At a time when we are taking back agency over our births and demanding more physiological practices, those who have experienced alternative birth scenarios are reflecting on their own experiences. It is so important that we ALL share our birth stories. Every birth is sacred. Some may be scarier, more traumatic, or more blissful. Some may result in loss, or an extended NICU stay. All of it is spiritual, and in that respect, every birthing person should be revered as the incredible portal that they are.
Sharing experiences of undisturbed, physiological birth is not shaming those who have had surgical birth. Some people who have had cesareans may feel as if they failed in some way, or their body did not perform, or they just could not do it (see previous post on undisturbed birth). While all of these feeling are valid and are to be respected, I want you to know that these experiences do not define your inherent ability to birth. Sometimes, the best decision for everyone involved is to swerve from your “birth plan” and go another route. Perhaps a c-section is preferable to someone who has experienced sexual trauma. Maybe baby or mom is showing true signs of distress and there is no other option for safe delivery. My wish is that birthing people understand that THEY are the ones in charge of their care. That they are fully informed of all concerns, options and choices. That, at the end of the day, they were the ones who decided with full confidence that a c-section was the right choice for them. We need to demand the end of coercion and bullying, and start to see surgical births used only when necessary.
People who undergo surgical birth are absolute heroes. Warriors. Badass. They endure so much emotionally, physically and spiritually. What I still can not believe is that people think having a c-section is no big deal. They say it is routine, it is done all the time, it is safe. In reality, the recovery is unlike anything a brand new parent should have to go through. Breastfeeding is often painful and basic movement can be impossible. Sometimes handling baby is too much to bear. Bonding with your baby can become overwhelming, and your post partum hormones are no help with this. None of this should be taken lightly when confronted with the decision to go ahead with surgical birth, because it is not routine. It is a big deal, and these parents should be praised for the sacrifices they made for the entrance of their babies into the world.
Fighting for increased rates of vaginal birth does not undermine these other birth experiences. We need informed consent to be celebrated. We need truthful explanation of all interventions from our trusted care providers. We need education on the outcomes of using labor “enhancers” (pitocin). We need doctors to think about the post partum time for their expectant parents, and not their weekend plans being ruined by a spontaneous vaginal birth. We need people to take charge of their own experiences and not be afraid to present current research to their care providers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and be truthful about your wishes. Look up the cesarean rate of the hospital you are considering and compare it to other areas. Know that a birth with more interventions, and more medical management does not mean a safer birth. Don’t be afraid to change your provider. They may be a wonderful gynecologist that you love, but may not be right for your birth team. This is OK! We need practitioners to be trained in BREECH birth once again, and restore this variation of normal. (FYI, there is nothing wrong with a baby with breech presentation, and there is nothing you did wrong if you had a breech baby! We simply don’t have trained providers who are comfortable with this type of delivery, resulting in parents contemplating few options they are comfortable with, ultimately deciding on surgery. This needs to change.)
If a cesarean birth is in your future, know that you are still the one delivering your baby. You are a powerful force. You are playing an active role in your birth, and should be shown the same respect as any other person welcoming their baby into the world.
Here are some things you can advocate for to ensure your sacred surgical birth is honored:
Exclaim with enthusiasm your desire for a gentle/family centered cesarean. You can insist on your doula’s presence for decreasing anxiety and to photograph the moment. This is a birth where no one is strapped down to a table. A clear drape can be requested (or asked to lower drape) so you can see the birth of your child. The medical staff has been asked to save their personal side conversations for after the birth and immediate post partum, and honor the silence for the new family to bond and experience the emergence of life. (Listening to Dr. Larry plan his golf weekend while you lay on a cold table awaiting the arrival of your life changing human being is NOT respect.) Your music that you carefully selected can be played in the OR, easing your mind and setting the tone. You’ve reminded everyone in the room that you and your partner wish to discover the sex of your baby, and don’t want anyone cheering about a boy or a girl. You can save your placenta (this is your property, and is NOT medical waste- more to come in a future post!) You can request a vaginal swab to inoculate your baby delivered via c-section, with your flora to develop babies healthy microbiome and immune system. Your baby can be cleaned and weighed as per your request, and not taken immediately from you. Immediate skin to skin. Delayed cord clamping. Not hatting baby. Breastfeeding in OR if baby shows willingness. The possibilities are endless if we start demanding them. Parents who own their births are fierce. They know how to take charge and make change. Explain how important it is to you, and if your requests are scoffed at, or denied, then FIRE that practitioner. There are more out there. There are compassionate doctors and midwives who want their clients to have the birth they desire.
You are amazing, you are powerful, you are a force to be reckoned with, and you are worthy of basking in the glory of your beautiful belly birth.