So first things first… birth isn’t only a very physical experience, it’s also a hugely emotional one. Whatever your body goes through, your mind will too. So it’s really important to assess all options and really think about what’s best for you and baby, for both your body and mind.
For some women that will mean being at home in their safe space, for others it will mean birthing at a birth centre. For some it will be amongst doctors at a labour ward and for others it will be an abdominal birth. All births will be special in their own way- the main thing to know is we all have a choice and we should make the most of that choice by researching and preparing for what is one of the most special times in our lives.
For anyone who doesn’t know the story of my 3rd pregnancy, it was a surrogacy pregnancy for my best friends who had battled infertility for 6 years.
When we first started discussing surrogacy seriously a couple of years ago, I defaulted to ‘of course it’ll be a home birth- and I can’t wait to educate Soph and Jack on all of it- it’ll be so magical!’. Which of course it would be. The pros of a home birth in our situation is that we’d be in our own space (probably at their home), the midwives could be fully briefed on the situation, and there would be no need to wait for a discharge from hospital. Just all there- soaking up S&J’s long awaited miracle. The fact I birthed both my babies at home with no special circumstances was also a pro- I knew what it looked like and the process was well known to me. Great for the oxytocin factor! Safe, familiar and calm.
As the months went on, and we started the process at the surrogacy clinic, I started to question if home birth WAS the right thing for all involved, starting with me and this baby. I didn’t question safety, and I knew I’d be able to educate S&J and anyone else involved about the safety of home births and positive factors (and the risks, of course). I’d had home births because of all of the reasons above, but something was niggling at me- this was a very different situation and I needed to not ignore that niggle.
S&J have always said ‘whatever I want they will be happy with’ and they never made me sway away from home birth once. But I started to visualise the build up to birth. In a regular pregnancy, you have the choice to take yourself away from the world, turn your phone off and just be in your bubble. I knew that this bub would have so many people who love them SO much, watching and waiting, and I wondered what effect that would have on my mind, and therefore body. I’ve taught so many mums about the birth hormone oxytocin and how important it is for a smooth and comfortable labour- and how to create it as you get closer to due time. In order to produce it you need to feel calm and safe. I wondered how the inevitable pressure from very well meaning family & friends would impact me producing that very important hormone as I had in my previous births. Please don’t think I’m knocking S&J’s (and now my!) incredible support network at all, they’ve just all traveled this heartbreaking journey with S&J and this baby will quite literally be a miracle).
A due date is a focal point for many families, and a family having a baby through surrogacy will inevitably focus on that date like their life depended on it… and I don’t blame them! This all needed to factor into what therefore felt right for me and for this baby being born to them safely and calmly.
The other factor in our personal birth story that played on my mind was the people who would be caring for us. In a home birth situation, yes we would likely be able to speak to the home birth team ahead of time and build some kind of relationship with them. However, birth doesn’t always go to plan, and a last minute transfer could result in S&J being separated in the journey as perhaps only one could come with me and the baby, and if it went to emergency c-section, then it would be more than likely only one would be allowed in the theatre at the time their baby is born.
Doctors and midwives are amazing but they are human, and there have been reports of opinions being shared about surrogacy at quite critical points in birth- and nobody needs that added stress in what will already be an immensely emotional time.
So, I started looking into planned abdominal births from a personal perspective.
The element of control over timing and care providers in our specific situation really lifted my spirits. My gut started telling me, this is the way me and this bub are going to work together to get them to their mummy and daddy safely, happily and calmly.
I did another hospital tour of Watford by myself (I’d done one when I was expecting Mollie) to reassure myself that the midwife led unit definitely wasn’t the way to go for us. I knew straight away it wasn’t- as I think having to travel somewhere all together once labour started spontaneously would have been quite stressful too. It wouldn’t just be James and I involved, it would be me, James, Mollie & Theo needing to be cared for, Soph and Jack possibly travelling from work… I already felt on edge about everyone needing to be ok getting there- I really didn’t need that in the run up to the birth.
On the tour they explained the logistics for this specific hospital and it sounded really straight forward. You get there on your appointment date, a doctor then let’s you know what time you’re going in and the process takes around half an hour. As I would tell every couple I teach, it’s also about knowing the risks- which I already knew from my hypnobirthing teaching. I also can’t recommend this book enough for finding out the facts about abdominal births: Pinter & Martin ‘Why Caesarian Matters’ by Clare Goggin £8.99 Amazon
So, that is why in my mind a planned abdominal birth would be ‘right’ way for this baby to be born. I know there will be lots of opinions on this, but there was on my home birth decision too! The main thing is I’m confident in my research and I’ll be so close to Soph and Jack on the post natal bonding side of things, and of course my recovery.
As always, we’ve had lots of offers of support and advice around this area- I plan to take everyone up on those coffees to hear about your experiences and especially understand the postnatal healing process. It will be crucial we’re fully prepped for all eventualities post operation. It will also be great for Soph and Jack to talk about building a bond with their baby after a c section birth- as they of course want to do everything to make it the best transition into the world for their baby.
We did recently had a very lovely lunch with Kimberly from the Pussycat Dolls who has had 2 planned abdominal births and another coming up in the coming weeks (Sophs brother Luke is very good friends with her and as soon as she heard our story she immediately offered to talk to us all about her experiences).