On this day last year, I had a 36 week check up with my midwife, who raised suspicions that Beanie (our name for Emma when she was a bump) was breech. This year has been such a whirlwind that I don’t really stop to look back on it – but this day sticks so clearly in my mind.
At this point in the pregnancy, everything had been going smoothly. I really enjoyed being pregnant – it forced me to slow down and I tried to relish the opportunity to embrace it and enjoy the time before little Beanie came into this world.
Our midwife did have a few suspicions before this point, as did I. Friends from our NCT group would talk of being able to see the hands and feet in the bath as the baby moves around and I had nothing of the sort. I could feel her kicking me really low down on my bladder, which was excruciating when I was driving! However I was told that there’s every chance she could move, so I did my best to encourage her to turn by sitting on the pregnancy ball and sitting as far forward as I could.
However at 36 weeks, the midwife said we needed to find out for sure, and quickly booked me an appointment at the Royal Sussex County Hospital. It all seemed to happen quite fast and looking back it was lucky my other half could come home early to be there. The scan was the quickest I had ever had – literally seconds and they confirmed that the head was at the top of my belly.
So what next? They explained that they can offer me an ECV manual turning procedure carried out by a consultant. Upon passing me the leaflet, they said to me “think about it, but don’t look it up on the internet”. So obviously I looked it up on the internet. I probably wouldn’t have if she hadn’t have said that, but I had to know.
I read a few Mumsnet discussions and there seemed to be varying rates of success and pain too. One woman said it was more painful than labour! I also read that the procedure can sometimes cause the baby’s heart rate to drop and in that case you’d have to have an emergency caesarian right away. We had a decision to make and the whole thing brought up very mixed feelings.
I was so set on having a natural birth – I was up for it. In fact, further than that – I was so intrigued as to how I would cope with the pain. However giving birth to a breech baby was not something I wanted to undertake; I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if anything happened to Beanie. But as I sat there conflicted and emotional, my other half asked me to tell him what I was feeling.
I told him I felt like a failure, that I had failed her before we had even met. And that is truly how I felt, even though I knew deep down that it is not true.
It’s at moments like these that you see your partner’s true colours. For the first time, he held me close and didn’t say a word. I think he knew I had to get that out – just to make peace with how I was feeling in my heart, and then move on from there. We decided not to have the ECV in the end, and concentrated on having a caesarian. There was still a chance that she could turn, but I really wanted to get my head round what was going to happen, to be prepared.
It’s the oddest feeling knowing the exact date your baby is going to be born. Wonderful in some ways as we really enjoyed those few weeks that followed. We had a lovely night near the hospital together – I had been told to take 2 tablets at exactly 10pm the night before, and then I wasn’t allowed to eat anything until after the operation. So we had a 3 course meal, which was so good! My OH even bought a Mars bar to have right before 10pm but I was too stuffed to eat it.
After a bit of an anxious sleep, suddenly it was time to drive to the hospital. As we set off, I was feeling nervous and hungry (I was hoping the operation wouldn’t be delayed!!) – I only remember feeling this nervous when I took my driving test. I was pretty silent in the car with nerves and as we approached the hospital, I couldn’t believe we had arrived already.
As soon as we arrived, everything flowed perfectly and the staff came into our room one by one to introduce themselves. They made us both feel totally at ease and although I was still nervous, I wasn’t scared at all. The anaesthetist and lead midwife in particular were really brilliant and were so respectful of our wishes where possible.
Although it felt like we had to wait forever, soon enough we were wheeled into the operation room at 10am and the anaesthetist prepared the spinal block. I was told it would be very painful, but actually it hurt less than when they put the line in my wrist! My OH sat infront of me and held my hand,
He kept saying to the midwife how strong I am. I remember looking at him, feeling so lucky to have him by my side.
The anaesthetist said quite seriously to me that I should tell him if I feel sick at all. Moments later, I started to feel a little queazy and ordinarily wouldn’t have mentioned it but as he had warned me, I said something. Everything went silent and they corrected the levels of the spinal block – I did start to feel very lightheaded but soon enough I was back to normal and feeling fine. Moments later, they tested the spinal block with a freezing cold spray and all had worked well. He then said to “do you think you’re okay if we start the operation now?” I said yes, to which he replied “well, what would you say if I told you we’ve started already?” I was so pleased at his light-hearted nature and I just kept chatting with my OH all the way through the operation. There was lots of tugging and pulling but nothing hurt at all.
At 10:50am, Beanie was lifted up infront of us and told us “it’s a girl”. We both cried – I had honestly believed Beanie would be a boy! She was beautiful and perfect. I was grateful to the amazing team at the Princess Royal Hospital in Hayward’s Heath for their professionalism and for making it such a joyful day for us, even though they have done these operations time and time again.
It was such a beautiful birth and we often talk about it together – I had to let go of the ideals in my head about what I wanted the birth to be. But in the end, with a beautiful baby girl in our arms, we couldn’t have wished for anything more.