Compassionate Elective Cesarean Birth {Photographer’s Point of View}

by Ruthiepedia on April 9, 2013

A story as told by the birth photographer, Angela

This is Jessica’s story, but also in some strange way, it became mine as well because I can honestly say it changed my views. As I type this, I’m assuming Jessica is cuddling her sweet baby boy – who she brought home a little over a week ago.

Jessica decided to have an elective C-Section. Why? What? WHY!? Those were the thoughts I had when I heard about it. You see, I have become a sort of birth junkie (it’s true what they say, Oxytocin is kin to crack – you get hooked with just one hit).  I had an amazing, natural birth with my second son (although trust me, it wasn’t one of those beautiful, peaceful, calm, quiet ones that I’ve seen – you know who you are out there & I applaud you!) almost a year ago, and after experiencing that you want everyone to see how wonderful, beautiful, and simply empowering it can be. But Jessica experienced that resonating birth high when she watched our friend Megan catch her own baby in a pool set up in her living room.  So when Jessica said she was getting a C-Section, I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of it. BUT she is my friend and it was her choice.

Why would anyone want to do this some of you might be thinking? I’ll tell you why: Birth Trauma. Some people don’t think it’s real – some people don’t think it can happen and that people who SAY they have it are exaggerating. It is very real and alive in our world, which makes me sad. One of the most amazing things we are supposed to experience as women is taken from us by a lack of education, a lack of support, and lack of belief in today’s society that women’s bodies CAN do this. I wasn’t there when Jessica had her first baby, but what I do know is that it was an induction and it was everything she DIDN’T want but was TOLD she needed. She didn’t have trust with her doctors; decisions were made FOR her instead of WITH her. You can see that it affected her in such a negative way and she wanted to avoid it happening again so much that she decided to have an elective surgery. To me, that alone shows me that there should be no question that birth trauma is a very real and scary thing, affecting the women around us.

When Jessica asked me to photograph their birth, my whole level of anxiety went up.  I of course said yes, and wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

I couldn’t sleep the night before. The next morning I couldn’t eat because I was so nervous. Not only was I photographing this, I was worried about my friend. I met Jessica and her husband at the hospital at 7 am. She was radiant- she had slept well the night before, she felt 100% confident in her decision and was ready to meet her baby boy. Jessica wrote a VERY specific birth plan. I sat with them while the anesthesiologist and OB came in and talked to her about everything – and to my surprise, guess what they did?! THEY READ HER BIRTH PLAN!! Not only did they read it, but they respected it. They explained everything that she would be getting. How the procedure would go. They talked the WHOLE thing over with her. I was in utter shock. Memories of when I had my first son came back to me. With him, I gave my OB a birth plan and he looked it over and said “okay, we’ll see how it goes” and stuck it in the back of my folder. A birth that tumbled into a ton of interventions I didn’t want followed for me. Oddly enough, just seeing how they were respecting her wishes started to calm ME down.

I walked in nervously into the OR. I had never been in an OR room. I was still nervous.  It almost felt like for me, when you first board an airplane and you’re supposed to look for your emergency exits. Her OB is amazing. He had been my OB a year before and many of my friends as well had gone to him – he is truly the best of the best. She was in good hands. Seeing him calmed me down as well. That’s when I realized everyone was calm, except for me. I needed to snap out of it.

I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I was told to sit on a chair against a wall a bit away from them. So I sat…and then, the OB said “you better get over here if you want to see this baby”.  I got up and as I did, they lowered the curtain – Jessica propped herself up and then, the most amazing thing happened: James Brody entered the world.

The OB immediately put baby James into her hands and she put him to her chest. They didn’t cut the cord right away. They might have a surgical sheet between them, but they were still connected.  They never once asked to take him. They let them have their moment. They were able to look at each other and get to know each other face to face now.  She was able to start breast feeding as soon as she wanted to. Her husband was able to meet his son in his wife’s arms. There was no “hey this is your baby now we’re going to go wrap them up in a million blankets and put them near your head for a quick picture and then you can hold them later.”After a while the midwife asked if she could get the baby’s vitals and Jessica obliged – still beaming. Nothing was done that Jessica wasn’t aware of, or that wasn’t what she wanted. I can honestly say, with tears coming to my eyes as I’m reminiscing: it was a beautiful birth.

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I never thought a cesarean section could be so lovely. My wish is that if a c-section is necessary that it would be just like hers.  It’s not something that I would personally want….but, I haven’t been through what she’s been through. What I learned through all of this is we can’t judge.  We can only support.  I support women making a decision on their own. For being educated, supported, and believed in. That they get the kind of birth THEY want. I cannot support someone making the decision for you – someone telling you this has to happen and you just simply saying “okay”.  Jessica’s first time around didn’t go at all how she planned. This time it did. She made a decision knowing all the facts. She was not TOLD she was going to have to do something she didn’t want to do. She had support, she had a birth team who advised her of the risks, but who also understood her history and tried to make it right the second time around.  What I want is for every woman’s first birth to be their best birth. For caring medical teams who understand what birth means for a woman. How empowering it is meant to be no matter where: your bed at home, a birth pool in your dining room, a hospital room, or an operating table.

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

annine April 9, 2013 at 12:12 pm

This is a great story! I think your whole point about how empowering it can be no matter how a woman births is so important. I had a fantastic hospital birth and I sometimes feel I have to justify that, or make excuses for it not being “natural”. I had an epidural and honestly, that made all the positive difference to me. I look back at my birth experience with real pleasure and feel just as empowered.

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Belinda April 9, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Thank you! Baby number one went over 24 hrs of labor so i had to have c-section, baby number 2 was a trial labor (uterus ruptured) so c-section again, so now here we are about to have baby number three and of course planned c-section this time. I did not know that a c-section could be like that! Cant wait till my doctor appt. in the morning because i want to have this kind of experience!

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April April 9, 2013 at 1:09 pm

As the mother of three beautiful children, one in heaven and two on Earth, I can say that a cesarian birth that produces a live, healthy child, is a beautiful birth to me. My son passed away during vaginal birth due to a shoulder dystocia and resulting cord compression at 39 weeks.

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SusanB June 15, 2013 at 12:15 pm

April, sharing my sympathy to you and your whole family. <3
And yet you still are sharing your compassion with others.

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Brooke November 30, 2013 at 2:09 pm

I couldn’t agree more April. My first son was born naturally (if you can call it that) after shoulder dystocia and cord compression with a fractured skull and resulting autism. It was the most horrific thing I have ever experienced. My 2nd son was born via elective c-section and was very much the experience shared here, uplifting, beautiful and a walk in the park compared to my first experience with less recovery time. Any birth that results in a healthy mother and baby is a successful birth. We are blessed to have our first born still with us. My condolences go out to your family.

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TJ April 9, 2013 at 1:19 pm

I had 2 vaginal births, before my c-section. Neither traumatic, but also not natural. The first I was determined to go natural, so much so that when I finally was so exhausted that I had the epi, I wasn’t all there for the birth mentally or physically. The second birth, I had to be induced (again) and I let them know I wanted the epi as soon as they broke my water. I loved every moment of that birth. My twins were born via c-section at the recommended 37 weeks due to Twin to Twin Transfusion. Their arrival was just as beautiful as my first two births.

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JessicaD April 9, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Absolutely fabulous that she got the birth she wanted.
Heartbreaking she couldn’t have been so respected the first time around…

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Ashley @ Forgetful Momma April 9, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Beautifully written and photographed! I feel/felt the same way you did about c-sections. I’ve never heard of anyone having an elective c-section but I don’t think it is openly available or talked about in Canada.

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Daleth June 10, 2014 at 3:06 pm

It actually is, although it seems to depend on the hospital. I’m actually reading a book about it right now by a Canadian urogynecologist:
http://www.amazon.com/Choosing-Cesarean-Natural-Birth-Plan/dp/1616145110

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Cherie April 9, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Having an OB who listens is a must. The one I had when I had my daughter refused to listen to me and even told me I didn’t need birthing classes. Her birth, while uneventful, left me feeling like I had missed out on something important. When I had my son (3 weeks ago) I had a different OB and he allowed me to have the natural birth I wanted. He supported MY decisions and allowed my husband and I to have our child the way we wanted to. I will definitely be seeing him when I have my next child.

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Skye April 9, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Beautiful, beautiful story, and beautiful baby with incredibly wise eyes. I’m so glad he had such a gentle entry to this world.

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Cece April 9, 2013 at 4:52 pm

What a lovely story!

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Gwendolyn Wilkins April 9, 2013 at 5:44 pm

What an absolutely wonderful, eye-opening story!
Thanks very much for sharing :)

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Anna Wilde April 9, 2013 at 6:18 pm

I felt moved to write a comment… I never have before although I so enjoy receiving the posts from this blog. Thank you team and mamas!
I am a therapist and I specialize in working with prevention and healing of birth trauma. This story moved me, because many of the women I see have had one or two bad birth experiences that left them feeling out of control, distressed and traumatized. Although I can totally understand how after such an experience a scheduled c-section would be the most attractive option, many women simply don’t know it is possible to completely heal the painful emotions assoicated with birth (and miscarriage/stillbirth) trauma, and move on to such an extent that they are happy and excited to have another go at birthing. In fact almost all my clients have one or two, at the most three sessions, and leave saying wow, I can have reached a point of acceptance/understanding/forgiveness and I feel OK about birth now. They arrive feeling terrified about birth, and leave feeling calm and confident again. This is not a plug for my work. I love my work, but it is more to share my experience that trauma and fear is not permanent, and there are some very powerful and effective healing processes that some therapists use now to heal stuck pain and literally re-write someones ‘emotional perception’ of what actually happened. It is awesome! That said I am not an absolutist about normal birth. I have also supported women who need a caesarian to feel calm and empowered in a medical setting, even when that is what they most feared (being in hopsital).

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Daleth June 10, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Healing work like what you do is so important. That said, what if your patients heal from their previous trauma only to go on to another birth that creates more trauma? I guess what I’m saying is that healing from past birth trauma, while very deep and important, has very little to do with whether your NEXT childbirth experience will be traumatic. So I think it’s extremely important for women to have absolute freedom of choice about whether they want to deliver vaginally or via cesarean.

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Kate September 24, 2014 at 9:10 pm

Daleth, you make no sense. What I heard from you was that women should just wait until they’re done having babies to seek treatment for birth trauma because what’s the point? The next one might be traumatic, too! Freedom of choice isn’t going to save a woman from birth trauma. And it isn’t going to help her heal either. Women have freedom of choice NOW. The problem is that doctors completely ignore that and do what they want to do. Women should have the FINAL SAY in the decisions for their birth. And even that won’t completely eliminate the risk of birth trauma. Because trauma comes in MANY forms.

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Alicia April 9, 2013 at 6:31 pm

That’s exactly how I’d want another c/s to go if it was in God’s plan for the birth to go that way. I wish these happened everywhere, and I’m glad women are asking for them!!

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laura April 9, 2013 at 11:58 pm

What A wonderful story!! I had my little one in September 2011, I wanted a natural Birth and unfortunatly had to have a c-section. I had the most wonderful experience. A had a birth plan but only. Set in my mind I never discussed it with my doctors(to my surprise they did exactly what I wanted) From the moment I checked into the hospital all just went well! During the operation, I had no screen in front of me my explained everything single step to me, the paed actually lifted my upper body as they my baby was emergining so I saw everything as he was pulled out, they put him immediately onto my bare chest to latch onto my Breast, I still remembr his wet littlE body against my face- nothing can beat that feeling!! I had the Most amazing Experience thanx to my awesome gynae, thanks Bronwyn.

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Arlene April 10, 2013 at 5:03 am

I have complete empathy for this woman and her story. I have had two births, one vaginal delivery and the second was emergency C-section. Both deliveries were difficult and I feel that I suffered 16 plus hour and so did my babies. My only wish if I had to do it all over again is that as soon as my gut told me that my cervix was not going to open and no amount of pitocin would make it happen either I would have insisted on having a c-section. It seemed like everyone was waiting for the last minute and by then both of my little babies were traumatized.

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Lise April 10, 2013 at 5:49 am

Wonderful story, tears well up. Such a strong woman. To know what you want and demand it, believe in it.
As a midwife i´ve often experienced how midwives and doctors take more time and more consideration with the woman, where we know, the woman has trauma in the past story. If only every woman would be treated “as if”, with the same care, love and tenderness, so we could do our best to hinder ANY birth trauma. I hope someday you´ll look at your trauma and maybe discover that there is precious learning and soul searching in even the most dark spaces. Congratulations on the beautiful baby!

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Mrs. W April 10, 2013 at 11:03 am

Thank-you for posting this, it is a beautiful post and congratulations to your friend on the non-traumatic addition of her child. It clearly demonstrates the need for better understanding and respect for women who choose to birth via cesarean section – as too often, it is far to easy to judge mothers choosing cesarean as it is a choice that many other women would not make.

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Becca April 10, 2013 at 11:16 am

I had both an at home experience and a necessary c-section. After doing every position (between 4 birth professionals, I made sure I tried everything to get that baby out!–including having my midwife reach in and try to turn the baby, which was the MOST painful part of the whole birth process), we went to the hospital for an epidural and after four boluses (!) of epidural, I still wasn’t able to either rest or push the baby out. After asking EVERYONE if I had tried ALL the tricks, methods, etc., I finally said, with all the conviction and sincerity I had in me, “I am at peace with my decision to have a c-section. I simply want to meet my baby now.” Just saying that helped me feel empowered with my decision and even though the process was out of my control, I was able to give birth surgically and meet my baby with no fear. Thanks for sharing these stories…

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Malina April 11, 2013 at 6:11 am

I had an elective c-section 4 weeks ago because of the birth trauma I still have from birthing my daughter naturally with no drugs 2 years ago. I was ignored and neglected by the midwife as were all of my requests in the delivery room. I still can’t decide which I prefer with natural or c-section. They were both pretty brutal. C-section definitely isn’t pain free like alot of girls think.

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Mamalade April 10, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Thanks for sharing this beautiful story, I am glad she got the birth she wanted and that she came through it with such great memories (and photos! kudos to you, too!). I did want to add that OBs should be offering family-centered cesareans even if it’s not elective and scheduled. I have heard OBs offer this kind of thing, but you have to agree with it ahead of time. At most hospitals, if they offer it at all, trying for a natural birth or induction, if you end up needing a c/s then it’s not an option even though it could be. I look forward to the day that all women are given the respect to decide what they want, given a good chance to have it, and if an emergency arises that they can STILL be treated with care and love. We all deserve that. Blessings and love to this beautiful mama.

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Amber @Beyond Postpartum April 10, 2013 at 4:30 pm

I had a very, very traumatic birth that I believe exacerbated horrible PPD. While I labored naturally for 36 hours, my birth experience ended in a horrific c-section that felt (and looked thanks to my arms being strapped down at my sides) like a crucifixion. Because my GYN spent several years educating me about my very low chance of vaginal (let alone natural, vaginal) birth- something like 10%, I opted for a c-section the second time, as well. I spent many months planning this birth and postpartum experience and it was so very beautiful and incredibly empowering and reconciling. My “family centered” or “natural” c-section (google it- it is a British technique) was essentially equivalent to a vaginal birth, except that my son slowly crawled out of my abdominal incision instead of vagina. I made the best decision ever to have chosen this option. It was safest physically and emotionally for all involved. Thank you for opening the eyes of your readers to this perspective. So many advocates (ICAN especially) miss the mark by demeaning one birth option in order to promote another. Raising awareness and supporting all moms should be the only goal of any of us who consider advocacy our call.

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Cheryl Milligan (Jessica's mom) April 10, 2013 at 5:12 pm

I WAS with Jessica at the induction and birth of her first baby, Cambrey. You are correct. She didn’t get a chance to have much input on her birth plan because there basically wasn’t one. I believe the only true choices she had was her doctor and to have an epidural. I was with her the night the night before she gave birth. Neither of us slept much. As the actual labor began, she was unconfortable. Jessica is brave almost daring to a fault. I had never seen her in real pain until that day. Labor is supposed to be painful, but this young woman could get no relief. I got on the small twin birthing bed she was on, and tried to help the pain by rubbing her back–not very helpful unfortunately. She kept asking me and then every medical person that came in for an epidural. They wanted her to wait until she was four cm. Finally, the moment came to get her epidural! Almost immediate relief. I felt confident to leave the room for lunch. While I was gone, I received a phone call that said, “Jessica is ready to push-you might want to come back!” The elevator could not move fast enough for my younger daughter Jennifer and me. She did not push very long (it seemed to me). Cambrey was born! I was a Grammy. Jenn was an Aunt. More importantly, Jessica was a Mom–I mean Mum. I was able to cut the cord which was an amazing experience for me–However, the birthing bed was so elevated that Jessica didn’t feel able to hold Cambrey at that time. No medical personnal lay Cambrey on Jessica in order for some bonding to begin. I regret that for her. On the other hand, I was blessed by being one of the very first to hold Cam after she was weighed and measured. That was on of the most amazing gifts I have ever received! I’m glad England has a much better system for mothers-to-be for Jessica this time. Maybe the USA will learn from the Mother Country.

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Laura April 10, 2013 at 7:28 pm

We almost lost our son due to a prolapsed cord during his labor. After laboring for over 10 hours, we had an extreme emergency c-section, and I was put under and the baby was out within 5 minutes, to save his life. He had to be resuscitated and intubated following delivery, and spent the first 5 days of his life in Special Care. I hemorrhaged during the delivery and needed transfusions, as well as an extended recovery period in the hospital. I know that our son would not be here and healthy today, if not for the c-section that saved his life. If we are ever to have another child, I would opt for a scheduled c-section, as I could never be in the frame of mind to attempt another vaginal delivery again. Thank you for this moving story of a beautiful c-section birth, and for believing in your friend.

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Sandy April 10, 2013 at 7:45 pm

My daughter had a traumatic first birth. When she became pregnant five years later, she immediately booked in for a c section, then heard about HypnoBirthing. Commenced classes at week 36 and worked hard at practising the HypnoBirthing techniques. Every day,affirmations and relaxations etc, worked so well and gave my daughter the strength and determination to resist all offers of induction. A day before 42 weeks she went into labour and proceeded to have a most beautiful natural birth , my granddaughter born en caul. . . . . . . . . .This magic moment has changed both my daughters’ life and my own. We have both gone on to join the Natural Birth movement and have become HYPNODOULAS and it is our priveledge mother and daughter to walk this sacred path together.

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Angela's Dad April 12, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Thank you for sharing your story…

I love you.
Dad

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Angela April 14, 2013 at 2:12 am

I am glad so many women have responded positively to this story & I truly hope that it can change their births in the future if a C-Section is necessary – and hopefully bringing down PPD rates & empowering women, which it is all about! Thank you BWF for all that you do! :)

Ps: love you too Dad ;)

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Lauran Chapple April 15, 2013 at 8:21 am

Lovely story with a surprising ending! Thanks so much for sharing. I will share this with my soon to be mommas to show them that C-section birth plans can be worth it!

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Michelle Kagan Sandler April 16, 2013 at 8:36 am

This is the article I’ve been just waiting to read! I had a traumatic vaginal birth with my daughter and a planned C Section with my twins. The c section was so peaceful and just beautiful. I wish women didn’t fear it so much.

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Elisa December 4, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Most women fear it so much because this type of c section is definitely the exception, not the norm. Every woman who has a c-section should be treated with this kind of respect, dignity, and compassion.

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Jessica May 13, 2013 at 10:54 am

Thank you so much for posting this story. My baby so far is breech and time is flying by so we have to make the decision to go for it naturally or opt for a C-Section. Both options seem frightening to me, but a C-Section seems like a safer way for the baby. It feels like a more prudent decision, but it also feels very disappointing to me. Everything I have read and am influenced by has seemed to tell me that a C-Section was not really giving birth, that it would be traumatic and the doctors would whisk my baby away without me seeing her, that it didn’t count as “birth”, that it would make the birth less special, or like I missed out on something or didn’t trust my body or took the easy way out. Reading about this makes me feel a lot better that if I do choose that option, it can be a beautiful experience, and is just as valid and makes me just as much of a mother as natural birth. So thank you for that little bit of comfort.

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Irma May 17, 2013 at 7:40 am

Thank you for sharing that story. The birth of my fourth child was an amazing natural experience at a birthing center. Now 8 years later we are having a surprise addition to our family with baby number 5. Unfortunately I have too many complications for a midwife to take me on, and I have just been scheduled for a C-birth. I have been struggling with my feelings about this and trying to make peace with it. I want to bring my son into the world with love and peace and joy yet so many C-birth stories are every nightmare I could imagine pertaining to birth. The last thing I want is to be full of fear when I bring my son into the world. So thank you for showing me that a C- birth can be a beautiful experience.

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L, L&D RN May 24, 2013 at 2:07 am

I recently admitted a woman for the same – planned C-section after traumatic vaginal birth. She was incredibly confident in her decision, and radiant afterwards. She really believed it was the right choice for her, and I feel privileged to have seen someone be able to fully participate in her own birth plan. Maybe it’s not the most natural choice, but sometimes it is the best.

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Claire June 15, 2013 at 3:03 am

I had no choice but to have a C-Section because I had a 7kg fibroid pushing up against my birth canal so if I was to try for a natural birth it would not have worked anyway. I still feel traumatised that I had to have a C-Section, I felt so disconnected with what was happening, honesty I did not bond with my boy till 2 weeks on as I ended up with a big infection in my scar, it took 5 weeks for my milk to come in. I feel like I was stripped of my womanhood, I didn’t even felt a Braxton hick through the pregnancy and the first two weeks of motherhood I just felt like a failure, still do so that’s why I don’t really like to talk to people about the birth. Now nearly 5 months on I love love love my boy, am loving motherhood and comfortably doing both breastfeeding and bottle but just don’t ask me about his birth.

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Michelle June 15, 2013 at 11:24 am

My first was a c-section after 4 days of labor. My second the doctor looked at my pelvic ultrasound, said my pelvis would never open enough to have natural birth and so c-section was planned. It was great! My body knew it was not going to go into natural labor, and so I had no contractions. I was able to hold the baby in the OR rather then having to wait several hours because I was too exhausted. I would always recommend that a woman try to go natural if she can, but a c-section can be beautiful too if done right.

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hot girl daily July 23, 2013 at 3:26 am

Awesome post.

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First House Spouse November 16, 2013 at 5:18 am

Three and a half weeks ago we had our son by unplanned c-section as well. We shared the whole, daunting and detailed First Birth Story – Not According to Plan. Although everything was different than expected and overwhelming at the time, we are a stronger family from it and are simply happy to have our baby boy in the world :)

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Melissa December 3, 2013 at 11:12 am

I had an unplanned emergency c-section and I had an experience like this. As soon as my son was born I got him they took him to weight him my husband went with them. As soon as they were done I got them both back and he never left my side. For what lead up to the c-section it was amazing! My doctor even assured me that he even stitched me up well enough if I wanted a v-bac the next time around!

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Elisa December 4, 2013 at 5:28 pm

That sounds like an AMAZING doctor! How encouraging!

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Sarah December 4, 2013 at 4:50 am

I had planned an elective c-section after we lost a son during the birth. He was early and his heart just stopped. When I was pregnant again, I told my OB (same one) that I wanted a c-section. She was supportive of whatever I felt I needed. Turns out my son was breech so a c-section was necessary anyway. At no point did I EVER feel out of control. Drugged a bit, absolutely, but everyone told me every bit of what was going on, and asked my input at every step of the way. C-sections aren’t evil and women who want them aren’t selfish. I’m glad one more person realized that a birth, any birth, that gives a live baby, and a happy mama, are positives, even if they require significant medical intervention.

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Chelsea April 5, 2014 at 1:07 pm

I had a csection… this brought me to tears. Mine was scheduled but not elective. It was not the worst thing, but it was nothing like this. This story gives me hope that I can one day with my second child, have such a beautiful experience.

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Sarah K April 5, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Tears are flowing…Beautiful Story…Thank you for sharing. Birth Trauma is so real and left wounds on not only my soul but my sweet and supportive husband’s soul. I chose to have an elective c-section for baby #2 and it brought healing much healing in my journey. With baby #1, I pushed for 4+ hours unmedicated before I was sectioned. My heart was broken and so was my husband’s. I NEVER thought I would attempt a unmedicated vaginal birth again. But here I am, almost 5 years after my first birth attempting a vba2c in a couple of weeks. With the support of my husband and an amazing midwife, I will continue my birth without fear journey.

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