In the “birthy world”, CBAC or “Cesarean Birth After Cesarean” refers to a belly birth that was initially planned to be a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). In cases like this, sometimes simply saying “repeat cesarean” negates the significance of the decision to birth again via cesarean. As someone who has personally travelled this road, I share the story of my second child’s birth, a family-centered, gentle cesarean, in the hopes that it can bring healing and comfort to others whose birth stories may not have gone *quite* as planned.
The dense heat of the Florida summer air hit my face as I opened the car door. I was parched, despite sneaking a few sips of water to keep that nasty, constant companion of heartburn at bay. At 41 weeks 1 day, I was tired. Weeks of nightly (and daily) prodromal labor had left me exhausted, depleted. My whole body ached to finally hold my little girl.
“It’s your birthday, Ingrid!”, I whispered to my swollen belly, feeling its tightness once more and pushing that obstinate little foot, always stuck in my ribs, to a more comfortable position. I grabbed my favorite pillow and reached for my husband’s steady hand before heading towards the fluorescent-lit entrance of the Family Birth Center.
She wiggled in response to my voice and moved her foot right back.
As I completed the hospital admission forms and surgical consents, my birth playlist cycled through the carefully chosen songs that I’d accumulated over the last three years. The room was filled with laughter and love, as it should be when a child is about to be born, and I was calm and content. As my dreams of having a VBAC faded into the distance, I eagerly anticipated meeting my daughter.
The nurse unhooked me from the monitors, and I maneuvered my way to the edge of the bed, dangling my legs off the side for a second before I stood. I nervously fiddled with the ties of the gown that I’d brought with me, the one that I’d purchased for her birth before she was even conceived.
It was time.
My doula and birth photographer faded into the background, as my husband and I shared one last moment together before her arrival. Always my rock, he whispered tenderly in my ear, “You’re so brave. We’re gonna meet her soon, babe.” He kissed my neck, my cheek, my lips, and I smiled at him with tears in my eyes.
I, myself, walked to the OR.
It was cold.
I awkwardly climbed onto the slim surgical table, trying to center my very pregnant self on its tiny surface while shimmying my gown up to expose my belly.
I remembered the uncontrollable shaking from last time and tried to fight it as I felt the anesthesia taking hold, moving up my lead legs and climbing towards my chest. I’d forgotten that feeling, but it came rushing back as I gasped, “I can’t breathe; I can’t breathe”, knowing full well that I could if I was saying those words.
The nurse anesthetist put her hands gently on my shoulders, and said, “Bethany, I want you to think about your baby. What’s her name? What do you think she’ll look like? Does she have any siblings?”
I inhaled deeply and intentionally, blinking furiously as tears trembled on my eyelashes. As I answered her questions, my mind began to calm once again.
Seconds later, my husband was there, stroking my shoulders, kissing my forehead, whispering words of encouragement in my ear as he sat beside me.
“Everyone’s in here,” he said, “Samantha, Cassie…just how you wanted…”
I smiled, still shaking, thankful for his presence and the stability that he brought to my soul in that moment.
I heard the door of the OR open and the chatter of familiar voices as the remnants of the surgical team assembled.
“All right, Bethany,” I heard from the other side of the drape, “You ready to meet this baby?”
I nodded: “Let’s do this.”
I grasped Doug’s hand and held tight.
I visualized the whole process in my mind as the familiar smells of surgery filled the suite. I felt the pressure of my abdomen being stretched and pulled to accommodate her entrance. It felt like an eternity. Then, finally:
“Here she comes!”
“Drop the drape! Drop the drape!”
Doug ceremoniously stood to greet her, still holding my hand.
The blue curtain was yanked down, and I strained to catch a glimpse of her as she was lifted from my belly. She cried immediately, justifiably appalled at being forced to leave the warmth and dark of my womb. Dr. Graham held her wriggling body over the limp blue curtain.
Ingrid glared at me in all her newborn glory.
“You can touch her if you want…just don’t touch me because I’m all cleaned up for surgery.”
It was surreal.
My hand trembled as I reached out to grasp her tiny, wet fingers as she enthusiastically announced her presence.
“We’re gonna take her to the warmer, dry her off so she doesn’t get too cold in here, listen to her heart real quick, and bring her right back.”
My husband followed her.
I could see her the whole time.
My doula stayed with me, stroking my hair, talking to me, telling me how beautiful Ingrid was.
Barely a minute later, I watched as Douglas carried our daughter back to me, cradling her gently in his strong, capable arms. His brilliant blue eyes, accentuated by the surgical cap and mask, sparkled with tears of joy. He helped me open my gown, snuggling her onto my chest, skin-to-skin, just minutes after her arrival.
She melted into my warmth, half-heartedly rooting, alternating between protesting her arrival and staring at me and her daddy with her dark, wise newborn eyes. I kissed her – kissed her dark hair, her perfect button nose, the sweet curve of her cupid’s bow. I felt her soft, warm skin against mine. I breathed in her smell and marveled at her tiny fingers.
Douglas wiped away my tears, as we laughed together, rejoicing in our daughter’s birth.
It was perfect.
Ingrid Alexandra, our sweet girl, our strong baby, born on July 12, 2016 at 07:53.
Birth experience submitted by Bethany B.
Photographs by Cassie Ringl of New Light Birth Photography.