April is caesarean awareness month and exactly three years and seven months since I had mine. It was the day we welcomed our second daughter into our lives and so a memory I will always cherish.
Despite this, it wasn't all roses; there were certain aspects of the caesarean that I did find difficult. At the time though I accepted these small niggles as "just the way it is." Now though I know different, now I know about the "gentle" caesarean.
I wish I had known about it three years and seven months ago.
A caesarean may be a medical intervention but it is also the birth of new life, it is the first moment you will meet your baby and this time really counts. Those initial moments after your baby is born can impact on the physical and physiological well-being of both of you which is why many refer to this time as the "magical hour." The gentle caesarean is focused more on the mother and baby and aims to allow this magical hour to be as beneficial and significant as possible.
More than 10% of babies are born by elective caesarean; my little girl was one of them. Despite the number being so high many are unaware that they can make the experience more personal and less clinical.
Here are 3 things I wish I knew when I was preparing for her birth.
You can choose the music that plays in your caesarean
Music is such a powerful tool that affects our mood and energy levels. As I walked into the operating theatre the radio was playing, this was a relief, I had wanted music but assumed I couldn't ask for it. The moment she was actually born Take That Let It Shine was playing and I remember smiling at how appropriate it seemed. I was lucky, what if it had have Justin Beiber or Iron Maiden? These may be perfect for some but I didn't want my daughter being born to "oh baby" (*cringe*). Choosing the music for my first baby was such an important part of the preparation.
I wish I had known that I could have chosen the soundtrack to my caesarean birth.
You can see your baby being born in a caesarean
OK, so I am not suggesting that you get a good gander at your intestines but the screen can be lowered at the key moment to allow you and your partner to witness your baby's first breath. I remember feeling as if my heart was going to stop as I waited for the midwife to peep around the sheet. When I compare it to my other two births this bit makes me want to cry a little. After the alien feeling of a washing machine on a spin cycle in my stomach I felt her be physically lifted out of me, the weight of her life just disappeared in an instant but I couldn't see where she had disappeared to. Realistically this was probably only seconds but I remember them vividly. The sound of her cry and then shortly after the sight of her scrunched up new-born face softened that strange transitional time between pregnancy and motherhood; but it still remains.
I wish I had known I could have watched her take her first breath.
You can have skin to skin in a caesarean
I was told that when my baby was born the cord would be cut; she would be taken to be checked by the midwife and then passed to my husband while they put me back together. I asked about skin to skin and was told that I would get that opportunity in the recovery room. I accepted this and the process went exactly to plan.
My memory of this time is very mixed, on one hand I was in an environment I felt safe with my husband and new baby by my side. I knew she was well and so was I. On the other hand I was so wired up that I could just about reach my hand out to touch her, this magical hour (that I was unaware of at the time) was slipping away.
Skin to skin has many benefits. It increases the chance of successful breastfeeding and it helps the baby regulate their own heartbeat, sugar levels and temperature. One of the major benefits of skin to skin is that it kick starts the bonding process.
I must admit (and I haven't admitted this to many people) that in the first couple of days after my second was born I did have a few wobbles. I loved her undoubtedly but at the time I pondered whether I could ever love her as much as I loved her older sister. These feelings may still have been there if I had free birthed in the mountains, I will never know, but when I read about the importance of the magical hour and I think about how I spent most of mine only able to reach her hand it makes me wonder.
Research has shown that women are 48% more likely to suffer post natal depression after a caesarean than a natural birth. If the first hour is so important to the wellbeing of mum and baby it is worth asking if taking the gentler approach could bring this shocking statistic down?
There are changes that need to be made to allow skin to skin to take place; staff in the gentle caesarean strategically place IV drips and monitoring equipment to allow the mother more freedom. The midwife will also make sure that there is practical room for the baby to rest on the mother's chest and have contact with her skin (and breast).
I wish I had known that I could have held my daughter straight away.
Gentle Caesarean Awareness
A caesarean maybe a routine procedure but it is also major abdominal surgery with a potentially difficult recovery process; it is certainly not the pain free alternative to birth. Making the process "gentle" won't alter these facts but they will put you more in control. If you talk to your doctor or midwife about it and are met with resistance don't be over surprised. In general though, the staff do want to make your experience positive and in most cases will do everything they can to accommodate you. The gentle approach is a growing trend and has been since the beginning of the century so it may already be practiced in your hospital.
My advice is if you don't ask, you don't get and don't assume anything is just the "way it is." Surround yourself with people who have a positive birth attitude. I highly recommend joining Rock Star Birth and the Positive Birth Movement on Facebook. Also check out your local doulas; for example the Welsh Doula Network is an expanding group of Doula UK trained doulas who can support you through the gentle caesarean process. On my third pregnancy I made a connection with Doula Samantha Gadson through the Cardiff Positive Birth group and even though I opted for a VBAC she made me realise that it was my birth and how ever my baby was born it was still my experience to own.
So as we are in caesarean awareness month I would like to share a little awareness of the gentle way to do it.
I wish someone had made me aware three years and seven months ago.
Read more from Lisa and The Contented Family as she strives to actively find happiness in the everyday madness of motherhood.