By Holly Coombes
Let me tell you about the birth of my third child. I watched her enter the world, my first words being “Oh my God she is HUGE!” as she was lifted from my body. I saw her take her first breath and then wail heartily. She was placed immediately on my upper abdomen, slick, coated in vernix, her skin purple then pink. We waited for the cord to stop pulsating before it was cut. She was then placed naked on my bare chest, both of us snuggled underneath warm towels. She continued to cry strongly, healthily, as the obstetrician replaced the sterile screen and stitched my abdomen back up. Oh, didn’t I mention? She was delivered by caesarean section.
A bit of background. My first two children were both delivered by emergency c-section.
In preparing for both of my first two births, I was determined, DETERMINED, that I was not going to be having a c-section.
I researched. I planned. I practised my birthing techniques. I wrote birth plans. I bounced on swiss balls and practiced yoga and bought Rescue Remedy chews. I learnt the hard way, that birth is one of the few times in modern life where your planning does not necessarily lead to the outcome you were planning for. My first two c-sections were fraught. My memories are of a panicked blur. My children were delivered behind screens, their first cries not seen by me. I never saw them purple, bloody and vernixed (is that a word?). They were whisked away to be cleaned, checked, weighed, labelled. Then wrapped up in a bundle with a hat on, and finally, finally brought to me for viewing. There was no skin-to-skin upon their entry to the world. Something that I cried about long afterwards.
Don’t get me wrong, I was very, very grateful that I had the privilege of medical intervention that saved my baby’s life. I also had a predictable post-birth experience – no infections, no trouble feeding, my body healed quickly and without fuss. But when I reflected on the arrival of my children, I firmly placed their deliveries in the “procedure” column, in which I was a passive recipient. I grieved for the active involvement in a “birth” that I felt I had lost.
When I became pregnant with my third child, a planned c-section was indicated, for good reason.
Whilst I was accepting of this, I felt a grief that I would never be able to fully experience and witness the birth of my child.
As is my pattern: When given options, I turn to research. In my research, I stumbled upon an article written by a British obstetrician who had pioneered what he called a “Woman-Centred C-Section”. The article described the process in detail, and there was also a video example. The abstract alone nailed it for me: “caesarean birth remains entrenched in surgical and resuscitative rituals, which delay parental contact, impair maternal satisfaction and reduce breastfeeding.” As I read and watched, I started to feel some hope. The things that I was grieving for, the ability to watch my child enter the world. To witness her first cries. To be able to hold her immediately upon arrival, naked and skin-to-skin.
Suddenly, I had discovered that there was the possibility that I could have all that WITH a c-section!
Armed with the article, I discussed this with my midwife. She was hesitant and unsure if the local, small rural hospital would consider this option. I made the decision to change midwives, to one who would at least support me to present the idea to the Hospital Obstetrician.