Today's questions were answered by yet another wonderful neighbor of mine, Pam. I've gotten to know her through chats at the playground, lots of text messages, frank conversations about the highs and lows of life, and some social hangouts. Her oldest is five years old and her youngest was born in September of last year. Like so many mamas I speak to, much of Pam's first experience with labor and delivery was traumatic and it absolutely bums me out. I hope that one day we all live in a world where first-time birth stories involve far less disappointment, trauma, heartache and grief. 

  1. How many children do you have and how many were born via cesarean? 3 children all delivered via cesarean

  2. If you’ve had more than one cesarean, were the others planned? If so, what was the reason? If not, what happened in the birth that ended up resulting with a repeat cesarean? I had my 1st cesarean after 30+ hours of labor, an unreal amount of pitocin and other drugs, and declining maternal health. Another doctor came in to consult. His opinion was there was a slight chance vaginal labor could still be an option, but if it was they would need forceps and the delivery would likely cause a fair amount of trauma both to my body and the baby. I remember feeling that my family and medical staff wanted a vaginal delivery for me because they knew that’s what I hoped for so they kept pushing for it. It never occurred to me that I could say let’s stop this and do a cesarean. Once the other doctor offered cesarean as an option I remember feeling very certain it was the best plan.

    My second cesarean was scheduled, however after a regular office visit the doctor sent me to the hospital to deliver early because of my declining health. I never questioned having a second cesarean. It felt like the safest option for me.

    I remained healthy throughout my third pregnancy. We scheduled a cesarean fairly early and I really didn’t question it until the final weeks in my pregnancy. All my numbers were good, I was actually going into delivery healthy. I did ask my doctor if she would consider doing a vbac. We discussed it and ultimately she said no. I was ok with that answer, I wasn’t really sure it was what I wanted but I knew I needed to have a conversation about it.

  3. Were you happy with your experience? If you’ve had more than one cesarean, were you happy with one and not with another? Explain? My first was very traumatic. I went into it very ill and exhausted from hours of labor. Because of the pregnancy complications I wasn’t allowed to eat or get out of bed for 24 hours post delivery. I was also not allowed to be alone with my baby for the 1st 24 hrs. I was confused, sore and pretty sick.

    My second was a completely different experience. But I wasn’t prepared for the lack of support. Because I had been under pretty intensive care with my first I wasn’t able to decipher what was “normal” and what was the “exception.”

    My third was seamless in comparison. By this point my body knew what to expect, my expectations were realistic.

  4. Have you ever experienced any shaming or questioning that made you feel uncomfortable after your cesarean? I ask this because many women have shared that they’ve almost felt bullied by other women who had vaginal births and have been told that cesarean was “the easy way out” or “not real childbirth”. I hate to even bring this up, but its a real thing in our culture and I’d love to hear your take on this if it is something you have experienced. No. I have mourned that I won’t experience a vaginal birth and along with that I have experienced judgement about my sadness.

  5. Were you able to do skin-to-skin with your baby immediately after the birth, even before leaving the operating room? My first no. Second, a nurse held her on my chest for a few minutes, the baby was swaddled. My third we were skin to skin within 8 mins of delivery. I think part of this was because I started the conversation early and often. 

  6. Was there a clear, see through drape between you and Baby at the time of the operation? No

  7. If you chose to breastfeed your baby, were you able to try nursing your baby within the first hour after birth? My first I really don’t know. My second yes. Third she began to nurse on the operating table. 

  8. What was your recovery like: Better or worse than expected? More emotionally or physically draining than you were prepared for? For my first it was overwhelming and I was not prepared at all. I was exhausted and sore. I was both physically and emotionally drained and really no one in my network seemed to understand what I was experiencing. Many tried to be supportive, but just didn’t know how to support. My second was easier than my first, but still painful. My third felt easy by comparison. 

  9. If your cesarean was planned, did you feel well-prepared for the procedure itself, what to expect regarding recovery and was your healthcare provider willing to work with you to get the birth experience you desired? My preparation only came with experience and subsequent cesareans. 

  10. What are three things you’d like the world to know about cesarean birth? (If its too hard to narrow it down to three, list more!) 

    *The scars are both physical and emotional.

    *I grieved not being able to deliver vaginally.

    *I don’t think your body ever completely recovers.