This account of cesarean birth is from the beautiful Tiffany Williams, founder of Modern Blended Life. She’s another fellow Zora’s House member and the times when our paths cross at the same time in that space is always most enjoyable. We recently discovered that not only are we both avid NPR listeners (woo hoo, 89.7!), but we also became official WOSU members the same day! What I found interesting about her stories is that more than a decade for one and three years later for another story, she couldn’t recall that anyone had ever asked her questions like these about the experiences. I actually think that’s quite common, unfortunately, and one of the reasons I feel it’s important to do these interviews every year. Tiffany, thanks so much for thinking through your stories and sharing all that you did.

How many children do you have and how many were born via cesarean? I have 5 children, 2 of whom are my stepchildren. All 3 of my biological children were born by 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? My firstborn, now 11, was delivered by emergency cesarean due to complications with preeclampsia at 37 weeks. In 2016, my fraternal twin boys were born at 32 weeks due to the same thing. With my firstborn, I opted to be induced first. I was in labor for about 9 hours without progressing and no regression of preeclampsia symptoms (they got worse). My intention with the twins was always to have a vaginal birth and my OBGYN was in support of that. My protein levels and blood pressure were so high that I was admitted to the hospital on a Tuesday for monitoring. Unfortunately, my levels got worse. Although I was given the option to be induced to try for a vaginal birth — I opted to move forward right away with having a cesarean. The twins were born on that Friday.

Were you happy with your experience? If you’ve had more than one cesarean, were you happy with one and not with another? Explain? I wouldn’t say happy, no. But I am at peace with and grateful for birthing healthy children. I do however, consider the birth of my twins to be traumatic. They were immediately whisked away from me and wheeled to NICU. I did not see them at all until I was stitched up and then transported to NICU.

Have you ever experienced any shaming or questioning that made you feel uncomfortable after your cesarean? Not directly, no. But I have seen comments online or in the presence of other women talking about cesarean births in a way to undermine its significance. Honestly, sometimes I’ve even shamed myself by feeling that because I didn’t experience all the stages of labor, that I missed out. Because the birth of my twins was very delicate.

Were you able to do skin-to-skin with your baby immediately after the birth, even before leaving the operating room? No. Not with either birth.

Was there a clear, see through drape between you and Baby at the time of the operation? No. The sheet was either blue or white — I can’t recall exactly. But definitely not see through or clear.

If you chose to breastfeed your baby, were you able to try nursing your baby within the first hour after birth? With my firstborn, I never tried to breastfeed. I only recall my mother encouraging me to do so. I didn’t have the education I have now about breastfeeding. With the twins, I did not try to put them to the breast until they were about a week old. Because of their prematurity, they needed some time to develop the sucking ability. I pumped and they were fed my breast milk through a tube in their nose.

What was your recovery like: Better or worse than expected? More emotionally or physically draining than you were prepared for? Physically, it was better than expected. I don’t remember much pain with either c-section recoveries. I was able to drive about 2.5-3 weeks after both pregnancies. I was especially anxious to drive with the twins because of the frequent trips to NICU to see them. Fortunately, I had a village to support me with transporting me to and from the hospital when my husband as working until I could drive myself. Emotionally, I think I recovered well after my firstborn. I think this was due to having a full 14 weeks to recover. During that time I relocated back to my hometown of Columbus, OH (from Atlanta, GA) to be close to my family. I was fully invested in being a mother to Trinity and come to terms with what single motherhood would look for me in the time ahead. With the twins, my emotional recovery was much more bumpy. 4 days before the twins were born, a friend, Marshawn McCarrell II, committed suicide. He had just visited our home a day prior. I never had an opportunity to process or grieve for him due to being on bed rest in the hospital. In addition, leaving the hospital without my sons and still mothering to my older children while making the twins’ care a priority was very daunting. Even being in NICU is traumatic. There are constant beeps from monitors, cries, nurses and doctors making their rounds, tests, checks and a new vocabulary to learn. You’re whisked into that life immediately and there is no preparation for that. Once our twins came home, there is another stage of adjustment. Now, our entire family had to adjust in every way. Looking back, I’m certain had postpartum anxiety because of my constant state of worry about the state of my house and it’s tidy-ness (or lack of), the older kids’ schedules/homework/extra, trying to get the twins to latch and/or pumping, sleep deprivation, bonding, connecting with my husband/supporting him and his work and becoming staying home full time with my children for the first time — to name just a few things.

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 was planned. Because I had similar symptoms with preeclampsia from my first birth, I was expecting something similar with the twins. Even with a twin pregnancy and history of preeclampsia, my OBGYN was fully supportive for me to have a VBAC. He was confident that we could persist in that way. At the height of my complications with the twins, I was still given the option to be induced and birth the twins by VBAC. It was a family choice to have another c-section right away without induction. I think my positive recovery experience with my firstborn helped me make that decision.

What are three things you’d like the world to know about cesarean birth?

  1. Cesarean birth is a valid form of birthing. It is not a watered down version of birth. While it should not be taken lightly, it should also not be the only method of birthing presented to mothers.

  2. Do your research and plan! It’s ok to do your own independent research of hospital practices, midwifery, doulas and any other aspects of birthing you choose. Present your findings with your OBGYN, doula, midwife or other support persons. Have a thorough discussion about your findings and work with them to figure out what you want for your body and your child.

  3. Be flexible in your plan! Things don’t always go according to plans. Our bodies are wondrous but also delicate. We should have a plan but also be flexible. Lastly, Mostly, I’d like mothers to feel empowered about their opportunity to choose the path of their birthing options. If your healthcare provider doesn’t support your right to choose and give you medically-informed information about those options, you should find another one.

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? My firstborn, now 11, was delivered by emergency cesarean due to complications with preeclampsia at 37 weeks. In 2016, my fraternal twin boys were born at 32 weeks due to the same thing. With my firstborn, I opted to be induced first. I was in labor for about 9 hours without progressing and no regression of preeclampsia symptoms (they got worse). My intention with the twins was always to have a vaginal birth and my OBGYN was in support of that. My protein levels and blood pressure were so high that I was admitted to the hospital on a Tuesday for monitoring. Unfortunately, my levels got worse. Although I was given the option to be induced to try for a vaginal birth — I opted to move forward right away with having a cesarean. The twins were born on that Friday.

Were you happy with your experience? If you’ve had more than one cesarean, were you happy with one and not with another? Explain? I wouldn’t say happy, no. But I am at peace with and grateful for birthing healthy children. I do however, consider the birth of my twins to be traumatic. They were immediately whisked away from me and wheeled to NICU. I did not see them at all until I was stitched up and then transported to NICU.

Have you ever experience 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. Not directly, no. But I have seen comments online or in the presence of other women talking about cesarean births in a way to undermine its significance. Honestly, sometimes I’ve even shamed myself by feeling that because I didn’t experience all the stages of labor, that I missed out. Because the birth of my twins was very delicate

Were you able to do skin-to-skin with your baby immediately after the birth, even before leaving the operating room? No. Not with either birth.

Was there a clear, see through drape between you and Baby at the time of the operation? No. The sheet was either blue or white — I can’t recall exactly. But definitely not see through or clear.

If you chose to breastfeed your baby, were you able to try nursing your baby within the first hour after birth? With my firstborn, I never tried to breastfeed. I only recall my mother encouraging me to do so. I didn’t have the education I have now about breastfeeding. With the twins, I did not try to put them to the breast until they were about a week old. Because of their prematurity, they needed some time to develop the sucking ability. I pumped and they were fed my breast milk through a tube in their nose.

What was your recovery like: Better or worse than expected? More emotionally or physically draining than you were prepared for? Physically, it was better than expected. I don’t remember much pain with either c-section recoveries. I was able to drive about 2.5-3 weeks after both pregnancies. I was especially anxious to drive with the twins because of the frequent trips to NICU to see them. Fortunately, I had a village to support me with transporting me to and from the hospital when my husband as working until I could drive myself. Emotionally, I think I recovered well after my firstborn. I think this was due to having a full 14 weeks to recover. During that time I relocated back to my hometown of Columbus, OH (from Atlanta, GA) to be close to my family. I was fully invested in being a mother to Trinity and come to terms with what single motherhood would look for me in the time ahead. With the twins, my emotional recovery was much more bumpy. 4 days before the twins were born, a friend, Marshawn McCarrell II, committed suicide. He had just visited our home a day prior. I never had an opportunity to process or grieve for him due to being on bed rest in the hospital. In addition, leaving the hospital without my sons and still mothering to my older children while making the twins’ care a priority was very daunting. Even being in NICU is traumatic. There are constant beeps from monitors, cries, nurses and doctors making their rounds, tests, checks and a new vocabulary to learn. You’re whisked into that life immediately and there is no preparation for that. Once our twins came home, there is another stage of adjustment. Now, our entire family had to adjust in every way. Looking back, I’m certain had postpartum anxiety because of my constant state of worry about the state of my house and it’s tidy-ness (or lack of), the older kids’ schedules/homework/extra, trying to get the twins to latch and/or pumping, sleep deprivation, bonding, connecting with my husband/supporting him and his work and becoming staying home full time with my children for the first time — to name just a few things.

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 was planned. Because I had similar symptoms with preeclampsia from my first birth, I was expecting something similar with the twins. Even with a twin pregnancy and history of preeclampsia, my OBGYN was fully supportive for me to have a VBAC. He was confident that we could persist in that way. At the height of my complications with the twins, I was still given the option to be induced and birth the twins by VBAC. It was a family choice to have another c-section right away without induction. I think my positive recovery experience with my firstborn helped me make that decision.

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 -Cesarean birth is a valid form of birthing. It is not a watered down version of birth. While it should not be taken lightly, it should also not be the only method of birthing presented to mothers. 2 - Do your research and plan! It’s ok to do your own independent research of hospital practices, midwifery, doulas and any other aspects of birthing you choose. Present your findings with your OBGYN, doula, midwife or other support persons. Have a thorough discussion about your findings and work with them to figure out what you want for your body and your child. 3 - Be flexible in your plan! Things don’t always go according to plans. Our bodies are wondorous but also delicate. We should have a plan but also be flexible. Lastly, Mostly, I’d like mothers to feel empowered about their opportunity to choose the path of their birthing options. If your healthcare provider doesn’t support your right to choose and give you medically-informed information about those options, you should find another one.

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