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Asian Birth Story: An Empowering C-Section

Melody is Taiwanese-American and grew up in the Bay Area, and currently lives in New York City. She works for the city funding organizations that provide mental health support to pregnant and parenting individuals and families. Melody enjoys biking, playing tennis, and journaling in cafes. She has a 21 month old.

"I know that c-sections aren’t seen as a good birth outcome but at the time it felt so empowering to choose the thing that, in that context, was the best option for my daughter."

On Deepening Identities

My parents were born in Taiwan and immigrated to the West Coast. I’m learning more about the narrative of Asian Americans, and about how we’ve been excluded from so many of the stories we tell of the United States. I’m loving being more connected to the larger political identity of being Asian American. I think about my identity a lot as a second-generation Taiwanese-American. I think about the stories of my family that were untold, and then the stories that have been told to me, and how that has shaped me, and how I see the world. 

On Loss

I got pregnant for the first time in what felt like a pretty rough time. It was May of 2020 — Trump was being a horrible leader, COVID was happening, George Floyd had just been killed, our house flooded. I felt unsure of how the pregnancy would unfold because of all these different things that were happening, and then I ended up miscarrying. It was very devastating.

I got a D&C procedure and was grieving the loss of that potential. In that time I really appreciated my friends who were so supportive of me. I also spent a lot of time thinking about how unfair it is to be a woman and experience all this shit, all the time, in a patriarchal society. 

Pregnancy in the Midst of Life Changes

After moving to New York in 2022, I got pregnant and gave birth to my daughter.

I had a lot of cramping in my first trimester, to the point of thinking I needed to go to the ER. After talking with my mom, she said she had that type of cramping in her first trimester as well. It made me think that perhaps it runs in our family, and maybe it wasn’t abnormal. 

An Unexpected Exam

When I went in for what I thought would be a routine exam at 36 weeks, everything changed. I had planned to get an epidural and deliver vaginally. Coming from a Fundamentalist Christian upbringing, birth is seen as straightforward and routine, so I focused on learning about how messy and unpredictable it could be, but nothing in my reading and podcast listening prepared me for what happened.

At the 36 week visit, the doctor was concerned that the baby wasn’t big enough. They monitored her heart rate & detected a weird dip. I was admitted overnight to be monitored some more after another dip was detected. I was so taken aback.I figured the hospital was being overly cautious. I wasn't even on maternity leave yet.

I signed a form saying I was going against medical advice and walked out. As we left, my partner suggested calling our friend who is a family medicine doctor. She said “Oh, it’s probably nothing, but text me a photo of what the strips they gave you.” As soon as she saw them she said “Oh. You must stay at the hospital.”

I didn't have anything with me, but I went back to triage to be admitted. The fetal heart rate dipped again, so their plan was to keep me hospitalized, but keep the baby inside me until 37 weeks so I could technically be considered full term.

A Week Long Hospital Stay

At the beginning of my stay, I figured I’d have a lot of free time to read. My partner brought me a bag of books. Through my time there, though, I was contracting, and my daughter’s heart rate kept dropping so I spent much of my time uncomfortable, being checked and tested, or talking to doctors and nurses.

 The nurses had to reposition me constantly. The baby's heart rate would dip every time I went to the bathroom, so I had to go in the bed pan. That was my low point.  I just started to get so scared and expect the worst. A couple of times, I hyperventilated so much that they gave me a shot in my leg to help me calm down. I have friends who have experienced stillbirths that I would think about and think to myself “I don’t know if my daughter is going to make it.”

Simple things like chatting with the nurses or choosing a meal felt like a lifeline. I am ultimately so thankful that the hospital staff was persistent about keeping me for testing. I felt so inhuman, completely dependent on this hospital institution for everything including going to the bathroom, and I was left feeling like I had no agency.

An Empowering C-Section

Ultimately, I was given the option of being induced and delivering vaginally or scheduling a c-section. Since the heart rate kept dropping when I contracted, I decided to get a c-section. I didn’t want to wait, only to need an emergency c-section.

I know that c-sections aren’t seen as a good birth outcome but at the time it felt so empowering to choose the thing that, in that context, was the best option for my daughter. 

I had always assumed that c-sections were easier than vaginal births but after getting one, I don’t feel that way at all. Even though I couldn’t feel the pain I could imagine them cutting into me. I could feel them using great force, cutting through all the different layers of my body, and using a lot of pressure to move me. My partner told me after that he’d never seen anything like my face while my birth was happening. He said it looked like I was getting the life sucked out of me. 

I was so scared Xochitl, my daughter, wouldn’t make it at some point so it was just such a relief to hear her cry when she came out. There was one physician’s assistant who was Asian American, and it felt like she was cheering for me. She was this very sweet, petite woman who was saying telling me what a good job I’d done while covered in my blood. It was both very funny and horrifying.


Afterwards, I spent the night in the hospital with just with my daughter since my partner ended up being unable to stay. I just kept marveling at her. 

She held her breath a couple of times in the days after her birth so they moved her into the NICU for a pretty short stay. It was sad and a little scary, but it was reassuring knowing she was in excellent hands if something were to happen. During the postpartum period, my mom came to help support me, which came with its own complications since we were all staying in a one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment, and she was also dealing with grief due to the death of her father. 

My parents gifted me a postpartum food delivery service that made foods aligned with traditional Chinese medicine which felt really helpful and nourishing. It was really great to have access to Eastern ideas of holistic healing, especially around the postpartum period. I gave myself permission to treat myself really well, eat nourishing foods, and value my rest and recovery.


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