When I first heard the term “gentle cesarean” I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Does it mean they take the baby out slowly? That doesn’t seem like a good idea.
Once I saw a video on it I was like, “Ohhhh, now I get it!” and it really made me wonder why we don’t do it this way already.
So when Lydia asked if she could share her gentle cesarean story I said, “sure!”
It just proves that even when a c-section isn’t your first choice, you can still have an amazing birth.
It was my dream job to be a labor and delivery nurse, and I was lucky enough to work in a progressive, family-centered hospital in the birth center for several years before becoming pregnant with my firstborn. I became passionate about the care of newborns, and gave a lot of thought to how I would birth my own baby. Something I often told my patients in the hospital was "Think about the huge transition your baby has just made. Imagine how scary it would feel! It's rough to be a newborn!" I felt very strongly about giving my little one a gentle start in life. I wanted her to be close and connected to me - her one familiar place in a brand new world.
I planned a water birth with my husband Kyle, because I had been really impressed with the ones I had attended. Although we prepared and researched, we purposefully didn't write a birth plan. "Baby Catcher", one of my favorite books, written by a midwife, said something along the lines of "Write a birth plan. It's a good exercise. Then BURN IT. Because who are we to think that something as powerful as birth could be planned?!"
At our 28 week visit, we learned that baby was breech. Everyone told us there was plenty of time and she would turn. However as the weeks passed and she didn't budge, we tried exercises, chiropractic adjustments, moxibustion, even handstands in the pool! Finally I decided that if she was going to turn, she would. And if not, then for some reason her birth was meant to unfold in a different way. I did shed some tears at the loss of the peaceful water birth I'd envisioned. During this time I came across the video of the "natural Caesarian" on YouTube.
I was enthralled and brought my ideas to my OB. He agreed to do his best to help us have a gentle Cesarean. I focused on my hypnobabies childbirth prep course and we rested in the knowledge that we could trust God to guide us, and we could trust our baby to come in her own way.
We scheduled a c-section for 41 weeks, hoping to give our baby a chance to choose her own birthday with spontaneous labor. I so badly wanted her to get all the benefits of labor hormones and contractions. The morning after my due date, I woke up and as I was lying in bed, my water broke with a HUGE gush! I was overjoyed to experience labor. Of course, the nurse in me was acutely aware of that perfectly clear amniotic fluid, all of baby's movement, my strong, consistent contractions... I felt so thankful for every little thing.
Kyle and I called the hospital and started getting ready to go. When we arrived to the hospital about 11am, contractions were every 2-3minutes and strong. I don't think I'll ever forget my brief hours of labor. I was deeply tuned in to my body and my baby and hardly spoke once labor kicked in - I don't even remember praying much other than to say "thank you" over and over in my heart. I felt a strong sense of peace and awe, and embraced the process that was bringing our baby into the world.
We headed to the OR just before 1 and I was feeling the intensity of active labor. I didn't feel a thing as they prepped me and did my spinal anesthesia, just a very comforting warmth over my whole lower body. It was the best I'd felt since becoming pregnant! Kyle was at my side and after just a few moments, my doctor had the incision made and then he took down the sterile drape so we could watch our daughter come into the world! It was an amazing, unforgettable moment... Out came our Julia Eden: pink, breathing, crying and waving her little limbs. I was used to seeing babies come out a little blue and needing encouragement to take those first breaths. Not Julia! I could see in a moment that all was well. She was, and is, strong, independent, and full of intensity!
I cried and cried with joy and Kyle brought her to me. She stopped crying as she heard our voices. I held her as we were wheeled out of the OR and she was breast feeding a couple minutes later. She hardly left her place on my chest for the first few days. She was 7lb, 12oz of perfection! I felt great afterwards, I was up in a chair rocking Julia just a few hours after surgery. However, when the exhaustion hit me, it hit like a freight train! Kyle took Julia and walked next to my bed that first night, singing both of us to sleep.
Julia's birth ended up so beautiful in an unexpected way. We were aware of just how much we had to be thankful for! I know that Julia's birth stands in contrast to many cesarean births, and not everyone will have a doctor as willing to work with them. But the more mothers that push for change toward gentler, more natural cesareans - the more doctors and hospitals will be willing to look at the benefits and start changing procedures.
In review, here are some ideas to consider:
- Ask that your cesarean be scheduled after your due date, or not at all: allow labor to signal baby's readiness to be born
- Spend some time in labor if possible for your situation
- Ask for a peaceful environment in the OR – quiet voices or even bring music
- Ask that the sterile drape be lowered enough for you to catch the first glimpse of your baby's birth
- Ask that baby be brought to you ASAP in the operating room – and keep him/her there the whole time you are being stitched, etc
- Put baby skin to skin on mom in the OR
- Begin breastfeeding immediately
- Ask that baby's bath and measurements be delayed until baby has had time to bond/breastfeed/transition
Most of all, I think that our own sense of peace surrounding our daughter's birth largely colored our (and her) experience. She came exactly like she was supposed to!
Lydia has had a growing passion for evidence-based and family-centered maternity care since she first aspired to be a nurse. She is married to Kyle, and they are loving almost every single moment of parenting Julia through the "terrific twos"! Lydia also has a special love for awesome gadgets – everything from baby carriers to food processors to her minivan. She loves to read and research, and lives for the summer, when she and Julia spend every spare minute at the pool! People are welcome to contact her via email at email@example.com or find her on Pinterest.