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Meeting Bronte

I had an elective GA C-section and had a magical birth experience. 

This was my second and last birth. About 7 months after my first daughter was born by emergency C-section, I developed vision changes and long story short, I was diagnosed with bilateral idiopathic cranial hypertension (brain swelling) and a Chiari Malformation. Chiari malformation is a condition in which brain tissue extends into the spinal canal. Chiari malformation type 1 develops as the skull and brain are growing. As a result, signs and symptoms may not occur until late childhood or adulthood. This was the best outcome, as I had been told I was looking at a brain tumour or an MS diagnosis at the age of 27. I had a successful VP Shunt surgery, and the hypertension became well managed. Once I was cleared of cancer or MS, I had a neurologist dismiss my concerns by telling me I was just fat, fertile and female, and this was the reason my brain was swollen. I was told to run 10 km a day and lose weight. Apparently, this worked for him…. I did lose weight… 30 kg in fact. But I’d still like to throat-punch the neurologist. 

Due to my Chiari, I knew that I could not have a spinal block, so I knew going into another pregnancy, I would need an alternative. I consulted with my OBGYN 18 months before falling pregnant. I remember saying to him, “is this even a good idea?” His answer was the reason I have a second child. He said to me, “Jen, let’s take one step at a time, and I’m with you all the way” we discussed at length what the research says about cranial pressure in the final stages of labour. Apparently, your cranial pressure increases by 400%!! My OBGYN rang colleagues and consulted on new research, but we decided that what I wanted was a GA. I had a range of opinions about my decision. I remember a fellow mum said how sad it would be and what a shame I’d miss the birth… I didn’t feel this way at all! I felt safe. 

I met with the anaesthetist two months prior to my due date. He was supportive of my decision and commented that, usually, he had to convince people that a GA was the way to go. Instead, I gave him the list of reasons. My husband is wonderful, but when it comes to anything medical, he hits the floor literally. He only just made it through the last birth sitting down, and I knew the whole GA thing would push him over the edge. Let’s face it theatres smell weird. 

We made the decision together that my identical twin Emily would stand outside the theatre and give my baby her first cuddle. The day arrived at 39 weeks and 4 days. I was met in theatre by a wonderful team who were all very curious as to why I would choose a GA...and why my husband was missing. It all made sense when I explained and introduced them to my twin. The medical team assembled and were calm and supportive. I did have a moment where I thought about the urgency of an emergency GA and how this must be a different experience for the doctors and nurses as well. My twin smiled through the door and said, “ I love you…. I’ll have her when you wake up.” 

My baby girl Bronte was born within one minute of me being under. She was safe, and I was safe. My twin took pictures and videos of when she was handed Bronte and spoke to her about when I would be there. With the help of the midwife, my twin gave Bronte some expressed colostrum. I made it to recovery 40 minutes later. Bronte had been cuddled for almost 30 of those minutes by my twin. I had Bronte on my chest shortly after and began breastfeeding, which was an amazing experience. Emily took as many pictures and videos of me doing this as she could, as I was a little out of it. 

I was wheeled up to the maternity ward shortly after, and my husband was waiting for us. He was relieved and still standing! I had the opportunity to share how much I enjoyed my GA with my midwife and my OBGYN. They truly made it such a special birth experience. I didn’t miss out on anything and I remained safe and my baby remained safe. I experienced great empowerment from being supported and listened to. Although everything was meticulously planned, it was still magical!

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