Photo courtesy of Jamie Kenney

Bonding After A C-Section Is Possible & Here's How I Did It

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Most women I talk to would not choose to have a C-section. They don't want to have surgery or endure the recovery that entails and, instead, want to experience vaginal delivery. Another recurring theme I hear is that they want to be able to bond with their baby and they fear that a C-section would prevent real, meaningful bonding. While a cesarean can interfere with some types of bonding — immediate skin-to-skin contact, for example — the truth is that much of this fear is unfounded. I think back to all the ways I bonded with my baby after my C-section and realize that, actually, my C-section really didn't get in the way of anything essential.

This isn't to say, of course, that a C-section can't be a traumatizing experience. Of course it can be. Hell, any birth can be. But to say that it is as a matter of course, or that the nature of C-sections across the board derails proper bonding, is sort of ridiculous. And as time goes on and C-sections become more common, more and more hospitals are finding ways to accommodate traditional bonding between mother and child, moving away from more clinical practices that may indeed impede early and frequent contact between a new mom and her baby.

My emergency C-section (despite being an emergency) was a positive experience, and the hospital where I delivered encouraged most of the same bonding activities they would for moms who'd delivered vaginally, and the truth is that, in most cases, having a C-section in and of itself won't prevent new parents from doing any of the following.

I Kissed & Nuzzled My Baby Right Away

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It sort of sucks that my husband got to hold our son first. When I asked what it was like, my dude replied unromantically "Like holding warm laundry." He wasn't wrong, but still.

I did, however, get my own special bonding moment right away. I was being "put back together" on the operating table, totally conscious, when my husband brought our son over and I got to nuzzle his little face and give him kisses. That was completely awesome.

I Held My Baby Within 20 Minutes Of Birth

Depending on the medical situation at hand and the hospital, this may not be the case for everyone. But despite my emergency C-section, I was holding my little boy in less than half an hour from birth. That's only a slightly longer wait than was required after my vaginal delivery a few years later! (That's not typical, but my little girl needed a bit of medical attention as her wide-ass shoulders got stuck on the way out and she was just a little bit stunned so we had to make sure she was cool. She was.)

It was amazing. As I was monitored after surgery by a kind, quiet, and unobtrusive nurse (along with a few heart monitors and the like) my baby and I sat quietly together and had an hour or so of direct skin-to-skin contact, which is supposed to promote successful breastfeeding and bonding. It worked.

I Breastfed Right Away

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While my son far from mastered the art of breastfeeding in his first go, he was off to a great start straight out of the gate. He may not have known exactly what he was gunning for or how to get it, but he was tenacious AF (which is sort of still a trait of his, incidentally).

Breastfeeding isn't the only way you can bond with your baby, but it's a really great option. And, honestly, any time you're doing something together as much as you have to when you nurse, it's going to make you connected.

I Kept My Baby In My Hospital Room

Like many hospitals, the one where I delivered my son encouraged new moms to keep their babies in their rooms with them to promote bonding. I did, though it had as much to do with excitement and new mom paranoia about him being out of my sight (cut me a little slack: we were already much farther apart than I'd grown used to!) as with my desire to bond with him.

But it was fun! Except, you know, all those times he was screaming and crying and I didn't quite know how to soothe him yet.

I Talked To My Baby

I was perfectly aware that the young man didn't speak a lick of English or even French, but I talked to him, sang to him, and carried on conversations with him. They say that babies can recognize their mother's voice from birth, so I figured a little chit chat couldn't hurt.

I Cried With My Baby

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Due in part to my C-section, my milk didn't come in until five days after birth. This made for a cranky, hungry baby who wanted to nurse every 20 minutes. Which meant I didn't sleep. Which meant I was basically a husk of a woman. Add to that all the hormones raging through my body (which was still healing from surgery) along with the overwhelming love I felt for my baby and the sense that I wasn't enough, and I was sobbing a lot of the time.

There was one point where we were both just crying together in the hospital bed. And that experience was awful and overwhelming, but after I had an encouraging pep talk from an angelic nurse I recognized that, yeah, this is part of parenting sometimes, and that experience allowed us to fully understand that together and we were still OK and could move forward.

I Smelled My Baby's Head

I swear I had the only baby in the history of infants who didn't have a whiff of that incredible "new baby smell." On a good day he smelled like a sweaty yoga mat. On a bad day he smelled like pee. My baby was clearly defective, but that was OK. Learning his odd pee-pee smell was valuable bonding, too.

I Changed (Almost) All Of My Baby's Diapers

Technically, the nurses were responsible for all the baby's diapers for as long as we were in the hospital, which was really nice. But I wanted the practice while I was under an expert eye. Also it was pretty new to me, so it was still exciting... until the meconium, which was a horrifying nightmare. Though, I will say, surviving meconium diapers together is its own kind of bonding, kind of like the way Sam and Frodo became closer bringing the One Ring to the fires of Mt. Doom. It was awful, but, like, also important.

I Held My Baby Every Moment I Was Awake

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And there were a lot of waking hours, my friends. Remember, he was nursing every 20 minutes at one point.

I Talked About My Baby With My Partner

My husband came to the hospital every morning and stayed until after 10 at night. He only ever left my side to get me things or find a nurse. This time was crucial in our ability to bond as a family, and it was wonderful, even when it was hard and exhausting. Talking about our new baby together, with the man I made him with and was going to raise him with, also helped me bond with our son one-on-one, somehow. Talking about his little baby quirks and all the plans we had for him when we brought him home and as he grew helped me see him as a little person and a new part of my life.