In the United States, 1 in 3 babies are born via cesarean section delivery. The reason for cesarean births can vary due to pregnancy complications, medical conditions, elective choice, or a result following a trial of labor. No matter what the reason, we want to bring visibility to those who have experienced cesarean birth in recognition of April being Cesarean Awareness Month.
This is Jaci’s Cesarean Story…
I was around 30 weeks pregnant with my first child, Ezra, when my midwife told me my baby had yet to turn her head down. I remember her saying it’s okay, it’s early, and you have time. I later traveled from Haiti (where I was living at the time) to the United States to continue care in Florida with a great team of midwives. They also told me; hey, you have time. I then spent weeks trying everything and I mean everything. Spinning babies, acupuncture, swimming in a pool, and even saw a specialist at one of the best hospitals in Florida. All were just trying to get my stubborn little girl to move her head down. I had the perfect birth plan: a beautiful birthing center, a loving team of midwives, and an unmedicated birth. I’m extremely type A, so this plan was very thought out. Even though my husband wouldn’t be on my side (thanks to visa issues), it’s okay. I had a plan.
But that plan didn’t include a transverse baby. At 38 weeks, I sat down with a surgeon who explained that I would be surgically delivering my baby on April 23rd at 9 AM.
But this wasn’t my plan. She said it was okay. “A healthy baby and birth are all that matters.” But this is major surgery. This I really can’t do, especially without my partner. But my provider let me make some decisions and advocate for what I wanted, which helped me feel better.
It’s okay. I have a new plan. On the morning of April 23rd, the doctors came in very cheerful and optimistic. But the anesthesiologist said they would put me under entirely because of my autoimmune disease and its connection with my nervous system.
This wasn’t the plan. I remember sitting in the preop room, completely breaking down and sobbing. This wasn’t how I envisioned giving birth to my daughter. They then came to collect me and told my mother she couldn’t follow, but they would bring my daughter to her shortly. I wouldn’t hold my daughter until almost an hour later.
All my plans were gone.
I remember waking up from the anesthesia and seeing my daughter on me for the first time. She just appeared. It was incredible to go to sleep and wake up to this tiny human in the world outside of me. The surgeon came in a bit later to explain that I have a bicornuate uterus, more commonly known as a “heart-shaped” uterus. It’s rare, with only 4 in 1,000 women with this shape of uterus. Because of this, my daughter couldn’t turn and instead became very cozy in one of the sides of my uterus. At that moment, I was just grateful for access to great medical care and a team that ensured my daughter and I were healthy and safe.
Weeks passed, and my postpartum anxiety and “baby blues” took ahold of my emotions. I was away from my husband with a newborn. I was completely lost and, had not been for the help of my mother and sister, I probably would’ve mentally drowned. I cried constantly and was struggling with lack of sleep and breastfeeding. I felt so unprepared for motherhood and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t happier. Every time my husband would call to check in, I would just cry and cry to him. The six weeks until I was traveling back to Haiti felt like a lifetime.
It got so bad that I made an appointment with my midwives to talk. I remember sitting there while they helped my baby girl and just sobbed. The midwife looked at me and said, “My dear, you are grieving.” I looked at her and said, “Grieving what? I haven’t lost anything”. She just looked at me and said, “You are grieving because your birth didn’t go as expected. You lost a lot. You are alone, without your community. You aren’t with your partner, and you are grieving who you were before this child”. I didn’t realize my birth experience mattered, and I didn’t know the toll it was having on me. I just sat there and immediately felt the immense amount of pressure and guilt just fall off me.
A few weeks later, I returned to Haiti with my baby girl. Everything became easier after that. Just one day at a time, things got easier until we reached our new norm.
Fast forward three and a half years later, I was pregnant again. This time I was stateside with a great OBGYN, a support system, and my partner by my side through the entire pregnancy. Going into the pregnancy and prenatal care, I knew I would have a scheduled c-section due to the shape of my uterus and how my baby boy was growing.
Even with the surprise of my scheduled c-section becoming an emergency c-section a few days early, I felt mentally prepared for the road ahead. I had childcare for my daughter and a breastfeeding appointment with a local IBCLC (lactation consultant) already set up. I had taken newborn care classes (yes, these are important even the second time around) and done it all because I knew how important it was to have that community beside me. I was awake during my second c-section and, even though it was the most terrifying experience of my life, the moment I saw my son, it all became well. My eyes locked on him and I knew our family was complete.
I grew as a mother in that time between my first and second pregnancies. I learned to be proud of my journey. It’s a blessing to bring a child into this world under any circumstance, and it is a birth. A cesarean delivery isn’t your body failing you and it’s not just “plan b.”
Although my pregnancy and birth journey didn’t go as planned, my birth story is mine, and I am so proud to be a c-section mama.