Our society views cesarean birth a lot differently than it does vaginal birth. If you’ve had a cesarean yourself, you probably know EXACTLY what I mean. Without even meaning to, good-intentioned people can make comments that imply that belly birth is the “easy way out”, that you “got lucky” or perhaps most hurtful of all, that “the ONLY thing that matters, is a happy healthy baby.” I’m here to tell you that there’s plenty of room left in the equation to make sure that the mom who just risked her life to give life to her baby is also happy and healthy.
Many people seem surprised when I tell them that I attend planned, repeat and emergency cesareans, offering just as much support as I do to women who have vaginal births. Birth, no matter how you plan to do it, can be scary and overwhelming. So, how do I assist women who are having c-sections? The answer might surprise you, but in many of the same ways I support women who don’t have them. For example, I provide continuous emotional support before, during and after belly births. (Did you know: Many hospitals and doctors will allow your doula to join you AND your partner in the OR, especially if you ask during your pregnancy.) I am a hand to hold, a calm voice, and a familiar smile, who has been there before. In situations where I may not be able to go back with you, I am still able to help. Prior to your surgery, I can walk through what to expect, as well as answer any last minute questions you might have. Usually, when the OR is ready for you, the nurses will come to get you, and tell your partner to wait in the room. This is an especially nerve-wracking time for partners, but with a doula in the room to reassure Dad prior to rejoining you, he’ll come into the OR much more confident and focused.
After a cesarean is completed, women are moved to a recovery room. Lots of “doula-ing” happens in those rooms. When women first get out of surgery, it can be difficult to get comfortable. It is my job to transorm an uncomfortable and unfamiliar environment into a warm and safe place for my clients. If you have questions about your birth, I can help answer them, as well as take your first family photo. Breastfeeding can be tricky at first for any mom, but after major abdominal surgery, it can be more even more difficult. I help moms find positions that are comfortable for nursing, as well as teaching them what a good latch looks and feels like, and how to get it on their own. If, for some reason the baby does need to go to the NICU, many moms want their partner to stay with the baby. In these situations, I stay with the mother, providing extra emotional support and even helping her to pump breastmilk to send for her baby, if she wants to.
Just like with a vaginal delivery, I provide undivided comfort and support, helping to ease the minds of my clients, however I am able. In situations where birth has been traumatic, I acknowledge that the situation has been difficult, and give my clients the space to talk about it, if they are ready. It is part of my job to reflect and protect how women view their birth, as well as to help them process what has gone on. If women are unclear on parts of their story, I am able to help fill in the gaps, which can help reduce symptoms of PTSD. As I help women process their story, I remind them of the good parts of their birth, as well as the things they did that impressed me, helping repaint the story within their mind, which may lead to lower chances of postpartum mood disorders. If a client needs more support in addition to this, I can help her gather resources in the community as well as help her select a trauma therapist.
At the end of the day, the main focus of my job is to help make birth better for families. That looks different for every client of mine, regardless of how they give birth, but of course, doulas are for cesareans, too. If you or someone you know is planning to give birth soon and you think they might benefit from this kind of support, I’d love to chat and see if I can be of assistance. You can find my contact information here.