THREE THINGS I LEARNED FROM MY PLANNED C-SECTION
My journey into motherhood began in 2013.
I was clueless about pregnancy, birth and motherhood. I had four siblings and yet, my birth knowledge was embarrassingly minimal.
Throughout my pregnancy, I researched everything that I thought was important. I was gifted ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting,’ and read it religiously. I meticulously planned my son’s nursery, spent hours researching items for my registry and so on.
This is difficult for me to admit… I didn’t research birth. Yep, that’s right. This birth junkie didn’t research birth.
I was too fearful, because of my birth background.
What do I mean by ‘birth background?’
It’s what we have learned about birth over the years.
It’s the depiction of birth that we’ve been exposed to in the media.
It’s what we have been told about our Mother’s birth.
It’s the birth stories that our friends tell us.
My own birth background told me that birth is scary, painful and that C-sections are normal.
In my family, Cesareans are common. We grow ‘big babies’ and have been led to believe that our bodies are incapable of birthing them.
I was so consumed by fear of labor and delivery that I chose to let my OB guide and lead me through birth. The problem with this choice is that not all OBs are created equal. I learned that many do not have our best interests at heart.
My pregnancy as a whole was very healthy with no complications, and therefore, conversations with my OB were pretty short.
The OB/GYN practice that I was going to at the time included a large group of providers. I rotated providers at prenatal visits, so that on delivery day, there were no strangers.
At one of my last prenatal appointments, I met with one of the most well known providers in the practice. She told me, “Nichole, your baby is looking really big, likely 8-10 lbs, so I think it’s time we schedule your Cesarean.”
Given my birth background, limited knowledge and trust in my provider, I scheduled my Cesarean.
Around 6am on a Sunday morning (a few days before my scheduled C-section), I felt some back cramping and my water broke.
I hopped in the shower and about 30 minutes later, I began having intense and consistent contractions.
We went to the hospital and I had a Cesarean, as planned. At 8:57am, my son was born at 8lb. 15oz.
It took me quite a while to process my birth experience. Since it was a standard C-section, with common protocols and resulted in a healthy mommy and baby, I didn’t think that there was anything to process. There was no room for my experience.
Over time, I realized that my experience mattered and that I felt disempowered by my birth.
Here are 3 things that I learned from my scheduled Cesarean.
1. Big baby estimates are NOT a reason (alone) for a Cesarean.
My provider recommended a Cesarean, solely based on an estimate of my baby’s size. Later I learned that size estimates are incorrect about 50% of the time. More importantly, 'big babies' are birthed vaginally all the time (I later vaginally birthed a 9lb. 4oz. baby with no issues).
There was no discussion of C-section risks, particularly repeat Cesarean risks for future pregnancies.
I realized that this practice was unethical, unnecessary, not evidence based, and not in my best interest. A cesarean is major abdominal surgery and a life saving procedure. It should be regarded as such.
2. Society does a crap job at preparing women for labor and delivery.
Like myself, many pregnant moms that I work with felt unprepared for labor and delivery.
Prenatal visits with OBs tend to be short, with minimal conversation. Unless there is a specific issue or mom has a question, conversations are commonly limited to 'How are you feeling?'
Here's the problem with that approach... how would a mom know what questions to ask if she has no knowledge of birth?
Of course there are exceptions and amazing OBs. That's not who I'm referring to here.
3. Moms have options- even with a Cesarean birth.
I didn't realize that there are standard hospital protocols that vary by hospital. More importantly, I didn't realize that I had options in my own birth experience, even a Cesarean.
My baby was sent to the nursery when I was in recovery. Since my C-section was on a Sunday, the hospital was not fully staffed. There weren’t enough nurses in recovery to watch over me and the baby, so my newborn was sent to the nursery. Later, I was heartbroken to realize that he was alone in the nursery for several hours. I wondered… How did they feed him? Comfort him?
The anesthesia cocktail that I received made me feel very disoriented. It took several hours before I regained some mental clarity. By then, I was in my hospital room and my son was still in the nursery. I didn’t realize that I could have requested a different mix of drugs to allow me to feel more aware, while still numbing me for surgery.
Immediate umbilical cord clamping. The routine procedure at this hospital was to immediately cut the cord. I didn’t realize that I could have requested delayed umbilical cord clamping (which has evidence based benefits).
Immediate wipe down of my baby and other newborn procedures - even before I held him. There was no mention of immediate skin-to-skin, and I didn’t realize that I could have requested differently.
The term ‘Gentle Cesarean’ or ‘Gentle C-section’ didn't come up until long after my own Cesarean birth.
To learn more about your Cesarean options, check out the 'Unexpected' section of my free birth plan template.
Why am I sharing this?
I struggled with sharing my first birth story. I carry feelings of shame, guilt and embarrassment.
The truth is… I am human and I allow myself grace to feel those feelings. Our feelings are valid.
This is part of my story.
My first birth experience plays a role in my passion for supporting expectant moms.
I’m sharing because this is what I needed to hear five years ago, when I was beginning my journey into motherhood.
Expectant mothers deserve more.
Accurate birth depiction in the media.