After four scheduled cesarean deliveries, I have learned a few things that I wish I had known about while I was pregnant. I wanted to share my story and a few tips in hopes that it may help another mama-to-be.
Three keys to a positive, natural cesarean birth experience
- It is important to have a plan and be prepared
- It is even more important to go with the flow if your plan doesn’t go as planned
- There are a few simple things that can be done to make your C-Section a more natural and positive experience
7 weeks ago, I had my 4th baby by cesarean section. Eight years before, almost to the day, our first son was born via C-Section because he was breech.
A V-BAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) was not possible for me with my next three deliveries, so I have gone through four deliveries via cesarean section. The guidelines have changed since my 2nd and 3rd four years ago and now V-BAC’s after one and two previous cesarean sections are encouraged.
Although wellness has always been a big part of my life, since the birth of my third baby, I have been working toward living a more holistic, balanced and natural life. I have been focusing more on unconditional love of myself and others, being positive, expressing gratitude, consistent positive parenting, eating more real food, and living green to name a few.
This pregnancy I made exercise, healthy eating and relaxation a priority. I also was reminded often about living with serenity and grace.
When I was 7 months pregnant I came across an article, “The natural cesarean: A woman-centered technique” posted on the Facebook page of the Natural Parenting Education Network. It was published in the BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
I had never heard of a natural cesarean and was really excited when I read about it and watched this video.
I was also in touch with the local chapter of the International Cesarean Awareness Network who provided me with support and more resources (see section at end of post).
A Natural Cesarean
A natural or family-centered cesarean consists of really simple changes that can make a big difference in the birth experience for the parents and baby.
1. Parental Participation: The drape is lowered and the head of the bed is lifted up just as the baby is about to be born, so the parents can watch.
2. Walking the baby out: The baby is delivered slowly and calmly. Basically the head is delivered and there is a pause for up to a minute while the uterus clamps down to expel fluids from the lungs like a vaginal delivery. “The rest of the delivery is achieved through a combination of passive expulsion by the contracting uterus and active assistance: the baby wiggles out while its head and torso are supported by the obstetrician.” There are a few minutes of delay in cutting the umbilical cord is, so the baby is still receiving oxygenated blood from the placenta. Delayed cord clamping seems to becoming more popular, but not a standard practice.
3. Early skin-to-skin: Immediately after delivery the baby is handed to mom for skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding. The nurses perform the assessments on mom’s chest. There are many benefits of skin-to-skin done at any time, but it is particularly helpful with improving breastfeeding success.
This is a great article that describes the delivery minute by minute. It also compares the traditional cesarean to the natural cesarean.
After learning all of this information, I discussed the natural cesarean with my doctor. She was not familiar with it, but was open to going through with the 3 steps I mentioned above. She called the delivery staff at the hospital and they had learned about this procedure at a conference recently, so they agreed that it would be fine, as long as the baby was healthy. I wouldn’t need to pay a doula because the nurses on staff would be able to transfer the baby to me. As far as she knew, a natural cesarean had never been performed at this hospital.
My 4th Birth Story
Our baby was scheduled to arrive the day before our oldest son’s 8th birthday, Wednesday, February 6.
A few weeks before, my doctor assured me that we were all set and there wasn’t anything I needed to do to proceed with the natural cesarean. I had planned to review all of the natural cesarean resources again and have a birth plan in writing (I have a serious procrastination problem) in time for my last appointment on Monday, February 4. I was planning to go through all of the details with my doctor again. I wanted to make sure we were on the same page and everything was set.
Things didn’t go exactly as planned and my water broke on Sunday, February 3 during halftime of the Super Bowl.
With doctor’s orders to get to the hospital a.s.a.p., it left me no time to make sure I had everything finalized for the delivery. My doctor happened to be on call, which was a huge relief and I still expected everything to go as we had discussed.
I should have known better. Fortunately, with my continued practice of learning to let go I did not stress when things didn’t go as planned.
At delivery we found out that our baby girl was breech, just like her oldest brother. This actually brought me a little bit of comfort knowing that a C-Section was inevitable anyway. However, it complicated the delivery. She was cozy in there with her legs curled up and it was very difficult to get her out. This made the “walking the baby out” option not feasible since she was coming out one limb at a time and not head first.
I also asked my doctor and the nurses if they could lower the curtain to watch the delivery and they said that I wouldn’t be able to see. I’m assuming his means the head of the operating table could not be raised. Honestly, I was too tired to even question it at this point!
Instead, at 1:06am on Monday, February 4 they lifted our baby up above the curtain as soon as she was delivered for me to see. I was ok with this as I get queasy easily and am not sure how I would have reacted watching anyway.
Since I first learned about the natural cesarean the biggest appeal to me was the skin-to-skin contact. With my previous 3 deliveries, I didn’t get to hold the babies until the recovery room.
Instead, I would touch and admire from a distance.
Don’t get me wrong, each time I felt grateful that a healthy baby was born that my husband could hold them as I looked on. I can’t imagine how mothers, like my sister, feel when their baby(ies) are taken immediately to the NICU and it may be days or weeks before they are able to hold their baby.
However, for a healthy delivery there really seems to be little reason why the mother should not be able to hold her baby while still in the operating room.
I didn’t receive immediate skin-to-skin, but after our baby girl was briefly assessed and weighed she was brought to my chest. I held onto her as they finished the procedure and we bonded skin-to-skin. I asked to nurse her, but they wanted me to wait until the recovery room. I would have insisted, but my babies have always latched on easily and she was content lying on my chest.
Although everything didn’t go exactly as planned, the most important thing was that we were blessed with another beautiful baby to love. As a bonus, I will forever treasure the experience of the early skin-to-skin.
My hope is still to bring awareness to women and medical professionals about the option of a natural cesarean. Since things do not always go as expected, it’s always a good idea to have a cesarean birth plan even if you are planning on a natural vaginal delivery.
7 lbs. 12 oz., 21.5 inches
Our fourth bundle of love will always be a reminder to focus on what’s important, learn to go with the flow and live life with serenity and grace.
I would love to hear your experience with a natural cesarean, immediate skin-to-skin, letting go, or other tips that may help other woman with their own positive birth story.
Tips for a Positive C-Section
- Have a C-section birth plan in place whether you have it already scheduled or are planning a vaginal delivery. It’s always better to have a plan so your medical team knows your wishes, even if things don’t go as planned!
- Choose a morning delivery time. If you have a choice in scheduling, choose first thing in the morning. You can’t eat or drink anything for 8 hours prior to delivery. Fasting through the night is much easier than the day! My first delivery was scheduled at 5pm, so my day was very rough and I spent the first minutes in the recovery room throwing up from the pain medicine. Not a very natural or positive experience! Morning deliveries are much easier!
- Ask if you can play calming music during the surgery. This is routine with vaginal deliveries, but not as common in the operating room. I didn’t think about it until after my 4th delivery, but I know it would have helped me relax. My husband was taking pictures with my iPhone, so it would have been really simple just to turn on Pandora or ITunes.
- Practice and prepare for positive self-talk, meditation, or distraction during delivery. This is one thing I wish I would have done. My 4th delivery was more uncomfortable than my first three for some reason. Instead of trying to think positively or distract myself from the fact that I could feel the pulling, I focused on it. The anesthesiologist had done all she could, so I needed to let go. I was just not prepared for it and couldn’t get over it, which made it much worse.
- Remember to stay positive and go with the flow if things don’t go as planned!
Helpful Articles & Resources
The Family Centered Cesarean – International Cesarean Awareness Network Blog
Evidence for Skin-to-Skin Care after a Cesarean
10 Ways to Have a More “Natural” Cesarean
Birth Plan Tips
Creating a C-Section Birth Plan
When A Cesarean is Necessary – Making a Plan
Birth Story – ‘woman-centered’ emergency C-Section with Delayed Clamping
Powerful Labor, Gentle Cesarean, Breastfed on Operating Table
Journal to a Natural Cesarean Birth of Twins
The Women’s Guide to VBAC
VBAC After 2 C-Sections
Systematic Review on VBACS
Is Your Doctor VBAC Friendly?