Cesarean Awareness Month Photo Series - April 2024

I have been wanting to do a photo series for April's Cesarean Awareness Month for the past several years, to represent the cesarean community that I support and am a part of. As a cesarean and VBAC mom myself, a doula, birth photographer, and a support group leader for our Cesarean and VBAC Support Group at Beautiful Birth Choices, these stories are a huge part of my heart and my work. 

Not all cesareans are traumatic, and some vaginal births also leave these feelings in their wake.  This, today, is for the cesarean parents struggling to come to grips with their hard stories.  AND recognizing that they are some of the most loving, wonderful parents I know.

The photos we often see related to these stories are dark and raw, lots of pictures of incisions and scars, things that just feel inaccurate in representing the women I’ve come to know so well. Their stories are hard to read, yes.  As a society, we are very uncomfortable with the idea of a negative birth story, which leads to shame and silence.

These women are out in the world. They’re all around us, moving through life as new parents, playing the role of the joyful mother, all the while processing these stories that are hard to read, let alone experience. It is a unique kind of torture to be coming to grips with the best day of your life also being one of the worst. There is betrayal - from trusted providers, to support systems, to their own bodies and babies. All the while going through the motions of learning to parent. Coming to terms with the baby that was inside them now being outside. Sometimes without even seeing or feeling them be born. 

I so often hear the disconnect that these mothers feel with their babies: 

“He doesn’t feel like mine,” 

“I don’t feel like I gave birth,” 

“She doesn’t seem real.”  

True PTSD, where I am talking these parents down via text or messenger because of a smell or sound that reminded them of the OR and set them off while at Wegmans, at the pediatrician, in their own homes.

Separation anxiety because they were away from their babies for several hours postpartum.  

Mistrust for the medical system because of the way they were treated.  

At the same time, they’re showing up constantly for their families and honestly, for society’s expectations.  Faking it til they make it.  Smiling and nodding when someone says how lucky they are, talking about how wonderful this time in their life is.  

“At least you’re both healthy!”   

Not “at least”.  Not “but”.  


You are both healthy AND that was hard.  

You are so in love with your baby AND their birth was one of the hardest things you’ve ever experienced.  

Both are true, and both need to be acknowledged.  

Of course, there are worse outcomes out there.  

And of course these parents are grateful to have their babies in their arms.  

And…they are struggling.  

And that’s ok. 

I want this project to show that juxtaposition.  When you see perfectly styled Mother’s Day or newborn photos, know that some of these stories are in the background.  They are battling things we can’t see, and they’re doing it all while continuing to keep a small human alive and “enjoy the moment.” They show up for themselves and for each other month after month.

These women have chosen to have repeat cesareans, VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean), or even not to go on to have more children for varying reasons. Sometimes these subsequent births go as planned, and sometimes they don’t.  All choices and stories are valid. When you read these stories, you can see that it is about so much more than the way a baby came out of a body. It’s about autonomy. Agency. The words, actions, emotions of the people surrounding these families make the biggest difference. These stories will make you question, 

“Do these things really happen?”

 “Do doctors really do that?”

Yes. They do. Not all, but enough.

Cesareans are life saving and necessary. We aren’t trying to avoid necessary or wanted surgical births. What we are trying to avoid is parents feeling completely traumatized and disconnected from their birth experience.  We are trying to preserve their agency so that when things don’t go as planned, they can be comfortable being flexible.  As part of the care team - doulas, nurses, midwives, doctors, and yes- you, too, anesthesia team - it is OUR responsibility to make sure that they feel heard. That they see their baby as soon as possible. That they are spoken TO and not ABOUT when they are awake during surgery, and that they are in the presence of someone they know and trust when they wake up if not. We have the power to completely change how these stories are written. As Penny Simkin said, we must view every interaction through the lens of “How will they remember this?”

To the providers working hard to make these situations better:

To RRH Hospitals who allow doulas in the OR as a standard - thank you.

To the nurse who did skin to skin even though mom was under general anesthesia - thank you.

To the midwife who stayed through the surgery because the doula wasn’t allowed in the OR - thank you.

To the anesthesiologist who spent 45 minutes talking about trauma history with a patient before even entering the OR - thank you.

To the doctor who sat at her bedside and looked her in the eye while talking about why it was a good idea to move to cesarean - thank you.

To the OR team who sang happy birthday as the baby arrived - thank you.

To the nurse fighting for a doula presence wherever the care team is - thank you.

To the providers updating the partners in the hallway waiting - thank you.

To the doctor who cheered when his VBAC patient reached fully dilated - thank you.

To those who move swiftly through emergencies while explaining to their patients what is going on, even if there are no decisions to be made - thank you.

AND so many more.  Thank you.

You make all the difference.

Leah's Story

“Both of my babies were in a rush to get here, and each decided to arrive at 36 weeks. Both labors started with the same dull ache; both times my water broke with a dramatic pop and gush. I was even admitted in the same triage room at the hospital for both births. But beyond those similarities, the births of my two daughters could not have been more different.

It will be three years next month that Willa came into the world via an unplanned emergency cesarean while I was under general anesthesia. She was breech for much of my pregnancy and had some medical complications that we knew about early on, so we were considered “high risk” from the start. I knew that, because of this, there was a higher chance of needing a cesarean delivery, and I am grateful that I had done some mental preparation for this possibility. I felt unprepared, however, for urgently being put under general anesthesia once I got to the operating room due to how quickly Willa was coming and her dangerous positioning. There was no time for a spinal, no time to speak with my husband who was not in the room, no time for weighing decisions or making my own choice.

I fully believe that having a cesarean was medically necessary to deliver Willa safely, and I am grateful that the on-call OB acted so quickly. But it has been harder to come to terms with being under general anesthesia. I have often wondered if this could have been prevented had my medical team truly seen and heard me, recognized my precipitous labor, and acted earlier. Instead, Willa’s birth was a terrifying and isolating experience. I felt robbed of what was supposed to be one of life’s most transcendent experiences, and heartbroken that Willa came into the world without either of her parents present/conscious to witness it. I’ve heard other parents who’ve delivered under general anesthesia describe it as missing the climax of their own story, and I relate to this. I will always hate that I wasn’t awake for Willa’s birth; that I woke up from anesthesia not knowing whether she was ok, that I didn’t hear her first cry, that I wasn’t able to hold her or comfort her during her first moments earth-side, that I didn’t see her open her eyes or meet her dad, that it was almost a whole day before I even met her, that the effects of guilt and fear and anger colored our first weeks together.

At the same time, I have learned about my own strength having come through the trauma of Willa’s birth. I have learned how to hold the pain of what I lost that day in tandem with the joy of what I gained. While I used to have a hard time looking at my cesarean scar, now I can appreciate the way it reminds me of our birth journey and how far Willa and I have come together. It also continues to connect me to Willa in surprising ways. Due to some of Willa’s health complications, she ended up having abdominal surgery to place a feeding tube to help her grow when she was a year old. We have since been able to remove the tube, and a little scar remains. Willa and I talk about each of our belly scars and how they’ve helped us do amazing things, like grow and give life.

When I became pregnant with my second daughter, my main goal for her birth was to be awake and for both my husband and I to be active participants in this birth. At 28 weeks, the baby was presenting breech on ultrasound, and I could not help but think “here we go again”. To feel a greater sense of control, I scheduled a repeat cesarean with a doctor I trusted who understood the trauma of my first birth.

All the while, there was a part of me that was curious about a VBAC. I believed I could do it, but I was afraid to want anything specific knowing how unpredictable birth could be. At 34 weeks, a repeat ultrasound showed that baby was head down, which opened the possibility for a VBAC in earnest. I made two birth plans with my doula - one VBAC and one cesarean - and decided to leave it open ended about how to proceed. This was not easy for a person who typically manages anxiety by trying to anticipate what to expect!

Going for a VBAC felt sort of accidental at first. When labor started unexpectedly at 36 weeks, I experienced several moments of self-doubt, and, at times, found myself wanting the predictability of a cesarean. Yet, ironically, a cesarean also felt foreign to me given that I wasn’t awake the first time I’d had one. Ultimately, since the baby was still pre-term, an elective cesarean was not an option, so I moved forward with a VBAC delivery one step at a time. My husband, doula, and medical team helped me feel empowered, heard, and in control.

Ada was born after three hours of pushing on Christmas morning. I was awake, my husband was by my side, and I can still remember the feeling of her warm, slippery body being placed on my chest. I held her as my husband cut the cord, and we sang to her and cried. I was able to take in all her little details in the moments immediately following her birth: the peach fuzz on her ears and arms, her fingernails, the cupid’s bow of her lips, her swirl of dark hair. Her birth was more than I had let myself dream of. There are times when I still feel guilty that Willa and Ada’s births were so different and that I couldn’t be present for Willa in the same way. I never want Willa to think that her birth was “bad” or “wrong”. There likely will always be a part of me that grieves for what I missed with Willa’s birth, AND I am grateful for the ways that both of my daughter’s births changed me."

Rachael's Story

"Daniel was my first. He is now 4 1/2.

My water broke naturally, and I went into labor and pushed for about 2 1/2 hours before they realized he was not descending into my pelvis correctly either then. Was told that I was going to need a cesarean, and everything was a blur after that I became very nervous when they went to do the epidural and was unsure what was going on because of the lack of communication between everyone. During the cesarean the doctor who performed it was not my primary OB/GYN, and she stated during the procedure that Daniel was stuck and she could not reach him.

There was a bunch of tugging and pulling, and I felt a lot of pressure, and it was very uncomfortable when he came out, he was taken, and I told my husband to go with him just to the other side of the room and I was OK, at first he was not crying. However, he then started to whale and I knew he was going to be OK. I learned later on that the cord was around his neck, and then I had meconium in my waters. It was very hard for me to hear that after no one had told me that during his birth.

When I got pregnant with Dylan, my daughter, I went for a planned cesarean from the beginning. I also wanted a Doula which I was so happy that I had one. I chose the Doula Duo and Morgan was there the entire time from when I was prepped to when we went into the operating room and it was just nice to have someone with me as well as my husband to be there. We had a first plan, and all of my wishes laid out, including skin skin right off the back and latching immediately within the first hour, after birth Basically Dylan cesarean felt like a redemption to what had occurred with Daniel. I was happy that I was able to communicate my needs and wishes and that Morgan and Joe were there to advocate for me when I couldn’t."

Kate's Story

"My amazing daughter was born via unplanned cesarean in August, 2022. I’m still processing the events that led to her birth and the weeks following. I’ve spent hours wondering where the ripple started that lead to the cesarean and all the complications that followed for both my daughter and myself. While I’ll never know what would have happened if someone had listened to me the first day I arrived at the hospital, I do know that I wouldn’t be able to share this story if it weren’t for Jennie and the beautiful community she’s created. Thank you to everyone who made me feel heard and understood at a time when I felt so much the opposite."

Anna's Story

"You have preeclampsia & we need to get the baby out now" I was only 21, young & naive. I trusted what they were saying & that they knew what was best. We immediately started a cervix softener & the plan was to start Pitocin in the early morning.

Fast forward 36 hours, I still hadn't eaten as I was denied food, I hadn't been up to walk around since Pitocin was started as I was told I couldn't use the wireless heart monitors. I was hours in of camel back contractions, but they never offered to slow down the Pitocin. Eventually my legs turned purple because Peter wasn't descending enough, but they said I still couldn't get up. Instead they offered me Benadryl & told me to rest. An hour later, they said it was time to push. Exhausted and starving, I shook my head no & begged for a c-section.

Finally when it was time for them to take me back, the doctor came in and said we've been waiting all day for her to ask for a c-section. It was 2:30am. I slept the entire time, blame the Benadryl. But when I woke up my little baby boy was there & man was he perfect.

It took me 6 years to work through the trauma of my delivery, and the feelings that I didn't have a "real delivery." Even though I did, but unfortunately in 2013 c-sections were still so looked down on.

After years of infertility, and a round of IVF, in 2022 I found myself pregnant again. But this time, I knew I wanted a different outcome. I wanted to have a say in my delivery, I wanted to eat & walk, to not feel uneducated in my rights as a patient...and I definitely did not want any Pitocin. Unfortunately at 34 weeks, we found out that my liver enzymes were rising rapidly & I had to be induced again. But I was still determined to have my VBAC, and thanks to my amazing doula Jennie, my supportive husband, and a rockstar birth team, I had my VBAC in January 2023.

The birth of my daughter Gwynevere, gave me a different peace of mind when I think about Peter's birth. I realized that it truly was not my fault what happened, and no matter what anyone says a c-section is also a form of delivery....and it is HARD! The recovery is HARD, and c-section mom stars are rockstars too!"

Jess's Story

"My labor was everything I had planned and hoped for. My water broke at home and I hung out and waited for my contractions to get closer together. I sent a couple of work emails and then went to brunch with my family. My contractions were getting closer together, so my husband and I headed for the hospital. We were so excited that we were going to meet our little baby. (We didn’t know Theo’s gender until he was born) At the hospital, we got through triage quickly and got one of the big tub rooms at Strong. From there, I labored, dilated, and moved. My husband put on some music, laid out twinkle lights around the tub and hung birth affirmations on the walls. I got into the birth tub and it was kind of beautiful. I was surrounded by people I loved and who cared for me. I felt so connected to my body and my baby. I welcomed each contraction and in between some contractions, I fell asleep. I was in my “birth flow” and felt so powerful.

I went through transition and felt the need to begin pushing. I exited the tub and began pushing. And I pushed for a long time. There had been some concerns from the doctor that the baby was measuring large and that I had been pushing for a while. After four hours of pushing- the attending doctor came into the room and told me that we should transition to a cesarean. I was so focused on pushing, I didn’t even hear her the first time she said it. She came closer to my head and told me again. I stared back at her so confused. My doula and I gave different suggestions of other courses of action. The doctor looked into my eyes and said- the baby hasn’t moved in three hours. And pop- my birth bubble was popped. I nodded and signed the paperwork. My husband got dressed in his blue outfit and they wheeled me down for surgery. I completely dissociated during the procedure, talking to the anesthesiologist to take my mind away from the procedure. My husband announced the baby’s gender- a boy! And the doctor held his little feet over the blue divider so I could see him. I didn’t feel as if I was a part of this portion of his birth. I continued chatting with the anesthesiologist until the doctor was squatting by my head. She told me that he was a big baby and that I have a very small pelvis. “If you ever have another child, you will have to have another cesarean.” I nodded as my husband brought Theo over so I could see him fully for the first time. He was beautiful and perfect. And I was so happy to see him. From there, we went to the recovery room and began the process of learning to breastfeed. We had our golden hour- which I am forever grateful for.

And I began healing. We are one year out now and I still feel like I am healing from my cesarean. I have had days when I am mad and sad about our unexpected ending to our birth story.

And I love this little boy so much. "

Becky's Story

"I remember being at my final prenatal yoga class at BBC only two days before my first scheduled Caesarean. We were asked to go around and share our birth stories or birth plans if we felt comfortable. I'll be honest, I felt ashamed and nervous that I'd be talking about my scheduled C-section after all of these women shared about their successful vaginal births.

My anxiety grew as my turn got closer until the woman to my left shared confidently about her scheduled Caesarean. I immediately felt relief and kinship and knew I was in the right spot at the right time. She generously shared details of her story after yoga and I felt peace about what was to come in the next couple of days. We arrived at the hospital around 11:15am and got checked into triage. We met our nurses and doctors while I got an IV placed and drank a sour shot to ensure my stomach wasn't acidic before the surgery. After what felt like hours, I was moved into the OR while my husband waited patiently outside (for what felt like hours for him!)

I sat on the edge of the operating bed and soon felt my legs go tingly and warm, then numb after the spinal was effortlessly given. The team helped me lay down and my entire body was numb up to the top of my ribs. My husband was finally let back into the room and as he did, the monitor caught my heart rate increase. A combination of love for him and excitement to meet our first baby, I'm sure! They poked and prodded my abdomen to make sure I couldn't feel anything and then they started the procedure! After feeling some pressure and tugging, I heard Audrey's cry for the first time.

My doctor held her up over the curtain and I will never forget my first glimpse of my precious 10 lb 15 oz, 21.5 inches baby girl! I remember hearing the anesthesiologist say, "you sure know how to grow 'em!" My husband had the opportunity to hold Audrey's hand as they cleaned her up and measured her. When he was able to bring her over to me as I was getting stitched up, he placed her face right next to mine and we both cried.

With our second, Mila, it was a very similar experience, including the nerves and excitement just add a global pandemic to the mix. We got to the hospital very early in the morning and similar with our experience with Audrey, everything went smoothly. I remember feeling nervous that even though we had a great experience with our first, something could change and create a very different experience. Everything was going along a planned until the anesthesia made me nauseous and I threw up while laying down, numb from the ribs down, into a small dish. It was all worth it when Mila was born, 9 lbs 8 oz and 21 inches long. Hearing her cry and seeing her over the curtain was incredible and even though I couldn't hold her or Audrey right away, my husband was able to share those first minutes with them until I could be close. Both of our beautiful girls were born via Caesarean section due to my gestational diabetes and their large size.

It wasn't how I ever imagined I would birth my children but it was exactly how they were meant to be born. My body didn't fail me, it helped me nurture and deliver my greatest joys."

Carly's Story

"I went into pregnancy with my daughter wanting a positive, natural birth. I had been hesitant about even trying for children because I was afraid of birth. My partner and I were proactive by booking a doula and taking birth classes. I started envisioning everything I wanted my birth to be (like the opposite of every birth scene in TV and movies?). One thing was very clear as I thought about how my birth would go: I did NOT want a cesarean. I refused to accept that as a possibility. All of my friends and family members who had given birth recently had natural births. So obviously I could too, right?

The morning Maeve was born, I woke up to my water breaking. I almost immediately started having contractions. I texted my doula, and finished getting my hospital bag ready. I assumed I would have awhile to labor at home, but I quickly got to the point where I had to stop what I was doing to focus on the contraction. After only an hour or so, they were already 3-4 minutes apart, so we made the call to drive to the hospital. When we got there, I was able to get right into the tub, which was where I felt the most comfortable. My husband put on our playlist, we had twinkle lights going, and during contractions our doula was pouring water to help with the back labor I was having. I was completely in the zone. After a couple of hours, the contractions were getting much more intense and I was having an urge to push. I asked to be checked, which meant getting out of the tub. I was around 7 or 8 cm so still needed to wait a bit longer. Pretty soon after that check the contractions were back to back and I was fighting the urge to push, so we brought back in my doctor for another check, and sure enough, I was fully dilated.

I was surprised it was happening that fast because of everything I had heard about first-time mothers having long labors.

The pushing was intense, but I felt powerful and was ready. I was thinking about my breathing and pelvic floor prep I had done. I knew it could be a little bit, but after 2 hours I was starting to get discouraged. I vaguely remember saying "I can't do this much longer". We were trying multiple positions, and each time the doctor checked, I wasn't making progress. At that point, the doctor said to me that it had been 2 hours and the way things were progressing, to be prepared for another couple of hours. I was feeling defeated, but my partner and doula helped me get back in the mindset I needed to be in. I gave every push my all, and kept trying different positions. After more than 4 hours, the doctor looked at me and said that I had done all that I could, but she just wasn't moving. She was stuck sunny-side up and couldn't make the turn she needed to. That moment was excruciating. I remember sobbing when I realized I would be having a cesarean.

The contractions were still intense with the back labor, but I could no longer push through the pain, and I had to try to focus while they were explaining the procedure and getting paperwork set. When we finally got to the operating room, my husband had to wait outside while I was prepped, and I felt so anxious and alone. I hadn't prepped for this, I was losing everything I had wanted for my birth. I didn't think to ask about my birth plan wishes like immediate skin to skin, delayed cord clamping, etc. etc.

Once my spinal was in, my husband and doula were allowed in. By that point, I think I was starting to disassociate to cope with everything I was feeling. After what felt like only a few seconds, they showed us our daughter over the curtain. I wasn't prepared, I didn't even realize they were getting her out yet. I barely had registered that was my baby and she was back out of my line of sight. My husband was able to be with her, and luckily our doula was with me so that I wasn't alone getting stitched up. Everything was still so surreal. It felt like hours before my daughter was finely brought over to me.

We ended up having latch issues, and that was my sole focus for the rest of the time we were in the hospital. I was holding onto making breastfeeding work because I felt like that was the only thing I could save from what I had wanted for our daughter's birth. After that, I just kept wondering what I could have done differently, and grieving that "golden hour" I had envisioned.

I am still struggling, but have come to terms with my birth story. I am lucky to have found a community of amazing people through BBC to help me navigate the challenges of breastfeeding, postpartum anxiety, and birth trauma. I'm working on my own healing and enjoying every second I get to spend with my daughter. She is fierce, sweet, and the definition of joy. I am so glad she gets to grow up knowing other badass mamas."

Meg's Story

"I felt like most of my pregnancy I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. I had a lot of pain in my pelvis and was very ready to meet my second sweet baby boy. At my 36-week growth ultrasound, the high-risk OB told me that Myles was experiencing intrauterine growth restriction just like his big brother.

He proceeded to tell me that we would be inducing labor, just like before, at 38 weeks, the only difference being he was big enough that we could deliver at Unity and not Strong. I knew that when the ultrasound tech kept measuring his femurs and head circumference multiple times that we were getting to that point. We impatiently waited the next two weeks for an induction date. Two nights before he was born we called to see if they could bring us in to start the induction. They said they didn’t have enough staff that night, so we waited until the morning. They said they couldn’t do it then, but we should call back that night. We dropped big brother off with my in-laws. Bryan (my husband) and I spent the day together, double checking the hospital bag, and doing any last-minute things we needed to before he came. We went out to eat and I remember being so anxious and in pain I didn’t want to eat much. We came home after dinner, and I promptly went to bed.

I was just about ready to fall asleep when the phone rang, telling us to come in. After we got there, we went over our birth plan and I started to feel off. I was nauseous and found it hard to focus. I was suddenly very tired and had a hard time talking to the nurse. At the same time, they hooked me up to the fetal monitor and the room became flooded with people. One nurse was asking the other if they saw the same thing on the monitor. Another nurse was putting an IV in and a midwife was completing a cervical exam as she was completing an ultrasound. The nurse who was completing my admission paperwork, said we wouldn’t be starting the induction because the baby wasn’t doing good. The midwife chimed in that we would be moving into a cesarean.

I kept asking if I would be able to stay awake for the surgery. The nurses said it would be up to the anesthesiologist. The anesthesiologist came in the room to ask me questions. He asked what I had eaten, and I told him chicken fingers a couple hours ago. He let out a loud sigh and asked who told me I could eat; I would definitely aspirate now. I was crying and told him that the nurses told me to eat before I came in to be induced so I could have energy for labor. I asked him again if I would be awake for the surgery. He asked me about my surgical history and if I had had any surgeries on my back before; to which I said yes. I explained that I had a spinal cord stimulator currently implanted. He shook his head and walked out of the room. This all happened extremely fast. My husband was trying to crack jokes as he started to process what was going on.

We were frantically trying to update our parents and our doula.

We had planned for her to stay home initially thinking that we were just starting the induction and would call her when things started happening.

Next thing I know, the nurse is asking me if I want to walk to the operating room or be wheeled in. I started sobbing but didn’t want anyone to notice. I knew my husband couldn’t go back with me. No one would tell me what was happening or why.

All I knew was that I didn’t feel good, and something was wrong with my baby. I questioned if I was even going to make it out to see my baby, I had worked so hard to grow in my womb. The nurse handed me the consent form to sign both for surgery and for general anesthesia. I knew in that moment my worst fear was coming alive. I signed it, asking to kiss my husband before they wheeled me back. The nurse wheeled me into the OR. It was freezing and I felt like I was falling apart. I questioned how something as beautiful as my baby’s birth was going so wrong.

I felt like I failed him before he was even born. My body hadn’t been able to grow him as strong as he needed to be and now, he was going to be here and everyone else would see him before me. They put me on the table, and everyone got to work. Someone strapped my arms to the table while the anesthesiologist told the nurse to hold my neck. He saw that I had a necklace on with my three children’s names. He asked why I didn’t take it off.

Little did he know, that necklace was my safety net, the one thing that was grounding me in a sea of unknown and fear.

It crushed me even more to hear what he said about it. The nurse proceeded to hold my neck, with my chin up to the ceiling, with one hand and wiped my tears with the other. She told me how strong I was and brave for going through this to bring my sweet boy into the world. In the background, I hear the doctors getting their gowns and gloves on and counting the surgical instruments out loud several times.

Simultaneously, other nurses are prepping my body, cleaning the surgical area. I feel the OB put her hand on my lower belly. Then she asks what is wrong with my belly button. After that, she tells the anesthesiologist to put me out. The next thing I knew, I was waking up from surgery. I hear Jennie’s voice talking to the nurse and I feel so much pain. I felt Jennie holding my hand. I knew it must be over. I didn’t hear my baby or my husband’s voice. We got to the hospital at 8pm that night and he was born before 11pm. The next few hours, the timeline was fuzzy. I knew that I was ok. I found out the baby had the cord wrapped around his neck several times. Baby Myles and I spent the next couple of days in the hospital together until we were ready to go home."

Shaina's Story

"My cesarean in 2008 was really straight forward but characterized by feelings of powerlessness, anger, and frustration at the way my pregnancy and induction were managed. That provider’s words stuck in my head for years. She said she would recommend repeat cesarean in the future “because of what your cervix did.”

My VBAC in 2022 was way less straight forward, and I walked away feeling powerful, strong, and so damned proud of myself. I asked so many questions, was informed of risks and benefits, and was respected as a fully autonomous person over and over again. I knew if I had another cesarean it would be because I truly needed it. I trusted that my body and my baby would figure out what to do given time, and they did!

My provider’s words are stuck in my head this time, too. She said she was inspired by me, and my birth helped get her excited about VBACs!"

Jackie's Story

"I was due with my first baby on June 14th , 2018. That being Flag Day, we decided to call the baby “Betsy” until the big reveal happened. I had a terrible first and second trimester struggling with hyperemesis. And once we were into the 3rd trimester, I had terrible sciatic nerve pain that lasted until the very end. Like most pregnant people, I was DONE being pregnant, and was very ready to become a parent!

At the end of week 38, I had been having prodromal labor for about two weeks. Contractions about ten minutes apart every night, and once I got up in the mornings, they would stop. One day felt different than all the others, and I knew things were starting to happen. I sent a message to my mom saying they might need to prepare for their long drive from CT! However, I started to doubt that things were happening since it was still a little on the early side, and I told my mom to stay tuned, just a false alarm in the early morning hours of June 3rd . Then, that same morning, at 7:33am, my water broke, all over my living room carpet, and I texted my mom back saying, “JUST KIDDING, MY WATER JUST BROKE!” She replied immediately saying, “Getting in the car, now!”

We didn’t know what was happening, but we knew that our baby was coming!

We called the hospital and they said to come in at the 5-1-1 point, or at the 12-hour mark, whichever came first. So, we stayed home. My parents arrived, our good friend Allison also hung around (and stayed with us for the entire labor) and then my in-laws joined the party. I rested, walked in circles around our first floor, ate some snacks, and tried to sleep, etc. Before we knew it, the twelve hours had come and gone, so, we headed to the hospital. I was a nervous wreck, and my husband seemed to hit every single pothole on the way. Contractions were coming regularly, but I was still OK, talking through them, and just trying to go with the flow. That changed quickly once we were actually in the hospital. I remember being uncomfortable and having a lot of back pain in triage.

I wasn’t dilated very much, but my cervix was thinning, and things were definitely happening, so, they got me to a room and I continued to work through contractions as they were coming. I had a hard time working through the pain in my back. We tried a shower, we tried a bath, we tried walking, we tried hip squeezes and different positions. Nothing was giving me any relief, so I decided after about 5 hours or so, around midnight, that night to get an epidural. It only worked on half of my body, so they had to tilt me over to help numb the side that was not accepting the medication as well. That was so weird and uncomfortable. But, after a while, I was numb, and I fell asleep. I slept for about 5 hours. When I woke up, they did a cervical check, and I was only 4cm at just about 23 hours since my water had broken. They had told me that they wanted to monitor how things go because once you get to 24 hours, the risk of infection increases. So, I was basically at that point, but I wanted to keep going. So, we continued.

Eventually, the back labor started becoming unbearable. I began vomiting, shaking, crying. Things were becoming intense. At the 31-hour mark, they came in to do another check and I was only 7cm. I was so discouraged and frustrated. How could it be taking SO long and we’re not there yet!? I was so tired. I was emotional. The doctors brought up the option to have a cesarean delivery, and they supported that since it had been so many hours since my water had broken. We asked them to give us a minute for us to talk about it, and at that point, I felt defeated, and I was at my lowest low. I wanted it to be over. And, so we agreed to the cesarean. They told me they’d get me in shortly, and so we just began to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

I remember asking my husband and Allison “WHEN!?” They both did their best to keep encouraging me to work through the pain and that they’d be coming soon to bring me to the OR. Two hours later, they came, finally. I was so scared of getting the spinal block. My entire body was shaking on the table.

The anesthesiologist told me that if I couldn’t try and calm down and stop shaking, that they’d have to put me under general anesthesia. I had no control over my body, and I couldn’t stop. So, the doctor laid down on top of my upper body to try and help stop the convulsions as a last-ditch effort in avoiding general. It was cold, and scary, but before I knew it my body started to calm down and my husband was finally next to me. I remember exchanging looks with him and finding a lot of comfort looking into his eyes. In the next couple of minutes, we heard a crying baby, and when we looked up above the blue curtain, there she was!

We didn’t know the sex of the baby during the pregnancy and so that was our moment to get a good first look to see that we definitely had a baby girl! Finding out that we had a daughter that way was the one thing I really truly loved about my birth experience. Everything else, I really struggle with to this day.

I had a really rough postpartum recovery both physically and emotionally. I was depressed, I was constantly in tears, my body was in rough shape after a long, grueling and unsuccessful labor. My discharge papers had the words “Failure to progress” as the reason for the cesarean. I carried the weight of those three words with me for a really long time. Therapy, support groups, and talking about my experience with parents who also had traumatic experiences welcoming their babies into the world were (and continue to be) really helpful. I thought after Eleanor was born that I would be done having children. I was too scared to experience the same thing again, but getting support from our cesarean/vbac community and learning about how to prepare better helped me gain the confidence to grow my family.

As soon as I found out I was pregnant again, I did a couple of important things so I could feel empowered and more in control of how things went this time. I found a new provider, I hired a doula, I continued to attend our support group, and I started preparing mentally and physically with therapy and body work on a regular basis. I wanted more than anything to have a redemptive birth experience and I tried to make sure I had all the tools I could have to make that happen.

Little did I know this birth would be almost identical to my first. I was past due, which was new territory for me since my first started to come 11 days early. At 40+2, I went to my provider’s office for my regular check, and I requested a membrane sweep to help get things moving. They denied, but they said they could stretch and help pull my cervix downward a little since I had already started dilating and softening a little bit. This was NOT a comfortable experience, but the provider said that this would no-doubt start moving things along. Sure enough, the next morning, I had started contracting and I was told to come to the hospital since it was my second birth and a tolac (trial of labor after cesarean). The hospital checked me out and since I was not in active labor, they wanted me to stay for an hour to be monitored.

A new nurse tried to hook up my IVs and blew out my veins in both arms. Off to a GREAT start! I was stressing out, my hands had huge blue bubble pillows from the blown-out veins, I was just about as comfortable as you’d imagine. I just wanted things to happen differently this time and have the odds in my favor. My contractions started separating further apart and lasting less than a minute, so, they decided to send me home and not admit me. I returned home, feeling already defeated, and just decided to try and stay positive and let things happen. I stayed home, rested, spent time with my 3 year old, and when it was her bedtime, things started picking up again and I knew it was really time to start timing contractions and focus. For the next hour. My mom held my hand and walked with me around the loop of my first floor. Almost at exact intervals, the contractions were coming and lasting a minute. After an hour of this, we called the hospital to tell them we were coming.

We told our doula that we were heading in, and she told us she’d meet up with us there. Upon arrival, things at the hospital were much slower and quieter than they had been in the morning, so they were able to put us in a room pretty immediately! I was admitted and we were ready to go! I was feeling confident and strong, but also very uncomfortable. I remember moaning in pain with each contraction. I couldn’t speak through them. At some point, a resident doctor came in to review consent forms for me to fill out. I was in the bathtub. I wasn’t paying attention to anything she was saying. The consent forms which she was trying to explain to me were about me consenting to go to the OR if needed for a cesarean delivery. I was hesitant.

I didn’t want to sign them. But, I did, because I basically had to.

I told the resident that I needed my doula to come into the OR with me if it got to that point. She said that it wasn’t possible, but that she would ask and see. Later, she came back saying that the doula would not be permitted in the OR if the anesthesiologist said no.

So, I remember feeling discouraged by that pushback. I wanted my doula to be there, to hold my hand, to be a support for my husband, to be the family advocate in the OR. I was not given that opportunity when perhaps if I had, things would have been much different!

Fast forward a little bit. I’m contracting. Its killing me. My whole body was shaking, I was moaning and crying. I was vomiting. All of these things I experienced in my first labor. I started to think “wow, this is familiar.” But, I tried to keep working through it, when eventually, I had had enough. I asked for the epidural and once it was in and working, I took a nap. Also familiar.

Four hours later, I awoke to a big gush. My water had broken. Once that happened, things started to get really challenging with the epidural. It was almost like it wasn’t working at all. I had pain all around my body, like a belt. The pains were almost wrapping around from my back all the way to my front. I’ve never felt such intensity. I asked for someone to come check the epidural line to make sure it was still working, to push more meds if possible, to do SOMETHING because I was in agony. I was suffering, and in those really challenging moments was when I decided to end it for myself. I had not had any cervical change in more than 4 hours. I was stalling at 7cm again, just like I had with my first. I knew that I couldn’t continue doing this for much longer.

My doula told me that Jennie was in the room adjacent to us with another laboring parent and she told me that they could swap for a couple minutes. So, in came Jennie, and I melted into her arms, crying in defeat. I had tried to do everything I possibly could to make sure this didn’t happen again, and I couldn’t believe that after all of the work I put in, we were throwing in the towel and the vbac was unsuccessful. But, unlike last time, Jennie was there. She reminded me that I was more in control and that I did everything I could. I was educated. I felt like I knew that it was the right thing to do. She validated everything I had done and everything I was feeling. I will never forget that hug from Jennie. After 39 really long and painful hours, I was finally ready to get this baby out and meet who they were!

So, off we go to the OR (without my doula). They prep me, try to get me numb with just the epidural. They were not able to give the spinal because they had just done another epidural (which wasn’t working) and it’s not safe to have both, apparently. So, they did the pinch test. They’d pinch, I’d feel it, I’d say “I can feel that.” And we continued this for what seemed like a year, although I have no idea how long it took. I was vomiting on the table because of the pain from the contractions. While they were prepping, one of the nurses held my hand and caught my puke and stroked my head. I would have much preferred my doula to be there doing that instead, but I was very grateful for that kind woman who sat beside me.

Finally, they get to a point where I’m numb and my husband could join me. They deliver the baby, we hear the cries, we all celebrate learning that there was another baby girl in our family! Little Katherine completed our family at 6pm on August 6th , 2021! One of the doctors came around to my head and said that my incision from my first cesarean had started to tear and was barely together.

This is where all of the intense pain I was feeling came from! Wow! They told me in that moment that I should not try for another vbac in the future because I was THIS CLOSE to rupture. I had made the right decision after all! Then, they wrapped her up, and they put her on my chest, and I talked to her and kissed her face, and then I remember a green mask being placed on my face

…that’s all I can remember.

I woke up alone, in a different room, with a row of other recovering patients. I didn’t know where I was, who the nurse was who was asking me questions, where my daughter who I was just holding and kissing was, or where my husband was. It apparently had been almost two hours of me being asleep and I had no idea! For the next two hours, I had nurses coming to press on my belly. I remember feeling a little disoriented still and I tried shoving one of the nurses away from me because I didn’t want her to touch me. If you know that pain, you know exactly why I would do such a thing.

I kept asking if I could have my daughter and see my husband, but I was told I needed to wait until I was cleared from the general anesthesia recovery unit. Finally, another two hours go by, and it’s just about 10pm. The transport staff came to wheel me back up to the labor and delivery floor, and when we were almost there, we passed my husband in one of the hallways. I told the transport person who was with me to stop. I asked “What are you doing here? Where’s the baby?” His response was “I don’t know.” My stomach dropped. He had apparently been trying to be reunited with her this entire time and he wasn’t able to.

Four hours.

She was alone in a nursery for four hours. He was alone trying to get help for four hours. I was alone asking to be with my family for four hours. What the actual F*CK? There had been a shift change, there were other excuses we were given. But to this day, I am still angry! We got to my recovery room, and I ask for the baby to be brought to us immediately. Once she was in our room, she stayed in our room until we were discharged. I asked as soon as I was able to stand and walk to the bathroom that I be prepared for discharged. I couldn’t believe what happened and I had no idea what the reason was for me to be put under general anesthesia.

My husband explained that I started yelling that I was regaining feeling. I was out of it and yelling a lot. So, they had to put me out. I have no memory of that happening at all – and it’s probably a good thing that I can’t remember any of that!

In the end, I had two very long labors that ultimately ended in cesarean deliveries. I struggle with accepting my birthing stories as they are, but I have learned how much support and love I have from my husband and my friends and my community of cesarean parents from BBC. I continue to attend our support group and am still in therapy with the end goal of being able to carry the weight of my experiences differently. I would love to one day be able to think about/talk about my births without crying and being triggered. I deserve that! We all deserve that! I’m thankful for being a part of this photo project with Jennie, and I’m glad to be able to share my journey with others who have gone through similar experiences."

Jaime's Story

"I have two kiddos, both born vis cesarean under general anesthesia. Jojo’s birth began like many, an induction at 41w6d due to elevated blood pressure.

My body only needed one dose of medication before it launched itself into intense labor, for 36 hours before I stalled out and stopped progressing. I had had two epidurals that both failed, leaving windows that caused increased pain. The baby was supposedly measuring big and there was a risk of shoulder dystocia so I was encouraged to have a cesarean.

At that point, exhausted and feeling like I was without options, I was hurriedly rushed into the OR (unbeknownst to me baby was having decels…they never told me).

In the OR I was, for lack of better terms, physically assaulted by the anesthesiologist when my spine wouldn’t accept spinal anesthesia, who laughed and joked about the Bills game as he said “goodnight” and put a mask on my face, putting me to sleep with no warning or regard for me as an actual human being.

It ended up being one of the most traumatic experiences of my life.

My husband was left, abandoned in the hall, wondering if I was alive or if something tragic had happened to our baby. No information was ever shared with him and they simply brought him our baby, whom I didn’t get to meet until several hours later, waking up confused in the PACU wondering what the hell had happened.

The results of the traumatic birth of my daughter let me into a deep hole of PPA and PPD, something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Then in came Jennie and the Cesarean group who changed my life forever.

There I learned that it is ok to feel the duality of happiness that I had a beautiful healthy baby AND the awful traumatic birth in the same breath. I learned how to love myself, and love my baby all over again and after 4 years of hard, hard work, how to move forward with another pregnancy.

A baby that I swore I would never have.

This birth was going to be different.

I learned about my options, I hired a doula, I created a structured birth plan and I advocated, boy, did I advocate, for a different experience. An experience where I was a person, given informed consent, where I was safe, where I was heard. I designed my team, met with providers and picked the angels that would give me this experience I needed.

The day of Drew’s birth I was all “business” ready to power through and have the empowering AWAKE, planned cesarean experience I wanted and so desperately needed. My two big goals were to have my doula accompany me in the OR and to be awake for the birth.

My surgery got pushed back due to emergencies, and I am so thankful it was. I was able to sit down the the anesthesia attending, who was trauma-informed, knew my story and treated me like a person. There was major discussion about having my doula in the OR as policy would not allow for it, but the providers knew how important it was for me to remain calm and not panic.

Eventually, a compromise was reached where Jennie could join me for the prep, which was unheard of. This is where all of the trauma happened the first time. Get over each little trauma hurdle, one, then the next, to get to my baby.

The anesthesiologist attending, tried for 90 minutes to get a spinal to work, and again, my body would not accept it. He eventually stated, after consulting with my incredible surgeon, that he would keep trying for 15 more minutes, but then we needed to have the discussion about general anesthesia.

I stopped him in his tracks, and said “no, I need to make this decision, and we aren’t trying anymore.”

I have never felt stronger and more empowered in my life.

I felt safe, I felt heard, I felt validated. I had my midwife holding my hand, my doula went to be with my husband (which helped him redeem his trauma from the first birth) and I drifted off to sleep feeling calm, happy and relieved.

While asleep, the team fulfilled all my wishes of singing happy birthday to my baby, giving baby skin to skin (I wouldn’t remember….but he would) and passing him off to dad for the first feed.

Meeting him hours later felt so different. Familiar, but so so so much different.

My birth was nothing like I wanted, but everything I needed. It would not have been possible without all of the hard work we put in, the team who trusted and valued me and my baby, patient centered, trauma informed care, and the voice I gained learning how to advocate for myself.

I have never been prouder of myself and my body for overcoming the most difficult experience and having a birth that was better than I ever could’ve imagined.

I have two beautiful babies, born in incredibly similar, yet different, ways,

AND both loved fiercely beyond measure."

Kristin's Story

"Vance was born via C-Section due to being breech. I was of course offered to do the ECV in attempt to flip him but wasn’t confident enough in doing so. My water ended up breaking the day before we scheduled him to be delivered . I arrived to the hospital at 10am that morning and was supposed to have him a couple of hours after that. Unfortunately a few other mamas had emergency C- Sections that day. After about 15 hours it was his turn to enter the world! It definitely wasn’t my plan but I’m thankful that he got out in the safest way he could."

Kayla's story

"For the last 2 months of my pregnancy, my daughter was breech. She didn’t turn on her own, so my doctor asked if I wanted to try a procedure where he would manually turn her from the outside. I didn’t want to place my body or hers under that stress, so I opted for a scheduled C-section.

The morning of the surgery arrived, and I was terrified. I was able to walk down to the operating room unassisted. Once in there, it took 2 doctors and 3 different attempts to insert the needle into my spine for the spinal. I remember feeling a shooting pain down the left side of my body, like a lightening bolt when my spine was nicked the second time. Once I was numb and laying down, the surgeon started cutting.

I remember hearing “She’s here! Happy birthday!” And then nothing. Complete silence.

I remember looking at my husband and saying: “She isn’t crying. Why isn’t she crying?” A couple minutes went by (it felt more like an eternity), and the NICU doctor finally brought her over to us. She had a nasal cannula for oxygen and we could only give her a quick kiss before they took her up to the NICU. I didn’t get to go to the NICU with her. I was told I could not go see her until I was able to stand up and get in a wheelchair independently - after having major abdominal surgery.

All I did that first night was cry. I was able to hold her the next morning. She was in the NICU for 3 days due to respiratory distress and the need for 10 seconds of chest compressions when she was first born.

She is healthy and thriving now and we couldn’t be more in love!"

Morgan's Story

"We had my weekly check up at the doctors. I excitedly told him that I had been in labor all day and he asked me the question that would change everything: “Have you been feeling the baby move?” I said “no” and he sent me to triage.

I actually remember them asking, “Do you want to be pregnant anymore? Because we can induce you” They hooked me up to two external monitors and every time I moved, the nurse had to come in and fix them.

I got up to go to the bathroom and felt a little wet spot on my gown. The nurse told me it was likely my water breaking, so a doctor came in and hooked up internal monitors. a HUGE warm gush of fluid came out.

I was now allowed to stand, use a yoga ball, and sit in a rocking chair. AS soon as I sat on the yoga ball, another HUGE gush of fluid came out. my contractions continued to get longer, stronger, and closer together. I decided to get the epidural. They placed a catheter and at midnight the doctors came in and said it was time to push! after 3 hours, a new team of doctors came in and gave me the option to continue pushing for another 3 hours or have a C-section.

They told me that I could probably get her head out, but that her shoulders were too wide, and they may be injured during delivery. So, I signed the c section consent papers, and they wheeled me to the operating room. After they put the medicine in, I started panicking because I couldn’t breathe through my nose. the doctors told me that if I couldn’t calm, they would have to put me under general anesthesia, and I said that was fine.

They reminded me that if I was under general, I wouldn’t be awake for the birth and Billy wouldn’t be able to be in the room either. I still remember saying “just do it” then I woke up and Billy was standing up crying and saying, “It’s a girl” and taking pictures. I don’t remember hearing the baby cry, but I do remember asking Billy if she was okay, him checking on her, and him holding her by my face for me to kiss. The doctors started to stitch all 8 layers of me back up. Once I was done, they sat me up on a new bed that I would call home for the next 2 days and handed me my baby girl.

After Audrey’s birth I never wanted to have another baby. But after doing the work at cesarean group and with Jennie, my husband Billy and I decided we wanted to try for our second child. in October 2020 we got pregnant and miscarried in December.

3 months later I was pregnant with Will. I knew from before the beginning that I wanted a vaginal birth, and Jennie was the first person I told I was pregnant, even before Billy.

The day will came, my water broke at my parents house in a huge gush. I went home to take a nap, but I was too anxious so I went in the tub. I asked Billy to come home and Jennie to come over. By the time Billy got home, I was moaning on the toilet and by the time Jennie got there I was ready to push.

We made it to the hospital, parked our cars in the valet loop and rushed up to labor and delivery. He was born shortly after with the assistance of the midwife due to shoulder dystocia. I will never forget the feeling of his warm body coming out. it was the best feeling in the entire world. after he was born, there were some complications - hemorrhage manual removal of the placenta and uterine prolapse; so on paper, his birth looks very traumatic. However, I hold no trauma mostly because I created a team that I trusted."