When a Doula Client Has a Cesarean

My goal for anyone I educate and support, is for them to be able to walk away from their birth experience knowing three things:

  1. I know I was treated with dignity and respect.
  2. I know I gave informed consent as I and my partner made all the decision in mine and babies care.
  3. I know This was the best possible outcome for my baby and I.

This can look so many ways, and it doesn't make for a cookie cutter "perfect" birth. There are countless ways a birth can look and the family still answer "yes" to these questions. That includes a cesarean birth.

While it is my responsibility as an educator to share the truth that a cesarean is an overused, major abdominal surgery that comes with its own set of risks, it is also my responsibility as a support person to respect the fact they are at times life saving and necessary.

I've experienced the helpless feeling of standing just on the other side of the "scrubs only" sign. Every time, I knew in my heart that we had done everything possible before getting to this point, and I could rest assured that the parents on the other side were at peace with the decision they made for themselves. Despite that, its also an anxious feeling, as you are suddenly separated from the family you've supported throughout their pregnancy and birth. There you wait. Standing. Staring. Helpless.  Everything is out of your hands. Some relief comes when you hear the cries of a newborn, and then again when Dad and baby make their way from the OR to the nursery, but full relief never comes until you see mom and baby, both safe, healthy and together in recovery.

The feelings I go through as a doula are dwarfed by the feelings mom and dad deal with. I once stood waiting with a dad, as mom was under general anesthesia and he couldn't go with her. His eyes were full of concern and helplessness. I remember standing there looking at him thinking, "They don't prepare you for this". I walked up to him and asked, "can I give you a hug?". He said yes, and as I hugged him, I used a lesson I had learned from a cousin who hugged until it was awkward, and then hugged a little tighter. As tears began to fall, he didn't have to say anything. I know the pain that comes with staring at the "scrubs only" sign.

I've also stood at this door with a fellow birth professional and birth photographer who knows just on the other side of that door is a birth experience happening that deserves to be documented.  I stood there with her staring past the "scrubs only" sign as she said, "one day, I'll be a scrub". I believe she will because she is the kind of person who was put here to create change.

I've stood here in this place and I'll likely find myself there again. I don't ask as a Doula that I never find myself here, but that I never find myself wondering if it was the best possible outcome.