The Longest Shortest Time

EPISODE #71: A Childless Man Gets a C-Section

Okay, so that dude in the picture above is not the “childless man” from our story. He’s got kids. But the bleary look in his eyes is the result of having gone through a “cesarean role-play,” led by his partner and mother of his children, Amy Catania.

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Amy is a doula. That’s her assisting a mom through a birth. She also teaches childbirth education classes in the Birthing From Within model. She says she tries to give moms the tools to cope with everything from a drug-free labor to an unplanned cesarean. That’s where the role-play comes in.

During one class in every session, Amy picks a volunteer—usually a dad or a non-gestational mom. She has them lie on a table. And she acts out a c-section on them. We heard about this c-section simulation from some listeners, who said the experience had made a lasting impression on their husbands. So we asked Ian Chillag (left), host of How to Do Everything, to give it a try.

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Listen to this episode to find out if a fake c-section can have real emotional impact … and about the ridiculously simple thing that makes one mom (right) stop obsessing over her unplanned c-section.

Things to help you cope with a cesarean
Just because you’re delivering by surgery doesn’t mean your coping techniques need to go out the window. Here are some that Amy says you can use—or discuss—with your provider.

1. Focus on your breath. This helps to re-frame any sights, sounds, or touches in the OR that might be jarring or disturbing.

2. Dim some lights. Lights are brighter in the OR than in labor and delivery, but sometimes there are ones that can be adjusted.

3. Bring tissues dabbed with a favorite essential oil. There are weird smells in surgery—for example, your own flesh being cauterized (burned to stop bleeding). Having a nice smell nearby can help block out the bad smell. But when you’re in labor, you never know when that lavender smell you used to find so soothing will suddenly make you feel like hurling. Having the oil on a tissue helps because if you don’t like it, it’s easy to put it away.

4. Encourage your partner to be involved. Kisses or touches, or just quiet reassurance, can help keep you grounded.

5. Bring an mp3 player and earbuds. Each parent can share an ear bud.

6. Ask for things that will make you feel more in control of your birth. You ARE giving birth. But when you have a cesarean, some moms report that it can feel more like the doctor is birthing the child than you are. Amy says you can ask your OBGYN if it is possible to: lower the drape when baby is emerging; tell you when baby is about to be born in case you want to “push”; have immediate skin to skin and/or initiate breastfeeding, even if you are not yet able to use your arms.

7. Bring a camera. Even if you’re not able to get any of the things in #6, you’ll be better able to picture your child coming out of your body if your partner or a staffer snaps a picture of the birth. You can get an angle that avoids the gory stuff.

What impact did YOUR cesarean have on you?
Were you traumatized? Relieved? Both? Tell us what helped and what didn’t.