By Michelle MacLean
A positive pregnancy test result. All the emotions arise. Excitement, shock, fear, doubt, and the most intense bliss flood you. There is a light inside of you. Every thought you have has a new emotion attached to it, your mind is spinning with what’s to come. Your body starts to change, adapting to this new life that is within you. The dreams begin. You picture yourself with a growing belly, and with that you start to dream of birthing this light that is within in it. How will I be in my birth time? You ask yourself. Will I be loud? Will I be primal? Will I be in water? Who will be with me? Will I be at home or hospital? Drugs or no drugs? So many questions, and the visualizations are strong.
When I ask my clients what they fear most or what they really want to avoid the most common answer is,
A caesarean section.
Yes. I hear you. Let’s sit with that. Let’s dig a bit deeper. When we think about a caesarean we attach it to the words emergency, fear, sterile, forced, loss of control, surgery, blood, stillness and recovery. I could go on.
During our pregnancy we do all the things to prepare for the expansion of our family. This new little human that will rock our world and flip it inside out and bring so much joy and new experiences. What we don’t do is visit the place inside of us that has our fears tucked away deep. We do that because this is supposed to be the most positive time of our lives. You are growing a life, what could be more beautiful? Why touch on the dark negatives?
I want you to go to that dark place. Crack it open and shed light to it. Let’s make it less scary. When we don’t visit our fears, and work on them, they are only magnified if they do happen. This is when we see trauma, pain and negative birth experiences that can cause damage that lasts possibly a lifetime.
For some the pregnancy becomes high risk and those dreams are plucked away one by one. For others something during labour occurs and we see it cascade towards a section. For a smaller number, there is a true emergency. Many of these are out of our control. Loss of that control is what is terrifying. Let’s acknowledge that we can only do so much to avoid a caesarean. What we can do, is be prepared for the possibility of one, and how we can make it a more positive, empowering experience. It is the birth of your child after all.
Choose a care provider that is going to support you in your wishes. That has your best interests in heart. Someone who takes the time to actually get to know you and will do their best to help facilitate your dreams. Keep your birth yours, hear your voice and give you the ultimate say in what happens. If your pregnancy takes a turn and more support is needed, trust that your primary care provider will assist you in the addition to your team, and be by your side as you navigate these new waters. with that, choose the birth place that will support you and make you feel safe! Do the research into your chosen hospitals stats. Home is your territory and you can feel the most powerful and comfortable there, and for some the hospital is their safe place.
Hire a doula! More support is always a good thing. Doulas are the best drug, and will help keep you on course and remind you of your goals. Doulas reduce your chances of a caesarean by up to 50%. They are there for you, only you! No judgement, no agenda, no bias. This is your birth, and they want you to reflect back on your birth day feeling proud and bad ass.
Be healthy. Eat good food, move your body, laugh, love, and honour yourself in this time. Go for massages, acupuncture and chiro to help support your body in labour. Take charge!
Take a prenatal class. Educate yourself! Ask questions, read and pull in the positive stories, block out the negative. Build a community of other pregnant families, and create your support team.
Most importantly, visit that scary place. Talk about cesareans. Whether it’s your health, your babies, or your birth took a u turn and a belly birth is your only option, how can we make it better?
Make sure it is needed. Not forced. Ask questions. Ask more questions. This is your birth and you still have a say! Have your doula present, ask for all the names of those present and see the faces behind the masks. Ask for delayed cord clamping, immediate skin to skin, take pictures and make your wishes be heard! It may be an operating room, but it’s still your special day and you have rights.
Pay attention to your reaction when someone tells you they had a caesarean. Congratulations is in order because they worked hard! They did everything they could to avoid it, they pushed themselves to a place they never imagined. They discovered their true strength. A belly birth is not an easy birth but it is still special! They still deserved to be honoured and celebrated. They said yes, with so much hesitation and fear behind it. They handed themselves over to science, they let go of their dreams. They lay there with no feeling and all they can see is white and green and bright lights, covered faces hovering over them. Their bodies shake, and their breath taken away as their light is pulled from their body. They only exhale when they hear the cries of their baby, that is behind a sheet. Turning their heads following those cries, yearning to touch and smell their babies. Those few minutes feel like eternity. This is not how they dreamed of welcoming their baby into this world. It’s not even over yet. Recovery. It’s slow, and hard and yet we see parents pushing through and still smiling. They too were just born.
So know this, if the unexpected happens and you find yourself on that table with bright lights. You are strong. You are brave. You are worth celebrating and we honour you. You did the harder birth. You did what you had to because your love for that baby is so great. This is love.
Visit those dark places and discuss how they can be empowering for you if they happen. When you reflect back on your birth it should be a memory that makes you smile and reminds you of how strong you really are. Your child also deserves to hear how they came into this world, and that it may not have been the most ideal, but it was still the best day!
Michelle Maclean is a birth and postpartum doula in Vancouver. Serving over 1200 families since 2005. She is the mother of two girls and recently gave birth as a surrogate. Michelle is the doula trainer at Pacific Rim College, and oversees the Holistic Doula training. You can find her at www.thedivinechild.ca