, I was also excited about experiencing such an incredible miracle. Thankfully, there are those who do understand, and in fact would encourage us to grieve for the birth we would not have - because Mr MM was also sad to be missing that experience. They explained that it was entirely natural to be upset, and that it was important to acknowledge this. But that also, at the end of the day we would have our baby to cuddle, no matter how he arrived with us.

The epidural kicked in and I giggled at how strange it felt to be unable to move my legs. I lay on my back grinning at Mr MM nervously as people bustled around me, connecting drips and wires and making their final checks. As the consultant began to clean my belly, our wedding song started to play over the speakers {In My Life by The Beatles} which helped me to relax. Mr MM and I continued to beam at each other as there was lots of tugging and pulling behind the drapes, and suddenly: there he was.

The drapes were lowered and the consultant raised our amazing baby boy from my belly in a Simba-like pose; he instantly opened his eyes and blinked a few times cautiously before letting out the most almighty and wonderful cries. As tears streamed down my face I sobbed with happiness as Mr MM reached down to give me a kiss. The midwife asked what his name was and I choked it out as I couldn’t stop crying - he was finally here! Our beautiful son was here!

He was carried off to be weighed (7 lbs 8 oz) and cleaned up, and Mr MM went with them. As I lay there being stitched up, I could hear our baby crying and my husband’s laughter, as tears continued to roll down my cheeks. I was smiling inanely at the ceiling, in a state of complete joy and also shock, and then my boys reappeared, with Baby Maggie May placed on my chest for that skin-to-skin contact I had always dreamed of.

About half an hour later, we were all finished, and I was wheeled down the corridor to recovery. The magic toast everyone talks about was produced, and Baby MM had his first breastfeed - an excellent and conscientious attempt it was too! Mr MM had the chance for some skin-to-skin cuddles, as I dreamily watched them both from the bed. After a couple of hours we FaceTimed our parents, introducing them all to their new grandson. We spent the whole afternoon simply gazing at him, exclaiming to each other how perfect he was and how lucky we were.

We both got our skin-to-skin moments; he had his first beautiful breastfeed within an hour of being born, and our favourite music had been played as he was brought into the world. Yes, it wasn’t ideal that our first hours as a family were spent in a poky recovery room with several other post-operative women, and yes, I do still feel sad that I didn’t get the birth I’d always hoped for. But all we’ve ever wanted is a child of our own, and from the first moment I held him in my arms, with my husband by my side, I felt utterly complete. He is our world, and the amount of love we have for him is overwhelming, growing each and every day. He is ours, and the day he was born was the best day of my life.

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