A guest post

Phew! I just submitted my last 2 assignments to finish my third quarter of graduate school! It’s been a busy few weeks and I’m looking forward to a much needed break (from school at least). Anyone else headed to the pumpkin patch? Berry picking is on the agenda this week for our family–it’s a September tradition!

I’m so excited to introduce you to my friend, Courtney, who has a really thoughtful post for us on dealing with a cesarean birth and bonding with your baby after surgery. Courtney is a fantastic labor and delivery nurse who is passionate about advocating for moms and babies. She also happens to be a rock star mom! Read her bio and then enjoy part of her story…

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Dealing with a Cesarean Delivery

I had no idea what to expect with the birth of my first son. I spent the last days of my pregnancy watching “A Baby Story,” imagining my perfect labor, birth, and breastfeeding experience. When I was told at 41 weeks I would need to be induced for oligohydramnios (low amniotic fluid) I stayed positive (and naïve) thinking I would still have this beautiful experience I had been imaging. Even after ten hours of little cervical change, an epidural, Pitocin, terbutaline, and oxygen, I never expected the doctor to come in and say “you need a c-section.”

I broke down, I cried, I called my Mom, and I slept until they wheeled me back to the operating room. I saw my son, Ethan for a couple minutes in the operating room and then I had to wait a couple of hours before I saw him again. They brought him in the recovery room and I attempted to breastfeed, though he had already received a bottle in the nursery. He would not latch right away (which, sadly, began our 6-month relationship with the nipple shield). Then he was taken away again.

I waited in my postpartum room for him for hours. I was told he was cold and needed to be under the warmer, I asked for the warmer to be brought into my room and I was told just to rest. How could I rest? I had been waiting to meet my son for ten months, feeling him kick at night, waiting to hold him. They finally brought Ethan in at 7am (he was born at 2am) and when I started feeling post-op pain, they hooked up a dilaudid PCA (a form of anesthesia I could control through my IV). I spent the rest of that first day so out of it I could barely hold him and breastfeeding was a nightmare.

For the next two days, doctors I had never met came in to do their rounds on me and asked me “why did you have a c-section?” When I expressed grief over my surgery everyone’s response was “you have a healthy baby and a healthy mom, that’s all that matters.” I wanted to scream! That is not how I felt and I didn’t know why people were not sympathetic to that.

I spent the next couple of years enjoying my beautiful son and dealing with the grief and depression I had over his birth. I started working as a labor nurse when Ethan was 2 years old and I was already 18 weeks pregnant with my second son. Working in labor and delivery gave me perspective on things and I felt a little better about my experience. When I was planning for my second son’s birth I took hypnobirthing classes (totally foreign at my hospital at the time!) and planned a natural VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). I was encouraged toward the end of my pregnancy to consider a repeat c-section due to his estimated large size and nuchal cord (cord wrapped around baby’s neck) that was seen on ultrasound but I stayed strong and believed in my body.

I had the birth I wanted. That experience helped me complete the grieving process.

I now feel that I was meant to have those experiences so that I can help my patients have the best experience possible. I have realized that the worst part of a cesarean is not the recovery or missing out on a vaginal birth… it’s not having your baby with you. There is no reason why a healthy baby cannot do skin-to-skin in the operating room. I feel blessed to have a new position at my hospital that allows me to do baby transitions so that I can facilitate bonding in the operating room.

Facilitating early skin-to-skin contact and bonding is still foreign for many providers and anesthesiologists but with each baby I put on mom’s chest, I feel like this practice will be the norm in the future! I encourage moms to ask for skin-to-skin contact in the operating room and to be proactive in insisting the baby stay with her if at all possible. As long as the baby is thoroughly dried off and her temperature taken often there is no reason the baby has to be whisked off to the recovery room with dad, leaving the mom all alone on the operating table. I encourage all mothers to talk to their health care provider in the office prenatally about skin-to-skin in the OR because it is often a reasonable request, backed by clear evidence that shows it is the best option for both mother and baby.

Expect the unexpected when it comes to childbirth. Have a flexible birth plan and talk to your provider about it before you go into labor. Be educated but not defensive. Being relaxed and positive is going to be your biggest asset in labor. For those considering a VBAC, go for it!!! The last hospital I worked for had a 91% success rate for VBACs; ask what your hospital’s VBAC rate is. If your provider/hospital does not offer this option, considering switching to one that does.

VBAC is a safe choice for most women! #VBAC #skin-to-skin

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Thanks so much for sharing your story, Courtney!

We’d love to hear from you, dear readers: Have you had a similar experience? For those of you who have had a c-section birth, how was your postpartum bonding experience?

If you have any questions or comments for Courtney, please post them!

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