Whether it is your plan or not, vaginal birth is not always the way your little one arrives into the world. A cesarean section (c-section) is often a choice or necessary. Also called a “belly birth,” we don’t usually discuss the details of a c-section unless it’s something we expect to happen.
Belly births can happen for any number of reasons, either before you go in to labour, or during. The best we can do is make sure you are prepared for it, and to know what to expect.
There are two types of c-sections: emergency and stat. You will hear many people say they had an “emergency c-section” but all this really means is that it was unplanned. This type is not truly an emergency and can sometimes take a few hours before it happens, depending on how busy the hospital is at the time. If you and your baby are not in danger, the staff is not in a rush (and this is a good thing). A stat (or crash) c-section is when it needs to happen right away for the health and safety of you or your baby. Things will happen very quickly, often with little time to fully explain the next steps.
Everything happens very much the same way in either scenario, but the speed at which it happens will be very different.
In the event of a c-section, they will take you to the operating room, put a cap over your hair and change you in to a hospital gown. They will give you an epidural (if you do not already have one) to numb you. In an emergency, they will put you under for the sake of time. They will make sure you are ready for the procedure and will most likely have begun before they bring your support person in. A nurse will hand them a gown and cap before taking them into the OR with you. They put up a sheet at your belly so you cannot see below your waist, and they strap your arms to the table. Your support person will stay with you behind the sheet.
The procedure takes about twenty minutes for your baby to be born. You won’t feel any pain, but you will feel the tugging and pulling as they pull baby from inside. The cord is cut, placed in the warmer to be examined, and then handed to your partner. If possible, partners should do skin to skin; this is the best option for baby if you are not able to do skin to skin.
After baby is born, it takes about hour or so for the doctors to close your incision. There are many layers to stitch back together so it takes longer than the birth. Once they are done, you are taken to recovery. At this point, you can do skin to skin with your baby. If you are not ready, that’s okay. You just went through major surgery, so you may need time to get settled.
If you have a partner with you, they will go in to the OR with you. It is very rare that your doula would accompany you as well. You can ask to have your doula there, too, but this happens rarely. If your partner is not available, or doesn’t feel like they can support you during surgery, then your doula will be there with you. Otherwise, we wait for you in recovery to help initiate breastfeeding when you’re ready, make sure you and your partner are settled, and answer any questions you have. We may not be at your side, but we are waiting and ready to support you afterwards.
The important thing to remember is that you are still giving birth to your baby; and even though they get here in a different way, our support can help you feel just as prepared and confident about your next steps as any other new parent. We support all births because all births deserve support.