Three months ago we welcomed our beautiful baby girl, Margaux Mae, into the world. Arriving at 36 weeks and 3 days she weighed in at 6lbs 4oz and 18inches long. She is such a perfect little angel. I truly have no idea how a heart can grow to love so fiercely all in an instant… but I assure you, it does.
After sharing that I had to have a scheduled c-section for Margaux’s delivery due to Placenta Previa so many of you asked more about our planned “gentle c-section” and how we were able to have a surgical birth that was more family friendly. I figured the best thing to do is to tell you what a gentle c-section is then share how it unfolded for our birth experience.
The idea behind the gentle cesarian or family friendly c-section is to help the family and baby feel more connected during the birth experience and give the mother more of a feeling of giving birth opposed to the baby magically appearing from behind a curtain. Studies have shown that mothers who give birth via cesarian have higher rates of postpartum depression. The techniques involved in the family friendly c-section aim to bring more connection during surgical birth and potentially alleviate some of the risk of developing postpartum depression. It also allows for more baby friendly techniques to be employed if circumstances are favorable.
A gentle c-section in bullet form:
- The mother’s arms are free and not strapped down
- The drape blocking the view of the surgical area (abdomen) is see-through or is lowered during delivery for the family to witness the birth of their baby
- The baby is pulled slowly from the abdomen in an effort to mimic the compression that would occur if the baby were passing through the birth canal. This compression helps to push fluids out of the baby’s lungs and airways.
- Delayed cord clamping is allowed opposed to traditionally clamping off immediately. Delaying clamping enables all the blood that was being passed between the placenta and baby to deposit into the baby.
- The baby is immediately placed on the mother’s chest for skin to skin care and allowed to begin breast feeding as soon as possible
- Mother and baby are not separated after delivery. Weighing and measurements are done later to allow for immediate bonding of mother and child.
So that is the ideal family-friendly cesarian birth. Like any other birth, things do not always go as planned. Although our c-section plan veered from course, Margaux’s birth was wonderful and my OB did a phenomenal job caring for us and giving us everything we desired within her abilities. So here is our birth story for sweet Margaux Mae… the best I can remember at least. 😉
The truth is, even with advanced warning the entire experience felt surreal right up until Margaux was in our arms. Arriving at the hospital without any labor pains and knowing our daughter’s exact birth date and time felt so strange; like we were in a dress rehearsal. The last time I had been in that hospital was 2.5 years before when I gave birth to Camden. Margaux’s birth was the complete opposite of Camden’s 20 hour birth story. With Margaux, everything seemed to happen so quickly. I’m pretty sure I didn’t feel like I had a baby until late that evening.
Shortly after arriving and getting prepped for surgery, I was wheeled into the operating room. I’m not gonna lie, being in a cold OR without your spouse and having a giant needle poked through your spine is a terrifying experience. What I would have given to have Bradford with me the entire time for moral support. It would seem that the actual act of having a c-section would be much easier than laboring a baby out for hours on end. In some ways it was and others it was just as taxing. As soon as the anesthesia kicked in and my lower body was numb a vicious wave of nausea washed over me. My poor anesthesiologist was in a constant battle administering anti-nausea meds to prevent me from puking all over the place. That was a pretty miserable side effect to say the least. I also had some mean hot flashes and was sweating profusely. I was so relieved when Bradford was finally allowed in to hold my hand and comfort me. Just having him by my side made all the nausea and chest pressure bearable.
It wasn’t minutes after he got in that they dropped the drape and allowed me to witness Margaux being born into the world. I am so grateful to have been able to look directly at my baby as she was delivered. For a moment I forgot where I was and even began to reach for her. If my OB hadn’t reminded me to keep my arms out of the sterile area, I would have snatched that sweet baby girl right then and there. It was probably for the best that Margaux not come to me immediately as I had terrible chest pains and shortness of breath immediately after she was born. I was assured by anesthesia these feelings would go away once they put me back together. I will say the entire process of the c-section was much more physically demanding on me than I had anticipated.
Margaux was laid on my belly as they waited for the cord to stop pulsing where it was then clamped and cut. Due to surgical standards, the fathers are not allowed to cut the cord in most hospitals. However, I have heard of some that will allow the spouse to scrub in and cut the cord. Ideally, in a gentle c-section scenario, the baby is placed onto the mother’s chest after the cord has been cut for immediate skin to skin. In our situation, because Margaux was born pre-term, she had to be passed to a NICU nurse for a quick evaluation before I could hold her. The nurses were not supposed to weigh her or diaper her at this time but immediately give her to me after a brief evaluation. I understand how easy it is to get caught up in what they normally do and forget we chose to delay those procedures until recovery. I will never forget my OB stitching me up and yelling at the nurse to “stop wiping down that baby and put her on her mama right now!” They brought her to me and I was able to hold her for a few minutes before the NICU nurse had to take her again as she was having some breathing issues. Had everything gone as planned, she would have stayed on my chest as I was stitched up and then been allowed to stay with me all the way through recovery as well. Sadly, babies born pre term have a tendency to have some difficulties breathing and Margaux had to spend about 8 hours in the transition nursery until her breathing regulated enough to be with me again. The NICU nurse that was assigned to her was really wonderful and did allow me to try skin to skin again while I was in recovery for a bit so I was able to see her once more for a short while. I am so thankful for the transition nursery that my hospital has in place so that babies like Margaux aren’t immediately admitted to the NICU. Had she been at another hospital it would have been an immediate NICU stay and I wouldn’t have seen her until the next day. All in all she was born at 7:46am and I didn’t get to have her with me until about 4pm that day. Not too bad given so many other NICU situations, but any time away from your baby is unbearable for a mother who has just given birth. My heart aches for those NICU mamas who have to wait much longer to hold their babies again.
Another really amazing procedure my OB supported during our c-section was to allow us to populate Margaux’s microbiome in a way that mimicked a vaginal birth. Statistically, babies born via c-section have a much different microbiome culture than babies born vaginally. As a result it is not uncommon for c-section babies to experience more sickness in their life than vaginally born babies. Throughout my pregnancy I did a lot to try to support my own gut health so that these good bacteria would be passed on to my baby during birth. Once we learned a c-section was our only option, I quickly began researching everything I could to try to help pass on my good bacteria to my baby since she would no longer be inheriting the cultures living in my birth canal. In our research we watched an excellent documentary called MicroBirth and learned of a super easy technique to seed Margaux’s microbiome ourselves. For those who are interested, I will share all about that in a separate post soon. It is fascinating stuff.
All in all we had a wonderful delivery with no real complications. Margaux’s breathing naturally regulated within hours and she and I were reunited the same day. She successfully nursed from day one and we have been loving and cuddling ever since. Even after nursing Camden for 2 full years, the first few weeks nursing a newborn is always a challenge. I plan to share some tips and tricks I’ve learned from nursing both babies in a future post. Lets just say nursing was definitely a two person job in the beginning and I’m so thankful for such a supportive and involved husband.
I hope the photos below share more of what a gentle c-section can look like and give you a glimpse into the first moments of life with Margaux. There is a mix of photos shot by Bradford, our dear friend Melanie McLellan as well as one of the surgical nurses who took the camera for a few frames in the OR. I am so thankful to have had Melanie by my side for both my babies’ births. Had it not been for her, I would have been completely alone for hours on end while Bradford was with Margaux in the transition nursery. Melanie stayed by my side for most of the afternoon and kept me company while I waited on news about my baby girl. She distracted me from the loneliness of not having my little one with me and I will be forever grateful for her love and friendship.
You may not be able to tell… but this is my “please don’t puke” face. That little alcohol pad was supposed to help alleviate the puke feelings. I think it might have helped buy the anesthesiologist a little time… not much though.
The drape was put back in place after Margaux was out so they could stitch me back up. That is something no one wants to witness I’m sure.
Nothing better in all the world than that moment your brand new baby is placed on your chest and your hearts beat together again.
Shortly after getting to hold my daughter, she had to be taken away by the NICU nurse for further monitoring of her breathing.
Bradford went with Margaux to the transition nursery while I went to recovery. It was close to two hours before they would allow me to try skin to skin again.
We were only together about 15 minutes before they had to take her away again. In a perfect world where hospital politics didn’t play a role, she would have been left to stay on my chest and allow her breathing to regulate there. Unfortunately, they can’t pay the NICU nurse to hang out just with me and so she had to return to the transition nursery for monitoring.
Last snuggles before leaving again.
The next day, my sister-in-law brought Camden to meet his new baby sister. I didn’t want him to come the day she was born, since I wouldn’t be able to walk yet. Meeting a new sister and seeing his mama stuck in bed with tubes and monitors all at the same time might have been a little much for my little guy.
…and we’ve been loving this little snuggle bug ever since.