The very first cesarean birth I attended, I was the only support person there. Her husband was away, and couldn’t get to the hospital in time.
She was trying for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), but things took a turn that we didn’t anticipate. Although she had prepared for a vaginal birth, the c-section was necessary. There was nothing either of us could do, and for the safety of mom and baby, it had to be done.
Although we know that doulas are beneficial at any birth, and c-section rates are lower when you have a doula, things happen. And if I had not seen this procedure myself, I don’t know if I could fully explain why doula support during a c-section is just as important.
When she realized she was losing control, the same doula instincts kicked in. I held her hand, stayed close to her so she knew she wasn’t alone, explained what was going on, and when her baby was born, held her baby’s face as close to hers so they could meet each other for the first time.
Afterwards, in recovery, mom had skin to skin time to bond with baby, and was able to breastfeed a little before falling asleep, exhausted. I held the baby as she floated in and out; but every time she woke up, we talked about how she was feeling (so many emotions!). She held her little girl, smiled, and closed her eyes again.
Now, this is atypical of doula support during cesareans. We don’t usually support women during the procedure. We help dads prepare before going into the operating room (including lots of encouragement, especially if it’s been a long labour at this point), then wait in recovery for the new family. We make sure both parents are comfortable with skin to skin, and help initiate breastfeeding (which can be difficult after a c-section).
Maybe you didn’t want it this way, or maybe that was your plan, but either way: birth is birth. Whether you deliver vaginally, or deliver them by cesarean, you still made a little human. And that is amazing. If you think doulas are just for “normal,” “natural,” or home births, think again.
Doctors and nurses have a job to do. They are there to make sure everyone is healthy and safe. Although they care, they don’t have time to make sure mom is fully supported emotionally.
An unplanned c-section, when you’ve been visualizing your “perfect birth,” can cause a lot of different emotions you didn’t anticipate. Things can happen very quickly for many different reasons, without time to fully process what is about to take place. A doula can explain why things are happening, what will happen next, and answer questions after.
A planned c-section means you, your partner, and your doula can plan ahead; discuss what your needs will be when you get home, and how to make transition to parenthood easier while also recovering from surgery. You can discuss what you can expect in those first few weeks and anticipate most surprises.
A postpartum doula comes in handy at home, helping to prepare meals, bringing baby to you for feeding, or to help with breastfeeding. The more you can rest, the better. Let a doula help you out, because that’s what we do.
How did you feel about your c-section? Was it planned or a surprise? Tell us about it in the comments.