By Michele Demont
In the US, one in three mothers will give birth by cesarean section. Chances are you have had one or know someone who has. There are varied reactions after having a cesarean birth – some are grateful, some indifferent, others loved it, and still others found it disappointing or even traumatic. All of these reactions and feelings are valid. For the women who have had a more negative experience with their cesarean sections, we need to look into why. What can be changed to take away some of the negative feelings around having a cesarean birth?
The cesarean birth of my first child wasn’t a very positive experience. My doctor and the OR staff ignored us, they gossiped during the surgery and though my son was perfectly healthy they refused to let me touch him or simply show him to me. The whole process was very rushed and we were treated as if we were on an assembly line. This experience made me view cesarean sections in a negative light, and I was afraid to have another one in the future. Little did I realize at the time that it was the doctor and staff that made me feel this way–not cesarean birth itself.
When I’ve come across other mothers who have had negative experience with cesareans, I hear a very similar theme throughout. Many say they did not receive the support they needed throughout the surgery and/or afterward (especially if they had complications from the surgery), they were needlessly separated from their babies for hours, or felt detached from the whole experience. Doctors and hospital staff perform cesareans—which are relatively quick and predictable—multiple times a day, day after day. Unfortunately, routine and predictability often breed complacency. It can be easy to forget what is just another day in the office for you is a once in a lifetime moment for somebody else. This can make both mothers and fathers feel ignored and treated like a number.
A few years ago I came across a video about something called the natural cesarean. Until then I had no idea this was being done in other places, and I was intrigued by it. The mother, father and baby were all being treated respectfully and the parents were involved in the cesarean birth of their child like I’d never seen before. I knew if I were to ever have another cesarean, I wanted it to be like that.
When I was pregnant with my third child, I opted for a repeat cesarean. Since this one was scheduled, I had time to find the right doctor and talk with her about the surgery and how we both wanted it to go. This doctor was the complete opposite of my other one. She took the time to actually listen, answer my questions, and work with me. I told her about wanting a natural cesarean, and though due to hospital protocol we could not do everything I wanted, we found a middle ground.
The birth was amazing and the staff was wonderful and caring. The nurse spoke with me and held me as they administered the spinal, they calmed me down and the atmosphere was light and celebratory. There was no rushing, they told me what was going on and tended to my needs. There was no gossip amongst the staff either – they were celebrating the birth of our son with us. A mirror was allowed so I could see what was being done and when my son was pulled from me they lowered the drape so my husband and I could see. We didn’t know the sex until that very moment, which is one I shall never forget. They didn’t rush my perfectly healthy son to the nursery; we were able to hold and snuggle him within minutes.
A cesarean birth does not have to be just another routine surgery. If you are facing a cesarean birth or planning just in case, there are options. Ask your doctor about playing your favorite music during the surgery, lowering the drape to see your baby being born, using a mirror to watch the surgery, immediate skin-to-skin contact, and even breastfeeding in the OR. Having your wishes met and being able to participate in your cesarean birth can help make the experience a more positive one, which in turn can lead to happier and healthier mothers and babies.
Michele Demont is founder of www.birthcut.com and mother of three, two of whom were born by cesarean section.