Gentle Cesarean Birth: A birth story through the lens of a Doula.
NOTE: My blog is killing my photo's, I will be moving hosts shortly :)
6:30am I pull into the parking garage. I expect to ascend numerous levels just as I had done 3 days prior but an open spot awaited me not ten steps away from the hospital entrance. This is a good sign. I tip my head back, down my last gulp of pumpkin coffee, grab my bag, and with an excited little hop skip and a jump I am off to my first cesarean birth. I planned to arrive a bit after my clients, but this wasn't her first rodeo, she knew the hurry up and wait policy of most hospitals so we ended up arriving at the same time. With a big hug and a kiss we both released some of our excitement into the universe and back we went.
The usual barrage of questions came pouring in over and over again from various people. Two iv's were placed, and both the mother and baby were placed on a monitor for their tracings. To our surprise, mama was already contracting on her own, indicating that the baby was very ready to come. We met the nurse who would be in the OR with us and handed her our birth plan. I say our only because there were some needs of mine as both her doula and photographer listed in there as well. The nurse was surprisingly willing to do everything as long as both mother and baby were stable, she assured me she would help me get the best angles and would help me navigate the OR. She even excitedly told us she had photographers at her births as well. Finally, her doctor came in, he had a touch of dry sarcasm and was very excited to give this mama the birth that she had dreamed of.
This was my clients 4th cesarean birth. Her first ended in an emergency C section, and that same doctor never allowed her to try and VBAC her second baby. A little bit fast forward and the mama knew she needed to find a doctor that would respect her wishes and help her have the cesarean birth that she deserved so she switched providers. Her last birth with this same doctor was a major improvement from he first two births and she was delighted to have found him. She had gone over her wishes at each of her pre natal visits so the doctor was well aware of my clients expectations and birth plan. He was on board.
They take her back to place the spinal and prep her for birth while her husband and I gown up. We of course discussed politics, had a few laughs over our new attire, took a few selfies, and trotted back into the OR. When she saw her husband her face lit up and an instant sigh of relief rushed through her. I picked up my camera and took a few photos of them together before the baby was out. I moved around the room trying to get a lay for all of the artificial surgical lights and color reflections.
"I have never seen any of my kids take their first breath." I was stunned, not even a cell phone pic! I needed, absolutely needed to capture that moment for her. I positioned myself, as instructed by my nurse friend, to stand at the end of the table by the surgical assistants table. This angle would surely catch me that photo and boy did it ever. I was just taking it all in, silently observing the harmony between the OB and the resident, listening to the clinking of surgical instruments, times being called out, and then the doctor said "are you going to get this or what?" to which I replied " I AM READY" Her water then broke all over the table and the doctors. To be honest, I have never actually thought about that happening during a cesarean, but it does happen and it is as equally amazing. The baby's head was visible through the incision site, I could see her beautiful dark hair peeking through. With what seemed like a lifetime, but realistically only seconds, her head was out and she was fluffy and gorgeous and screaming while still three quarters of the way inside of her mother. Her body was delivered and she was placed between her mothers legs. She was gently suctioned while the doctors waited for the rest of the fetal blood to empty from the placenta into the baby. The baby was then separated from her mom, and in the arms of the baby nurse was placed on the warmer for only seconds while they got a once over to make sure she was fine. They then took the gooey wet baby over to her moms chest. It was so amazing. The baby stopped screaming, and in that moment it didn't matter what was happening on the other side of the curtain. Both mother and baby relaxed into each other and it was every bit worth 9 months of waiting.
Mom wasn't feeling well, so we moved the baby for some skin to skin with daddy. Did I mention dad is hilarious? Well he is, and he made my first experience an easy one. As his sweet baby girl lay squished in his shirt, I helped mom though her nausea. I wiped her tears, held her hand, and stood present with her as she mentally worked through the rest of her surgery. The nurse then came to test the baby's blood glucose levels, she was well over 9lbs (9lbs 8oz to be exact) so they do this as protocol. Her sugar levels were low so the baby nurse mentioned that this baby needs to eat or they could take her to the NICU. I spoke with mom and told her that I know she wasn't feeling well but that she needed to nurse her baby. I calmly told her she didn't need to do a thing, I would do all of the work and if she needed to be sick, just turn to the right not the left. Baby latched almost immediately and the corners of her mouth pooled with beautiful amber colostrum. Baby was satisfied so she went back to the warmer for the rest of her exam. But this time the surgery was almost completed. Her sugars were checked an hour later and they shot up to a perfect level. Mom was moved to recovery where she rested and looked over in awe at her new baby girl.
I was in absolute astonishment of my client and her husband. They were so amazingly loving, kind, and patient with each other and everyone around them. I always say that I take a piece of my clients with me after a birth. I get the most intimate look at the relationship between the birthing mother and her partner and I do not take that for granted. I think it helps me move forward in my own relationships and helps me to understand the dynamics in life and love.
Many people who have previously had C-sections might feel that someone like me, who's had 3 vaginal births, look down on them or disapprove of the way they birthed their children. This couldn't be further from the truth. I love birth, and the most important thing is that the birthing mother feels that her voice was heard, that she was respected, treated with dignity, and that she had a part of the decision making process. Many women look back on their C-sections and do not feel this way. There is a reason for that, many times women reflect and realize that if something was done differently, or if they had a voice or knowledge about a certain intervention that they may have gotten the vaginal birth they had been dreaming about. This is the problem; not C-Sections. Cesarean sections save lives daily, they're an important part of birth and are necessary in some cases. The problem lies within the doctor patient relationship. It is ugly to be spoken at, to be ridiculed for your choices, to be told your body cannot birth the child its created, to be told your incompetent and incapable. It is negligent to not completely and fully disclose all possible outcomes of a certain intervention; informed consent is in place for a reason.
If you feel your provider is lacking please find another one. Remember, it should be their honor to serve you, they work for you. Secondly, hire a doula for your C-section, having a person protect your interests and be a gentle reminder to the doctor and his staff that your wishes need to be met is worth its weight in gold.