C-Section Stories: Maria Alcoke

1. Briefly, please share the circumstances that led to your c-section birth(s):

With my first born, I had planned for an unmedicated, vaginal birth in a hospital with a midwife. I hired a doula, had researched HypnoBirthing®️ and “natural” childbirth and thought that’s all I needed, along with my body’s innate ability to bring life in to the world. My first birth couldn’t have deviated further from my plan - after 17 hours of unmedicated labor, I requested an epidural. After a total of 33 hours of labor and 3 hours of pushing, my baby had not yet passed through the birth canal and talks of “head trauma” and “shoulder dislocation” lead to an unplanned c-section.

When I got pregnant for the second time, my assumption was VBAC. I didn’t think (and was told) that there was no reason why I shouldn’t try for VBAC, but as I got further along in my pregnancy, the “traumatic” experience that was my first birth played out again and again in my head. What if this baby is bigger than my first? She certainly felt that way. What if she gets “stuck” again? What if I experience the same outcome, put my baby at risk and have a log recovery with a three-year-old at home? These questions turned into fears and doubt in my body’s abilities. After months of being indecisive and getting mixed opinions and after many confusion-induced tears, I made the decision to have a scheduled, repeat Cesarean.

2. What surprised you the most about having a c-section?:

The first time, I honestly don’t remember much. At that point, it had been over 36 hours. Mentally and physically, I was exhausted and numb. I just wanted my baby. What surprised me the most the first time was how rough I felt after giving birth. My body felt like it had been hit by a truck. I had no idea what to expect and this caught me off guard. The second time around, I think what surprised me the most was how intense the experience (of surgery) was and how at peace I was with the decision. I was very tuned into the experience the second time around. I noticed the littlest details that were a blur the first time and I remember that moment when I met my daughter for the first time after my scheduled c-section. I felt an immediate connection to her. With my first born, I remember being excited, but also confused about who my daughter was.

3. What kind of support do you feel you received (from friends, family, healthcare team) after your c-section(s)?:

The first time around, my husband and I were actually living at my parents’ house. We had their help when we asked for it, but they otherwise were pretty hands off (which I appreciated) during our transition into parenthood. We had friends and family stop by for visits, which was nice - but at the time, I knew nothing about creating boundaries or how to ask for what I really needed. I don’t think I even knew what it was that I really needed.

The second time around, I started getting clear on my boundaries and created preferences for birth and postpartum while still pregnant. I knew what I did and didn’t want and I knew (for the most part) how to communicate that to my husband, family and friends. The care providers, nurses, other specialists and doctors alike were incredible and we felt very supported and loved. I can’t say enough about our positive hospital experience. Our “village” really showed up when we came home with our second baby. Meals were brought, our fridge was fully stocked! We never went hungry. Our oldest daughter was given so much love and attention. Our dog was cared for. Our dishes were done, laundry was folded. People really knew how to be helpful beyond just coming over to hold the baby. We feel so fortunate.

4. What’s your #1 piece of advice/encouragement for a new c-section mom?:

Ask for and accept any help. Don’t know how someone can help? Create a list and refer them to that list. They won’t ask if they aren’t willing. A few things to put on that list:

- wash dishes

- bring a meal (give ideas)

- take older children to library, playground, etc.

- walk the dog

- pick up groceries

It really does take a village. Utilize your village!

5. How do you believe having a c-section birth(s) made you stronger?:

Having two c-sections made me realize that birth is birth, no matter how you bring a child into the world; it’s still messy and exhausting both physically and emotionally. Birth has made me stronger because it helped me truly appreciate the female body and its ability to create life and heal from trauma.

Name: Maria Alcoke

Your Business: The Engine Mom

Where to find you: www.enginemom.com