The Cesarean Secret.

by

Everyone talks about c sections like if you have one, you will be traumatized for life. That they are awful, horrific experiences that will cause you years of grief, anger, and depression. While I don’t deny that some women may have this experience – and I’ve certainly read of people comparing c sections to rape – I can also categorically say that c sections can be wonderful.

On Twitter, oh my pal Twitter, people are so against c sections that I’ve had women privately message me and thank me for mentioning that I had one and it was a great experience. They are afraid, they say, to speak out because they feel like they will be judged. Again, I’m sure no one would judge a woman who did have a genuine medical need for one (though many women have vastly differing ideas of what ‘need’ means), it doesn’t change the fact that some judgement would be attached. Not of the mother, necessarily, but of the doctors, midwives, etc.

The most damning judgment would be that the c section was probably unneeded – and definitely awful.

Again, I want to stress that I know a c section must be a scary experience for women who were actively planning a natural birth. To labour for hours, for your baby to be in danger, to have a crash section…I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

But it doesn’t stop me from saying: Hey, my c section was fabulous.

My hospital (a run of the mill normal hospital with all free care) had agreed that a vaginal birth was okay and safe with my twin breech babies if they came early. That point passed, and the babies continued to grow and flourish. In the end, we went full term and they were singleton sized. A c section was something I had wavered about, and certainly was nervous about, but then I’d been realistically preparing myself for the fact that it was probably on the cards. My babies were breech or transverse  virtually the entire pregnancy, so it was no surprise to me when we were pulling out our diaries and scheduling the birth.

I had literal months to get my mind around the fact that I would not be having a natural birth. But let’s be honest: my pregnancy hadn’t exactly gone to plan, either, and a vaginal birth would have put me at risk of permanent disability. I was of the definite mindset that I needed to do what was safest for my babies and my body/mind, and that flexibility was going to have to be part of that.

Was I shitting myself the night before the section? Sure. Was my section a bit delayed and I was freaking the fuck out? Sure.

Also true: everyone was so gentle and loving. All the staff came by my room, individually, to introduce themselves before the birth. They took the time to explain step-by-step what was going on. When the epidural/spinal seemed to not be working, they paged the top dogs and following births and pain clinics were delayed because they wanted to avoid knocking me out for the birth.

The staff rubbed my back, held my hands, put their arms around TMD as she supported me for the hour it took to get the epidural in. They did multiple checks in multiple ways to ensure I was properly numbed – and also to help reassure me that no one was going to cut me and hurt me. The doctors talked through every step, respecting my wish to know which baby came from which side (in case they were both boys, so I could know who was who!).

My wife cut the cords. The babies were pretty much instantly brought over to me. TMD held one baby next to my cheek, while a hospital staff member held the other on my chest. TMD and the babies stayed with me for the entire surgery. They were weighed in my view.The only time I was not touching or looking at them was about 5 minutes before I was wheeled into recovery, and TMD was there to continue to have contact with them the entire time.

The anesthetic assistant grabbed my camera and took amazing pictures – we owe our huge collection of family pictures taken seconds after the birth to this funny, sweet man. He even took pictures of the placentas in a bucket for us!

Everyone in that birth room acted like this was the first birth they had ever attended. They were so congratulatory, so helpful in ensuring that the babies were kept as close to me as possible, so pleased to include TMD in everything that was happening.

In recovery, I was assigned two or three amazing midwives whose only goal was to help start breastfeeding. They showed us how to latch the babies, and they were clear in saying they wanted babies on boobs as quickly as possible. I had one midwife per boob/baby, and a third offering to make me tea and toast. When I began to vomit from the morphine, I felt okay about it because they were so lovely – we even had a laugh. They kept me in recovery for longer than usual just to make sure the babies were feeding, and I was no longer sick.

Throughout our time in the hospital afterward, we were moved to a private room. I was given a lovely and thorough sponge bath the next morning.  TMD was allowed to stay well beyond visiting hours. I had midwives and assistants at my beck and call – remember I literally could not walk a step at this time. Midwives helped me off the toilet, pushed my wheelchair, paged doctors and pulled lines to get me gas and air for the pain. They came at all hours of the night to change poopy diapers and squeeze my nipples to help the babies feed. One midwife collected each tiny drop of colostrum in a minuscule vial to be given to the babies when they woke up.

When I cried about how breastfeeding was going, when TMD yelled at them, they stood there and took it all, and it was arranged for me to see a certified lactation consultant first thing the next morning.

Did I plan to have a c section? No. Did I worry I would feel like I’d had less of a birth experience? Yes.

But as it turned out, it was a perfect day. The love and attention showed to us and the babies in those hours surrounding the births made the day feel very special, supportive, and FUN. We laughed a lot, and everyone’s main consideration seemed to be making sure the babies were getting skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding, and I was doing well bonding with them.

I could not have asked for a better experience – I’m sure there are many ways to have a happy, healthy birth….but for these births, for my firstborn children, this one was pretty darn good. I’m thankful for that.

More info:
Welcome entry just after babies were born – pictures galore!
My birth story.

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14 Responses to “The Cesarean Secret.”

  1. Jenni Williams Says:

    I felt pretty good about my first csection, my second was a bit hard because my son was premature and rushed to a NICU at another hospital, my third was PERFECT. I had a birth plan, the baby never left our arms, and I felt great. Sometimes a csection can be a scary thing, but it doesn’t have to be. You can feel empowered and peaceful about it. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Sara Says:

    My c-section experience was a frightening, painful, humiliating, horrifying experience. The staff were not loving or supportive, just there to do a job, and I felt left out and isolated. I never want to go through that again. It wasn’t an emergency, just necessary (I had a great labour and pushed like a trooper but the first baby was facing up and stuck). I’m happy that your experience was so different, really depends on the hospital and staff training, I guess. I have two healthy, full size babies, and I’m grateful for that, but I do feel emotionally scarred by the birthing experience.

    • existere Says:

      Sounds terrible. I do wonder a lot about planned c sections versus those that become needed as labour progresses/fails to progress. I think by nature a planned section is calmer, obviously anticipated, and well thought out. I’m so sorry your birthing experience wasn’t as good as your two babies are!! Love to you.

  3. Katie B. Says:

    Sounds wonderful!

    I wish all c-sections could go that way.

  4. Amber Morrisey @BirthRoutes Says:

    As a doula, I know that I can help make a C-section more fulfilling. I’ve been to a few that were medically needed and planned, but joyous.

    I’ve also been to some not planned (yet medically ‘needed’ at the time) and they weren’t joyous at all.

    This isn’t to say I think everyone should plan a section though. 🙂

    • existere Says:

      See, this is what I’ve been thinking. That people who KNOW they have to have them, for whatever reason, might be in a better position to enjoy the day. Because their expectations are already shifted.

      I would hope that people could take joy in whatever sort of birth they have, but I know it’s sadly not the case.

      And no, everyone shouldn’t plan for a section!!! Hehe. We DID have two birthplans, though – one for vaginal, one for section. We were told Snort might come normally and Coco need a section, so we covered all the bases. As it turns out, writing the two offered us a lot of food for thought and discussion about how things might be.

      I think you’re probably a fabby doula and any family is lucky to have you there on the day the littlest member joins them!

  5. Christina Baglivi Tinglof Says:

    Very interesting! I had a C-section with my twins. No problems. Tried to have a v-bac with my singleton but after seven grueling hours, had another c-section. My vote? The C was much easier.

    • existere Says:

      It’s interesting to hear from women who have had both – or those who might have had both in ONE birth experience, like with twins! Also, it’s nice to ‘meet’ someone who had a singleton post twins. I want one!

  6. Dora Says:

    Glad to hear your experience was a good one and that you felt so supported. My c-section was not planned, but was medically necessary, and it was lovely. It wasn’t an emergency, as the dr and I made the decision before things became dire. It was fairly obvious it was necessary, and we agreed not to wait it out on the slim chance a vaginal birth was possible. I never felt pressured. My goal was a healthy baby, not some mystical birth experience to make me feel I’ve fulfilled some womanly birthright. The epidural was scary, but was administered easily and worked well. My doula was at my side and took amazing pictures immediately after the birth. The staff in the OR was great, gushing about how beautiful my daughter was. She was in my arms within 5 minutes of her birth. Wrote about it here.

    • existere Says:

      See, this is it. I think a lot of people spend time grieving over not getting the experience they wanted. I don’t particularly see much point in this, because there’s nothing that can change things – and if a healthy, happy baby was the result….surely that’s what matters!!

      I think I read your birth story the first time around but will go take another look!

  7. MrsLala Says:

    Wow. That does sound pretty wonderful. I think the reason that most people have so many (negative) things to say about sections is that 99% of them are NOTHING like what you experienced.

    I have had two myself and while neither was too “traumatic”, my second one really did suck.

    My first section was with twins as well and it was pretty nice, over all. My twins came unexpecedly early when my twin A’s placenta abrupted. It was an emergency section but wasn’t rushed bc her heart rate was stable. I got to say “hi” to each baby as they came out and we got beautiful pictures. Then they went to the NICU and the hosptial staff wheeled my hospital bed right into the NICU after I got out of recovery so that I could see them.

    My son, was a different story. I was attempting to VBAC (and I am NO VBAC Nazi, by any means. I simply, perosnally, REALLY wanted to experience a vaginal birth) when his cord prolapsed and he crashed. I was wheeled in to the OR and he was pulled out before my husband could even get in to the room. I have no issue with that, they saved my baby!

    What did make me mad was the fact that they then took him to the nursery for NO reason and then refused to bring him to me for HOURS! Again, NO reason! I was really, really upset.

    In the end though, my son is fine, I am fine – I have my baby and that’s all that matters. 😉

    • existere Says:

      That would upset me, too. Our hospital didn’t even have a nursery; I don’t think many do. It is expected that the baby will stay with mum (aside from if they need NICU, obviously!) from birth till they go home. That being said, they do it via those little fishbowl thingies. I pulled my twins into bed with me and by and large no one cared, but a few ‘helpful’ assistants put them back into the fishbowl. It irritated me because I couldn’t manage to get them back out on my own!

  8. Natasha Says:

    I’m so glad for you that you had a posiive birth experience 🙂

    Unfortunately, my birth was very traumatic (both the vaginal – note, not natural – birth of Sophie-Rose and the cesarean birth of Grace. The whole experience. I am just begining to face up to te fact these feelings are not subsiding. I haven’t dealt with the mental and emotional aftermath of the way that birth went, it all got pushed down, filed to be addressed at a later date when my girls were in SCBU. I never did address it because, well, what’s the point of dwelling on the past and when all is said and done, I have two healthy babies out of it and that’s what matters, right?

    Yet still… these feelings keep bubbling up to just beneath, and threatening to explode through, the surface. I can’t seem to put it behind me. No matter how much I want to ignore what the birth was like and focus on what I have now… I want to pretend none of it happened, or make it so that it doesn’t matter. But I actually can’t stop thinking about it, and every time I think about t I well up. I feel sooo much about the birth and I just don’t know what to do with myself.

    I have invasive thoughts and graphic memories of the way that birth went and I play over in my mind, ways in which I could change it if I went back. I forget the countless scenarios I have played over in my mind to see if I could change things…

    No, I would not liken that birth to rape. Not in a million years. But yes, I am assertive enough to recognise this… this is PTSD 😦 And if I don’t address it and nip it in the bud I could end up the way I was before years of therapy and hard work last time and I really don’t feel like going back there.

    I found the birth of my twins very traumatic. The one way in which I can liken it to rape is that you’re not supposed to talk about it and that tears me apart sometimes… The times have wanted to talk with my mum about it, or be wrapped up in my husband’s arms and pour my heart out about how much I’m hurting… and I can’t. Because birth is supposed to be a good thing. And if you touch on the topic all you ever get is, “but you have two happy babies!”. How is that relavent? It’s amazing and fantastic, but it doesn’t take away from the experience of the birth. It doesn’t take away these memories and feeling and evidently has no power to stop these horrendous flashbacks and nightmaires, and still my mind plays over and over what happened, and what should have happened.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am so, so grateful for the babies that I have, and that the are okay. I love them so much and am so fortunate to be blessed with them in my life, but the experience of birth and the babies that you get out of it are two separate things entirely. Isn’t it possible to be absolutely mortified, traumatised and terrified by the experience of birth, but to feel nothing but love and euphoria at the experience of being a mother….? It is possible because I am living this.

    I need to sort this out.

    I didn’t really intend to go into all this here… but once I got going I felt RELIEF at finally getting it out there. I have been traumatised by my birth, but it was not just the cesarean, although it twists my up in knotts that I was asleep for Grace’s birth, I have no memory and no photos of it, and my husband was not allowed present 😦 It was the WHOLE birth experience. BOTH of the births.

    Anyway, what I set about intending to say was that any birth can be wonderful as my first was, and any birth can be traumatic, vaginal or c-section.

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