How Women Feel About Their Caesareans

No matter the type of birth a woman has, she will never forget the day her baby was born, nor the way she felt.

She may forget the details.

She may forget the names and faces of those who surrounded her.

She may forget the words spoken.

She may forget the weights and measurements.

But she will not forget feeling joyful and empowered, or traumatised and broken.

So many times, these feelings are dismissed by society, because as long as the baby is healthy, that’s all that matters, right?

Wrong. So very, very wrong.

A baby’s birth day is a pivotal, life-changing day.

While a caesarean may be a “routine procedure” for the staff involved, for the mother and father it is so much more.

On the other side of the drape is a real PERSON. A human, with thoughts and feelings.

Not just a uterus.

Often, women are told “just be grateful that you and your baby are healthy, that’s all that matters”. They are told this by their family, their friends, their partners, the hospital staff, and well-meaning strangers.

And whilst of course the health and wellbeing of mothers and babies are the number one goal (nobody is debating that), it is certainly not ALL that matters.

Women matter.

And what is “healthy” anyway? Alive? It seems that way sometimes. What kind of a standard is that anyway, to simply aim for “alive”? Surely we can do better than that! The health of a mother is not just about the physical aspects, but the emotional and mental health, too.

Birthtalk.org explains:

“It is not about trying to control the actual event of childbirth.
It is not about whether you have gas or pethidine, or a waterbirth or a caesarean.
It is about walking away from your birth feeling strong, positive, and confident.

It is about knowing what things are important in birth for you to feel good about it and gain from it, and how to get them.”

Sometimes it is the small things that can make the biggest difference to how a woman feels about her birth, no matter what it looks like on paper.

Was she supported? Was she spoken to kindly? Given the opportunity to make decisions? Had things explained to her? Treated respectfully? Involved in the process? Had her feelings acknowledged and validated? Had her baby kept close to her whenever (and as soon as) possible?

Or was she ignored? Left alone? Spoken to harshly? Confused about what was happening? Had things done to her without consent? Separated unnecessarily from her baby? Treated like a child? Not given any options or a chance to be a part of the decision making?

Whilst many caesarean mothers grieve the loss of a natural childbirth, the trauma often stems not from what happened, but the way she felt.

And no woman will feel the same. Every woman, and every experience, is unique.

The following mothers have bravely shared a little of their story, to shed some light on the way they felt during and after their caesarean births, and to break the “healthy baby is all that matters” stigma and show that their feelings matter, TOO (it doesn’t have to be either or – gratitude and grief are not mutually exclusive).

This is Nicole.

This picture was taken in the morning on January 4. I was induced the night before, and we were just starting in on active labour. I was trying to sleep through everything, because I knew what was coming was going to need energy and strength. I was practicing breathing through the contractions and using visualizations to move along the labour. Now when I look at the picture I feel like this version of me was so innocent. I feel bad for what she is about to endure. I also marvel at her strength and power. you can tell from where my arm is placed that in the moment I was not comfortable.
I don’t remember this. When they took him out, they called Brian to come see his son to take pictures. We said his name was William. I had some tears, but they weren’t for him. They were relief for me. That it was over. I am sad that I didn’t get to see him just as he came out. I had envisioned being the first person to see William. Catching him. Holding him up while the cord still pumped.
I don’t remember this. As soon as I came back to the room, I saw our midwife (who wasn’t there before). She scooped up William who was skin-to-skin on Brian and laid him on my chest. And she took pictures. I remember being thankful that she was there. And I felt safe that she was there and with us. I have no idea what I was thinking or feeling other than finally safe. This picture is the first we have as a family. He looks so comfortable. Like he has found where he belongs. I am sad that I don’t remember this moment, and have tried to recreate it multiple times. I carry an intense sadness and pain that I don’t remember the beginning of his life. I wish I had a picture of my face, so i could see how it looked when I looked at him

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is Alma.

My name is Alma and I had Jennifer in July 2013.

The first photo is basically the during Csection. It was an “emergency” but wasn’t as I was overdue and had a failed induction, I had just ran out of time, so there was no real panic getting to the theatre or any of that.

Jennifer was what I can only describe as removed from my person, whisked away to be weighed etc and then plonked into a heating unit.

Noone took a photo of me, this is the only photo, Jennifer was put in this heating unit as far away as possible from me while I was tied onto a table being put back together. I hadn’t yet touched her at this point either. At the time I felt like a spectator, about as far away from what I thought seeing my child for the first time could possibly have been. I at the very, very, least expected the image of baby born, baby put into my arms straight away and I feel happiness and relief.

Instead I felt nothing and I cried silently on the table trying to get a glimpse of her and then I cried silently staring at the ceiling when they wheeled her away with my husband. Nobody spoke to me, including my husband who didn’t even realise my arms were tied down and was in total shock himself, noone wiped away my tears, noone acknowledged me. It was a very isolating experience. The absolute silence of it all, no touch, no joy, clinical.

Looking at this photo today just makes me very sad, I still feel a great loss at missing out on a very basic experience and I feel no happiness about this picture. I try not to look at this picture as I still have nightmares about being tied onto a table and I feel horrible guilt that my beautiful daughter’s first few hours of life were spent alone in an incubator with noone touching her.

The second picture I tell people is the birth one but its actually about three hours later after they wheeled me back to the ward and I have very little recollection of this happening, I’m so drugged up my eyes are barely open and I know my family was there but I don’t really remember what was said or their reactions, only I have photos of that time Id say it never happened. 

 

This is Lorie.

This photo was taken minutes after Emerson’s birth. At the time I felt pretty numb & scripted in my emotions & reactions.  I’d had a big argument with the Dr about what I wanted from the birth. When she was born I had such little fight left but I felt it my turn to speak so I yelled ‘it’s a girl, it’s a girl! Jesse it’s a girl!’ Apparently everyone in the theatre had a smile & a tear. I felt pretty spaced out but tried my hardest to remain mentally in the room. 

I remember thinking, ‘ This is who we’ve been waiting to meet, this is the baby whose been growing & kicking me, this is my baby & I can kiss her & take her home’, and I did.

When I look at it now, I remember thinking that I was just taking it one step at a time. It was such a big process to bring her those few centimetres earthside. 

I’d been meditating through, thinking, one minute, one moment, one breathe at a time and I will get through this. 

I received her over the blind from the surgeon & just stared at her while keeping her as close as possible. She has hardly left my side since & turned one last week. 

When I look at it now, I feel strength, I feel accomplishment & I feel grateful that she told me she needed to be born. 

 

This is Felicity.

9.36am, six minutes after they brought my fiancé into the operating theatre, I heard the joyful sound of my baby crying. I had had a baby! I cried tears of joy. Her cry was music to my ears. Lainey (to be named later that day) was presented to me. Cheek to cheek, we took each other in. I cried and cried and cried. Many tears of happiness; that she was here safely, that I had given birth, that she was ok, that I was ok, that this was really happening.
At this point, I was calm (the drugs may have helped this). I had my baby in my arms. All was well. We did it.
Months later. My scar is a permanent reminder of the choices that I made. A reminder that there are some things we have no control over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just because I’m happy with my caesarean experience doesn’t mean I’m not sad that I didn’t have the natural birth that I’d been planning for. I was pregnant but didn’t go into labour. I don’t know that if I had tried to give birth naturally that I would have been able to withstand it. I have a medical condition that affects my physical endurance. Deep down I wanted to experience labour though. Maybe with an epidural, I could have. Who knows? I questioned myself many times, could I do it? In the end, I didn’t 100% trust that I could so I signed the form for the planned caesarean. This option allowed me some control over how my birth would go.

“There will always be many “what ifs” about Lainey’s birth but overall, I’m happy with how the day went. There will always be positives and negatives. I had my sister there for support and to take professional photos before and after the surgery, I didn’t watch her come out, photos were able to be taken on our iPhone, they did wait briefly before cutting her umbilical cord, obs were done before we met, she fed while in the operating theatre, we had skin to skin in recovery. I have more to be thankful for than others.”

Lainey is here safely. My wounds will heal in time. I made the right choice for me and my little girl.

 

This is Kate.

I had complete placenta previa with the placenta positioned anteriorly. This meant that the obstetrician was required to cut through the placenta to reach the baby. Having already had several significant bleeds throughout the pregnancy, I was deemed extremely high risk and despite my strong request not to be asleep for my baby’s birth, the hospital overruled the supportive anaesthetist and ordered I be given the general anaesthetic; a far cry for the completely natural, midwife only birth I had planned for. As I lay on the operating table attached to iv lines, arterial lines, a cell saver and several bags of blood hanging above my head, ready to be pumped into me, I thought about my children and the letters I had written them in the event that I didn’t make it through the surgery. I had a genuine and very real belief that I would not be waking up from this anaesthetic. This photo was the last one taken seconds before I was injected with the drug to put me to sleep. I looked at my midwife and begged her not to let them do this and remember screaming no, no, no, no, no…. as I succumbed to unconsciousness.

The image of my daughter is the first photo taken of her after birth. I hate that she’s lying on a sterile table and not in her mother’s arms where she should be. I know she was well taken care of by my midwife and my husband, but it seems so cold and unnatural.

When I look at these photos side by side, I feel nothing but grief, both for my lost birth experience and my baby’s first life experience. I see the terror we both felt in images taken only minutes apart. I grieve the moment in between these two images that I shall never know about; a moment that was supposed to be sacred and shared between my husband, my baby and me. I grieve for my baby girl, who was handled and poked and prodded by too many people before hours later, she finally met her mother; a mother too drugged up and hurting to be able to hold her properly. When I look at these images, I have more questions than answers as I wonder what her first sounds were like. Who did she see first? What was she thinking? Did she feel safe? I feel nothing but sadness that I completely missed the birth of this child from my body. I feel robbed and jealous that people with no emotional investment got to birth my baby for me and, although I have a ‘birth story’ to share with her when she grows, it doesn’t contain a birth it only contains the before and after; something I think I will always struggle with.

 

These women matter. Their feelings matter. Their stories matter.

Birth is more than a healthy baby.

 

If you have had a caesarean and would like support in your journey, or would like more information about the Caesarean Warrior Project, please join the Facebook group HERE.

Jen is currently offering Caesarean Warrior Project sessions Australia-wide, as a means of offering women a chance to tell their story, to be heard, and to heal.

 

How to Heal a Bad Birth is a book that openly discusses many of the feelings around birth, including how to process grief about ‘the little things’ that were not really that little at all, such as being separated from your baby, or anger with the health carers for something they did…or something they didn’t do but should have, or dealing with a partner who wants you to just ‘get over it’, or having an unwell baby post birth, or being angry with yourself for agreeing to an intervention, and feeling like you failed. If you are struggling or grieving over your baby’s birth, this is a highly recommended resource for helping you to heal and move forward from your experience.

Books to Prepare Children for Birth

Books are a wonderful tool to prepare older children for the birth of their sibling.

Parents of young children can use the stories and illustrations as a tool to discuss birth. The books listed below are generally targeted towards younger children, but could be used at any age to explain the birthing process and what they can expect.

My Brother Jimi Jazz – Chrissy Butler

This book begins with a family preparing for the birth of a precious baby. It is told from the perspective of the older sibling and walks readers through co-sleeping, breastfeeding, pregnancy, to a natural and calm birth at home. Family involvement is key, with midwives supporting the peaceful arrival of Jimi Jazz. The illustrations are whimsical and engaging, and the language is accessible and warm.

Hello Baby – Jenni Overend

This beloved book is a wonderful story of birth at home, from the viewpoint of the youngest child in the family. It follows the mother during labour, the arrival of the midwife and her equipment, as well as the noises mum makes during labour. A family-centred home birth, the story shows siblings of different ages being involved, the role of dad during labour, and the normal side to birth.

Mama, Talk About When Max Was Born – Toni Olsen

This book tells the home birth story of a little girl’s brother, Max. The story covers pregnancy, with the little girl being involved in the prenatal appointments, setting up the birth pool at home, and so on. Each image is natural, calm and true to life – baby is held skin to skin after birth for example.

Birthing River – Rachel Nixon

We’re Having A Homebirth – Kelly Mochel

Kelly has written and illustrated a simple, colourful and contemporary book for preparing children for normal birth at home.

The illustrations are fresh and clean, showing topics such as the development of baby in utero, what the midwife does, what to expect on the birthing day, how to help mum during labour, what mum might sound and look like, and what happens after the baby is born.

Our Water Baby – Amy Maclean

A beautiful book showing a family preparing for a water birth at home, with the older sibling asking fantastic questions about water birth. The story discusses other topics such as the noises mum will make during labour and how she needs to concentrate, dad’s role in supporting mum, as well as the role of the midwife. There is a special ending which demonstrates the bonding between new baby and older sibling. The illustrations are lovely, with engaging toys framing the scenes, making it more accessible for children to engage with.

For more ideas on preparing children for the birth of their sibling, take a look at Preparing Children for Birth and Videos to Prepare Children for Birth.

 

Written by Sam McCulloch. Images by The He{ART} of Motherhood.

Videos to Prepare Children for Birth

A great way to help children prepare for the reality of labour and birth is to show them. This can help them to understand that birth is really normal and what to expect when it comes time for their baby sibling to be born. It’s important children hear and see birth in order to understand why women vocalize during labour and know the experience can be painful but it is not injurious to mum or baby. Seeing the process of labour can put into perspective the sight of waters releasing, membranes and any blood, the placenta and cord.

This beautiful, peaceful birth at home shows a mother labouring in water while her youngest child potters around, helping to pour water as comfort and even joining in vocalisations during contractions. Her teenaged daughter is also very involved, providing comfort and observing her mother in labour. The video shows the baby’s head crowning and the birth. The baby takes some time to establish breathing and once settled into bed, newborn and big sister have their first breastfeed together.

This black and white video shows a woman labouring in water and birthing on land. The video shows the baby’s head and body being born, and we hear the baby’s first cries. There is lots of lovely skin to skin and the older siblings, who were asleep during the birth, come in soon afterwards to meet their new baby and are clearly besotted.

This lovely, calm birth at home is of a first baby shows the normal sights and sounds of a woman labouring in water. There is no visual of the actual birth, but the baby is brought to the surface of the water immediately. There is footage of the time following birth and the placenta, skin to skin with mum and dad, as well as baby’s first breastfeed.

Siblings present at births can be so excited when the baby is born! This video of a hypnobirth at a birth centre shows a big brother’s happiness when mum announces a new baby brother! The birth itself is in water and can’t be seen, but afterwards the older siblings gather around the birth pool to see and touch their new baby brother.

For more ideas, see Preparing Children for Birth or Books to Prepare Children for Birth.

Written by Sam McCulloch. Images by The He{ART} of Motherhood.

Preparing Children for Birth

Sibling involvement at birth is often seen at births occurring at home. Having your older children present at the birth of their sibling can make the experience very special for everyone. It can help older children bond with their new sibling and avoid jealousy, as well as normalising the birth process.

Parents who choose birth centres and even hospitals are requesting to have their other children present during labour and birth. In order to make the experience as positive as possible, it’s a good idea to spend plenty of time in advance preparing your children for the sights and sounds of childbirth. How you do this will depend on the age of your children and their personalities.

Parents of young children can use stories and illustrations as a tool to discuss birth. You can find out more here – Books To Prepare Children for Birth.

Another great way to help children prepare for the reality of labour and birth is to show them. This can help them to understand that birth is really normal and what to expect when it comes time for their baby sibling to be born. It’s important children hear and see birth in order to understand why women vocalize during labour and know the experience can be painful but it is not injurious to mum or baby. Seeing the process of labour can put into perspective the sight of waters releasing, membranes and any blood, the placenta and cord. See Videos to Prepare Children for Birth.

The Role Children Can Play

It can be a good idea to enact labour and birth during your pregnancy, setting up role plays with them so they can ‘experience’ it before the real deal. In this way, you can set up scenarios which can help pave the way for your child to respond well if you decide you need some space, or if the birth is quite fast. They can pretend to be the midwife or the mum giving birth too.

If your child is happy to be involved during labour and birth, it can be helpful to give them a special job. This can be simply wiping your face with a damp flannel, helping you to have a drink or keeping you company. Some children are happy to be in charge of the thermometer to make sure the birth pool is kept at the right temperature, and others simply like to sit by and encourage their mother.

It’s important to remember that how you feel during pregnancy about having your children present may change when you are actually in labour. It is ok for you to change your mind during labour, or to need your child/ren to be engaged in other activities elsewhere in the house or even leave for some time.

If you find having them present is distracting or even disturbing you, it’s a good idea to have a trusted friend or relative to be on hand. This is a good idea particularly if you are giving birth in a hospital or birth centre, as the staff can’t be responsible for your child.

Preparing your child for the reality of birth goes a long way to them understanding you will be working hard during labour, that it can take many hours and you won’t be as available to them. Having a special box of toys or activities can help, set aside for this special day, so they are able to come and go as they like. This can be useful when you are close to giving birth, if you or your child has decided they don’t want to be present for the actual birth. They can come back as soon as the baby is born, and meet their new sibling. If you are having a water birth, you might like to have your children join you in the birth pool, so set out their bathers in case!

 

Written by Sam McCulloch (Birth Educator and Birth Writer). Images by The He{ART} of Motherhood.

The Homebirth of Ava | Ipswich Birth Videographer

Ava was born quickly and safely at home, with the loving support of My Midwives Ipswich.

This pregnancy was not an easy one for the family, with daddy Mike being diagnosed with cancer, and all of the resulting tests and treatments, not to mention the emotional ride.

But Ava’s arrival brought so much love and joy, a true gift to celebrate after the adversity of the previous months.

And how beautiful it was to witness the love in this room on that very special night – between Rachel and Mike, between their children, and between their lovely new baby girl.

Welcome earthside, Ava. You are so dearly loved.

 

 

 

Mama ~ Baby ~ Placenta | Ipswich Birth Photographer

In recent times, I’ve seen many birth images floating around my social media feed that include the placenta. I think it’s wonderful that it is being recognised for the amazing organ it is – one that sustains LIFE!

As much as I admire the photos of fresh squishy babies with their placentas, cord placed beautifully between them, I’ve always personally felt that those images are not my style, they are more “staged” than what I usually photograph at births.

When I saw this moment unfold naturally in front of my camera, with no direction or posing, it took my breath away. And so, I wanted to share.

Mama, baby, placenta ~ soon after arriving earthside.

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Happy Birthday, Little One | Ipswich Birth Photographer

So I’m a couple of days late with my birthday wishes – ironically, part of the reason for that is that I rushed off to a birth…..for one of this mama’s closest friends!! Now their two little ones share a birthday – but not only that, two of their older children are birthday buddies too!!

So here I am, wishing this sweet girl the happiest of (belated) birthdays! This family is special to me, as it was the first family I documented two Birth Days for. It’s such an honour to be invited back a second time – and it was crazy just how similar the two births were! Same hospital, same midwife, same photographer…..same sense of joy as they met their baby!

Sending you all loads of love as you reflect on this very special day xo

Jen

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Would you expect a groom to take his own wedding photos?

No? I certainly wouldn’t.

I would expect a groom to be in the moment on his wedding day. Talking, laughing, having fun, holding hands and kissing his new wife, and leaving the documentation of his special day up to the wedding photographer.

The day a man becomes a father is no different. This day, this story, includes HIM. It will be one of the most important days of his life, and he should NOT be viewing it from behind a lens.

He should be near her side, holding her hand, whispering words of encouragement…..loving and supporting her.

He should be kissing her with joy and pride when their baby is placed on her chest.

He should be stroking his baby’s beautiful soft head and gazing into his brand new baby’s eyes.

He should be cradling his baby in his arms.

These kinds of moments cannot be captured if he is behind the camera.

And whether or not he realises it, these images will be priceless. They will be cherished by his partner, by his child, and by him. Forever.

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The Hunter Family | Lockyer Valley Maternity Photographer

This beautiful family are dear friends of ours. My husband and I claim some credit for them finding each other, since they met at our joint 18th birthday party (yes, my husband and I are high school sweethearts, and our birthdays are 12 days apart)!

While we don’t get to see them as often as we’d like, when we do it’s just like the old times! It was so much fun hanging out with them, and talking all things baby and birth (well, Jess and I did, the men were not as interested in our topic of choice). And the weather gave us enough of a break that we made it to the beach to do a mini maternity session.

I can’t wait to meet their newest family member soon.

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The Maternal Assisted Cesarean of Audrey | Brisbane Birth Photographer

In Australia, over 30% of babies are born via cesarean.

While for some, this can be a disempowering, traumatic experience, it does not have to be that way.

Paris originally planned a VBA5C. Living in semi-rural Queensland, this was no mean feat! After speaking with many care providers and considering all of her options, she instead decided to find an obstetrician who would support a maternal assisted cesarean.

A maternal assisted cesarean is a cesarean in which a mother is able to reach down after her baby’s head has emerged, and bring her baby straight up to her chest. She is an active participant in the birth of her baby. For many women, feeling as though they are in control and a part of the birth experience, that they have choices and that those choices are respected, and that they are able to hold, touch and smell their babies immediately – without being whisked away, rubbed down and bundled up – can make a cesarean birth a positive, empowering experience.

Paris travelled 90km to the Wesley Hospital in Brisbane, with an obstetrician that supported her desire for a maternal assisted cesarean. After 5 previous cesareans, and this being their last baby, she longed for a different experience – and this birth, the birth of her seventh child Audrey, is the healing, empowering birth that she longed for.

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