April is host to numerous important awareness campaigns- autism, cancer control, child abuse prevention, and frogs to name a few. It is also National Cesarean Awareness month.
The International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to support healthy birth outcomes through advocacy, information, and support.
Our local chapter, ICAN of Northern VT, meets bimonthly at Eastern View Integrative Medicine in South Burlington. Meetings are open to expectant parents looking for information about cesarean birth and vaginal births after cesareans (VBACs), parents recovering from cesareans, and birth workers in the community. In any given meeting, you can expect to hear some birth stories from months or even decades prior, a theme and guest speaker focusing on a relevant topic, questions to peers and professionals, tears and laughter.
ICAN is a place where women can speak openly and unabashedly about their birth experiences, maybe for the very first time. We recognize that a mom’s feelings about her labor and birth are separate and can be very different from her feelings about her baby.
Moms need permission to grieve a birth that didn’t go as hoped. Many times their true emotions are swept under the rug by statements like, “healthy baby, healthy mom is what matters.” Yes, ultimately that’s the most important conclusion, but there are more layers. If we hope to heal, it helps to share, process, and get support. Check out the “18 month Cry” video below to see one woman’s story of being able to share, heal, process and get support.
As a childbirth educator, I have the complicated task of teaching about medical procedures and cesarean birth. It’s tricky because pregnant couples want to feel optimistic that “it won’t be us.” I did too when I was pregnant taking our class. It didn’t apply to us; we wouldn’t be the “1 in 3.” While teaching, I include facts, statistics, ideas and tips for making the experience more joyful, and share a beautiful cesarean birth story that makes almost everyone tear up, yet people block out a lot of the information for fear of inviting the possibility into their path. It’s understandable but it can leave parents vulnerable to disappointment and confusion if cesarean birth becomes part of their story.
The crucial piece that I IMPLORE all expectant couples to take home is: informed consent. It means having all the information before making a medical decision.
I use the acronym “BRAIN,” which encourages people to ask about benefits, risks, alternatives, and the option of saying “no” or “not now” in regard to a specific intervention or decision. The “I” is for “intuition” (what your gut feels). When moms are active participants in their births, meaning they have been heard, supported, and involved in making medical decisions while having their babies, they tend to have more positive feelings about their experiences.
Please, please don’t let birth HAPPEN to you! If an emergency situation arises, then ideally you have chosen a provider who you trust completely and you will need some processing time and debriefing afterward. If it’s not an emergency, then take the time to feel well informed and included. Choose your provider and support team wisely. Have your needs met, so that no matter what your birth outcome may be, you will feel empowered! It’s a lovely way to begin the great task of mothering your new little one.
You can find more information about ICAN on their website, or you can join our Facebook community and help spread the support of ICAN!
[typography font=”Delius Swash Caps” size=”24″ size_format=”px”]Written by Francesca Arnoldy[/typography]
Francesca Arnoldy, ICCE, CD, Co-leader for ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) of Northern VT
Francesca is an experienced, certified childbirth educator & doula. Before becoming involved in the birth world, she graduated from UVM and worked in the social services field. Becoming a mother opened her mind and heart to this new career path. Being invited into people’s intimate birthing experiences is an honor and privilege.
She recently started a solo doula practice, VT Birth Haven, with amazing back-up support from Sally MacFadyen (The Fourth Trimester) and Jessilyn Dolan (Birthwell). You can contact Francesca at [email protected] or by phone: (802) 578-2458
“Like” VT Birth Haven’s new Facebook page and help spread the doula love!