I stood in the silent fluorescent lit hallway donning scrubs while my wife was rushed off to the OR. One minute she was inhaling laughing gas like it was free and the next minute we were surrounded by a dozen medical professionals preparing her for surgery.
Our home water-birth plan didn’t include the hospital, let alone a cesarean. I was gripped with fear, no doubt because of the sheer exhaustion from almost 24 hours supporting her labour, but also the fear that this could end badly.
My mind took me to all kinds of crazy places. I was scared. Worst case scenarios played out in my mind. As I paced the long corridor in anticipation, tears rolled down my cheeks. Like an angel, out of the silence appeared our rock solid midwife. She embraced me and assured me everything was going to be OK.
Although my fears were real, the reality was that my wife or my son might not have survived such a major surgery if it wasn’t the 21st century, in Canada, and we didn’t have such a great medical system and team supporting us.
Women have birthed babies since the beginning of time, and have done so with minimal support. And the reality is, that sometimes things go smoothly and other times not so smoothly. We are thankfully living in a day and age when maternal and infant fatalities are low. We can plan, prepare and take action so much faster than ever before.
My wife and I both know that if she had not been given the option of a cesarean birth that either her or our son would not have made it. That’s something to celebrate and something I am grateful for every day.
April is Cesarean Awareness month so I wanted to dispel these 6 MYTHS around cesarean births and post-partum recovery:
When you think about it, how could your pelvic floor not be affected if you carried the weight of a blueberry that grew into a watermelon in your womb for nine months?? Yet many people still believe this myth. The pelvic floor is a series of muscles that support our internal organs as well as the weight of our babies. Regardless if you give birth by cesarean or vaginally, your pelvic floor still plays a major role in the process of pregnancy. Don’t underestimate the benefit of retraining the core no matter how you birthed your wee one.
Using slang terms or short forms for something major like a birth experience is frowned upon by many people in the birthing community as well as moms. A ‘C-section’ is a medical procedure. It diminishes the fact that a cesarean is actually a form of birth. Many mamas carry enough guilt around their birth experience that being conscious of the terms you use around them will go a long way. Call it a cesarean birth.
A cesarean birth is the most invasive major surgery a woman can go through. The abdominal muscles are separated, the body is opened and exposed to bacteria and a mom is left with a scar susceptible to infection and other complications. Although most women go through this experience smoothly, this is not something to be diminished or thought of as a ‘routine procedure’.
The recovery after birth for a cesarean is longer and in many cases more challenging than a vaginal birth. Given that layers of muscle in your core are cut to enable the baby to be taken out, this leads to longer recovery times and even complications like infections and poor healing. Lifting any amount of weight, including your baby, is also a challenge as the body begins to recover. Caring for your baby, managing the daily needs of the household and your return to an active lifestyle will take that much longer. An important time to slow down and honour the miracle of your body!
Something known as a VBAC is a vaginal birth after cesarean. There are many doctors and historical research that says this is not possible, but as time has passed research has proven otherwise. Will every woman that has had a first child by cesarean successfully birth their second child vaginally if they choose? No. But, the option is available to most women and can be successful.
Each experience is different as are the circumstances around the birthing process. Remember that a woman’s body was created to birth babies. Do not let fear or the opinions of others deter you from a vaginal birth in the future, if your body and baby are healthy and capable.
Some women feel that not giving birth vaginally is not a real or true birth. This could not be further from the truth. Your body created your baby, carried your baby, nourished your baby, and maybe even laboured for a time. No matter how your baby comes out, your story is your own and true to you.
If you or someone you know has experienced a cesarean birth, remember to give thanks for modern technology and for the options that exist that save lives. As well, be sensitive that she may be carrying some feelings of failure or guilt. I know my wife did.
Nothing I shared here is to persuade you one way or another or say one option is good and another is bad. It is simply meant to honour every birthing process and bring awareness to cesarean births. The truth is that regardless of the way in which your baby is born, it is your story and your journey; honour it with confidence, mama.
You are brave, you are strong and you are powerful.
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