There’s a misconception that a planned cesarean birth somehow takes the concept of choice and preparation off the table. Like the only available option is showing up at the hospital, entering the OR, and exiting with a new baby. In reality this couldn’t be further from the truth. A cesarean birth is a birth like any other, with a whole world of planning, choosing, and processing available. Here are a few points to consider before your planned cesarean birth.
Taking a birthing class
Stay with me here. Childbirth education really is for everyone. Sure you might not end up needing all the details, but I promise you you’ll learn a lot. Find a Childbirth Ed curriculum that makes sense to you. Do they touch on what to expect from a cesarean? Even a more basic curriculum may benefit your family. Your partner can gain valuable support tools. You’ll gain knowledge that can help you understand the end of your pregnancy, your baby, and your postpartum health. Even topics geared towards vaginal birth can apply just as well to coping with the sensations of surgical birth. Consider whether you’ve been offered a trial of labour, what the plan is if you go into labour before your cesarean date, what unanswered questions are still floating around at the back of your mind. These factors may help you determine how to best prepare for any and all outcomes and options.
Hiring a Doula
I’m a broken record about this. Ask an unfamiliar person to visualize a doula, and they’ll probably picture a kindly, motherly type wiping the brow of a woman pushing out a baby unmedicated. While all of that is true in a sense (Minus the motherly part, for me. I’m more the spunky little sister, if I do say so myself.), we offer so much more than your classic homebirth scenario. I feel like I’ve done some of my best work during cesarean births. If you’re debating whether or not to hire a doula for your cesarean, ask yourself what is important to you, and then ask what you can and can’t accomplish alone. Do you want someone in the OR who can watch and tell you what’s happening to your and your baby? Is your partner capable of looking at awake surgery being performed on someone they love? Is your surgeon willing to lower the sterile field drape to let you watch? Your doula can help. She can review the pros and cons of every big decision with you. She can take your calls when the date is approaching and you’re feeling very nervous. She knows how to ease anaesthesia nausea and itchiness. A doula has so much to offer during a belly birth.
How much can you really plan when a cesarean is booked? Surprisingly the answer is an awful lot. This is something your doula can walk you through, but you can also sit down as a family and iron out your preferences. Some options vary widely from surgeon to surgeon, so be sure to review your birth plan with your care provider ahead of time. Consider “gentle” or “family centered” cesarean protocols. Would you like the curtain lowered at the moment of birth, or to use a curtain with a window? Would you like one arm and side of your chest left free of wires, so you can cuddle your baby immediately? Would you like to nurse in the OR? Do you have preferences regarding one medication over another? Write it down, ask your doctor. You’d be amazed at how much wiggle room you might discover.
What comes after, well, comes after. I think most of us spend the end of our pregnancies focusing a lot on birth, and our first days with our babies, but not nearly enough about our own care and comfort. Cesareans are a (literal) life saver for so many, but they’re still major abdominal surgery. Save yourself a lot of worry, plan ahead. Ask how long cesarean patients stay in your hospital, on average, before discharge. Line up solid child care for older children. Pack more than you think you’ll need. Even the things you might not think you’ll need, like a nursing pillow, or comfy pyjamas, may come in very handy when the time comes. Find out what kind of options you have for post op pain relief, both in hospital and at home after discharge. When can you take a nice warm bath? How should you care for your stitches? Knowing ahead of time will allow you to plan accordingly. Consider services designed to help you through this transition. Postpartum doulas are a great option. You can look into something like www.mealtrain.com as a tool to gently ask your village for the help you need.
Cesarean births are beautiful, like all birth. And just like all birth, cesarean births benefit from a little preparation and a lot of TLC.