Happy National Cesarean Awareness Day!
For you, this could feel like an emotionally loaded concept, maybe its humbling as you reflect on your birth or those whom you love, or perhaps you are removed & uninformed at such concept as an "empowering" cesarean. Wherever you fall, your birth, and those around you, are worthy of celebration and deep honor. Your experience and resiliency through a birth of any kind is remarkable and a milestone in your journey as a parent. Despite being a professional in the birth space and trained/certified through The VBAC Link , I have not experienced a cesarean birth myself -- I don't have the inside scoop on what it's truly like outside of my observations..
As a doula, 2023 was the year of cesarean births whether elective (chosen by the patient), a transition from a vaginal birth, emergent, or due to breech presentation -- I had it all! I want all my clients to be prepared as a reassurance that they remain at the wheel of their birth, navigating and guiding as much as they are capable to and able to reclaim whatever may be lost if birth expectations shift.
With that said, I want to share a story. Although a drop in the ocean, I hope it ripples to those who need to hear a story that is relatable, hopeful, and encouraging. If you are feeling lost and alone in figuring out what it means to have a cesarean birth and coupled with empowerment. I hope to bring more awareness to the start-to-finish process of a cesarean, how to prepare, how to find meaning in your birth whether expected or unexpected, and be reconciled to whatever birth you have had or may have in the future. I hope you see an example of how an empowered birth is linked to a supportive birth, with a partner advocating, comforting, and soothing at each step (for some this could look like a mother, a doula, or friend taking on this primary role if a partner isn't present or isn't capable of such support).
So here, I hand over the mic to a dear former client, Sansara, who has generously allowed me to share their story into meeting their baby, Ocean Ruth.
"On Friday, March 17th, we got ready for our scheduled pre-op appt (that had been moved up twice already since being originally scheduled) at the Maternal Fetal Medicine clinic at 36w6d pregnant. I thought to myself that morning about how I needed to shower in case we were being hospitalized and joked with Andrew about making sure we had our hospital bags. The Dr and Resident seeing us that day happened to be the same folks who sent us to the hospital for extra care and monitoring just 2 weeks prior due to protein in my urine, elevated blood pressures, and swollen feet with some “pitting edema” where the swelling in my feet was so great that it left a pit when poked, like playdoh instead of bouncing back. Some of the same concerns presented that day, despite being on medication for awhile, and they were careful of repeating that it is “not an emergency, but medically indicated” that I needed to go to the main hospital for continued monitoring and more tests. We were also encouraged to contact our doula, Samantha @viragobirthdoula, and notify our family of the possibility that we may be having our baby’s birth day that day, instead of Monday the 20th."
Stepping into the hospital, we simply had to release that as much as possible, though Andrew, my partner, continued to process and facilitate calls/texts as I was settled into the hospital bed and hooked up to multiple monitors. I had two bands across my belly holding the small monitors to follow Baby’s heartbeat and a blood pressure cuff on while we waited for the urine test results from the lab, since the initial test at the clinic showed protein at a level of 100 (any more than a “trace amount” with my other symptoms diagnostically met pre-eclampsia criteria). I was asked every time (like I had been for months!) if I had any other pre-eclampsia symptoms such as visual changes (like twinkling stars, which I had had twice already), a headache that wouldn’t go away, or a pain under my right ribcage. Dr. Tran, our number one preferred surgeon we wanted originally, was on call that day and visited and told us along with the nurses that we would likely be meeting our baby sometime that evening or next day, that she didn’t feel comfortable sending me home just to get one more day closer to 37w along with the risks that can be involved with pre-eclampsia (maternal stroke or seizure and stillbirth, and more). Our doula, Samantha @viragobirthdoula, arrived and was a calming presence, ensuring that Andrew ate something since it was already around 1pm and our initial appt was at 9 am, neither of us eating breakfast and I wasn’t allowed to eat until we knew if/when I was having surgery. That answer came much more quickly than we had anticipated, as Dr. Tran entered the triage room and announced that my protein levels in urine were above 800 and we were “decision to incision in under thirty mins.” At this point, things kicked into high gear."
"Since our birth plan was always a c-section, that’s what our team prepared for. We met the anesthesiologist, Dr. Lee who was very willing to answer any/all questions. Nurses started to prep me for surgery by providing paperwork to sign and shaving the top of my pubic hair region. Our personal items were whisked away to a different room. Andrew and our doula Samantha @viragobirthdoula were brought these paper-thin medical zip-up coveralls and hair nets to put on, and weren’t even sure if they had time to run to the restroom, things were moving so quickly! A new nurse arrived and suddenly, they were pushing my bed towards the OR. At this point, I started to get extremely anxious because of the sudden new pace and had to solely focus on Andrew as tears were in my eyes. The OR was brighter than I had ever seen, and the surgical table looks so complicated. They had explained I would be laying on my back with my arms stretched wide out on padded rests, but first I had to sit on the high table, hunch over uncomfortably to received the epidural. My feet were in Andrew’s lap and his eye contact and physical touch are what got me through the pain of that first numbing needle, though I definitely cried. Can never believe a Dr when they say it’ll only be a slight pinch! As soon as that was done, knowing I needed it, Andrew ripped off the fall-risk socks a nurse made me put on because they were cutting into the circulation of my swollen feet. I was laid down and Andrew positioned above my left shoulder, hands on me and face near my face, thank goodness. Andrew was wearing my Apple watch to keep track of my blood sugar notifications and held onto my insulin pump, which was both turned off and unhooked from my body because as soon as the placenta was out of my body, my insulin needs would dramatically change. A medical drape was placed over my midsection, and the room was buzzing with people talking and high energy as my legs and lower half of my body went numb. I thought I would be nervous about my legs being placed in the butterfly position and not having underwear on for a room full, but it was honestly quite far from top of mind."
"The operation portion itself is mostly a blur, except the memory of some pulling on my body and check ins from the anesthesiologist and Andrew. At one point, Dr. Tran says “it’s going to feel like an elephant is sitting on your chest”and that pressure was intense—later, Andrew would tell me someone got on the table to push on my upper abdomen to help Baby out. The medical drape window was opened and a miracle was held up for us to see, covered in all sorts of blood and fluid. They whisked her over to the warmer, we heard those strong beautiful lungs let out a wail. Andrew was invited to cut the umbilical cord and after making sure I was okay, he did so because I was eager for him to go to her, and he came right back to my side. Our doula Samantha @viragobirthdoula reminded them we wanted skin-to-skin before any sort of weighing or measuring and Ocean was placed on me, then repositioned with Samantha’s help, so that her body could lay across my chest, close to my face and Andrew could still also hold her and me. I was definitely crying and in complete shock and awe. As my nausea become more than I could handle, Baby was moved so I could throw up into a bag that Andrew held. They measured her and she was again placed on me with both of us touching her purple/red skin. All during this, the surgeon and staff continued to work on me, but I was hardly aware of that, all my senses were with Ocean and Andrew. We half sung our womb-song to her and cried from joy. Our first looks, touches, and moments together as a family is something I’ll never forget. We moved into the triage room after that, where Ocean’s blood sugar was checked and found to be low, breastfeeding encouraged, and formula given. We held her and each other as we continued to await Ocean’s blood sugar test results every couple hours after feedings, waiting out my nausea to hopefully eat (almost 24hrs of not eating at that point) and the return of feeling in my legs, feeling so grateful that we were there at all and for our doula’s continued support. Her photos I will treasure forever. The love I feel for Andrew, my partner, only magnified and expanded with our sweet little Ocean Ruth."
I hope you are encouraged reading the story of this family's experience becoming parents. If you want more support in your birth, or have more questions, please contact me HERE. I would love to learn more about where you are at and how to connect you with the support you need in your season.
With expectant hope for your story,