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Rosie's Positive Elective Caesarean, The Birth of Dodie Ray

Updated: 6 days ago

woman after caesarean holding newborn in theatre

"Writing out the tale of Dodie Rae's birth has been a beautiful, reflective experience. Reading other people's birth stories helped me to prepare for birth, so I'm sharing this here to hopefully reassure someone else and help you feel prepared too.

This is a story of a positive planned caesarean of a breech baby, but that's not the story I thought I'd be writing. I'd heavily researched our options and home birth felt like the right thing for us to try. My partner Jamie has two daughters and they were both caesarean births (1 emergency, 1 planned) so we had long discussions about the type of birth we wanted to prepare for. Unfortunately throughout the pregnancy it wasn't looking likely, not due to me or the baby, we were fine, but Nottingham midwifery service didn't have their home birth team in place. They just don't have the staff and despite promises of 'the home birth team will be ready in June, July, August...', as it got closer to September and the imminent arrival of our baby girl, I'd already accepted that a home birth wouldn't be happening for us.

Also, Dodie had other plans. She had been breech since our 20 week scan but we'd been hopeful that she would turn. I spent from week 20 right up to the end of pregnancy doing 'spinning babies' exercises. I spent more time upside down than the right way round, trying to naturally turn her!

She definitely felt very stuck and rarely moved positions at all. At every scan she was in the same place, head tucked securely under my ribs, legs up and feet by her face. We declined an ECV as it just didn't feel right for us, and I even tried moxibustion. This was actually a really lovely, calming experience and whilst it didn't 'work', I definitely felt her shift during the treatment.

At 37 weeks we had a final scan to check but I knew she was still firmly in her spot. So we had a phone meeting with a consultant and after much discussion between us, we opted for a planned caesarean birth. Unfortunately Nottingham hospitals don't have expertise in breech vaginal deliveries (few hospitals in the UK do). I suppose because they don't have many of them, the midwifery team doesn't get the experience. The consultant wasn't confident of the outcomes for me or the baby so it just felt like the most sensible choice to have a planned caesarean.

Honestly, I was devastated. From planning a chilled out, romantic, intimate home birth to planning the most invasive, 'hands on' birth, in theatre, with a room full of people. This is actually where the hypnobirthing mentality came in. Breathing, taking reflective time and letting my emotions happen really helped me to come to terms with this new birth plan.

Speaking of birth plans, we had of course made a few. Once we knew what would be happening for us we assessed our plan and did everything we could to get those chilled, happy vibes for our birth. Our own music, insistence on skin-to-skin, and us being with our baby as much as possible. We nearly chose curtain down for the birth and honestly I wish I had, but last minute we decided not to. There's a really special photo of them stitching me up whilst I cuddle Dodie and whilst yes, it's bloody, it's also really fascinating! Having a birth plan printed out made me feel more prepared, but mostly it was useful to have a really juicy chat about our preferences, and absolute hard lines. For example, I just assumed that Jamie would want to cut the cord but he really, really didn't as he's quite squeamish!

Back to the actual birth. Knowing the day your baby is going to be born, after months and months of waiting, is weird. The day before was full of absolute thrilling excitement mixed with pure fear and a heap of 'what ifs'. I am the type of person who likes to prepare, so the hospital bag and all the baby's things were prepped ages ago. The house had been cleaned, all the washing was done, we were ready. So I woke up the day before not knowing what to do with myself. I ended up baking, which is massively out of character for me but felt mildly useful and resulted in cake for me to eat, which isn't a bad thing.

We were asked to be at the hospital on 8th September by 7am, and I needed to fast from midnight on the 7th. We only live 20 minutes from the hospital so we had a calmish wake up, grabbed all of our stuff and off we went. That 20 minutes felt so long, as I was eager to get there and get things rolling.

Arriving at the hospital we were given a bed on an empty, sunny ward. It really struck me and I had a little happy cry when I saw the crib set up with fresh sheets next to the bed. We were going to meet our baby today!

A midwife came and did my blood pressure, chatted to us about our birth preferences and told us we were first on the list. I had my calves measured and was given some stylish compression socks and the fetching hospital gown. Then we just had to wait. I sipped water whilst Jamie sheepishly ate some breakfast that we'd brought in. He felt terrible that I was very pregnant and very hungry but I was so full of butterflies that I didn't feel hungry at all! We waited, did some crosswords, chatted to people on whatsapp - only a few of them knew what was happening, so being 'normal' with those who didn't was actually a great distraction. A friend of mine warned me as soon as I was pregnant to keep our due date secret to avoid the annoying 'are you in labour yet' messages, so we decided to do the same for our very planned birth. At least that way there was an element of surprise for our wider family and friends.

After a few hours, a new midwife came along and introduced herself. Our original midwife was assisting an emergency caesarean so she was now with us and we'd be going down to theatre…now. At that point I felt a little panicky. Did I need another wee? Had we got the things we needed (nappy, sleepsuit…)? She waited patiently whilst I had a minute to flap and Jamie calmed me down and reminded me that we had everything we needed.

woman sat on bed being prepped for caesarean surgery

We walked down to theatre, and I went in whilst Jamie got scrubs on. It was cold, and smelt quite clinical, but the team were so friendly and supportive. Understanding of the inevitable nerves, and patient with my nervous questioning. I seem to ask really annoying questions when I'm anxious…! They sat me on the bed and were about to do my canular when I quietly said to Jamie, who had just arrived, 'our music'. We'd both forgotten and the new midwife hadn't read our birth plan. So we asked and they sorted out the speaker for us. It made such a difference.

They did my epidural whilst we listened to Arctic Monkeys, 'I wanna be yours'. Focusing on the music and the slow pace of the song helped me to breathe deeply and relax, which meant I literally didn't feel a thing when they did the spinal.

The weirdest, and probably most unpleasant part was how quickly my lower body went numb. They asked me to slide my legs over from sitting to lying and I panicked as I literally couldn't! With a little help they got me into position and I chatted to Jamie nervously. On the wall of the theatre they have a huge whiteboard, which Jamie snapped a photo of and it's so interesting. It tells the team how many needles, blades, swabs, etc they've used (I suppose so they don't lose any!) but also has timings of when the key stuff happened. So I know it took less than 20 minutes for Dodie and our placenta to be delivered; I was anaesthetised at 13:29, they started the procedure at 13:49, 'baby out' at 13:59 and placenta was out at 14:02. Dodie was firmly stuck under my ribs too, so they had to make the incision bigger and give her some pretty firm tugs to get her out!

woman cuddling newborn after caesarean surgery

When she arrived, Dodie was quite blue and quiet so she needed a little rub and some warmth for a few minutes. Jamie was invited to go and see her and watch, which reassured me that she would be OK. She quickly came around and was placed on my chest for snuggles. She had been cleaned up by the midwives whilst they warmed her, and given a very ugly pink hospital hat, but she was there in my arms. She stayed with me and had a cuddle with Jamie whilst they stitched me up, which took longer than usual as I'd bled a bit more than expected.

woman being stitched up after caesarean surgery

We knew roughly how long this was supposed to take and we knew it had taken a while as our playlist finished. Feeling more anxious now, I worried about Dodie eating as she hadn't managed to latch yet. I'd managed to express a teeny, tiny bit of colostrum in the week before, literally maybe 0.5ml. The midwives went to get it and Jamie fed this to Dodie, which made me feel less panicky. When they'd stitched me up they moved me to recovery. I felt a little woozy due to blood loss and the drugs, and I remember freaking out that I couldn't see Dodie whilst they wheeled us through. She was immediately back on my chest here and I was given some water, and started to feel less shaky and anxious. Dodie managed to latch and we had about an hour of quiet, calm feeding and cuddling time.

We spent 2 days in hospital after Dodie's birth as they wanted to monitor my blood loss situation. It became difficult when we moved onto the main ward, where it was clear that they didn't have enough staff, and our care suffered a little. They lost our data on their system and didn't actually realise Dodie had been born, they denied me pain relief as I'd missed the ward round for painkillers, and they really struggled to get any vegan food for me.

I'm so grateful for the NHS and really wish decision makers would properly fund maternity services. Each individual person really tried to help us, they were just so stretched. However for anyone reading this feeling nervous, the crucial surgery team and immediate aftercare were outstanding. I felt so safe and they made sure both Dodie and I were well and healthy.

On the ward, they sorted everything out that had been a problem and Jamie managed to get home and prepare us some tasty food. Whilst it felt tough and not good enough at the time, it was fine.

So whilst it was absolutely not what we'd envisioned for Dodie's arrival into the world, she had a wonderfully calm and safe birth. She's now 7 months and a cheerful, strong baby who still very much enjoys being a 'clam' and stretching her feet up to her face as she was so comfortably snuggled in my womb!

woman doing a thumbs up in hospital bed after caesarean birth

Amy's work helped us massively in preparing for birth and beyond, plus I spent many cosy evenings with Amy and others doing pregnancy yoga. We did the hypnobirthing course and absolutely loved our Saturdays preparing for birth. We met a lovely group of couples and we're still meeting up with them and their babies 7 months on."

Thank you so much to Rosie for sharing her epic birth story! If you want to feel as calm and informed as Rosie and Jamie (despite a quite big change in plans) book onto one of my fabulous courses or get in touch with me for a chat!

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