Healing Emotionally and Physically From a Cesarean at 29 Weeks

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)


  • amber

    So many aspects of this are like my own story-planned a beautiful natural home birth and instead got 3 weeks of hospital bed rest, almost constant bleeding, a complete previa and preterm labor ending in a placental abruption and crash c section. My baby is 8 months old now and wonderful but grieving the loss of my birth has been a black cloud. I still can’t talk birth with my “crunchy” friends without becoming close to tears, I am still angry, bitter, sad and depressed that I didn’t get the birth that I wanted, I got the exact opposite!

  • Tonya Brewer

    Wow….to look at her, you can’t tell that she was EVER a preemie. I can relate to most of your story. My youngest daughter, now 15 1/2, was 8 weeks preemie. Your daughter is beautiful!!!

  • allyson

    I had a pre term baby as well. now she is a healthy and strong 8 year old! My water also broke early and spent 5 days int he hospital until she decided to be born. I was given drugs for pain, which I didnt realize that was what they were and woke up being told to push. Yes, I delivered, but with 3 short pushes she was out had a glimpse and away she went. Not he birth I wanted and was disillusioned by the whole experience. It’s a different world going home without your baby. waking up to pump at night feeling so lonely. Being thankful when you visit the NICU because my child was thriving and I also was able to breastfeed. It was hard work, but you go through the motions because that’s we do, fight, and survive for our children. My baby is now 8 and caught up developmentally before age 2. You are a brave woman with a beautiful baby!

  • Catherine S

    Necessary cesareans do indeed save lives and the women who sacrifice their own desires should surely be commended:) Glad to hear you are healing. It can be a long process, but it is possible.

  • Elizabeth

    Her early arrival via c-section wasn’t just ‘not exactly’ your fault. It was totally not your fault! I wouldn’t presume to know enough about your situation from just reading this post but in my very un- knowledgable opinion it doesn’t sound like it was anyone’s fault. It was just how she was meant to get here-not ideal, not planned, not easy, but how it happened. You gave her everything you had to have the best start she could and the fact that you were able to keep her exclusively on breast milk in a nicu speaks volumes to me about what a warrior mama this sweet girl has on her side! Glad to hear you are healing well, physically and emotionally. And just the fact that you acknowledged there was an emotional healing process to go thru means you are one step ahead of a lot of c/s mama’s, myself included, (took years for me to realize that part after my first was an unnecessary c/s, but coming to that realization did wonders for my own healing process.) Congrats on a beautiful, healthy daughter!

  • Debbi Jones

    After 3 beautiful home water births, my now nearly 4 year old daughter had to be born in hospital after I had an accident that cause acute pubic symphysis and tearing to a lot of the muscle and ligaments around my pelvis, leaving me unable to walk for about 6 months.

    I still grieve my sense of loss in being unable to provide the optimal birth for my daughter despite being able to deliver vaginally without pain relief. I can only imagine the grief caused by a crash c/s! What an amazing woman you are, what a beautiful life your baby will have with you at her side! Know that it was never “your fault”, not even a little bit. What you CAN claim responsibility for is how strong you have been to turn a shaky start into a wonderful life for your child.

  • Yvette

    Thankyou so much for sharing.This is so much like our experience it brings tears reading it. I too had an emergency cesarean at 34 weeks as my placenta abrupted and I was only 1cm dilated. It was all very traumatic and exactly the opposite to the natural birth we had planned. We didn’t get to see our little girl for several hours, or hold her until more than 24 hours later. However, once we could hold her we had constant skin to skin contact and continued attempting breastfeeding until she ‘got it’ – some encouraged us to bottle feed to get her home sooner but we resisted that path! Now she is nearly 6 months, fully breastfed, happy, alert and thriving. You wouldn’t know that she arrived early or of the trauma we all went through.
    The grieving process for me has been ongoing, but I am moving through it. Each day I need only look at the miracle we created and realise that somehow, in some way, it was mean’t to be. I hope one day I understand why, but in the meantime I am mum to my daughter. oxo

  • Huma

    All the stories r so impressive. I have tears in my eyes after reading this.My first baby was completely a normal birth. She is 5 now. I am expecting again. your story gave me enough power to cop with the fears relating to delivery. I will read your story again and again to remind myself that how many powerful moms are around me as an example. God bless u..

  • Masaya

    I appreciate this story a lot. I am a mother and a friend of many mothers to be and I often was told stories of sadness and harshness related to difficult births. I am grateful that Rachel reminded us all that “we do recover and feel great again”. Thank you.

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