3rd June 2015
I have wanted to write about this for a long time but haven’t found the time or courage. This isn’t about scaring people or putting people off birth but it’s about making people more aware of emergency c-sections and helping me process what happened.
It's quite a long blog post so hopefully you can stick with me!
I was pregnant for the first time; I had all the books and went to private and NHS antenatal classes. I wanted to know everything! But when it came to c-sections, I didn’t even read the pages in the books and stopped listening as soon as anyone mentioned it. As, in my mind, what was the point? I was never going to have one so why waste my time reading about them?
It had been my birthday 2 days before, and Felicity was due in May, but it was now June and the time was up for my big bump! I was due to be induced on the 3rd May. At midnight on the 3rd, I started to naturally contract. Brilliant! I was so happy that I was going to be able to have my natural water birth that I wanted and no medical intervention (oh the naivety). I phoned the hospital later on in the morning to see what I should do regarding the induction and they said to wait at home for as long as possible. I remember sitting in the sunshine in the garden, bouncing on my pregnancy ball. We also walked up and down the road to help the contractions and it was a lovely day.
Joe was going to be my birthing partner, along with my Mum. It got to lunchtime and I was really struggling with not knowing what was going on so I phoned the hospital again and they said to come in. We picked up Mum on the way and went to the hospital. I was adamant I wanted a natural birth and we went to the midwife led section of the hospital. We were taken into a room called ‘Woodlands’, which immediately made me feel weird as my Dad is buried at a place called Woodlands and made me feel like it was his way of showing me he was there. I was examined and they said that I would need to get things going more and have to go up to the doctors led part of the ward. By this point, I was in the hospital, I was so overdue that I felt like I might burst and I just wanted to meet my baby and get on with the process. So we walked up to the doctors led section of the ward and they took us into a room. I have the same humour as my Mum so I remember us all laughing away. I had 2 midwives in the room as one was a trainee midwife who was just about to pass as a fully fledged midwife.
They started conducting the same checks as the previous midwife but also put those bands around my bump. I vividly remember not really paying attention to the checks etc. and just talking and laughing with my Mum and Joe. I noticed the trainee midwife checking something with the senior midwife regarding the bands. I assumed that they weren’t in the right place because I could feel the baby really wriggling around. My contractions had really slowed down but I knew this was because I really didn’t like being in hospitals.
The senior midwife came over to check the bands and the machine and they carried on looking concerned. They said they couldn’t find it. Again, I thought they just meant they couldn’t get the baby in the right place to find the heartbeat. The senior midwife then suddenly took control and pressed the red emergency button. Literally from that moment, it feels like an episode of One Born Every Minute and that I was having an out of body experience.
The senior midwife was trying to frantically break my waters and put a clip on the baby’s head. I hadn’t had any painkillers and this was making me scream out in pain. The room literally filled with people and everyone was shouting. All I remember was looking at Joe and my Mums face and it still makes me want to cry now. They looked petrified. We had been laughing only 2 minutes before. And now I was screaming, and the room was full. An anaesthetist was asking me for verbal consent. At this point, I didn’t really know what I was consenting to but I said that they could do anything to make sure my baby was OK. I then started to hear them saying “GA”. As I had worked for the police for so long, abbreviations had become the norm to me. I soon worked out that meant general anaesthetic. Ah, this wasn’t in my plan, none of this was in my plan. However, if something was going to happen to my baby, I was bloody sure I wanted to know about it. I did not want to be put to sleep and then wake up to some horrendous news. I wanted to know, however bad, what was going on. I didn’t get to say anything to either Joe or my Mum before I was pushed out of the room on the bed along the corridor to the operating theatre. I vividly remember looking at the ceiling tiles thinking I was watching ER. I was moved on to an operating table and told to lie on my side as this was better for the baby. I was like a beached whale and had real difficultly moving that much, especially as I was quite hysterical at this point. I kept saying “please don’t put me to sleep, please do local anaesthetic”. I remember repeating this over and over. Not only did I not want to be asleep, I really didn’t want to be on my own, I knew Joe could be with me if I was awake.
Whilst they are preparing for the surgery, they asked me to take off my jewellery. I had been wearing a necklace through my pregnancy of a little Fox, which represented Felicity, my baby in my belly. I didn’t want them to lose it and wanted Joe to have it. They got Joe to come to the door of the operating theatre to see me before the surgery. They said to Joe “go and say goodbye” and handed him my Fox necklace. Joe took this as something was wrong with me and he was going to lose the both of us. I will never forget the look on his face when he gave me a kiss.
By this point, my Mum has been left in an empty room. Joe goes back to her and explains what they had just said.
One of the doctors had obviously been listening to me objecting to the general anaesthetic and had been watching the baby’s heart rate. She suddenly said that the heart rate had steadied and I would be able to stay awake for it. I was so relieved and asked for Joe to come back. The midwife runs back to get Joe and now my Mum is completely alone.
I have no memory of getting undressed or having any injections. Joe was suddenly by my side and the screen was up. The next thing, they are holding up this massive purple baby, who was screaming. I remember thinking “why is she so swollen?! And purple?!”. They brought her over to us and although she was swollen and very purple, I knew she was ok. She was mine and she was ok. I tried to hold her but struggled. They took her to be weighed and then they brought her back so Joe could hold her. It was then that the senior midwife came up to us and explained that the blood results were showing low oxygen levels and that she would have to go to neonatal intensive care. She had literally just been born and I told Joe that he had to go with her as she needed one of us there. Joe left me and I just led there, the theatre was so much quieter, all the shouting had stopped and my husband and my baby had gone. I couldn’t believe what had just happened.
All I wanted was my Mum.
The senior midwife came back and reassured me that Felicity was being looked after and Joe was there.
She then said to me “someone was definitely looking down on you today”. And I felt all weird again. The Woodlands room and her saying that, all I could think of was my lovely Dad.
The surgeon finishes putting me back together and explained that as he had to act so quickly to save the baby, I may experience trauma to my organs. Sorry what? Trauma to my organs?! I will take that for my baby’s life.
I was taken into a recovery room and both the midwives were there. My Mum came in and I was so happy to see her. I started to shake uncontrollably. And they explained that it was the shock setting in.
I remember saying to my Mum, can you get my phone? I need to ring my best friend, she will freak if I haven’t told her that I have had her! I remember having the most surreal conversation with her. And I remember not knowing what to say was happening with Felicity, because I didn’t know and I wasn’t with her.
Joe came back to update us and explained that they thought Felicity may have brain damage due to a lack of oxygen. Again, I kept saying, “no she will be fine”, “I know she is ok”. Joe kept saying that I needed to prepare myself.
Felicity was put in a cold incubator (cold as if people have brain injuries, when they are cold, it slows the process down and doesn’t make it worse). And they did 12 hours of brain wave tests.
I was taken to the ward, wheeled on a bed into a maternity ward. A room full of Mums with their babies. I felt totally lost as I didn’t have my baby and I was so exhausted. The senior midwife said she would just go and speak to the ward sister and they moved me to a little ward with 2 other Mums, whose babies were also in intensive care. The rest of the night and morning were a blur. Joe texted me to say he was going home and the tested showed her brain was ok but they would do more checks in the morning. My phone battery died and the painkiller wore off; I have never ever felt as much pain as I did after my c-section.
The next 5 days in hospital are hard to piece together. I remember some bits really well and others I can barely recall. Felicity had an infection and needed 5 days’ worth of antibiotics but she was OK. No brain damage. And she was back with me on the ward after 2 days. 2 long days without her and visiting her in intensive care. But I know how lucky I am. I am so grateful to all the staff that looked after us. I am so grateful to Joe for looking after us, running his business in between visiting hours and taking Felicity for me for an hour so I could sleep. Strangely, those 5 days are some of the worst and fondest memories of Felicity being a new-born.
I’m not embarrassed to say that I have subsequently suffered from Post Traumatic Stressed Disorder (PTSD) since this happened. When I was 16, I lost both my Grandparents and my Dad within 6 months. So to have this happen at the birth of my first child, I really suffered afterwards. But I am OK now.
I asked for help and talked about it a lot.
I now look back at the birth with a totally different mindset and I am just so in love with Felicity and our little family that it makes me so proud of how we all dealt with it.
Big love to you all,
Love Jessie x
Hello! I'm Jess.
Follow me on Instagram (cornwall_baby) for more photos;