Birth is birth, whether it is in an operating room, a birth center, a living room or the middle of a forest.
This wasn’t our first rodeo. We were thrilled to find out that we were expecting our fourth child. It wasn’t very long at all after seeing the positive pregnancy test that I began to plan for birth. Preparing with Bradley Method classes, visiting a birthing center or “going natural” would not be for me—nor would a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). None were viable choices for me after experiencing a primary low vertical C-section with our first child, and just over a year and a half later, having a repeat C-section with our twin girls. I knew that our child would be born via C-section; this was not a choice, but the rest of my birth experience allowed for a great deal of choice for which my husband and I will be forever grateful.
I had never intended to have cesarean births when I began my journey into parenthood. While pregnant with my first, I prepared with weekly prenatal yoga and childbirth classes with my husband. Like so many women, however, I ended up giving birth via an unplanned C-section. It was traumatic for me, and my recovery was long. My second C-section—with my twins—was much less upsetting because it was expected, though frightening and emotional at a whole new level, as our babies were born premature and required immediate special care. As soon as I found out I was pregnant a third time, I was determined for things to be different.
Unlike with our first three, we did not find out the gender of our baby this time, and the excitement to finally know if the littlest member of our family would be a boy or a girl was coming to a peak on a rainy Tuesday in the first week of fall.
My husband and I drove our second-grader and kindergarteners to school, taking one last family picture of the five of us before we left. We guessed the baby’s gender, weight and length as we made our drive to school. It was a sweet, emotional drop-off. We then arrived at the hospital, just up the hill, to deliver our fourth child by planned cesarean. I will always remember pulling into the parking garage knowing the baby we had been so excited about since January would be arriving that day. We made it to the date we had planned months earlier, which was a different experience than we had ever had before.
I signed in and went to triage, where an IV was started. We listened to our sweet baby on the monitor. My husband and I talked, my parents visited us, and we were able to confirm with the anesthesiologist that we could in fact have our photographer in the operating room. I was so happy to know that our photographer would be able to capture the birth of our child for us to treasure for years to come. My husband had taken amazing pictures at our previous births, but this time he would be able to be fully present with me and in the moment, without having to fumble with a camera. We updated our photographer with the good news, and she and my husband both suited up in traditional surgical attire.
One of the most defining moments of the day came next when we were told it was time to go to the operating room. I walked with my IV pole down the hallway with my husband’s arm wrapped around me. I couldn’t stop the surge of emotions or tears. Then, I had to say goodbye to my partner for a short time in order to prep for surgery. I walked into the OR and climbed onto the table. Talk about a surreal experience. I received my spinal tap and got as comfortable as possible with the help of the nurses and anesthesiologist.
I was asked what kind of music I wanted to listen to. I had a hard time coming up with anything for a minute. It seemed like such a big decision to pick which type of music my child would be born to. Then I thought, “The Beatles.” I had loved them since the time my husband and I met 20 years prior, and we listened to them the first night we ever had hung out as freshmen in high school. We had them playing at our wedding as we walked down the aisle as husband and wife, too.
The delivery had been scheduled for 11 a.m. Our wonderful doctor had to run to catch another baby a couple of rooms over, so we waited a little longer than expected. I felt nervous and a little worried about everything being OK with our baby. When the OB arrived, the process of birth began quickly. My husband came into the OR and sat next to me. The beautiful words of encouragement he spoke to me during that time will stay with me for the rest of my life. His hand rested protectively on my head.
Our photographer was able to capture the moments leading up to the birth from the corner of the room where she was stationed, having been instructed to stand in a particular spot. “Stand by Me” played on Pandora. One of the things I had decided to try was to use a clear drape during the delivery in order to feel more present during the birth and to see our baby be born. I was sure I didn’t want to see the incision in my belly, but I wanted to see our baby as soon as possible. The drape was perfect, allowing me to watch the surgeons and speak with them without seeing anything I didn’t want to see.
The speed at which a baby arrives once a surgical birth begins is astonishing. I couldn’t tell you exactly how long it was once the incision was made to the time our child was born, but it did not feel like much time passed at all. Our baby was delivered at 11:53 a.m. with “Yesterday” playing. Before I saw the baby, my husband said to me in a loving, tender voice, “It’s a boy.”
The doctor held our sweet boy up for us to see. No words can ever fully describe the feeling a mother has when she sees and hears her child for the first time. I watched and waited from the operating table as our son was assessed and weighed. I was relieved to know everything was perfect, and he was healthy. He weighed 6 pounds, 5 ounces, and measured 19 ¾ inches long.
For various reasons, I had never been able to hold my other children right away in the operating room. This time was different. More than anything else in my birth plan, me being able to hold our baby soon after delivery was of the highest importance to me and my husband. As soon as possible, our son was brought to me and snuggled on my chest for precious skin-to-skin time, even while I was being sewn up after major abdominal surgery. My husband rested his head against mine, and the three of us had “the moment” together. It was beautiful, all under the bright lights of the OR. “American Pie” played.
I noticed that my son seemed to have hair a little darker than our other children. He was hairier all together! I got to study him and fall even more in love with the little one who had shared every moment with me for the past nine months.
Off to the recovery room we went. We shared more special moments, and I sent the proud daddy to the waiting room where both sets of our parents were, having traveled across the country for the big day. My sister had also flown in and was with them. My husband got to go out and tell them the exciting news of the delivery going perfectly and of our handsome baby boy—just like in the movies. Meanwhile, I got to breastfeed for the first time in recovery. Grandparents and auntie all visited in the recovery room, complete with flowers and balloons and a bottle of sparkling cider.
We sent our family to go tell our son and daughters at school that the baby had been born and it was a boy. They told our eldest first, sharing the news with blue Hershey Kisses I had bought ahead of time (along with pink ones since we didn’t know!). Afterward, our son scampered with his grandparents and aunt to share the news with his little sisters in their class. When the school day ended, our children came to our postpartum room to meet their still unnamed baby brother. They adored him and sang him a lullaby. Seeing them with him was intoxicating and precious. We took a second family picture that day, this time, with six. A family is truly God’s masterpiece.
My husband and I look back now on the birth of our son, Arthur, as being perfect. It was my “healing birth.” Although it took place in an operating room, the birth of our fourth child felt very personal and special. We were able to incorporate several aspects of a gentle cesarean and put them into our son’s birth story. The clear drape, the music, having my hands free to hold the baby, and having skin to skin on the operating table … it was incredible. We are forever thankful to have finally gotten the birth experience I so desperately wanted.
Currently, the C-section rate in the United States is high. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, approximately 1 in 3 women will deliver their children by cesarean birth. Having choices and personal options during these births empowers women in their birthing process and helps create lasting pleasant memories of an experience that is among the most defining in a woman’s life. Of course, not all C-sections are “relaxed” and planned like mine. But, whenever possible, providing options for women and couples can help change the face of cesareans.
Send us your birth story! Whether you had a home birth, hospital birth, 37-hour labor or emergency C-section, we’d love to read the tale of your little one’s grand entrance. Write up your birth story (click here for tips on getting started) and email it, along with a few photos, to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll share it on our Birth Day blog and may even print it in an upcoming issue!