I delivered by elective c section on Friday 13th January 2023 but in order to explain the birth story we need to go back a little bit first. The first trimester for me was fairly straightforward and I didn’t really suffer any sickness, which I’m very grateful for! I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes at 14 weeks pregnant. At my NHS trust they screen everyone at their booking appointment, and my results showed my blood sugars were higher than was normal. I started a process of diet controlling, which was challenging and took a lot of getting used to: no carbs and no sugar! I’d like to say I didn’t cry in the bread aisle in Sainsbury’s on more than one occasion, but that would be a lie. Crying aside, I remained diet controlled until 28 weeks gestation, when I was given metformin as my fasting blood sugars became uncontrollable.
Due to being diabetic I was given extra scans, and they found out my daughter had started slowing down her growth at 28 weeks. She measured in the 3rd centile. They wanted to monitor to ensure she kept growing, so I was referred for weekly scans and Doppler checks with my local hospital. During this time my pregnancy became consultant led but I did also get to see my community midwife. At 34 weeks (around Christmas 2022)) they confirmed that my daughter’s growth had stopped (she was estimated at 4lb 6oz. I was diagnosed with fetal growth restriction and they had seen indications my placenta was failing and we started discussing an early delivery. I was advised that my baby needed to be delivered at the safest earliest opportunity, which they advised was to between 36-37 weeks. I opted for an elective c section due to the advice that an induction was unlikely to be successful at this stage, and had steroid injections a week before. Due to being diabetic I had to be admitted to hospital for the steroids course, and had to measure my blood sugar every hour for 24 hours!
A week later my section was scheduled. I was absolutely petrified and felt robbed of my opportunity for a vaginal birth. In order to prepare I searched Spotify for ‘caesarean section’ and came across the Pip the Midwife podcast. I listened to the episode sat in what would be my daughter’s nursery to get in the headspace for what was to come. This episode really helped me to prepare and I learned about the procedure but also how to take back control and make my preferences known. Through this episode I learned that I could opt for certain music and we asked for my husband to cut the umbilical chord. We met with the elective section team the day before the procedure who went through everything with me, they were happy to go into as much or as little detail as we’d like. (I wanted all the detail). They explained the process and that there’d be a lot of people in the operating theatre with us, this was due to having some extra people at hand including diabetic consultants (for me) and intensive care consultants (for the baby) in case they were needed.
My section was scheduled for a chilly Friday 13th Jan and one perk of being diabetic meant I was first on the operating list. Me and my husband got to the hospital for 7am and we met the surgeon, anaesthetist, and surgical midwives. I walked down to my section and the team were so friendly and supportive, they were really trying put me at ease. It was a lot but once we were in I began to calm down. There were around 30 people in the operating room. But it felt good to know the people were there if we needed them (which was something I took from the podcast episode). Another cool part of the procedure was that it was led by an all-female surgical team. My daughter was delivered within 5 mins of the procedure at 9:20am to Rewrite The Stars, which was playing on the radio at the time.
She weighed a tiny 4lb 2oz. Me and my husband chose her name in the theatre from the ones we’d picked out. We decided on Ophelia Lucy.
Whilst the operation was coming to an end my daughter was admitted to NICU (neonatal intensive care) for respiratory distress and suspected sepsis. Which meant she was taken (with my husband) from me in the operating theatre. The NICU consultant brought her to me and told me to kiss her and tell her I’d see her soon. I’ll always remember that moment for the rest of my life and in the time that we were apart it kept me going. After Ophelia left, the recovery nurses looked after me and explained that it would be a while before I’d see her due to the need for the anaesthetic in my legs to wear off. They held my hands and wiped my tears and told me that we'd be back together soon. In the time until I got to see her (around 7 hours) I hand-expressed tiny amounts of colostrum. I didn’t see Ophelia again until 16:15 that day, when I could stand and was wheeled to the NICU unit.
For the next 10 days we remained in the hospital while she grew stronger and she needed support to take down her food. The NICU staff were amazing, it’s the worst way to meet some of the best people. On 22nd January we finally got to go home. Ophelia has grown stronger every single day and she’s now a happy and healthy baby.
Although my birth story never went the way I’d have imagined, I’m so grateful for the medical support I received during the pregnancy, but also during birth and her recovery. The strength I pulled from within during that time shows me that mothers really can do anything.
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The Author: Midwife Pip
Pip is a Mum, Podcaster and practicing Midwife in the UK, currently working as a Delivery Suite Sister she has a wealth of experience supporting parents-to-be through all aspects of pregnancy, birth and the postpartum. Pip has trained and worked in some of the leading maternity units, has completed a master's programme and is passionate about all aspects of women's health and wellness.
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