Calling all mamas that are C-section skittish! First of all I want to say: mama, don’t feel alone. Second I want to say: mama, release the guilt. Maybe you’ve done everything that you can think of to avoid a C-section. You hired the doula, you chose a midwifery practice, you took hypnobirthing classes and yet, despite all your efforts it’s looking like a scheduled Cesarean birth is in your future.
Maybe your baby is breech. Maybe you developed gestational diabetes and your baby is estimated LGA (large for gestational age) and your healthcare team feels that it’s important to schedule a C-section. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that you are headed to surgery instead of to the birthing tub.
Since becoming a doula and supporting women in labor and birth, I’ve noticed that mamas that are really averse to having a C-section seem to take a real emotional hit when the Cesarean birth recommendation is made. This experience has caused me to consider how I can better prepare my clients to make that transition from natural, unmedicated birth to surgical intervention. I started to wonder if there was a way to help make that transition smoother and not so distressing.
Ever heard the term: gentle cesarean? Mamas, there is a lot that you can do to still have a beautiful birth experience even if your baby is born by Cesarean section. Let’s consider why you wanted a natural birth in the first place. Was it so that you could have more control over your labor and birth? Was it because you were afraid “needles” and didn’t want an epidural? Was it because you were concerned about exposing your baby to narcotic medications in labor? Whatever the reason, it’s important to first revisit why you wanted a natural birth in the first place because this will help you figure out how you can translate that vision into the operating room.
Yes, it certainly helps to have a doula. Why? Because your doula can help facilitate the gentle cesarean by advocating for you. But even if you don’t have a doula, your bedside nurse is going to be your best friend. Before you are sitting on the gurney getting ready for your epidural or spinal block, have the conversation. Let your nurse know that you really had your heart set on a natural birth, but you understand that a C-section is needed. However, if at all possible you would like to include a few elements in your birth experience if at all possible.
Here are some ideas: ask if the surgical team would mind if you played a special song at the time of birth. Do they have a clear drape that they could put up to protect the sterile field instead of an opaque one? This way, you can see your baby being born. Could your baby be skin-to-skin for a few minutes after birth if everything is looking good with her vitals? Perhaps you would like your baby’s first exposure to be to your voice; ask if it would be possible to have a moment of silence at the time of birth so you can welcome your newborn yourself with your voice. These are just some ideas. You will know what is important to you.
Make friends with your bedside nurse and your surgical nurse and let them know what’s important to you. They want you to have a positive birth experience, they might just need some pointers as to what it is you desire.
Next stop: the recovery room! If your baby is doing well after the Cesarean birth, ask if your baby can be skin-to-skin with you instead of in the bassinet. If you have a helper by your side (usually your husband, partner, or doula) usually this is ok if the baby’s vital signs are stable. The more opportunities for bonding in the first hour or two after birth the better!
No matter how your baby is born, know that that you and your baby are not just “delivered”. You are the mama and your baby is a part of you. You play such an important role in the birthing process whether it is being active with pushing or holding the space for your baby in the operating room.
Stay tuned for my top tips on C-section recovery. Until then, my wish for you is that you will: Unfold like a lotus and blossom into Motherhood.