Empowered by a caesarian birth

Guest post by Gillie Easdon
The family right after birth.

“He has not dropped because he just has so much room. He is very small because I was small and so was his dad.”

I said that a lot. I said it on overdue day 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…I took perverse pleasure in believing that the lush, lovely environment that my body had created for the wee man had made staying quite irresistible. But eventually, he had to come out, right? The prenatal class I had taken was based on the book Birthing from Within. One tenet was how to experience caesarian as a birth, not as a medical procedure–how to make it your own. As a class we also were supported to identify our individual terror; Down’s, death, stillborn, caesarian, failure to be able to breast feed were examples. Once we identified these, we talked through the ‘what ifs’ to initiate a process to make peace with our fears.

On the 9th day I sculled a brew that included apricot nectar, gelato and castor oil to induce labor. Result? Not ripe. My cervix didn’t open, but I did had a wicked case of the shits. I wasn’t upset, just stumped, really. “He has to come out, through the door or a window,” stated a girlfriend. I was starting to wonder.

Day 10. I talked to my belly, I jumped around, I took stairs two at a time. I ate a few pineapples. I drank a pear mimosa. And still, nothing. I could feel him moving, squish-stretching around in there.

On day 11, I started rounds of Cervidil. This hormone gets tucked back behind the cervix to help make it soft to kick-start things. I went to the hospital for round one. The midwives had told me that the nurses would hook me up to the stress testing devices and that they would be along after to do the rest. The nurse retorted, “Oh. Is that what they said we would do?” And then they left me waiting in a room until the midwives showed up. An attendant came in to take my blood. I asked “What is it for?” “It is routine” was the flat reply. “Yes, but for what?” then she explained that if I needed blood, then they would have it for me.

A caesarian is a powerful birth unto itself, without need for apology, and with only reason to celebrate.

I returned to the hospital on day 12 to check progress. Those nurses were helpful. When the midwives arrived, they attempted their “stretch and sweep” and–no dice. The cervix was a little riper, but not open, and he had not dropped. Round two of Cervidil was sent up my river. Day 13? Still the same. The midwives had to call in the doctor, who would make the call on a caesarian or a full day of Oxytocin. The latter causes contractions that would hopefully help the cervix open, and then either things would progress naturally, or the docs/midwives would break the water with a hooked instrument (ugh) up my cervix which would force the baby down, and then possibly things would start to start. The doctor was supportive of the Oxytocin.

I was hooked up to a drip on day 14, dosages increasing on the half hour to produce, ultimately, “meaningful” contractions. We arrived at the hospital prepared to stay and to leave with our baby. Battery operated candles, cribbage, ipod with portable speakers, charcuterie, chocolate, “labour aid,” camera, extra batteries, even our team shirts. Bebe papa’s said “That’s crazy” on the front, and mine was a very threadbare XXL t-shirt with “From Russia with Love” on the front.

I was ready for my experience of child birth, though the shrieks and guttural moans from the adjacent room did not boost my confidence much. I spent the hours playing a bit of cribbage, interspersed by my tiny earthquakes, willing them to hurt more. By the end of the day, I was checked; no change. My thighs puffy, arms swollen, tits engorged, all saturated with drugs – and – lest we forget, very pregnant. I looked in the mirror and recognized my eyes alone. I was a bloated vessel for this being, who seemed to be quite at home within the barracks that my body had become.

Two options now. The first? A caesarian.

The second?

  1. Insert a blunt forecep up my cerivix
  2. Inflate small balloon on the inside of my womb to mimic the baby’s head on that side of my cervix, which might cause it to open
  3. Insert hooked instrument up inside to break my water, forcing the baby down
  4. All this might induce labour
  5. If not? caesarian

The doctor then performed a very assertive, i.e. painful, search of my inner bits, and left us to mull over the options. My doula, midwives, bebe papa and I were in the room. I was stumped, tired, thick and numb.

My entire self was not raging with ‘oh no! my mother-club-initiation might not be possible’…the only thing rattling and screaming in that entire infinite few minutes was, ‘Get him out. Get him out. He can not die. No way. Not now.

My doula came over to give me a hug but was interrupted by the midwife, who noticed that the bebe’s heart rate had slammed from 140 down to 70. Suddenly the room filled with people, an oxygen mask was clamped onto my face and nitroglygerin was being sprayed into my mouth. My body was in a fierce contraction that would not release. The baby was not well. My entire self was not raging with ‘oh no! my mother-club-initiation might not be possible’…the only thing rattling and screaming in that entire infinite few minutes was, ‘Get him out. Get him out. He can not die. No way. Not now. Out,’ my oxygen masked face eyes blazing alternately into le bebe’s soon-to-be-father and the doula’s eyes, both extending their ferocious and magnificent support. Because this was no longer about my precious experience. It was about le bebe getting the hell out of my body now to survive.

They stabilized the baby and the room emptied. The doctor told me that she would come back in a little while to see what the decision was.

My midwife assured me that whatever I chose was fine with her, but my thoughts were not needing that support. My mind and body required no back up, apart from the bebe papa–I was no longer in this equation. It was time to get the baby out. It is this moment I recall when people throw around what a birth is and is not, what I need to grieve and grieve not, what I need to believe and believe not. For me, the only thing to regret or grieve or feel sad about or not realized about is that I did not make a selfish decision, I did not make more of this than need be, I did not overanalyze the simple fact that the bebe was not going to come out the door, and so–he would need a window. As such, and thank goodness for modern technology, I would provide, for my son, with the help of midwives and doctors and more, a custom window by which he would enter this lovely world.

We spent the night at the hospital. In the morning, I went outside and stretched. Once back in my room, I got kitted up for my 8:20am birth. I had asked the midwives that everyone in the operating room introduce themselves, to personalize the event. The doctors and nurses and anethesist were all jovial and relaxed and welcoming. I was given epidural, warmth spreading from my bum down my legs. And then they put up the sheet. “Can you feel anything?” the anesthetist said, leaning over me, “Why? Are you cutting me open?” “Yes” “Are you fucking with me?” He laughed, “No, I am not fucking with you.” “Okay.” I had been walked through the procedure from the prenatal class and so it was fluid. I would meet him soon. I knew this. And this room of kind people would be there with me.

My mind and body required no back up, apart from the bebe papa–I was no longer in this equation. It was time to get the baby out.

Bebe papa tells me when they first cut into me a tight spray of fluid flew over someone’s shoulder. Bebe papa tells me that when they cut open my stomach, a flood erupted from my body. And then the doctor dug into my body to plucked out my large son from my small frame. He howled. As they checked him over and swaddled him, my entire self was consumed by searing yearning. And then bebe papa brought my baby to me. My little man. Once they sewed me up, he was placed at my breast, whereupon he sucked without hesitation, snuffling and grubbing about. A perfect birth.

Gillie's scar.
I carried and grew Boeuf for over ten months. I don’t feel any less like a woman because I did not push him out. I was looking forward to the experience, yes. Maybe that is not quite the accurate choice of words, but I did want to endure this rite of passage. But the point is the birth of the child and the child was birthed. I pride myself on appreciating and respecting other people’s perspectives and beliefs, but on this matter, I am unwavering. A caesarian is a powerful birth unto itself, without need for apology, and with only reason to celebrate. Those who do not agree are grappling with expectations and not reality.

Comments on Empowered by a caesarian birth

  1. Beautiful story. Thank you for sharing.

    “3.Insert hooked instrument up inside to break my water, forcing the baby down”
    Let me tell you they did this to be before my epidural and oh dear god the pain. He will not admit it but I think I heard my husband weeping when he heard me crying in pain.

    • My husband sat on the couch in the room while they began doing this very same thing and kept telling me to “relax, you’re fine” until I became THAT woman in the delivery room and yelled at him to “get over here and hold my hand – this hurts!” But probably with a bit more expletives thrown in there. 🙂 The water breaking was the most painful part of the whole birthing process.

  2. Thank you so much for your story. It mirrors mine in a lot of ways (my cervix was also uncooperative, and Gavin’s heartrate dropped very fast – 24 hours on Cervadil and 5 on Pitocin before they decided on c-section). I felt like a failure (partially because of my son’s father’s desire for me to not use any drugs and have natural childbirth), but in the end? I have a healthy, beautiful son, a scar I wear now with pride, and no regrets whatsoever.

    • I too feel like my c-section scar is a badge of pride (after many, many tearful months to the contrary). I’m thinking of incorporating it into a memorial tattoo of some sort…

  3. Wow! I feel like I wrote this! I also took the Birthing From Within class and found it helped prepare me for any outcome during my birth. I was 10 days overdue, I was induced with Cervadil, I had an epidural & Oxytocin and eventually a Caesarean — all the things I didn’t want. Going into it with the right attitude though (“I am BIRTHING through Caesarean”) really helped and I don’t regret a moment of my delivery.

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have a three paned window. I have always grieved a little over it. I’m ready to shed my grief and guilt. What a beautiful and meaningful analogy. I couldn’t help but wipe away tears while reading this. Thank you, again. Sending peace, love and light.

  5. Thank you for this, and thanks to OBM for posting this — I love that this site is so supportive of women’s choices, even when they’re perhaps not stereotypically ‘offbeat’.

  6. thank you for this. There is a lot of anti-c-section stuff floating around in online mothering communities. I have to avoid it, or I will just feel worse and worse about my own. Sure the c-section rate is high. Sure, probably a lot are done for a Doctors convienence. But I needed mine, and you needed yours, and thank goodness we could have them. A stranger once asked me if I had a natural vaginal birth, and when I said no, she apologize to my baby. Seriously! At the end of the day, a healthy baby and momma are what matters, despite any “Caesarean Awareness” (caesarean hate) agenda.

    • It seems to me that one (of many) reasons that infant and mother mortality is so low in countries with easily accessible health care is because of c-sections. There are so many babies who couldn’t be born ‘naturally’ that are saved by cesareans. Without it, those babies likely would have died and often taken the mothers with them.

  7. What an amazing story. I’m sharing this with everyone I can. More women need to hear that it’s not the end of the world to have a c-section.

  8. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful perspective. I still feel elective cesareans are (usually) irresponsible, but when there is a need every woman deserves to be treated warmly, nurtured well, and feel good that she did what her baby needed her to do for their birth. Yes its the baby’s birth, and yes it’s the mother’s birth, and isn’t it wonderful when both can be honored and appreciated no matter what path they need to take?

  9. Thank you so much for this post- I cried, because your story was so similar to mine, only my water broke…. and nothing. 50 hours and no change, even after prostoglandin and oxytocin. Once her heart rate dropped to 70 and that was the point where I feel that even my adamant feelings towards natural birth needed to be traded for my baby’s well being. I had taken birthing from within classes and they are the reason that I could feel confident that I had done all I could, and go forward feeling like I had still Birthed Signe.

  10. I’m due in one week. A c-section was my worst fear. Your story made me feel infinitely more sure of myself and willing to accept that things that are out of my control may happen. I feel much more calm. Thank you.

    • I was totally terrified of a C-section, and ended up having to have one … it was a wonderful experience, the medical staff were so helpful and comforting (and above all, competent!), and I had my husband with me and he got to “trim” the cord, and the anesthesiologist took pictures for me … for me, it was not at all scary while it was happening, everything was under control and done with calm competence and I had a baby!

      It was such a good experience it’s hard now to even remember why I was so scared of it, even though I was so scared that even the THOUGHT of a C-section made me cry!

  11. I hear you loud and clear 🙂 My daughter lost weight in my uterus because of a fluid leak they brushed off as incontinence. When I had a ultra sound 11 days over due it was a frantic trip to the hospital. She was barely living in a few tablespoons of liquid. I was given cervidel and her heart rate dropped to 25. After a naked hospital bed race down the hall (very public may I add), a crying nurse in the corner and a male anesthesiologist who ran from emerg and was so embarrassed he held his hand over his eyes, my beautiful screaming purple ball of joy was born…alive. We are meant to feel bad about c-sections because it isn’t natural but guess what? Our vagina’s remain fully intact and un torn like they were before and or children will flourish just as they would have had they taken that slippery ride down the birth canal 😛 We just have a little battle scar to remind us 🙂

  12. Thank you SO much for that story! It’s a testament to how empowering a c-section can be. I only wish that all women could feel like you do about their births.

  13. I love your story thank you for sharing it. I am pre-scheduled for my c-section in august and occasionally someone will make a comment which implies that it is the easy way out. However both forms of birth take a lot out of you, and are both empowering as a birthing experience.

    I know that some women can feel regret and shame about having had a c-section but i see no shame in putting the needs of your child before your own expectations. Thus is motherhood.

  14. Thank you so much for this. My daughter was breech and born by cesarean after it was determined that attempting to turn her would be too risky. As soon as they started listing the dangers to her, I knew my decision. Just get her to me healthy. That was all I cared about.

    Three years later, I am pregnant again. Though I had the perfect cesarean experience with my daughter, I was still bitter over the rite of passage I felt had been “taken” from me. I wanted a VBAC. I’m not going to get one because of hospital and insurance policies in my area. I have been struggling with bitterness over that, as well. But reading this has helped me see that I am not really being robbed of anything. What it boils down to is that I shouldn’t let other people’s crap rob me of a full appreciation of the moment my baby comes into the world.

    Thank you so much, again, for sharing!

  15. Thank you a million times over for your story. Thank you for showing that having a c-section is NOT a horrible thing to have happen. My first son, I had one after his heartrate kept dropping with every contraction and due to failure to progress. My second son, it was a required c-section because the hospital doesn’t allow VBACs because they aren’t staffed properly, and due to a lot of other issues (which I was ok with). Both my children are here, safe, and beautiful. I still say I birthed them because they grew and came out of me, just a few inches north. 🙂

  16. I have a question maybe someone could answer.

    If you’re 2+ weeks overdue and they don’t provide medicine to try and induce contractions, what happens? I’m just kind of thinking of way back in the day when everyone still gave birth at home and medical intervention wasn’t really an option. I’m really curious!

    • One problem is that the baby continues to grow, making the eventual birth more difficult. Though this is not the main issue today (see c-sections).

      The reason 2 weeks overdue are dangerous is that the placenta “ages” (calcium deposits hinder the exchange of substances between the mother’s and baby’s blood and is no longer able to give the baby everything it needs.) This is usually a sign that the baby is coming soon (can be seen in with doppler), but if it doesn’t the baby can die in the uterus. If the baby doesn’t come out at all the mother dies too.

      I have no idea how frequent this is/was esp. in comparison to other problems and with c-sections available it’s not a major issue today (except when smoking causes early calcification), but it’s the (one of the? not an expert here) main reason your (general you) doctor doesn’t want you to go too long over term.

  17. This was such a lovely read! I get discouraged by so much anti-Cesarean talk on alternative parenting sites. Reminds me why I love this one so much!

  18. Thank you so much for your story. I’m starting to think about having a child and I know that because of some health problems giving birth the natural way would be risky – not impossible, not life-threatening but risky for my health. My partner keeps telling me that what a baby really needs is healthy and happy mom, not a natural birth for any cost, and there’s no point in risking anything if there are other options. And I agree with him, but on some level I feel like I’m failing. All this anti-cesareaan talk that is so popular now can really bring a girl down.

  19. I love this post. One of these days I’ll get around to sharing my c-section story…

    There’s a larger issue at play here, one that seems to come up with lots of parenting issues like natural childbirth, breastfeeding, cloth diapers, etc … the concept of parenting with intention and thoughtfulness, and also having patience and love for yourself and the situation regardless of how things work out.

    Yes, levels of c-sections are too high in the United States. No, that doesn’t mean you’re somehow a failure if you’re a part of that statistic. Yes, breastfeeding is super. No, you’re not a bad mom if it doesn’t work out for you physically or logistically. Yes, cloth diapers are a great option. No, you’re not going to hell if they don’t fit into your life.

    Really, the key here seems to be more intelligent, caring support for each other. We all still have opinions (despite having a c-section, I still strongly believe that most births in western countries are over-medicalized) but that doesn’t mean that we can’t support each other as individuals stumbling through the statistics.

  20. my beautiful son was delivered a month ago today via an emergency c-section. i’m still wadding thru the emotions that come from a long, painful labor and then having surgery. When they said Oz was in distress and a c-section was the best option, “YES” flew out of my mouth and I have never regretted that. This is a powerful piece and I needed it today. THANK YOU.

  21. I was severely traumatised by my c-section; the recovery was awful, made longer by my crap surgeon. He left some placenta behind, which not only caused an infection but dried up my milk soon after birth. That led to several more months of emotional trauma on top of what I already had. Until this month, when I became eligible for a VBAC, the mere thought of getting pregnant accidentally would send me into a panic attack.

    I *know* that it was the best thing for my daughter, that after five days of labour, full dilation, and hours of pushing, she was simply not going to come out. But it was the first time in my life that I was not able to accomplish something by education, practice, and sheer force of will. It was a HUGE blow to my sense of self, and it only got worse when the breastfeeding failed, too. I am still not fully recovered, no matter how rational my brain is when I read posts like this.

  22. Allow me to say again what others have already said – thank you for posting this! I spent most of the past year preparing for a natural no-drug birth center midwife-assisted childbirth. Just two weeks ago that all went out the window when my water broke suddenly, then 24 hours later my temperature quickly rose due to an infection just as active labor kicked in. That was enough to send us to the hospital for antibiotics, but we still thought we’d be able to labor and deliver normally. But when we got there? It turned out in the 14 hours(!!!) since my morning exam by our midwife, baby Kai had flipped COMPLETELY upside-down from the super low head engaged position he’d held for the past 6 weeks. WHEE! Surprise footling breech + probable infection = immediate cesarean. Not at all what I had planned for, but I so resonate with the feeling that when it comes down to it, it’s not about YOU and YOUR plans anymore. It’s not about the skepticism one might feel about cesareans in general or the pride one took in having the drug free birth. At that point, it’s about the safety of your baby and doing what needs to be done.

    If anyone wants to read about my birth story and the recovery from the cesarean, our unplanned hospital stay, etc., feel free to click through above to my blog (http://www.jessbot.com) and read the last few posts. Even with the most positive attitude possible I think it’s hard not to feel a bit disappointed when things don’t go as planned, and I know I’ve found it very useful in my recovery to hear these stories from others.

  23. @K.K. – I don’t know, I suppose you just wait… however, as we know now, waiting produces bigger heads which lead to more complications in the delivery, blood loss, tearing, and again— potential risk of c-section due to the head not fitting past the pelvis.

    That’s the reason I was induced past my due date as well — I was huge, and at 5’1″, my doctor did measurements and was worried that (like myself and my 2 brothers with my mom) I would get to the pushing phase and not be able to open wide enough in my pelvis to fit her head out. That, and my husband is 6’3″ so it was likely we made a big baby.

    Anyways, after my water breaking after the cervadil and 14 hours of oxytoxin… still no baby. And I elected to have the c-section at 6pm rather than the next morning when it would be neccessary anyway due to risk of infection from my waters being broken for 24 hours.

    I guess because I knew my mom was small and I’m small, that it was going to be unlikely that my pelvis would fit a baby’s head – and the TERROR I felt over natural labor and birth — that I really didn’t have too many negative feelings about having the ceasarian.

    Also, my doctor (a very wonderful woman who delivers most of her babies vaginally) actually told me that she was very sorry that she had to deliver by ceasarian. So it’s not a case of “typical doctor wants the easy way out.”

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