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My birth story: A scheduled repeat C-section

Although I didn't push, I gave birth just the same. It diminished nothing about the moment of becoming a mother again.

repeat-c-section
Jennifer Louis-Jeune

At the very first prenatal appointment of my second pregnancy, my doctor asked if I was planning to have a C-section.

I was so focused on wanting to see a strong and healthy heartbeat, I hadn't even considered how this baby would come into the world.

With my first child, I had an emergency C-section after 22 hours of hard back-labor—something I was wholly unprepared for. I did my breathing and visualization exercises, listened to music and had essential oils (and an epidural). I had my husband and doula for support. I was 9-centimeters dilated when they told me my baby couldn't wait any longer.

The experience was very intense. I had never really thought about needing a C-section. I was scared and it all just happened so fast. It wasn't the birth I had envisioned.

Did I want to do that all over again?

My doctor told me to think about it and around 20 weeks, we started talking more about what my plans were.

They gave me information about vaginal births after Cesareans (VBACs), and they said they would support me with whatever decision I made.

Yet I was so conflicted.

On one hand, I wanted that movie moment where you get to fully dilated, push and clutch your sweet baby in your arms. I had been so close to that experience before.

But because of that experience, I also knew that having a C-section didn't make me any less of a woman or any less of a mother.

This time I had a choice.

I could labor again and risk the unplanned C-section scenario again. Or I could schedule a date to go in and meet my baby. I could choose. It was so empowering.

Deciding to schedule a C-section

After lots of thinking, I chose a scheduled C-section. There was so much about it that felt right for me. I could make sure my family was all in place to take care of my toddler. I could wash all the little clothes, and I could have a less hurried experience. So I signed on the dotted line. I knew it was right, but it was still one of the hardest decisions I've ever made. I was choosing to have surgery, something I knew was a big deal.

But I was also choosing to do it on a day that my favorite doctor was available, the one who had to change shifts right before my daughter was born. I was choosing.

But as the saying goes, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans!

I had a nice dinner with my family the night before my scheduled C-section. I did a long bedtime with my daughter, our last before she met her sibling. I laid down at midnight, knowing I would be meeting my little one at 10 am.

My plans changed

I woke up an hour later in full-blown labor. The real deal, throw the phone down while the doctor is talking to you, yell at your husband, get this baby out NOW labor.

Contractions came on suddenly and powerfully, and we rushed to the hospital.

When I got to the hospital, my doctor met me and said, "You are 6-centimeters dilated. Do you want to wait and try to push?"

"Nope!" I replied.

So they prepped me and took me to the operating room.

I was in labor, but everything was healthy and fine. There was no emergency, so people took their time, and the room felt very calm. The room was full of peaceful conversation and laughter. We all joked and to help take my mind off of everything, my husband bored me to death by talking about how bond markets work—it was perfect.

And it wasn't scary this time. My doctor talked me through the entire procedure. This is what I had chosen, even if the baby's timing was a bit off.

It felt like everyone in the operating room was on the same team waiting to meet this new little being. We didn't know the baby's gender so I asked that my husband be allowed to tell me.

When our baby was born, we heard the most wonderful cry, followed by my husband saying, "It's a boy!" Everyone laughed at the look of shock on my face. A boy?! I was convinced it was going to be another girl!

After a quick clean up, my sweet baby was placed near my head until I was ready to go to recovery. I was free to touch him and kiss him and snuggle his little face. When I was all ready to go, he was placed in my arms. We had every moment together that a mother would have with a vaginal birth.

Although I didn't push, I gave birth just the same. It diminished nothing about the moment of becoming a mother again.

It is so easy to make assumptions about people when we don't know their story. Some people might assume that I chose a second C-section out of vanity or because I thought I was 'too posh to push.' And it couldn't be further from the truth.

I chose it because I know my body and my mind.

I know how scary it felt for me when things were moving so fast and I could see the concern on everyone's face. I knew how comforting it would be to have my doctor—this strong, amazing woman got to deliver my second child after spending my entire first labor with us. I chose it because I wanted what was best for my baby and me.

Five years later, I can't imagine it any other way.

After 4 kids, this is still the best baby gear item I’ve ever purchased

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work.

I have four kids 8 and under, so you might expect that my house is teeming with baby gear and kid toys.

But it turns out that for me, the more kids I have, the more I simplify our stuff. At this point, I'm down to the absolute essentials, the gear that I can't live without and the toys my kids actually play with. And so when a mama-to-be asks me what things are worth registering for, there are only a few must-haves on my list.

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer seat is on the top of my list—totally worth it and an absolute must-have for any new mama.

In fact, since I first splurged on my first BABYBJÖRN bouncer eight years ago (it definitely felt like a splurge at the time, but the five star reviews were really compelling), the bouncer seat has become the most-used product in our house for baby's first year.

We've actually invested in a second one so that we didn't have to keep moving ours from the bedroom to the living room when we change locations.

BABYBJÖRN bouncer bliss

baby bjorn bouncer

The utility of the seat might seem counterintuitive—it has no mechanical parts, so your baby is instead gently bounced by her own movements. In a world where many baby products are touted for their ability to mechanically rock baby to sleep, I get that many moms might not find the "no-motion" bouncer that compelling. But it turns out that the seat is quite reactive to baby's little kicks, and it has helped my kids to learn how to self-soothe.

$200

Lightweight + compact:

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer is super lightweight, and it also folds flat in a second. Because of those features, we've frequently stored it under the couch, in a suitcase or in the back of the car. It folds completely flat, which I love.

Entertainment zone:

Is the toy bar worth it? The toy bar is totally worth it. Not only is the toy bar adorable, but it's one of the first toys that my babies actually play with once they discover the world beyond my boobs. The toys spin and are close to eye level so they have frequently kept my baby entertained while I cook or take a quick shower.

Great style:

This is not a small detail to me–the BABYBJÖRN bouncer is seriously stylish. I am done with baby gear and toys that make my house look like a theme park. The elegant European design honestly just looks good in my living room and I appreciate that parents can enjoy it as much as baby.

It's adjustable:

With three height settings that let you prop baby up to be entertained, or lay back to rest, we get years of use. And the bouncer can actually be adjusted for bigger kids and used from newborn to toddler age. It's that good.

It just works:

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work. But I have used the seat as a safe space to put baby while I've worked (I once rocked my baby in it with my foot while I reported on a breaking news story for the Washington Post), and as a cozy spot for my second child to lay while his big brother played nearby. It's held up for almost a decade with almost-constant use.

So for me, looking back on what I thought was a splurge eight years ago, was actually one of the best investments in baby gear I ever made.

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Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Earth Mama: Effective, natural herbal care for mamas and babies

Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.

Bravado Designs: Soothing sounds for a good night's sleep

With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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