Today’s guest post is written by Brittany Wirth, a local doula and one heck of an incredible mama, who is sharing her advice on how to make C-Sections more “Mother Friendly”!
I am a mother to 4 amazing children. When I thought about having children, I knew I wanted to have vaginal deliveries, and never prepared myself for the possibility of a cesarean section. I never thought I would have a c-section, and definitely never imagined having 3! I’m passionate about a women’s rights in childbirth. I believe that even if you are in need of a cesarean delivery, you can (in most cases) make choices to create a positive experience. Having a positive birth experience is the beginning of a healthy postpartum journey. Having major abdominal surgery is not to be taken lightly, but know there are ways to make the experience a good one, and it is especially helpful to prepare for your recovery beforehand. Sometimes we go into labor with an ideal plan in mind, to be faced with a quick change of plans to a possible cesarean. Having a plan for the “what if’s” can also be helpful. From my personal experiences, here are some ways to help you prepare for a cesarean delivery, and recovery.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your provider about making the experience as mother-baby friendly as possible.
If your cesarean delivery is not an emergency, and baby is in good health, do not hesitate to ask for things you desire. “Would it be possible for skin-to-skin after baby is delivered if everything goes well?” “Can I have a mirror to watch the baby being delivered?” “Would you be able to delay cord clamping?” Everyone’s desires in birth are different, so if you have a particular desire in mind, do not hesitate researching and discussing it with your provider. Although not all ideals can be honored, asking is better than thinking “what if?”.
Take a cesarean preparation class.
I know of one local childbirth mentor whom periodically teaches this course. Melanie at overthemoonbirthing.com would love to help more families in their childbirth journey, by preparing them for their planned or unplanned cesarean.
Ask for help, before it is needed.
It can be hard to ask for help, but having it is such a blessing. Generally, recovery from a cesarean is longer, and more challenging than most know. Being able to relax at home, and not push yourself to do too much, really eases you back into normal life, with the addition of a new baby. Preparing freezer meals before going to the hospital, is a great way to cut down your work, and make it easier on those supporting you. If you are the one who does the cleaning at home, make a list for whoever will be taking over these responsibilities while you recover. I’m very particular in my house duties, so leaving the responsibility to my husband was stressful. Creating a list, can give you a little reassurance that they know how it is done… once you are fully recovered you can fix everything 😉
Do not overdo it.
This is so much easier said then done! I know I made this mistake way too many times. I felt like I could take on the world, and woke the next day feeling worse than before. This is slightly gross, but really helped me understand the importance of taking it easy; when your placenta removes from the uterus there is a fresh wound left, when you rest it starts to scab over, but if you overdo it, it is like picking at the scab. Overdoing it can cause an increase in pain, and in bleeding. So just give yourself the time you need to recover fully.
Find postpartum support.
Bloom Spokane offers a wonderful free support group (checkout their website here). I really struggled in early postpartum because I felt like I failed myself, and my baby by having a cesarean (next point), but being able to talk through things helped me process. If you are not interested in attending a group, find someone close to you, who will listen without opinions of their own. Being able to process things out loud can work very well for some.
You are not a failure!
You carried a baby within your body for 9ish months. You nourished, and sustained life. Things may have went very different from how you hoped, but this does not take away from the fact that you gave life to a tiny human! You are strong, and regardless of the way that you birthed your baby, you did it!
I leave you all with a birth story from a friend of mine, who truly advocated for herself and her baby.
“I’m a Doula, and a student homebirth midwife. So when I finally became pregnant with my first child there was no doubt in my mind that I would have a peaceful, hands off, unmedicated and un messed with homebirth. I looked forward to experiencing for myself what I had seen so many other women doing before me, having a natural childbirth in the comfort of my own home. I dreamed of catching my own baby, bringing him or her up to my chest for skin to skin, and leaving the cord pulsing until it stopped on its own. Then breastfeeding and snuggling uninterrupted for at least an hour before any tests or measurements were done. My daughter and my body had other plans, however. My beautiful homebirth ideals had to be put aside when I reached my 43rd week, and there were still no signs of my week long prodromal labor turning into real labor anytime soon. I checked into the hospital to be induced, feeling like I was heading into battle and fully expecting to have to fight against the doctors and nurses to have my wishes honored, and my choices respected.
I wrote out a quick and simple birth plan to hand to the nurses when we got there, and we got the show on the road. I was very vocal from the start about my choices, and luckily I ended up with a wonderful doctor and nurses for most of my labor. They listened to my requests, and did their best to be accommodating. No one complained when I turned all the lights off, covered the monitors with sheets, and got my lavender essential oil diffusing. Only one of my doctors protested when I told her I didn’t want a vaginal exam at the moment (thankfully she eventually took the hint and left me alone, but it did take some arguing). I was even telling the nurses when to turn the Pitocin up or down, as we were trying to get me going to a point where I would keep laboring on my own without the need for drugs. I labored on Pitocin for 26 hours, then decided to get an epidural so that I could hopefully sleep. Unfortunately, after 5 or 6 more hours, the baby still wasn’t coming, and seemed to be wedged and unable to descend. My doctor suggested that we do a c section, but I was so determined to avoid one unless it was absolutely necessary. We asked about other options, and decided to try repositioning and an amnioinfusion first. Several more hours went by, baby still hadn’t been able to move down, and I was completely exhausted. My husband and I asked for time to discuss things, and we decided together to go ahead and have the c section.
I had recently read an article on family centered cesareans, so when the doctor came in to discuss what would happen next, I asked him to leave the cord pulsing as long as they could, and if he thought it would be possible to put the baby skin to skin on my chest while we were still in the operating room as long as there were no complications. My doctor said “Well I’ve never heard of such a thing, but I don’t see why not”. We went back, and finally got my beautiful baby girl out! They made sure to tell me what was happening as it was going on, saying “ok, baby is out and we are letting the cord pulse for a bit” and then bringing her to me to lay on my chest soon after they cleaned her off.
While no part of my birth was ideal, I do feel grateful that we were able to make our own decisions when the time came for plans to change. We were never in an emergency situation, so when we had to make the decision to go into the hospital, to get the epidural, to have the c section, we were able to ask everyone to leave the room so my husband and I could talk in private, regroup, and come up with a plan together. My husband and I both advocated for my wishes, and the doctors and nurses (for the most part) were very receptive to them. Every time the situation changed, our doctor worked with us to come up with a course of action that we were all ok with. I tell all my doula clients to read like crazy, do research and discuss anything they’re unsure of with their care provider. I went into the hospital armed with lots of information beforehand, and I know that we did absolutely everything we could to avoid the c section. Even though my birth was nothing like I had planned, the knowledge that my c section truly was necessary gives me peace.”