What an amazing month this has been hearing from the brave women who've been so kind to share their birth stories with me and all of you. I hope that by reading through these real life accounts of birth you've not only learned something new, but have also realized that you're not alone. Whether you've given birth vaginally or through a surgery like the women I've featured this month, you're likely to have encountered some of the same thoughts and feelings as they have. Birth unites us as women and more than anything, we have this incredibly miraculous superpower in common. Let's stop comparing and shaming and replace that with holding each other up and finding that the list of our similarities as women far outweighs the list of our differences.
The final interview of the month is from my dear friend Lindsay. I met her when her first child was a few months old and we hit it off right away. When her second child was born, she had just moved halfway across the country and I couldn't support her in the ways I wanted to as she recovered from birth. Its been a journey with her as she's processed her birth stories over time and I'm proud of how far she's come.
How many children do you have and how many were born via cesarean? I have two children who were both born via cesarean.
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 first via cesarean, which was not as I planned and so tried for a V-BAC with my second child. I labored naturally all night and then after another nearly four hours of pushing, my baby girl's heart rate started to drop (similar to what happened with my son and my first birth) and the doctors were very concerned because she was not descending. I was rushed into an emergency cesarean and my uterus ruptured immediately. My daughter was not breathing on her own but she began breathing fairly quickly so they did not have to intubate her. We had survived.
Were you happy with your experience? If you’ve had more than one cesarean, were you happy with one and not with another? Explain? So hard to answer... I would not say I was happy with my experiences of having two cesareans, but that I have over the years made peace with how my births went and that I am beyond grateful to have two beautiful, awesome (if exhausting at times:)) children. I think that in my first birth I would have liked to have more knowledge and information to empower my decisions before going into it.. I had read and made a birth plan, but I do think having a doula might have helped though my midwives were amazing. Once my son's heart rate began dropping multiple times, my "plans" went out the window and I only cared that he was brought to this side of Earth safely!
Have you ever experienced any shaming or questioning that made you feel uncomfortable after your cesarean? I definitely carried shame and maybe embarrassment for years about not having birthed naturally-often brought on mostly by my own expectations of what ideally motherhood should start as (which I soon learned is that motherhood is full of ideals and ideas that can be overwhelming and NO one can live up to what is "ideal", that's the part of us all being human in my opinion that can level the playing field in a wonderful way).
Were you able to do skin-to-skin with your baby immediately after the birth, even before leaving the operating room? I was not able to do skin to skin with my first child- I remember them putting him close to my face as tears rolled down but the fact that I was strapped down on the table was so frustrating- at that point I was so out of it because of the epidural (huge impact on me where I felt nearly paralyzed from the neck down), and so again my thoughts of what I wanted that first hour to look like disappeared (I don't think I was informed as I was with my second about the importance of that first hour).. I was not able to have any skin to skin contact with my daughter as she was rushed to the NICU and they were trying to save me from a complete hysterectomy (they were able to repair my bladder and uterus). It was so hard to not be able to even see her or touch her, again not what we planned.
Was there a clear, see through drape between you and Baby at the time of the operation? There was no clear drape in either cesarean.
If you chose to breastfeed your baby, were you able to try nursing your baby within the first hour after birth? I was not able to try nursing in the first hour with either, and with my daughter they began giving her formula before I was even able to see her (it was hours but I had not been able to consent).
What was your recovery like: Better or worse than expected? More emotionally or physically draining than you were prepared for? I don't know of recovery from a fully natural birth so I only have my experience. However, with my second cesarean, I had labored and pushed so much that I had the pain of the incision from the cesarean as well as the lovely pains from pushing too (though I wouldn't have traded being able to experience the natural birth experience for less pain). It was incredibly frustrating to feel like there was "less I should do" because of having had surgery and for me it added an emotional weight and sense of shame that I wasn't able to mother the way I wanted those first few days and weeks. With my second, I learned to listen a little less to others and trust my body more but still had to be careful.
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? Neither were planned so while I felt I had great providers (especially for the first birth), I think it might have been helpful to even talk about it ahead of time so there may have been less surprise, fear and more knowledge and feeling empowered on my part. I think in my mind there was a sense of denial about it being a possibility (because I didn't want it to be an "option") but in reality it might have prepared me a little more to feel like I could have some sense of control when things felt very out of control.
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!)
1. There is NO easy. Cesareans are not the "easy way out". Bringing a child into the world, whatever way possible is the most incredibly, amazing, challenging thing a human can do (in my humble opinion).
2. To medical professionals: The person in front of you is not just another medical record or patient, this person is a person who has fought to bring her baby into this world, treat her and this baby with respect and dignity; Slow down and treat them as people (that is why you went into this field I hope, you maybe like people); Give them space to make informed decisions. To family members: Give space and support, less words and "wisdom"... women know their own bodies and have done an amazing thing by giving birth, so support and trust them.
3. Helping women feel freedom to share their birth story without shame and with power can unite us so we can encourage and learn from one another (I have this great friend, Kelli Blinn who taught me a thing or two about this and is continuing to do amazing work).