Birth Stories: My Gentle Cesarean
Exactly one week after a failed external cephalic version (ECV) procedure*, I arrived at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland, Oregon, for a scheduled cesarean at 39 weeks pregnant. This was my first pregnancy, and aside from a mild case of gestational diabetes, it was a healthy, happy, and uneventful pregnancy.
I was told to dress down and get comfortable in bed while baby was monitored and I was hooked up to medicine bags. It was all intimidating and overwhelming. I have had plenty of other operations so I’m no stranger to being under the knife, but being wide awake and delivering a baby as the end result was much more intense. The nurses were so gentle and kind, and being able to have my husband next to me from beginning to end made everything so easy.
The doctor was an hour late, but we finally got moving and the real anxiety was on! I had more nausea in those moments than I did my whole pregnancy. We walked to the operating halls, and I watched my husband suit up and put a hair net on my own head. They sat him down on a bench to wait and took me back for my epidural. I sat up on the bright, cold operating table hunched over and hesitantly let the anesthesiologist do her thing. I don’t remember any pain or discomfort, just nausea and warmth.
I remember lying back and hearing them bring my husband into the room. As soon as he sat down we had light conversation and were laughing, enjoying each other’s company as he sat up by my head trying to keep me calm. From there, it seemed like just a few minutes had passed and I was already hearing “Cameras ready?” promptly followed by baby cries. This sent me into my own beautiful, happy hysteria. Within just a couple minutes, the medical team wiped down, weighed and did whatever else they needed to do with our daughter before she was promptly laid on my chest for our first skin to skin while I was being stapled up.
As soon as they helped open my top and set her down on my chest, my little sweet sapling immediately began rooting and latched on the first try. The midwife, my husband and my doctor were all wowed at how quickly and naturally she latched on. We were then wheeled into a quiet, private recovery room where I had a silent nurse do nothing but monitor my stats and pain level for the next two hours. She was very respectful of those first hours of familial bonding and she did not interfere with any of our moments unless we asked her for help. She was kind enough to offer to wash the baby’s hair for us so we could get some good pictures to send off to the family.
Then we were wheeled off to our room. Unfortunately, my supply was slow coming in and baby lost over 10% of her body weight in the hospital. I had to supplement with donor milk for the first week. It was disheartening and scary when I couldn’t get my supply up. Even after weekly lactation appointments for the first three weeks, I was stressed she wasn’t getting enough and I wanted to quit. I just kept thinking about that very first moment with her on my chest. All of the support combined with my daughter’s natural ability to latch gave me confidence to keep going. We are going strong nine months later in the 93rd percentile!
*An external cephalic version (ECV) is a procedure that can sometimes turn a breech baby from buttocks or feet first to head first in order to enable vaginal birth.
Editor’s Note: Breastfeeding after a cesarean birth is sometimes accompanied by challenges due to the use of anesthesia during the birth, recovery from major surgery, etc. Breastfeeding success is attainable, however, and the following links provide information about breastfeeding after a cesarean birth. These suggestions include being with your baby as soon as possible after the birth, experiencing skin-to-skin contact, and having someone available nearby (such as a partner or medical staff) to help move and position baby as you find a comfortable nursing position.
- Breastfeeding After Cesarean Birth: https://www.llli.org/breastfeeding-info/breastfeeding-cesarean-birth/
- Set Yourself Up for Breastfeeding Success after Cesarean Birth: https://lllusa.org/set-yourself-up-for-breastfeeding-success-after-cesarean-section/
Please send your story ideas to Amy at [email protected].
Supporting Breastfeeding Families–Today, Tomorrow, Always
Please consider donating to La Leche League USA.
Donations of any amount are gratefully accepted. Thank you!