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While most placentas move as the uterus grows, this one didn’t. It was covering Renee’s cervix, obstructing her baby’s exit. Her doctor and midwife agreed: a cesarean would be the best and safest way to birth.
I have been a labor support doula for over a decade and like other couples I’ve worked with facing similar news, Renee and her partner struggled to orient themselves to the idea of a cesarean. We worked together to prepare. When the time came, they found their way through their baby’s cesarean birth, with peace and conviction. It was an honor to stand at their side and offer tools to enhance the natural hormones of birth (making a birth by cesarean as healthy as possible) and remind these parents with an unwavering faith that birth is sacred, no matter the circumstances. With the number of babies born by cesarean worldwide, these and other clients have urged me to make these tools and this perspective more widely available. And so here it is.
The Mindful Cesarean is an invitation to harness the tools of mindful awareness and prepare for the healthiest birth possible. To that end, I frame the stages of a cesarean in the language of birth and suggest practical things to do at each stage to activate your body’s endocrine system, thus enhancing your body’s felt sense of birth. I hope the information and stories on this site along with the guided visualization and exercises you’ll find in the Toolkit help you to be present to your child’s birth, while honoring—with compassion— your hero’s journey through, with all the inevitable highs and lows.
This website and the accompanying Toolkit are for you
If you are preparing for a vaginal birth and want to learn about cesareans just in case, The Mindful Cesarean is for you. In many parts of the world between one quarter and one half of women will birth by cesarean. Knowing your options and understanding how to make a cesarean as healthy as possible is an important part of preparing for any birth.
If you learn in advance of labor that you have a high likelihood of birthing by cesarean, The Mindful Cesarean can be a meaningful part of your preparation, helping you appreciate your options and work your way through your child’s birth as women have always done, one moment at a time.
If you are preparing for a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC), considering the possibility of a repeat cesarean may not seem like a compelling idea, but imagining an empowered experience of cesarean may help you move from fear to freedom as you enter your next birth.
The Mindful Cesarean is also for women who have already given birth by cesarean
In these pages, you will find a wealth of information on parenting your baby and caring for yourself after a cesarean. In the birth stories section you can read tales told by families working hard to come to terms with their births.
If you are struggling physically or emotionally as you recover from birth, consider getting in touch with me for a consultation.
The Mindful Cesarean Toolkit for a Healthy Birth
When you download The Mindful Cesarean Toolkit for a Healthy Birth, you will receive print and audio of
- The Mindful Cesarean
- Cesarean as Birth – Reframing cesarean in the language of birth, I discuss the sequence of a cesarean and practical steps at each phase to enhance natural birth hormones
- Working with Fear – an exercise on transforming fear by imagining coping with the thing you are hoping to avoid
- The Mindful Cesarean Birth Visualization – The need for a visualization of a positive, empowered cesarean was my inspiration to write The Mindful Cesarean. I hope the visualization I’ve recorded offers you a peaceful practice to come back to again and again as you work to embrace and prepare for a mindful birth by cesarean
- Mindfulness Meditation and Massage for Pregnancy – A daily pregnancy relaxation practice
Additionally, you will find a number of helpful resources including
- The Mindful Cesarean Birth Plan
- Cesarean Crib Notes for Partners
- Sipping Broth for Recovery, and More
Additional Mindful Birth NY relaxation and birth visualization tracks can be downloaded at http://mindfulbirthny.com/newshop/
Tips for a Healthy Cesarean
In addition to activating birth hormones before, during, and after your cesarean, there are many things you can do to have an empowered, healthy experience. The Mindful Cesarean website includes detailed, practical suggestions for having as healthy a cesarean as possible, including tips for birth partners and research about in-labor cesareans, delayed cord clamping, microbial swabs, operating room essentials, parenting your baby through a cesarean, and more.
When it comes to options, remember, you can always ask. Good communication is key between you and your doctors. Discuss your preferences ahead of time if possible and remember, you can ask for anything. I was on a birth with Elana and Jai (whose story you will find in the Inspiring Birth Stories) where an induction led to a cesarean. As we were preparing to go to the operating room, the couple asked their midwife if they could delay cord clamping with a cesarean. “No,” she answered, “I’m sorry. With a cesarean, the pediatrician needs to take the baby right away to the warmer.” After she left the room, the doctor who was to perform the cesarean entered the room to say hello. I motioned to Jai, suggesting they ask one more time for delayed cord clamping. They repeated their question and the doctor was very positive about the idea. She said she would gladly honor their request for delayed cord clamping if at all possible. Elana and Jai were thrilled to hear it. As it happened, the baby was born in tip-top shape and received delayed cord clamping simply because his parents had asked a second time. You just never know.
After Your Baby is Born: Skin to Skin, Breastfeeding, and Recovery
In After Your Baby is Born I interview experts about the important time following your child’s birth, including one of the most important things you can do after a cesarean birth: on-going skin to skin contact with your baby. We also explore optimal breastfeeding strategies and how to help your own physical and emotional recovery to be as smooth as possible. You will find interviews with Jill Bergman, Pamela Morrison and Andrea Syms-Brown as well as information from conversations with and lectures by Dr. Nils Bergman, co-founder of the Neuroscience for Improved Neonatal Outcomes (ninobirth.org).
Inspiring Birth Stories
“The thing I love about stories the most is the power they have to teach us of possibilities that might not occur to us with them.” Ina May Gaskin
The Mindful Cesarean features a collection of inspiring birth stories.
“After 36 hours of labor— 24 of them on Pitocin, and my cervix still only 3 centimeters dilated, with the baby’s heart rate decelerating when contractions got too strong—my midwife and I decided it was time for a cesarean. I started to weep. I told her I knew it was necessary, but I still felt sad; I had wanted so badly to deliver vaginally. She understood. When the attending OB, a lovely woman with a warm smile and presence, came in, I said to them both, ‘This is my birth. I want this c-section to be sacred and powerful and a rite of passage.’” Elana Bell
“It was then that I remembered a conversation I had with my doula during my pregnancy. She asked what would be most important to me in the event of a repeat c-section. I almost didn’t answer her question, because I didn’t even want to face the idea of another surgery as I thought it would completely break me emotionally. At that moment in the operating room I was glad that I had answered, because I remembered to ask for those most important things. I wanted double layer sutures on my internal incision in case I ever get pregnant again. I wanted to see my daughter all bloody and goopy before they examined her. And I wanted skin to skin contact and nursing in the operating room. The surgical team was incredibly respectful… It was not the success or failure of my VBAC that determined my healing, but the fact that I gave birth on my own terms, in an environment of knowledge, respect, and love.” Suzanne Chesney
What ties together these moving tales of different women’s unique experiences of cesarean is a powerful commitment each makes to claim her child’s birth, even as she works with challenges, even as she struggles with disappointment or fear. I am grateful to each contributor for sharing such vulnerable life stories with eloquence and beauty. If you have a story you would like to share, please email me at email@example.com.
Please visit my website mindfulbirthny.com for more of my articles on birth and information about the classes and services I offer. I invite you to my blog, thebirthpause.com, for inspiration on meeting babies sloooooooooowly.
Note on Terminology: Birth Partners
Throughout The Mindful Cesarean I refer to partners as important members of the birth team. Your partner might be your loving co-parent or supportive mother, sister, friend, or doula. Please adjust the language as best fits your situation.