Part 16 - Preparing for the Birth

We now had a date for the baby’s planned birth, that is, of course, if s/he didn’t arrive earlier, although I was adamant that this wouldn’t happen. I was having a hard enough time accepting that the baby would be born at 38.5 weeks’ gestation, a whole week and a half earlier than the ‘due’ date. I concluded that this ‘early’ delivery would result in the baby having fragile lungs and a dodgy digestive system and with that a week immune system and years of allergies ahead. 

The specialist had tried to allay my fears. He explained that at 37 week’s gestation a pregnancy is considered full-term as the baby’s lungs are understood to be fully developed and the baby’s gut contains meconium – the sticky green substance that forms the baby’s first poo after birth. Furthermore, while the immune system is still developing, the baby is considered to be able to survive perfectly well outside the womb without any need for special care.

That said, he was keen to allow the pregnancy to progress beyond 37 weeks but was trying to balance that up with the risk of me going into early labour and suffering blood loss as a result of the placenta previa. Thus 38.5 weeks seemed a happy medium. Not that I was particularly happy about any of it.

I certainly wasn’t pleased to discover that with my condition there is an increased risk of blood loss during the Caesarean section and with that a potential blood transfusion. It certainly wasn’t ideal and I was upset about the prospect of this. I was keen to provide my own blood in advance in case it was required, but sadly this wasn’t allowed. This frustrated me and I was adamant that I didn’t want to have to take on someone else’s blood and energy and prayed with renewed vigour for a safe delivery.

However, this was compounded a week later when I went to see the anaesthetist. She explained that the Caesarean section would be carried out with spinal anaesthesia, which involves a one-off injection in the lower spine that works quickly and gives sufficient anaesthesia for the whole operation. This would enable me to be conscious during the whole birth and for E to join me in theatre.

However, she did stress that there’s always a risk that the spinal doesn’t take properly and a general anaesthetic would then be required.  If this happened E wouldn’t be allowed into theatre so neither of us would witness the birth. The whole concept of missing the birth filled me with huge fear. I’d known this happen to friends of mine and it had taken them a long time to come to terms with this.

I knew the anaesthetist was under an obligation to inform me of the worst case scenario, but I wish I hadn’t known. It was totally irrational on my part but I couldn’t let this idea of missing the birth go. Not one single thing about the conception or the pregnancy had gone the way I intended and now I just had this horrible feeling that I wouldn’t even get to see the baby arrive Earth side.

And while I knew fear is simply false evidence appearing real, and that I should be transmuting this feeling into love instead, I was well and truly caught up in the negativity of it.  My solar plexus, my navel centre then, was certainly not happy and I could feel it gurgling as the anxiety crept in and the big black hole of despair begin to open up again. My heart didn’t stand a chance in keeping the love alive…the fear had set in.

So I kept busy. Being busy is what I do best, it comes naturally to me. And now I had a good reason to keep busy, as it would distract me from the fear I was feeling. It was good timing really that I got involved in an additional project at work that ensured I was very busy, right up until the end of the pregnancy.

Despite the need to be busy, at 36 weeks I realised that it was time to ease up on teaching yoga and channelling Reiki. I was carrying all out front and and my bump was beginning to get in the way – it was becoming increasingly challenging to demonstrate during yoga classes and the students were concerned of an early delivery in the yoga space! This gave me additional time to focus on the office work instead.

I had decided that I would work right up until the day before the planned birth. My best friend who had birthed four children by then was keen to stress the need for me to take some time out to calm and relax myself ahead of the birth but I was having none of it. I was only able to take 12 weeks’ maternity leave as it was, and I felt that I wanted to save all of that time to spend with the baby, plus I was just far too busy at work to leave any earlier than this.

As it was I didn’t know quite how I was going to get everything finished in time and as only part of my role was being covered in my absence, I was well aware I would need to keep abreast of things during my maternity leave. Knowing when I was likely to have the baby did then have its positives, in so much enabling me to plan and manage my workload.

Looking back, I realise how desperately unprepared I was for the arrival of the baby and how much I was in denial of how my life was about to change. I’d become so wrapped up in the pregnancy and the birth that I hadn’t really thought beyond this. I had overlooked the fact that the pregnancy and indeed the birth were all leading me to the ultimate dream, which had always been to have a baby.    

That’s not to belittle the experience of being pregnant, I loved it! It was insightful and beautiful and I had grown rather attached to my bump. And while the birth was still an unknown quantity to me, I was aware that it can be a hugely empowering and beautiful experience; not only does it mark the transition from maidenhood to motherhood, but it also brings new life into the world. It’s certainly a big deal.

But it had become nothing short of a huge drama in my life, and I was so caught up in it that I couldn’t see the bigger picture. It was the baby that I had spent most of my life dreaming about having. Not the birth. Not the pregnancy. And yet all I’d done for the past eight months was read books on pregnancy and birth and not one single book on babies and how to care for them. We hadn’t even joined the NCT classes.

I was also in complete denial about the manner in which having a baby may possibly change my working life. I just assumed that this would continue as usual.  My parents had already kindly agreed to look after the baby while I was in the office and E would be able to look after him/her while I was teaching yoga and practising Reiki. I just felt that my life would fairly much continue as usual, just with a little bit more organisation!

D-day – or C-day really - loomed ahead of me as I tried to get on top of my workload and do what I could mentally to prepare myself for the birth.  I didn’t feel there was anything to do physically, because it didn’t feel like I was going to be doing much birthing – the baby was going to be birthed for me. That was a strange feeling but by then I’d stopped giving it too much thought. It’s not that I’d accepted my fate, far from it, more so that I tried not to think about it too much.

My home yoga practice was essential at this time, and I made sure to get on my mat every day, as well as attending the weekly pregnancy yoga classes with Anita.  The slow pace of these classes made much more sense to me now.  My energy levels were not what they had been earlier on in the pregnancy and the bump was decidedly large and my back often ached. 

Not only that but I couldn’t get a good night’s sleep on account of all the trips to the toilet and the effort it took to find a comfortable sleeping position propped as I was with a number of pillows. Everyone kept telling me to rest and get as much sleep as I could, which began to annoy me after a while as I found it impossible to do either in this later stage of pregnancy. Still I made the most of the opportunity to soak in a warm lavender infused bath and I tried to get to bed early, even if it was just to read my book.

As C-day quickly approached the frequency of the midwife appointments increased. These were used to check my blood pressure, check for protein in my urine, listen to the baby’s heartbeat, measure the size of my bump (to check baby growing) and check the positioning of the baby – still breech!

Fortunately, I didn’t bleed, which was a relief. That’s not to say I didn’t spend much of the latter part of the pregnancy constantly concerned about bleeding.  Any slight change in sensation of discharge found me dashing to the nearest toilet or to the nearest place I could discretely check whether the discharge was blood.  After the earlier miscarriage scare I was paranoid about blood and the placenta previa merely compounded this.

A few weeks before the planned birth, I was told that I needed to be on the ward by 7am on the morning of the surgery with the surgery itself scheduled for later that morning. It sounds silly but this incensed me.  I didn’t want to be in the hospital any longer than I needed to be and I certainly didn’t want to be getting up for 7am to spend a few hours sitting around in the hospital, getting tired and increasing anxious about the procedure.

I wanted to stay at home until the last moment and have time to practice yoga in an effort to centre and ground myself ahead of this most life changing event. I spoke with my midwife to see if the time could be changed but she was powerless to do anything about it. Before too long the whole ‘time to go to the hospital’ became something of a drama, because it made absolutely no sense to me and it was one thing I felt that I should be able to control, because let’s face it, I couldn’t control anything else about the birth.

I believe it was this that was getting to me. I had lost all control.  The Goddess of the Moon was dancing and I still didn’t know how to dance with her.  I didn’t know how to let go.  I didn’t know how to go with the flow. Because none of this flow was flowing the way I wanted it to.

Fortunately, my lovely doula, Anita, whose services were somewhat limited now by the medicalised nature of the birth, spoke to the Head of Midwifery and negotiated a later arrival time for me. It’s sounds silly, but this made a huge difference to my mental state and while I was still petrified about all the things that could go wrong about the birth itself, at least I had longer that morning at home.

The weekend prior to the birth I tried to prepare myself as best I could, not least in terms of getting in the sea to try and ground myself but also in preparing the cottage for the arrival of the baby and preparing my hospital bag.  A friend who had previously had a number of Caesarean sections helpfully suggested what I may need to help with this post-op in terms of clothing.  I also made sure to stock up on pro-biotics and Arnica.

I was still in some denial about what lay ahead. I had read nothing about Caesarean birth and the implications of this post-partum as I didn’t want to experience any additional fear. And while on the one hand I joked about taking my yoga mat with me into the hospital, I did exactly that because I figured I would be able to practice post op in the time that the baby was sleeping – how I laugh about this now!

I worked in the office until 5.30pm the night before the birth and continued working on my blackberry later into the evening. It felt very surreal, knowing that I wouldn’t be back in the office, well not properly, for 12 weeks and yet mentally still very much in the ‘work’ zone despite knowing I was going to meet my baby the next day. This certainly wasn’t how I imagined birth to be!

Sleep certainly didn’t come easily that evening. I was excited about finally meeting our little bean Earth side, but anxious too about the Caesarean section, and whether I’d be able to breastfeed and the fact our life would never again be the same. Of course I wanted this change, I wouldn’t have chosen to get pregnant otherwise but the enormity of it was desperately challenging and I know E felt it too.

We’d been such free spirits for so much of our lives, more or less able to do what we wanted when we wanted, that we were both concerned in our own ways about how this would be affected with a baby in our lives too. Only time would tell, and for now I was just grateful that I could begin the next day with a short practice on my mat and a moment in the garden in the cool and damp air desperately trying to ground myself.