The Birth of Benjamin Eli : My Elective C-Section Experience

The Birth of Benjamin Eli : My Elective C-Section Experience

After experiencing a traumatic vaginal birth with my first child in 2017, I was not sure that I would be able to have any more babies. It wasn’t that it would be physiologically impossible for me to, but rather that I didn’t know if I could willingly put myself in the situation of a vaginal birth again. For that first year or so postpartum, I felt somewhat comfortable accepting that I may be “one and done” and let it be.

After some more time though, I knew that my prior birth experience didn’t completely take away my desire for more children. I always saw myself with two or three children, and I always imagined my daughter having a sibling. But still any time I thought about the idea of having a vaginal birth again I felt deep resistance. So, I began to think about what other options were available to me.

I joined a group for moms who were TTC or already pregnant after experiencing birth injury and trauma. Some moms opted to have an elective c section with subsequent pregnancies because they [ c sections] provide you with a much more controlled environment than labor. This is when I started to float the idea of opting to have a c section if I were to have another baby. I didn’t consider this lightly, and I knew that the reality of a c section was that it would mean longer recovery time and more risks to myself while being safer for the baby. However, I also knew this was the most realistic option for our family. I did a ton of research, watched many c section vlogs, read birth stories and read this book as well. I made an informed decision for myself and kept my expectations of the “experience” low. My top priority was having my baby delivered safely and not harmed in the process.

We became pregnant for the second time in fall 2020. At my first appointment with this pregnancy, the doctor I saw listened to my prior birth experience and told me that I could elect to have a c section this time if I wanted to. He said that my past trauma was more than reason enough if that was something I wanted. Knowing that I would have the support of my new doctor’s office to have an elective c section made me feel even more secure in my decision. Sadly, I experienced a missed miscarriage at 12 weeks. During the many appointments I had after my miscarriage I met a doctor in the office who I clicked with and I decided that when I got pregnant again she would be who I wanted to follow the pregnancy and hopefully perform the surgery.

I was both elated and terrified when I became pregnant again in late summer 2021. Pregnancy after a loss was a rollercoaster ride of anxiety. My doctor watched my pregnancy closely and the baby’s growth was monitored throughout since Julia was born small for gestational age and had a placenta that measured below the 3rd percentile – both of which were not caught during pregnancy. Thankfully, the baby measured consistently in the 50th percentile and my pregnancy was free of complications. I worked really hard to manage my stress during pregnancy and I began seeing a new therapist almost as soon as I found out I was pregnant in order to help me navigate my anxiety and feelings around the upcoming birth. I am so thankful for the support of my therapist and I recommend therapy to any woman who is or is considering becoming pregnant again after birth trauma and/or loss.

On a beautiful, sunny spring morning, our scheduled surgery day arrived…

We arrived at the hospital two hours before surgery time and were set up in a room where we met our wonderful nurse and had intake as well as some IV fluid. Shortly after, my doctor came in and did one last ultrasound to check on the baby’s position as she had a suspicion he may have turned breech at my last appointment. However, the ultrasound showed that he was in fact in the head-down position. She let us know that the anesthesiologists would be in shortly to go over what they would be doing and then when they were done talking to us we’d have about ten minutes left before surgery.

The anesthesiologists came in, spoke to me, and explained how the spinal block worked and what to expect. I remember the anesthesiologist telling me that I had completed “9 months of hard work. Today is the reward.”. My entire birth team from my doctor, nurse, and anesthesiologists were all aware of my prior birth history and everyone took the time to reassure me that this time would be different. There was no way that I could not be nervous, but being treated sensitively and being reassured made the entire process so much better for me. I felt so much support and love in the operating room.

Once the anesthesiologist left our room and the reality hit that I’d be walking to the OR in only ten minutes, to have my body literally cut open, while I was awake – the panic and realization of what was about to occur hit me hard. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Thankfully my husband was able to help me calm down and after some deep breaths and keeping my eyes closed for some time, I was able to calm down enough that when my nurse came to bring me to the OR I was nervous, but not freaking out.

When we approached the OR, my husband had to wait outside while I got the spinal block. Inside, the room was very bright, and only slightly cold. My doctor was in the room, along with the doctor who assisted, the anesthesiologists, and two nurses. Light-hearted music was playing. The assisting doctor was singing along to the music and the mood in the room was light and positive. Although I was scared, seeing the demeanor of everyone in the room helped ease a little bit of my anxiety. It started to feel believable that things would be different this time.

They had me get up on the very narrow surgery table and sit while arching my back in order to get the needle for the spinal block in the right place. My nurse held my hands and continued to reassure me that everything was going to be okay and that I was so close to meeting my baby. Once the spinal block was complete, I was laid down on the table and the anesthesiologist remained at my side and talked me through what was normal to feel and what was not. He stayed by my side the entire surgery. The doctor began doing some tests to make sure that I was numb enough, and I was. Next, the nurse inserted the catheter. At this point, my doctor came and held my hand, a small but appreciated gesture as she knew that part would be difficult for me. As the spinal block medication began to work I did experience a common side effect of feeling incredibly shaky. My teeth were chattering and my arms were shaky. I also felt the ever slightest sense of nausea, at which point I let the anesthesiologist know and he gave me Zofran which relieved the nausea quickly.

Once the catheter was inserted and I was appropriately numb they allowed my husband back into the room. He was seated by my side and as soon as I saw his face I felt immediate relief. My husband is my ultimate safe person, and best friend, and although it was hard not to be aware that I was currently laid out on a surgery table about to be performed on, as long as I focused on his face I felt like it was going to be okay.

The first incision was at 12:50 and my son was born at 12:56! – just as the song Dancing In The Moonlight finished playing. My doctor pulled down the sheet so that we could see him and he was perfect! A screaming little bundle of baby boy who reminded me so much of his big sister. The doctor did a delayed cord clamping and then he was brought to the warmer to have a little bit of suctioning. He was immediately thereafter brought to my chest (they would weigh and measure him later on). His Apgars were 9 and 9 and boy did his lungs work well! The little man screamed and screamed. It was the most beautiful and welcome sound after experiencing the opposite when our daughter was born. I felt so much gratitude and relief.

Benjamin Eli weighed in at a perfect 7 lbs 5.6oz and measured 20”. In no time we were moved from the operating room to our recovery room for golden hour snuggles, and then finally to our post partum room.

My son’s birth was truly a magical experience for me – and I don’t use that word lightly. I have experienced both an incredibly traumatic birth and an incredibly positive one and if I told you that I’ve had both vaginal birth and a cesarean you would probably assume that the cesarean was traumatic without any other details. I think my experience is a good reminder that ALL methods of giving birth can be a positive or negative experience. Vaginal birth is not the end all be all of an “ideal” birth experience.

I went into my son’s birth with no expectations in regards to having a healing experience. All I really wanted was my son to be born safe and unharmed. However, at the end of the day, I received not only the blessing of a healthy baby but the blessing of a birth experience that I can walk away from that truly was healing for me. There was so much love and support in that operating room and I will forever feel indebted to my doctor who was so supportive and understanding of my choice from early on in my pregnancy.

As far as recovery – yes, in some ways it is difficult. After a c section, they want you up and walking only hours later. My son was born in the early afternoon and I was up and walking by midnight that same night. I was also only given Ibuprofen and Tylenol as pain relief once the spinal medications wore off. However, my pain scale personally was never beyond a 5-6/10 and I was able to stop taking medication entirely within 10 days. Everyone’s experience will vary but for me, the kind of pain I struggled with in recovery from my vaginal birth was much more prolonged (But I also was induced, labored for 24+ hours, and pushed for nearly 3). At two weeks post c section I feel pretty good. There is some occasional discomfort at the edges of my incision but I would definitely describe it as discomfort, not pain. Overall my experience was incredibly positive and easier than I had anticipated.

I am so happy to share this story of the birth of my son. I hope that my story can be encouraging to someone else who may find themselves in the position of having an elective c section, whatever the reason may be. I also hope that my story is a reminder that all methods of birth can be beautiful ♥

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