Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Gentler Cesarean Birth Story

I want to preface this blog with a request to everyone to set aside your judgments about what labor & delivery "should" look like & instead to embrace every woman's story as her own miracle of birth. By sharing our story, I hope to open women to the idea that you can be an active participant - regardless of the HOW, this is not something that happens to you. You have some choices. Thru some small adjustments, we were able to have a beautiful birth with our second child. This process has sparked conversation, interest & a desire to make changes amongst our practice of midwives & doctors as well as at the hospital where we delivered.


When I learned I was pregnant the first time, I started conjuring images of exactly how the birth would play out. If it's possible, it went exactly the opposite & I learned that a birth plan is a sure-fire way to ensure that nothing will go as planned! Seldom does life  (& it's miracles) follow a plan. When we were blessed to conceive again, I wondered if I dared to hope for the natural drug-free birth I had wanted the first time? I knew I desperately wanted to avoid the emergency cesarean I did have & started to think about factors I might be able to affect. The pregnancy progressed normally & my hopes cautiously soared. But, at 29 weeks, we learned that my amniotic fluid was already getting low. I started bed rest & drinking a gallon of water a day. That also marked the start of weekly (& bi-weekly) ultrasounds, visits with the midwives & a roller coaster of emotions each week as we wondered if TODAY the baby would need to arrive. If the levels went up or remained stable I held on to hope of a natural birth. When they dropped, I tried to accept that a second cesarean might be necessary. After 10 long weeks, I agreed to schedule a cesarean as it was not likely that the baby would tolerate labor well with such little fluid. Leading up to this decision, I started reading, googling & discussing possible options for a different kind of cesarean. Here are the things I wanted to have happen:

1. Music in the O.R. - I wanted my delivery playlist to fill the room with meaningful & comforting songs
2. Dim(mer) lighting - I didn't know if it was possible, but I wanted to minimize the bright sterile lights of the O.R.
3. I wanted my husband & myself to "discover" the gender of the baby together.
4. Skin to skin contact - as soon as possible!

At the pre-op appointment, I planned to bring this up to my mid-wife. Ironically, she came in ready to show me the same video I had seen of a cesarean birth in England that incorporated some of these ideas. She was enthusiastic about implementing these key points & promised to work ahead of time on the lighting & music & getting the rest of the doctors on board.

When we arrived early Monday morning, our "pre-op" room was cozy & dimly lit. Prior to the birth, I relaxed to my delivery playlist & enjoyed a lavender oil foot massage from my husband while reclining in a chair. (I wanted to stay out of the bed). The mood of the nurses was calm & positive. When the time came, I walked on my own to the O.R. My midwife had set up my music, turned on only the lights above the table & gotten all of the team to agree to try this "new" idea. While the anesthesiologist administered the spinal, I leaned on my midwife & focused on the music playing. Shortly after, my husband came in & started to rub my temples with the lavender oil. I was much calmer than the first time around. The ambiance of the room and the team was soothing & exciting at the same time. Things progressed quickly & at the moment of birth, someone lowered the curtain & we discovered the gender of our baby for the first time. Seconds later, he was lying on my bare chest.When I was ready, they took him aside to clean up & weigh him. Not long after, we all returned to our original room for recovery, his bath & breast feeding.

 *skin to skin seconds after his birth*

I don't want to sugar coat a cesarean. It is still a major surgery. Even though it was my second time, I was incredibly nervous. But these few simple changes and a team who was willing to try something different made a huge difference. I had some choices and actively participated in the birth of our son. Whether you have to have a cesarean for medical reasons, or personal choice, I hope that by sharing my story, you can find a way to make your birth story your own.


Brandy Ferner
Brandy's Birth Story Medicine workshop started me on this journey of accepting my previous birth & opening my mind to other possibilities.

Westside Women's Care - Midwives
The midwives at Westside are wonderfully supportive. I highly recommend this practice, it's doctors and entire staff.

Exempla Lutheran Medical Center
I appreciate the interest Lutheran has given in publicizing our story in an effort to promote change & choices for other women.


  1. I had a similar reclaiming of my Cesearean the second time around! We also had skin to skin, music, and a wonderful birth team in the OR when my VBAC attempt stalled out. I feel liberated by the way it went this time, without the guilt and shame and blaming myself I did the first time. I share with you a sentiment of wanting Cesearean birth to be as sacred as possible for all families. -Laura Jaster

  2. Thank you for sharing! Your birth sounds wonderful. Two months ago my second son was born via c-section after my VBAC attempt failed. The hospital where I birthed honored many of requests and I felt very respected. Unfortunately, due to a uterine rupture I will HAVE to have a scheduled c-section at 39 weeks with all future pregnancies. I hope that I can adopt "gentle" approach when this day arrives. Congrats on your beautiful son!!

  3. I'm so glad that both of you (Laura & Audrey) had pretty wonderful Cesarean births. Thanks for sharing with me. -Mari'

  4. That is wonderful! What an inspiring story, I hope more care providers are open for changes so other moms can have positive cesareans too!

  5. This is so great to hear! I had a long discussion about this very topic at playgroup today. I've never experienced a C-section, and hope I never have to, but I will do all I can to keep baby with me if we do have to have one one day. I love that you got to do skin to skin immediately. It makes it a birth where you get to meet your baby! It allows mom to experience it in a similar way as a vaginal birth! I think it's so unfair that doctors can make the experience feel so disconnected and powerless. You took control and made it beautiful! I'm hoping many more women will make this happen so it becomes normal for the women who don't realize they can have this experience even if they need a c-section!

  6. Thank you for this beautiful reminder that Cesarean Birth is birth! We get so caught up in the rhetoric of what is a "good birth" that surgical birth becomes demonized. Fact is, some babies need to come that way, and when momma is empowered to be present, supported and informed she can have a beautiful experience... even if she envisioned something completely different.

  7. Hi

    It is so exciting to see that people are getting skin-to-skin immediately post a caesarean section :-)

    My name is Jeni Stevens. I have just commenced doing my PhD - focusing on immediate skin-to-skin post caesarean. I go to the University of Western Sydney, in Australia. I am also a midwife and an IBCLC (lactation consultant). I have a favour to ask - would you give me permission to use your beautiful photo for my PowerPoint presentations?

    I appreciate your time.

    Jeni Stevens

  8. Hi Jeni,

    This sounds like an exciting PhD. Please contact me at so that we can talk further.

    Thanks for getting in touch,

  9. Hi
    Two nurses of our organization, Ms Bertrand and Fournier, present at a congress (coorporation of operating room nurses) september 25, 2014. The title of her presentation is : The benefits of "Skin to Skin" for the baby and mother during a cesarean (english translation). Futhermore, they are asked to repeat this presentation in the fall in our organization.

    They would like to use the picture *skin to skin seconds after his birth* of your blog for this 2 events. Do you agree to use it?

    Moreover, we will indicate the source and your permission. The PPT presentation will be available in pdf format (only) to the participants. Be sure that there will be no commercial use of the documents (not for sale).

    Hoping that you will respond positively to our request,
    Best regards.

    Nathalie Folch, Research consultant, montreal, Canada

    1. Hi Natalie,
      Could you email me at
      Thanks for your interest!