SOOZ & OLIVE
‘So I’ve got a uterus like a dog?’ I said, and everyone in the theatre burst out laughing!
Our first daughter Olive Milou (middle name named after her god mother Birthtale Charlotte’s nickname!) was born by caesarian section 9 and a half years ago. We were living in Cape Town at the time and there pregnancy and birth seemed to be very medicalised. It was very unusual to choose to have a midwife-led birth, and there were only a handful of obstetricians who would work with midwives. But we were keen for this and so became the unusual folks who did things like hypno-birthing classes, and connecting with your unborn child sessions, and we planned for a birth with minimal intervention. But that was not to be…
When I was 37 weeks pregnant, we went to our scheduled midwife appointment and discovered that our baby was very small. We knew the baby was breech (and had had acupuncture and chiropractic appointments for this) and that this sometimes meant getting accurate measurements was difficult. So we were sent off to see our obstetrician to get some more information. We had only met him once before and although he agreed to work with midwives it was apparent that he thought we were a bit crazy!
So he started scanning and doing measurements and said that everything looked completely fine… for a 32 week old baby. We told him that those dates were not correct and he then became very animated and started talking about fetal blood flow and growth delays and said ‘We need to get this baby out now!’ But he had to go to do another Caesarean right at that moment and so instead put on a fetal heart monitor and left us alone for half an hour. We were in shock and hadn’t asked a lot of questions, but when he came back he had calmed down and said it looked like everything was fine, the baby was just small but needed to get out! And he said ‘Would you prefer tomorrow or Friday?’ We opted for the extra day, mainly for some think time and to check that a Caesarean really was the best course of action.
We spoke to our midwife immediately and she suggested a second opinion at a specialist fetal assessment clinic. The only problem was they had a 6 week wait, but by some chance, they agreed to see us the following morning. Thankfully, the lovely obstetrician we saw said that she thought everything was fine but the baby just had IUGR (Intrauterine Growth Reduction) and thought this was probably because my placenta was not working very well. But she agreed the best option was out rather than in so we kept our Friday date at the hospital.
Just like with Iris (see previous Birthtale), we felt a bit uneasy turning up to the maternity ward for an elective Caesarean. It was all extremely slick and organised and I was trying not to panic that is was all too quick and they might forget something! Thankfully our midwife was there and she tried to make it less like a Caesarean production line. She also managed to stop the umbilical cord being cut straight away which we were grateful for.
After Olive was out I heard the obstetrician say ‘Gosh, your placenta is really grotty’ and then he quickly worked out that my uterus was weird - a bicornuate (heart-shaped) uterus which in my case had a septum partially dividing it in two down the middle. He explained that my placenta was on one side and the baby on the other so there was no way Olive could have got out of breech position and no way it could have been a natural birth. And that explained why she was so small - she had no room to grow. I explained some fun facts about comparative anatomy (I may have been partially affected by the drugs!) and said they should maybe check my uterus for puppies!
After all that, with our birth plan totally out the window and some very surprising findings about my own body, the absolute best thing was that, even though Olive was tiny (2.05kg), with the help of the amazing midwifery care at the hospital, especially the help with breast feeding, she was the smallest birth weight baby (ever!) in that hospital to not have to go into ICU. Small but feisty and that’s how she still rolls!!