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. Thank you for posting this!! I, too, had a c-section after an induction due to HELP syndrome in my 38th week. After pitocin and 26 hours of crazy fast and hard contractions, I finally had an epidural and a c-section, since I never dilated past 4 cm in that entire time. Like you, I have NO apologies for my decision. My platelet count was coming close to the point where I’d have to have steroids to continue laboring due to the potential of bleeding to death due to clotting ability, and that, combined with my firm belief that this baby was just not going to descend (he was born with bruising over his entire right side from being lodged in my rib cage so tightly) made it easy to go with a C.

    And while a lot of people I know say they are in mourning over their birth experience, how it didn’t go how they wanted it to, etc., I am perfectly happy with mine. The staff were great, they let me labor as long as I safely could, supported me the whole way, and did a quick, efficient, and tiny-scarring c-section for a 9 lb, 11 oz, 22-inch-long baby. I was up walking the next day and my baby is perfectly healthy.

    While it wasn’t my ideal experience, my most important concern was for the health of my child, and that, in the end, made my birth perfect for what it was, even if it wasn’t what I’d initially wanted or expected.

  2. Thank you for so beautifully and honestly sharing your story. As a doula and aspiring midwife and mama, it is important for me to hear. The dogma of “natural” childbirth can be just as stifling and dangerous to women and their families as can blind trust in medicine. I am so grateful for C-sections and the many lives they save, including your sweet boy.

    “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.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard a better explanation of the messy beauty of all births.

  3. Thank you so much for this post. Ive been on several other forums and been around people and made me feel like I was the worst mum of all time because I didnt have a vaginal birth…even when it was out of my control!
    Im pregnant again and due to baby having an abnormality and other health issues I have, again I will be having another cesearian but I will go into it with this article in mind! Thank you for helping me feel less guilty and ashamed of having a cesearian!

  4. Well after a c-section I feel intact and that is a fantastic feeling. I am just the same as I was before.

  5. Thank you very much for this. As a husband and father-to-be, the possible need for “a window” is one of the things we’re hoping to avoid, but also trying to prepare ourselves for should it become necessary. Your story helps very, very much in this preparation.

  6. I have had two c-sections, one an emergency with my son, and one a planned second c-section with my daughter. Both were wonderful, empowering experiences, and my original c-section undoubtedly saved my son’s life. I have a WONDERFUL doctor and she and the loving nurses and anesthesiologist helped make each birth a celebration. I wouldn’t change a minute of either birth.

    When you have had a c-section (and then choose to have a second c-section), it is sometimes very hard to listen to people who feel your c-section decisions were the wrong decisions. Although they are very well meaning, it makes a hard and scary time in our lives even harder. I wish more people could be less judgemental and more willing to accept that birth plans are a very, very personal decision.

    Thanks for this article!

  7. Thank you for this. I’m at least a year away from conceiving our first, but doctors have told me that I’m probably looking at a caesarian. Even at this pre-stage I was feeling like a failure, but this helped me to see I’ve been looking at it all wrong. Thank you, a million times, thank you.

  8. Thank you so much for writing this. This story was very much like my own. When I went in to deliver my son one of the first questions they asked was “Do you have a birthing plan?” My answer was, “Yes, I have come here pregnant and my plan is to leave with a baby.” The laugh and sigh of relief that gave the nurses helping me was so great. So often now there are too many expectations.

    I understand fully that there are many unnecessary c-sections. I also understand though that if you are kept informed as to why things need to happen then you can make the decision educated and not just because it simply must be a certain way.

    It is so wonderful and refreshing to read about a c-section from someone that has a stable and amazing point of view. I have never felt like a failure or less of a woman because of my c-section. I went in pregnant…I came out with a beautiful son. Everything went just according to plan.

  9. Thank you for this. You are an amazingly strong and confident woman and I wish one day I get to where you are today in terms of how I feel about my c-section. It’s still kind of painful to think about it… but yes, the most important thing is that I get to look into my daughter’s eyes and smile. I think that labor can be empowering by communicating as much as possible with those who will be involved in the experience with you so that the process becomes an intense transition rather than just a horrible event. Even the creation of a birth plan is about saying please respect me, listen to me, take care of me, not a command that this or that should not happen. Because we all know that many things can happen when it comes to labor, but I do believe concentrating on the fact that it can be beautiful no matter what is great because we are bombarded with the idea that labor is horrible and it doesn’t have to be.

  10. Thank you for this. My c-section was awful and I hated not being able to have the natural birth I wanted. Reading your story helped me find closure.

  11. More women need to share their empowerd cesarean births. There is a wealth of empowered natural childbirth (involving pushing – not just without drugs) stories out there. But there isn’t enough empowered cesarean births, women who chose this way, or who are given no choice in the matter, need to feel that their experience is just as valid and meaningful.

    Thank you for sharing!

  12. What a great story. My oldest son and I are here today, 12 years later, thanks to c-sections. We both would have been goners without it. Even though I have never had, or ever will have a baby come out of my body naturally because of this, I’ll never be sorry for that.

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