April is Cesarean Month. We at Doulas of Capitol Hill love cesarean births! I know that sounds a little crazy; hear me out. We love cesareans births as an OPTION. Cesareans save lives. Cesareans make more births possible. Cesareans keep people safe. A Cesarean birth does NOT mean ‘your body failed you’, though we do understand and empathize with those that did/do not want a surgical birth. What we refuse to do is suggest that your cesarean birth is less of a birth than a vaginal delivery.
In an effort to offer various opinions and to get a better understanding of how we could support our clients, we asked the following question:
“What do you wish someone would have said to you after your cesarean birth? As a doula supporting an unplanned cesarean we would love to be filled up with good things to say to our clients. Our instinct is to do less talking and more listening, but what do you wish someone would have said to you?”
These responses are unedited, real women in your community. There were so many awesome responses we had to edit this post down, but for the full 10 page response, please click here. If you are interested in sharing your birth story with us, please send us an email-we always want to hear your story!
I am sorry. – Ronda S.
You did so good momma! I am so proud of you! - F. E.
This birth is valid. I know it wasn’t what you planned but it is valid and necessary. You are a strong mama and you brought a baby into this world. T. L.
It's OK to be sad even if your baby is healthy. The baby and you are the most important things but not the ONLY important things. Your feelings about your birth ARE important! S.B.
I wish my doula had said, "I'll be here. Let's talk about the birth again once you have bonded with baby. If more feelings come up, we will face them together!" A.P.
Mothers are not made in the delivery room or the OR. This is just part of your motherhood. S. B.
My doula said that I had worked so hard and that I had done everything in my power to have a vaginal birth. She said she trusted the midwives/ OB and believed that a c/s was the only option in the end. And she reassured me that I was a great candidate for a VBAC. It was very healing and reassuring. And now, two and a half years later, she reiterated what she said back then and said she was excited to help me have a VBAC this time. J. S.
This is part of his/her story. Be proud and own it because it is no less important or valid! You worked just as hard to give life to this child and you just do whatever you have to, to bring them into the world safely. J. R.
Keep doing what you do and mostly listen. She might need to go over and over it and have someone supportive to listen to her. A. L.
You are not a failure. You birthed your child. You are not broken. You are still a strong woman. Z.C.
I agree with validating their feelings. I lacked a proper support group after mine. Even my husband wasn't supportive. Z. C.
Use the term Cesarean Birth vs Cesarean Section. It is birth. M.W.
All of these responses are amazing. For me- it was helpful to hear that it was ok to be mad, and sad. It was ok to grieve the birth I didn't get but had worked so hard for. That I would still bond with my baby and that I did an amazing thing by bringing a life into this world. That I was not a failure, and that someone was there to listen if I wanted to talk. (All this told to me by my Bradley teacher after I had multiple meltdowns to her because of our breastfeeding challenges. Which, btw we got through and are on 11.5months ). N.S.
I love and agree with everything that was already said but also wanted to add that I wish someone had helped me with what to expect after a c section and how to manage pain (naturally!), sleep comfortably, nurse comfortably, baby wear/hold the baby so I'm not in pain but can still bond with baby. L.Y.
I'm not sure what I would’ve wanted to hear but I hated it when people said "at least you have a healthy baby". For me the first few days weren't that bad it was a few weeks later I needed to talk to someone. S.B.
Not necessarily a statement, but an act of kindness ... After my second csection, someone held my baby to my breast to breastfeed for me. I was violently puking/nauseated for a full day, and I literally couldn't do the breastfeeding myself. I will forever be thankful for that. S. M.
Also, make sure she gets a belly binder ASAP! I don't think I would have been able to move without it. Most hospitals have them. A.W.
I agree with some of the others...there's maybe not anything super significant you can say immediately after, but a few days later it would have been nice to be able to cry with her and just unload all of my sadness. My son is 13 months and I still don't feel like I will ever have closure. T. L.
What to say isn't important. Just don't say, "it's okay", "you are okay", "at least baby is healthy", & my personal favorite, " at least her head is perfectly round, and not cone shaped" . The head thing, still makes me ragey. J.M.
After my emergency c, one of the midwives who was present during it came and found me the next day and suggested I ask to speak to the surgeon and read over the medical report so that I can find out exactly what happened and to help me process it all. It helped me to realize that it wasn't my fault. Maybe remind her that it's ok to feel sad about not getting a natural birth (if she feels that way). J.M.
I didn't want a cesarean with my last baby but had to anyway my doctor talked to me the whole tine during the surgery and I had a wonderful nurse talking to me asking about my other kids and what we were naming him, how much I thought he would weigh just really being friendly and caring. I ended up being very happy with how my c section went. D. C.
I remember a family member telling me "you did a good job", at the time I didn't feel like I did a good job, but looking back I did do a good job, I mean I MADE a person!! A really cute person! but it took me awhile to realize this...I probably won't mention a "next time" personally in case for reasons they don't plan on having another baby! I also agree with a follow up visit to access how she is dealing with the loss of birth she imagined. A.W-C.
Someone to deliver food, (starving when milk comes in and couldn't move around much! ) regularly help me monitor my pain meds, and listen to my feelings and genuinely validate them. K.O.
Stay away from "things happen for a reason", "you achieved the end goal, healthy mom and healthy baby" "it's ok to mourn your birth experience" "you will have a chance to VBAC next time".... All those imply failure... What really changed my experience was when my husband said "I am so proud of you, we have a handsome little boy and I wouldn't change a minute of his birth!" I started to cry and he then said: "tears are ok, as long as they are happy tears! Look at him, isn't he handsome? Just like me!" I don't think he was avoiding the fact that I felt like a fail... He was actually making sure I had positive thoughts and feelings... I am extremely thankful for him and for his love. He was also there a few days later when I finally wanted to talk about it. His most powerful statement was "thank you baby for working so hard and giving me the most beautiful baby I have ever seen" I yelled at him and said I didn't give birth to him he was cut out from me... And he said "oh no! I saw you give birth to him"... Makes me cry every time I think about it.... K. T.
Focus on baby unless they really want to talk about the cs. I didn't even want to think about it. Maybe focus more on recovery. I had no one checking on me and I ended up with a fever that I now know should've been checked out but I didn't know at the time. T. A.
A knowledgeable healer told me days after my HBC that although I didn't birth at home (as planned) and even though there were interventions (c section) that I still gave my baby a "home birth" in every other way (preparation with midwife such as nutrition, exercise, researching EVERYTHING, having great resources via my midwife postpartum, making smart choices postpartum, etc). I remember hearing those words and being so grateful and relieved that all of the hard work pre-birth was not all for nothing. I did not feel like a failure from then on. She said that although my baby chose this path of birth he still benefited greatly from the decisions that I had made through the pregnancy and even during labor. Her words encouraged me to keep my head up while I simultaneously went through the grieving process (which she also gracefully encouraged). I am forever grateful to her. L.P-H.
Take it easy and slowwwwwwwwwwwwwww! Hold a pillow not just for sneezing and coughing but for all movement the first weekish. Be patient. Accept help brush your hair and teeth. It's about the only things other than eating that you can do for yourself, by yourself! Pick a side and work on getting out of that side first. Take the laxatives. Don't feel like you’re being too needy you’re allowed to be needy! V.F.
My Dr for my first c section just kept saying "my failed induction" witch made me feel like I failed. That had to be the worst part thinking it was me who failed. M.A.
My birth team failed me. He wasn't some god who came swooping in and saved my baby's life.... He was just a man who didn't listen to my birth plan, didn't care about me or my baby. We were just numbers, just another lady in a hospital giving birth... He failed me. I didn't fail, I tried my hardest. He mismanaged my care to fit his schedule. It's. Not. Your. Fault!!! J.H.
I always thought of it this way:
Say I'm driving down the road and come across a sign that says, "Bridge Out: Road Closed". I have two choices. I can drive down that road, knowing the extremely severe risks. Or, I can follow the detour. It may not be the route I originally planned to take. But, which choice reflects better on me as a driver? It is the same with a cesarean birth. It may not have been the original plan. But, when major roadblocks occur, and the only wise choice is clear, you are a champion and the hero for making that choice. Well done, c-section mamas! You know which of you had to make this choice. S. M.
"Ugh, I agree it totally sucks!" And "I can't wait to see you rock that vbac if you have another some day" she gets enough of "as long as you're both healthy" from family. Please encourage things like skin to skin and immediate nursing. All the things (aside from surgery) that make her emotionally sad she didn't deliver naturally.
PS- fucking LOVE that you asked this!!! T.W.