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A Weird Mix of an Elective-Emergency C-section: A Mum and Dad’s Tale

Regardless of how many children you have birthed, every single birth story is different. It’s common for women to talk openly about their labour and pregnancies with one another but not so much for men. In light of c-section awareness month, we want to highlight the different experiences that mums and partners go through during c-section deliveries, planned or not!

Michelle and her husband, Warrick, share their birth story when they recently welcomed their second baby boy, Benedict, into the world.

A joyful moment of a mother, father, and their son embracing their newborn baby with love

Congratulations on the birth of your baby boy! Tell us, what did you know about c-section delivery before you went into labour?

I found out Benny was breech at a growth scan at about 35 weeks. I tried to do the spinning babies techniques to turn him and had an ECV at 38 weeks but he wouldn't turn. I did lots of research into whether to have a planned c-section or a planned vaginal breech birth.

I decided to go for a VBB as my first birth was pretty straightforward. I wanted to avoid a section, so I didn't have to deal with the tougher recovery with my toddler, plus having a c-section adds risks to future pregnancies. My pregnancy with Benny had already been filled with anxiety as I'd had two miscarriages before getting pregnant. The thought of having added anxiety in any further pregnancy was a big reason I wanted to avoid a c-section.

I had done some research about c-sections but only really the general pros and cons of having one compared to a vaginal breech birth. I didn't know as much as I should have really. I knew the recovery time was about 6 weeks and would be hard, but I didn't know much about things that I would need to do if I had one.

Learn more: Managing Back Pain after a C-Section: Tips and Relief

I’m so sorry to hear that you experienced miscarriages before falling pregnant with Benny. What a journey you’ve been through already. Did you have an elected or an emergency c-section? If it was your choice, what helped you make this decision?

I woke at 4.20 am having contractions I couldn't sleep through and by about 7 am they were every 2-3 minutes apart and lasting over 45 seconds. We decided to go to the hospital because my first labour progressed pretty quickly. I was excited that my plan for a natural birth looked more likely.

When we arrived at the hospital, I was seen by 3 midwives and two doctors on arrival as our baby was in a breech position. I lost all track of time but I think at about 12 noon they examined me and I was fully dilated. My lovely midwife let me stand while she examined me because I didn't want to lie down.

I then tried to push him out in a whole range of different active positions, even though it was difficult to keep moving around. I tried standing leaning over the bed, on all fours, squatting, and kneeling over the ball and the back of the bed. I was starting to worry that I couldn't do it. I was exhausted.

The midwives could see him with each push but were confused as to what they could see. Turns out he was back to back, which was causing him to get stuck. At about 2.30 the consultant tried to turn him. This was pretty painful even with loads of gas and air. And this is the point I lost control and said, 'Just get him out'. I was worried that his head would get stuck if I couldn't get his bum out.

Then everything happened pretty quickly. I was having 10cm strong contractions with loads of people in the room, I had to sign a consent form (not really sure what the risks were on that form, I just wanted my baby here safe and didn't feel like I had any other option.) I was whisked down the short corridor to the theatre room and Warrick had to go get changed.

Learn more: Birth Trauma and C-sections – Managing your emotional and physical pains after a traumatic birth

You are one brave mama! Can you tell us more about your experience in the theatre room?

In the theatre, there were so many more people and everyone was busy doing things. The anaesthetist said I needed to sit on the edge of the bed, but I couldn't sit on my baby. I just threw myself on my side with my top leg held up. I was exhausted and finding it hard to stay in control. Warrick had to help me keep still while they did the spinal block. The needle went in literally as I got a contraction but then all the pain dissolved away. I was calm and back to being super excited to meet our baby boy.

The consultant had warned me it would be a challenging c-section. They had to push our baby back up the birth canal and I think they had to block the 'exit' because my body was still contracting even though I couldn't feel it. I laughed with them that they were undoing all my hard work!

A mother embracing her newborn baby with tenderness and joy after a c-section birth

And then at 3.03 pm, he was here. He wasn't crying but he was breathing fine. I had asked for immediate skin-to-skin but I guess it wasn't possible. He was brought around to see me briefly and then taken to the resuscitation table to be dried and checked over. I couldn't see him there while the surgeons carried on with the operation.

Once Benny was sorted, he had to go to NICU because his breathing was a bit laboured, and he had some injuries from the birth. I told Warrick to go with Benny so he wasn't alone.

This was the hardest part of the operation. I didn't really know what was going on, or how long it would take, and I just wanted to be with my baby. At one point they just started calling out numbers. I have since found out they were counting the instruments to make sure they had everything before closing me up. Was worried something was going wrong. I felt quite left alone after the busyness of before.

What were your thoughts about breastfeeding after surgery? And how did you cope with this in the early days post-op? What positions worked best for you?

Our first two feeds were whilst I was in recovery. We didn't need any help from a midwife as I've breastfed before. We just did skin-to-skin with Benny across me and he latched himself on with a bit of help from me.

A mother nurturing her baby through breastfeeding after a c-section birth

After that I needed my nursing pillows to help. I did cross cradle mostly and needed help picking him up for at least 36 hours. On our second night, I managed to pick him out of the crib myself. Having a movable bed really helped me with positions.

Learn more: Breastfeeding After a C-Section

Aw, the first feed always feels so special. How have you found the recovery period? From the first week to now?

I have found the recovery quite hard. The fact that I am 5 weeks in and still can't do lots of things is hard. I would definitely not say a c-section is the easy option. I was quite ill after my first birth due to blood loss, but I recovered quickly. I was out and about more and able to do so much more.

Also coming to terms with the fact I won't get to give birth 'naturally' ever again is hard to deal with. As the c-section was so late on during my labour, the cut is very low down by my cervix which means I shouldn't go into labour again (according to the consultant). I didn't know this was a risk with emergency c sections.

Learn more: Understanding C-Section Overhang: Causes, Solutions, and Support

It sounds like you’re doing incredibly well, and you have a great support network around you. What advice would you give to other mums having this procedure?

I'd recommend feeding before the epidural wears off because then you don't have to worry about the pain.

Thanks for sharing your experience with us Michelle. Dad, over to you! Before your partner went into labour, did you know much about c-section delivery? Did you know what to expect before and after?

We had talked quite a bit about a possible c-section as our baby was in breach position so from about 37 weeks the doctors were encouraging us to set a date for a c-section. I felt really confident in what would happen in the lead-up to a c-section and knew the key points about recovery, but I feel like everyone just says, "Oh after a c-section you can't drive for 6 weeks." when really the recovery is so much more than that.

Learn more: C-section Birth: What Dads and Partners Need to Know

What were your thoughts/feelings when discussing c-sections with Michelle pre-labour?

We had a weird mix of an elective-emergency c-section which sounds bonkers. But due to our baby's position and things that had already been attempted during active labour, we chose to have a c-section which was categorised as an emergency as it was during labour. We'd talked extensively about the possibility of a c-section and Michelle was really keen to try giving birth naturally for which she had my full support.

I think we both knew there might come a time during labour when we had to consider a c-section and luckily for us, we both agreed it was the right decision at the same time. Pre-labour when we'd discussed a c-section I was in support of Michelle where it was something we needed to be knowledgeable about but I was all for her trying a natural birth. I think when I thought about c-section pre-labour it was always a last resort and something we probably wouldn't need.

I guess you’re right in saying it was a bit of both! Tell us what you were thinking/feeling at that moment when you opted for the c-section.

It was this weird moment where we'd tried everything naturally and the consultant was offering to attempt to manually turn the baby which had just been unsuccessfully tried. Michelle and I both looked at each other and I think instinctively agreed that now was the moment to elect for a c-section. I felt like it was the right decision at the time for us and that we were ready to meet our baby. It was tough however to see Michelle in pain once the gas and air were taken away and it was tough to understand what was happening in those next 10 minutes as the consultants, midwives, and everyone else ran around to get things sorted.

When our first son was born Michelle had a retained placenta and postpartum haemorrhage which resulted in an emergency manual removal and a pretty terrifying time, some of those feelings of worry definitely resurfaced during those 10 minutes but subsided with a bit of down breathing - thanks hypnobirthing course! Once I saw the excitement on Michelle's face after the spinal had taken effect and we were going to meet our baby, my worries faded away.

A heartwarming moment as the mother and father share precious time with their newborn baby

Your support for Michelle throughout is undeniable. What was the most memorable moment from your experience?

When the spinal took effect Michelle's entire demeanour changed from one of worry and pain to pure excitement and knowing that we were seconds away from meeting our baby.

After our baby was born, I went to the resus bed with him whilst they stitched Michelle back together and before I knew anything they said the baby had been under the lamp for 10 minutes and I had no idea how Michelle was, so I turned around and saw a lot of instruments with blood on and suddenly panicked that she wasn't OK. I asked the midwives, and they were very nonchalant about it which didn't ease my concerns but then the midwife who'd been with us since the start checked on Michelle and let me know everything was OK. I think most of that panic stemmed from our previous experience rather than from what was happening.

Comedic Mention - After about 2 hours of labouring Michelle asked me to change the music from the calm hypnobirthing playlist we'd prepared to, and I quote "happy music". We hadn't prepared this, so I found a happy songs playlist on Spotify which seemed to be great. After an hour or so the playlist finished and Spotify began suggesting similar songs we might like. As one of Michelle's surges came to an end Michelle, the midwife and I all looked each other in the eye and realised that AC/DC The Highway to Hell was blasting out of our speaker. We had a chuckle and quickly started the playlist again this time putting it on repeat.

Aha! You can’t beat a great labour playlist. What was life like in the first few days with your newborn and supporting your partner post-op?

My mum had been staying with us for a couple of days before to help look after our other son which was great because it meant I could really focus on Michelle and the baby when he was born. Our hospital still didn't allow birth partners to stay overnight due to Covid restrictions so the hardest part each day was going to bed knowing that Michelle and our baby were still in the hospital.

For me, I think Michelle's recovery this time round was easier than with our first and having a 3-year-old means you just have to get on with things anyway. I was able to have two full weeks of paternity leave so it was really nice to spend so much time just with them.

Aw, amazing, two weeks soon flies by, doesn’t it? What advice would you give to other dads from your experience?

Listen to your instincts on how to support your partner. You'll know where they need you and what they need from you. And always prepare a second playlist!

Thank you both for sharing your story. Enjoy every minute with Benny and your beautiful family. We’d love to hear from all our Mums about their journey to parenthood. Send us your story and be in with a chance of winning a Lola&Lykke gift card worth 200€.