Melodie’s Story: A Family-centered Cesarean

This post was originally written on November 24, 2014, not quite one week after the birth of my second child, a daughter. I want to publish it on this blog for Mother’s Day 2018. The family-centered Cesarean approach has taken off in the past three and a half years, but was still quite novel when we experienced it. Her birth remains one of the happiest moments and richest experiences in my life. I am so grateful to the mother of two amazing children. Their love has helped me heal my hurt over the past year and reconnect to the joy of living in the present moment. I wish a Happy Mother’s Day to those women who have become moms, who long to be moms, and who are grieving their children. As we all once came from a mother, today is a day for all of us.

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A few days have gone by and I would like to share the birth story of my Melodie, delivered November 18 via a family-centered Cesarean at our local hospital, only the fourth family-centered Cesarean to be performed there at the time.

After learning about another women’s delivery with my same OBGYN practice about 6 weeks before my scheduled procedure, I spoke with my doctor about the possibility of arranging the same for myself. She was immediately receptive and supportive, and initiated communication with the Directors of the Nursing and Labor and Delivery departments at the hospital. Over the next weeks, we spoke of the plan at each of our meetings, and I wrote down my expectations for the day. We all reached agreement and I prayed that everything would go according to the plan, that is I did not go into labor and that my and my daughter’s health were not in jeopardy. On the day of my scheduled procedure, the nurse in charge of the OR immediately expressed her support for the family-centered approach and informed me that an additional technician and a nurse from the NICU would be attending the birth as well. Soon thereafter, the anesthesiologist met with me and reiterated his support for the approach. And knowing I had the support of my surgeon, I felt such relief, hopefulness, excitement, and of course a little trepidation, because even with more “natural” modifications, the procedure is still major surgery.

As I walked into the OR, all the pieces of the plan came together. My husband was there with me, camera in hand. The leads were placed on my back to allow for skin-to-skin contact with baby and the IV started in my non-dominant hand. The epidural began. I lay down on a kangaroo cuddler, akin to a long piece of cotton muslin that would be wrapped around baby. The surgery began. When the time came for the birth, I had the choice of having the drape lowered or watching in a mirror. I chose to watch in a mirror. I then watched as the most precious little girl was born gently and brought immediately to my chest. The cuddler was wrapped around us, and I hugged her tight. The cord was clamped and then cut. She pinked up immediately, and everyone started congratulating us. She tested out her lungs with some strong cries and soon settled into me. Calm came over her. The nurses wiped her down a little and placed warm blankets over us. I initiated breastfeeding right away. Her latch wasn’t perfect, but I knew we would have plenty of time to work on that. My husband, my Melodie, and I held hands and marveled at what had just occurred.

Unlike with my previous Cesarean, I was together with my family as the surgeons finished my procedure. The feelings of abandonment and isolation I had felt with my first Cesarean were replaced with intense love and attachment. The time flew by as we bonded together as a family. I held my daughter tightly as the medical team lifted me from operating table to bed, and held her all the way until the recovery room. After a half hour or so, only then did the nurse take Melodie to be weighed and measured.

For the next three days we received excellent, supportive care from the Labor and Delivery team. Everyone that I spoke to about the family-centered approach expressed support for the new procedures.

***

At the time of these reflections, the hospital was still evaluating the family-centered approach on a trial basis. After advocacy by many women in the community, including myself, the hospital approved family-centered Cesareans officially, so long as mother and baby are healthy.

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