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'Will I feel them cut me open?’ - Two mums, an emergency C-section, and a happy ending

Today we are delighted to share with you Leah's story, who recently had her first baby through IUI with her partner Kerry! She has been loving our Wireless Electric Breast Pump for a while, and upon reading our C-section Awareness Month materials she wanted to share her own C-section journey. Read on to learn about Leah's story as she opens up about her traumatic birth and her experiences as a two-mum family.

Leah´s two mum family birth story

Congratulations on your current baby boy, such exciting times! You both must be so full of love (and baby snuggles!) How have the first few weeks been for you three?

Thank you! It has been the most magical journey so far, we are head over heals in love with our little man. Becoming parents is something we have both talked about from the beginning of our relationship and having him here now has completed our world. He is full of character already and melts our hearts with his gorgeous smiles.

The first few weeks of having him home was a blur, I can’t quite remember because sleep deprivation is real! Kerry took two weeks off work which enabled us to get to grips on becoming a family of 3. I needed the support from Kerry a lot in the beginning because I was still recovering from the operation. Kerry helped with nappy changes and feeding, even the small things such as carrying him upstairs as I struggled.

Leah IUI birth story

Did you always know that you wanted to become a mum? Have there been a lot of fertility issues for you two as same-sex parents? Was it a difficult process for you, physically and emotionally?

I have always wanted to become a mum, I would look at the beautiful baby clothes and wonder what it would be like to have a baby of my own one day. When I met Kerry, they knew that I wanted children from the beginning, a few years later we were engaged. We found that COVID made us relook at our lives and we thought…what are we waiting for! In late 2020, we researched into the fertility journey and looked at clinics near where we lived. In January 2021…we decided it was time to expand our family, it was a new journey for the both of us but we had plenty of support around us.

We decided to go to a fertility clinic near our home in Southampton. There are many fertility options for same sex couples, however we decided on IUI as it was the best option for the both of us. I’ve always been excited at the thought of being pregnant so it was decided that I would carry our baby. We picked our donor and our pregnancy journey had started.

There are many pre-tests and scans that you have to attend so choosing a clinic near to our home was important as you have to travel to and from nearly every other day. As we started this during COVID, Kerry wasn’t allowed into the hospital for many of the appointments so emotionally it was difficult for both of us. I had to have the hormone injections everyday for around 2 weeks to ensure that my follicles were growing to the right size. We had 3 follicles that had grown to the correct size for the insemination, so there was a possibility of triplets!

Kerry was allowed to attend for the insemination which was the most important appointment. Once that was completed, it was the dreaded two week wait! We tried to keep ourselves busy until the day came where we could take the test. We were pregnant! It was overwhelming and we were bursting with joy, we couldn’t believe it had happened. Our little baby was in my tummy and ready to start growing.

We had in our heads that it wouldn’t work first time as we were told it could take an average of 3 rounds for it to be successful, however, we felt so lucky that it worked first time for us.

Leah IUI birth story

You mentioned your C-section was traumatic, I’m so sorry to hear that! If you don’t mind, can you share what happened? How did you overcome it, or have you overcome it at all? Did you get the support, tools, and resources you need to deal with birth trauma?

In preparation for the birth of our baby, we had booked onto a Hypno-Birthing course. The thought of a relaxed atmosphere with calming music and using my breath to control the surges and sensations of birth is something I have always wanted. Our teacher was excellent, she gave us all the knowledge we needed on how to give birth, the breathing techniques, how to create the best atmosphere for you and what affirmations to use. It was a fabulous course for both birther and birthing partner and felt fully inclusive of all couples.

When it was coming to the end of my pregnancy, I felt relaxed and ready to meet our little bundle. Our due date arrived and he wasn’t showing any signs of an appearance. 10 days overdue, I woke up at 2:30am with bleeding, which as you can imagine is quite scary. My partner rang the hospital and we were in within 30 minutes and onto the assessment unit. I was showing signs of preeclampsia, so the decision was made to put me onto the hormone drip to get the contractions going. In my mind, I still wished for the calm, water birth I hoped for, however our baby needed continuous monitoring from the very beginning, so it was best to stay on the labor ward and on the bed. We were strapped up to the heart and movement monitor to keep and eye on the little one.

My hopes of the relaxed birth quickly disappeared. Our baby was back to back so the pain I was experiencing was intense. I went through 12 hours of using the hypnobirthing breathing and my TENS machine. At the end of the 12 hours, I couldn’t cope with the pain any longer and decided to go onto stronger pain relief. I opted for Remifentanil which instantly helped with the pain, however it made me vomit and I had to be given oxygen as you forget to breath!

After 22 hours of labour, I was exhausted, I had no energy left and had reached 9cm. I was ready to get our baby out!

I had been given an epidural at 11:20pm, after 5 minutes the doctor came into the room and told us the baby’s heartrate had dropped and was struggling, the best thing to do was an emergency C-section. I was not prepared for something like this to happen as I had only focused on the hypnobirthing with the possibility of a vaginal birth, a C-Section hadn’t even crossed my mind as I didn’t want that to happen.

I remember saying to the anesthetist “will I feel them cut me open?” and he replied “well no, because they have already started”. The noise of the theatre, doctors and midwives rushing around, my blood on the floor and the thought of having my stomach cut open made me sick. I had a bad reaction to the drugs and lost more blood than I should have. At the beginning of the pregnancy my partner and I wrote down the guestimate dates on when we thought baby would arrive. I wrote down the 6th February and I had gone into theatre at 11:30pm on the 6th so I told the doctor they had 30 minutes to get him out and then I would have guessed right, it was something to concentrate on. Our baby boy was born at 11:58pm on the 6th February.

After the C-section, I felt a little deflated because I was wondering what people were going to think about the fact that I needed the C-section. I was worried that people were going to judge me for not actually “giving birth” to our baby, I felt like I had failed for not being able to get him out on my own, but looking back now and looking forward to baby number 2, I would absolutely go with the flow and be open to all the possibilities because in the end, as long as mum and baby comes out happy and healthy that is the main thing. I feel proud of myself for going through a labour and recovering from a major operation. I have forget all the pain and all the struggles as soon as I look at my little boys face, he just lights up my world.

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

Leah C-section birth story

If there’s one piece of advice you would give new mums about C-sections, what would it be? Was there something you wish you would have known or prepared?

The one piece of advice I would give new mums is to ask questions to your mid-wife or do some research on C-Sections. I wish I had known more information on what to expect with the procedure and the recovery process. I knew roughly what was involved, but I didn’t know how many layers they cut through, what to expect straight after the procedure and how long it would take to fully recover. A C-section is a major operation and I didn’t realise that until after I had it done. I am now 9 weeks post the operation and I’ve only just started to get feeling back in my stomach where my scar is. I’ve finally been given the go ahead from my doctor to start exercising again and I’ve bought a running machine to help with my mental health and physical health.

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

As a same-sex couple, do you think you had enough information and support from your cycle, society, and maternity wards? Did you wish anything could be better?

We were treated exactly the same as a straight couple, we felt comfortable in most appointments and scans. The midwifes and doctors that we met were very nice and always adapted their language to suit our relationship. Our midwife was especially brilliant, we actually moved house mid-pregnancy and opted to stay with her even though we now lived in a different county.

The hospitals and doctors surgeries need to make improvements on their forms. 99% of the time, forms would include language such as “mum & dad” whereas it would be better to change this to “parent 1 & parent 2” to make it more of an inclusive environment. Also when it comes to Mr, Mrs, Miss etc on registration forms, we felt they could add in the non-binary term “Mx” as this was missing most of the time.

Learn more: Two Mums, One Pregnancy: What Non-Birthing Parents Want You to Know

Leah and Kelly smiling with their newborn

You got to try our wireless electric breast pump, how did you find it so far? How was your experience with breastfeeding? Did you get enough support from your partner, midwives, etc. to breastfeed? Was it something you wanted to do? Has your partner been able to support your breastfeeding journey?

When I became pregnant, I was always open to trying breastfeeding, my mum didn’t like it so I always had the opinion that if it worked, it worked and if it didn’t, I wouldn’t be to hard on myself. When our baby boy was born, the midwifes helped my baby latch on, however this was apparent that he didn’t want to latch at all. I tried for 2 days while in hospital to get a latch, but again, he didn’t want to. On the 9-point check, we found out he had a pretty bad tongue tie and I was told that he wouldn’t latch due to this.

However, I didn’t want him to miss out on the nutrients from breastmilk, so I used the pump and bottle fed him the breast milk. It turned out to be the best option for us as my partner was able to help with the night feeds and I could get a bit more sleep to ensure I recovered from the C-Section. The electric breast pump was fabulous, it was quiet and convenient being wireless. I used the bags and was able to pump directly into them and store the milk in the fridge straight away.

Any advice, tips, or encouragement you want to give to other same-sex parents out there?

Just enjoy every minute. It isn’t an easy process but having a baby as a same-sex couple is even more magical than I could have ever imagined. Our baby is so loved by all of our family and friends.

Thank you, Leah, for sharing your story. We’d love to hear from all our mums about their baby journey, and we'd love to hear YOUR story too. Submit your story here.