This picture isn’t one from the hospital, as we don’t particularly want to share those. Our baby was born prematurely and it was quite traumatic for us. Here is the story…
My waters broke at 26 weeks’ gestation and I spent 10 days in hospital, where I was told that she was lying sideways, I had no amniotic fluid (was constantly losing it – like being incontinent!) and had placenta previa, which meant that I would need to have a ‘classical’ cesarean, vertical, which is the kind that means no natural birth ever again, apparently! However, I was eventually discharged from hospital because I didn’t go into labour.
At 29 weeks’ gestation (on my husband’s birthday) I finally went into labour. Ava had moved into a breech position (although you still can’t give birth to a pre-termer in breech, as their heads risk getting stuck). I was in light labour for a couple of days (we were trying to stop it) when on Friday evening I had heavy bleeding due to the placenta coming away and had to have a ‘crash cesarean. I had general anesthetic and woke up later not pregnant anymore, but with a tiny, healthy little girl!
It was all extremely traumatic, made more so because I had planned a home birth, all natural – and ended up with the opposite. However, the good news is that my placenta moved enough to allow a normal horizontal cesarean. Ava was in hospital for seven weeks, but never had any health concerns. We were the only people in the Special Care Baby Unit to exclusively breastfeed their pre-termer – and it was hard work! She was so young, and she had tongue tie, which got snipped. Eventually she got there, when we were close to just introducing a bottle as we wanted her home, and it was the only thing keeping her in hospital at the end (she was fed my milk through a nasal tube).
Recovering from the cesarean was difficult, but probably made easier by the fact that I didn’t actually have a baby to look after – as much as I wished I did! So I got plenty of rest. The second day was probably the hardest, as I came down off the morphine and the reality of the situation hit me and the grief of losing my planned beautiful birth kicked in. I also felt guilty that Ava had been born early, though it wasn’t exactly my fault. And the speed of the crash cesarean left me kind of reeling, trying to come to grips with suddenly not being pregnant.
For a long while, though I loved Ava, I almost felt like she was someone else’s baby. I didn’t have the connection of seeing her come out of me, seeing her born, and in fact it was about 14 hours between the cesarean and meeting her. However, it really only took six weeks for me to feel normal again, and now I’ve built my stamina and fitness back up, nice and slowly. The key is to take it easy and trust that time heals! Now Ava is still exclusively breastfeeding and she is six months old and lovely!
This picture was taken in the south of France this summer, six months after a crash cesarean. I just want to remind women that we do recover; we do feel great again!
Rachel Lockwood (United Kingdom)