Along my career as a doula, one question that often comes up is: "What will you do if I have to have a c-section?" The assumption seems to be that my support is only for those women who want to or are able to give birth vaginally, and that cesarean birth does not require any additional support.
Although many of the women that I work with do have the goal of giving birth vaginally, either medicated or unmedicated, I am also fully trained and experienced in supporting both unplanned and planned cesarean birth too. Because giving birth by cesarean is still giving birth, and I believe that every birth, and every birthing mother, deserves support.
While it is still very rare for two support persons to be allowed into the OR in any of the hospitals in and around Dayton and Cincinnati, there are still many ways that I can support birth by c-section:
Prenatal education on options and choices.
Sometimes women are surprised to learn that there even are options available to them when giving birth by cesarean. These options might include simple comfort measures such as music in the OR, or bigger things like clear drapes to be able to view the birth, or skin-to-skin with the baby right after the birth.
Assistance in writing a birth plan.
Birth plans aren't just for women who are birthing vaginally! It can be so helpful to have your thoughts and preferences (see above!) written down and discussed with your care provider in advance, no matter what type of birth you are planning.
24/7 availability for support.
Sometimes you just need to know someone is available to talk through the various emotions that you may experience as you prepare to give birth. This is very normal for any pregnant woman, and it is no less normal for those who are planning a cesarean. We can help you organize your thoughts, assure you about what is normal, and provide resources or referrals if necessary.
Support prior to the birth.
For a planned cesarean, we will be with you from the moment you check into the hospital. There can be a wait time, sometimes even a few hours if unplanned emergent cesareans bump you out of line in priority for the OR, and that time can often be filled with nervous jitters and questions about the procedures and preparation involved. As your doula, we can help you relax and feel at ease as you prepare to give birth, giving you information about what to expect in the OR, and sometimes using the same comfort measures and skills we use during a vaginal delivery (who doesn't love a light massage!)
Support during the birth.
Occasionally two support persons are permitted in the OR with the birthing woman, or sometimes the partner doesn't feel comfortable being in the OR for various reasons. If we are in the OR with you, we will stay by your side, offering reassurance and information about what is happening and what you are experiencing. We will also give you a hand to hold which can be so very grounding during a somewhat nerve-wracking experience. And if we aren't in the OR? We are just outside in the waiting room, ready to join you in recovery!
Support after the birth.
After the birth you can expect us to stay by your side for at least an hour or more, depending on how you are feeling and adjusting. We will help you initiate breastfeeding and skin-to-skin time with your baby to facilitate bonding. We will help you and your partner and new baby get comfortable and settled after the birth. Once you are discharged home, we will also visit your home to check in on how everyone is adjusting and healing, and offer suggestions, tips, resources, or referrals as needed. Often after a cesarean, having additional support from a Postpartum and Infant Care Doula is also very beneficial, giving you the time and space you need to heal after a physically demanding birth.
While the exact flow of support might look different in a cesarean birth (just like it looks different in ANY birth because no two births are ever the same!), it does not change the fact that cesarean birth offers just as many opportunities for physical comfort measures, emotional support, knowledgable reassurance, moments of choice, and a compassionate listening ear. It is our pleasure at Tender Beginnings to provide that support to women and families who seek and desire it in the greater Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio region.