Raven participated in the 31 Days of Doulas last year, with her post The Joy in Finding Your Doula Tribe. She lends more wisdom in today's piece, including practical, easy ideas families can use during a cesarean birth. I know words can build up, and words can hurt, so it is with great pleasure I feature Raven's contribution -- I hope it reaches past your screen and into a place where it can help a family facing a cesarean birth.
What comes to your mind when you think of the term “had a C-section”? Words like “fear” and “disappointment” might come up for you. You might feel a response in your body, some tension or a furrowed brow. As an experiment, let’s change our language a bit. What comes to your mind when you think of the term “birth by Cesarean” or even just “Cesarean birth”? Does that produce a different result? Perhaps it highlights the idea that this is a birth, the making of a family. It might even make room for the birthing woman to be viewed as a more active participant. As a birth worker, I acknowledge the power of words and semantics and have made a conscious effort to change the way I talk about Cesarean births.
The fact of the matter is, Cesarean births happen. Instead of discussing rates and statistics in this post, our focus will be on how we can bring awareness and love into the operating room. The Birthing from Within® model of childbirth preparation places an emphasis on birth as a rite of passage. Through creative exercises, journaling, and class discussions, parents explore their views of birth and the stories they carry about what makes a “good” birth, what our culture teaches about birth, and how they will know what to do when their birthing hours arrive. This thorough examination would be incomplete if we didn’t talk about Cesarean births. We never want you to whisper to your partner, “but I didn’t read this part in the book!” when a Cesarean becomes a part of your birth. Better to have a plan, to have thought things through a bit so that you can rest easier knowing that should a Cesarean become part of your birth, you have something you can bring into that space and ways to maintain your mindfulness mindset.
5 Ways to Bring Mindfulness to a Cesarean Birth
1. Music Have a chat with your provider about the possibility of playing music in the room during a Cesarean birth. They might request that it be kept low so that your birth team can talk and communicate easily during the birth, but think of how lovely it would be to set the tone in the room with music of your choice. This is a concrete way to say, “I am involved. I am choosing to add a bit of warmth and presence to this room where I will meet my little one.”
2. Affirmations Words carry so much power and this doesn’t change with a Cesarean birth. Talk to your birth partner about words you would like to hear during this time so they feel prepared to support you. “I focus on my breathing as I prepare to meet my baby.” “I make loving and mindful choices for me and my baby.” “Each inhale brings peace and each exhale sends love down to my baby.” What would be meaningful to you during that time?
3. Rainbow of Love This is a beautiful concept that I first learned about during my Birthing from Within training. As you lie on the table with a drape between you and your sweet baby, imagine a beautiful rainbow of rich colors, saturated with all of the love you have for your child. Imagine that rainbow reaching from your heart, over the drape, and touching down on your belly, right above your baby. Imagine this rainbow acting as a conduit for all of your love, connection, and good intentions. You and your baby are a team and you can shower them with your love.
4. Eye Contact An operating room can be a busy and distracting place, both for birthing women and their partners. It can be easy for a mother to suddenly feel very alone or removed from what is happening. Talk to your birth partner ahead of time and remind them to maintain eye contact with you when they come in the room. Let that eye contact communicate love, security, and connection. Let them show you that you are seen and heard and that you are still very much birthing this baby.
5. Stay Involved This is another important point for birth partners to remember. When a mother can’t see what is happening with her baby, it can be easy for her to become worried and wonder what might be wrong. When baby is born, it’s time for partners to keep mothers updated. “Oh, he has so much hair!” “They are taking baby to the warmer right now, but I’ll remind them that you want to hold her as soon as possible.” “She has your nose for sure, Sweetheart!” Fill her cup with details about her child and let her know that baby will be with her as soon as possible. Help maintain that connection and let her know that she has not been forgotten and that baby wants to be with her. Take pictures of baby and bring the camera over to show the birthing mother.
The ideas are simple, but they can make such a big difference. What ideas have you come up with as you consider the possibility of a Cesarean birth?
Raven Haymond is a Certified Birth Doula and Advanced Birthing from Within mentor serving the Salt Lake City area. Beyond the birth room and the classroom, Raven finds joy in her family and a good book. You can find her at www.beehivebirthcare.com
I have a son who was born with an aortic stenosis. This means his aortic valve is narrower than it should be. He just turned 14 and up until his cardiology appointment last month, there has never been an issue.
Before we found ourselves back in the office, we had been rescheduled twice, so I was already feeling on-edge. Walking into the waiting room, there was not one place to sit. This added to my feelings of annoyance. When we finally met with the doctor, I was relieved, until after placing the transducer on my son’s chest his first question was, “Have you had a growth spurt recently?” Not what you want to hear when your child has a heart defect.
The most recent reason we had been rescheduled was our doctor had a spider bite on his leg that needed treatment. I rolled my eyes when the receptionist shared this with us (good thing it was over the phone). I thought it sounded like an interesting excuse – who has to go to the hospital for a spider bite? But another part of me wondered: Why is she telling me this? Is that my business?
At this bad-news-appointment, we were told medication would be needed to lower my son’s blood pressure – not because it was high, but because the rate of flow through the narrowing could cause damage to the area where the blood comes through, like spraying a pressure washer constantly at one spot on your house. We were also asked if we had other children, and if they had ever been assessed by a cardiologist? We have 4 sons total, and no one has ever told us this before – that was jarring. The doctor was adamant my husband and I be checked, as well. Our heart-son’s health is monitored fiercely because there is a known issue – but if this were genetic, any of us could have an issue and not know. That was frightening.
We were the last appointment of the day and the office was shutting down. As the doctor was performing the echocardiogram, he kept sharing details of his spider bite, occasionally shaking his leg or letting out a sigh or “ouch” here and there – it was obvious he was not feeling well. He also said he couldn’t wait to get out of there that day and change the dressing.
So here’s us: bombarded with overwhelming information.
And here’s our doctor: trying to help us while being distracted with his own issue.
I left that day feeling sad, scared, and unsure about all his recommendations. Knowing we didn’t have his full attention added to my stress and confusion. I questioned our relationship with this professional, and again to my mind came: Why is his issue my business?
So how does this relate to doula work? Let me share another story.
A number of years back I had a couple I loved, and I think they loved me. We were so excited to work together. A week before they were due, my grandma passed away and the funeral was in another state. Of course I was going to attend – in the grand scheme of things, my grandma’s funeral is going to be more important to my health and memories than the birth of a client’s baby. So I let my client know my plans.
It was an emotional phone call, because she was one of the first people I told. I did cry when I let her know I was going out of town, and of course I would provide a back-up for her. I felt good about everything. I was gone for 5 days, and just as we hit the California state line again, I knew I would be home by nightfall and things would return to normal! I could still be there for her birth.
I was unprepared for the phone call I got within an hour of that feeling. It was my client. She said she didn’t want there to be any bad feelings at the birth, and they had decided to proceed without a doula. I felt confused because I knew I didn’t have any bad feelings – had I been clueless to their feelings?
The next day we talked it out more. I felt I had made it back and things would proceed as planned. But what I didn’t realize was, my business had become her emotional baggage, as she worried about my loss and whether I would be back in time for her birth.
At the time I remember thinking, “No one cares about me.” Meaning, clients don’t offer the same emotional support and empathy that doulas do. Our lives don’t get the same priority as the pregnant families we serve. It was an acutely painful realization made worse by the loss of my grandmother and exhausted nature of the trip.
Of course, I was wrong. That’s how it should be when I am being contracted to provide a service. And once I was mature enough to realize it, I decided I wanted my clients to feel like I don’t have a life. Never again would I burden a client with my personal business. I want them to realize, when it comes to their expectations of me, there is nothing more important (even at the most inconvenient times), than their call of: “we need you.”
I have heard from many women over the years, words and situations that haunt them, where a professional’s business was made the mom’s business (which is really bad for business).
-A mom was waiting for her midwife to come for a postpartum home visit. The midwife told the mom she couldn’t find childcare for her little boy, so she would need to reschedule. The mom experienced a pretty traumatic birth, and she was eager for this visit and the need for someone to look over her baby again. She was so worried she took her baby to the ER just to have someone tell her the baby was safe and healthy (which she was).
-A mom who wanted a TOLAC (trial of labor after cesarean) ended up with a repeat cesarean birth. It was very emotional, everything leading up to this and ultimately, having an unexpected surgical birth with an unexpected provider. Toward the end of the birth, the doctor said, “Can someone take over for me? I have to get to my granddaughter’s piano recital.”
-A mom who experienced terrible postpartum anxiety and depression who was desperate for support. She sought out a therapist recommended to her by a friend. Once there, sharing her story in an uneasy fashion, with tears, and memories, and guilt, the therapist let this be an opening to share her own struggles with depression after her brother’s suicide. Suddenly "a little postpartum depression" felt minimal compared to this professional’s loss.
We pay professionals for a service. They should be taking care of us. When the tables turn and we are suddenly made aware of their personal lives, it can stir up feelings of empathy and sympathy. It can make us feel like we should be the caretakers now – we need to look out for this person and not bother them with our trivial matters. “I don’t want to load too much on her, because she has struggles of her own.”
But then, what are you paying that person for again?
Professionals need to leave their personal business out of their professional lives.
That’s not to say clients are rude or uncaring – they aren’t. And the focus still needs to be on them. What can we do when something comes up?
As a doula serving Bakersfield and Visalia, California, I strive to build families up and let them know I will be there for them, come hell or high water. I also contract personally with a back-up doula who attends prenatals with us, thus laying a foundation of support in the small chance I am unable to attend a birth (it rarely, rarely happens, and the cost of paying for a back-up’s time is absolutely worth my peace of mind). It shows a family: I am committed to you, and sometimes things come up; if that happens, here is my trusted back-up so you won’t be alone in this journey.
Ultimately, I believe me making my business your business is bad, overall, for business!
Before working as a doula in Bakersfield, Visalia, Hanford, and the lower Central Valley, I was in Chico, CA -- up north. This mother was a client of mine, and here she is shown having her second baby at home, after a very medicalized first birth due to her baby's health issues. This time around she labored all night, with erratic but strong contractions. When she finally realized they needed the midwife, it was just in the nick of time! The joy and ecstasy she experienced by this fast, healing birth shows in her body language, and of course her face! For this woman, being left undisturbed to labor was a huge part in the emotions and feelings that helped her have an ecstatic experience. It is a day she will always remember and have pride in -- and no matter how a woman's birth experience goes, with support from her team and knowledge of her choices, she can also be left with these good feelings.
As doulas, we learn much about birth -- and what do we learn about life? Jessica Goggin tackles this question today. Her post resonates with me in many ways. I imagine our lists would be as varied as our experiences. Jessica shares what has impacted her on her journey thus far.
I have learned so much from my time as a doula: how to conduct effective prenatal and postpartum visits, what to wear to a birth (and not to wear), what supplies I need and don’t need. I’ve found more effective ways to squeeze hips, encourage women on the brink of giving up, engage others, and hold space. I’ve also learned a lot about being “good enough.”
In the last few months, I attended a string of births which caused me to sometimes question my value as a doula. I spent a lot of time talking it over with my husband and fellow doulas. Here are three lessons I walked away with when it comes to navigating the complex emotional landscape that come with doula work.
We Can Be Our Own Worst Critics
It’s easy to see every little misstep or flaw and beat ourselves up for not being perfect -- or to look around and believe that everyone else is better or more qualified. The list is endless. Just as we help our clients see their own strength and value, we must remember to see our own, even in uncomfortable or unexpected situations.
For example, one client in particular had hoped and planned for a low intervention, unmedicated birth. She chose to deviate from her plan and in the end described her birth by saying: “that was terrible. I am never doing that again.”
She had negative feelings about her birth immediately after, but was glad to have my support. I walked away from that client relationship feeling like I hadn’t served her well and somehow I should have done something differently for her.
Months later, she reached out to me to say that she refers any and all pregnant women to me and said how wonderful it was to have me and she couldn’t have done it without me (she totally could have, but I’ll take the compliment). I didn’t expect that at all.
When I’ve done my best, I know I’ve done great work. Each woman and family I serve can teach me something new. I’ve learned that from my perspective, I am more able to see flaws and missteps in my work and I tend to be highly critical of myself. I now make those observations and see them as opportunities to grow and become a better doula.
How a Situation Looks or Feels Later is Different than How It Looks or Feels Now
Before I began doula work I was doing endurance training and events like half marathons and triathlons. In the moment, during a practice or a race, it’s pretty awful, honestly. I remember swimming in some pretty icky waterways, pedaling some pretty hard hill climbs or running over rough terrain and thinking “WHY am I doing this again? I hate open water swimming/biking (period!)/trail running!” And then came the body aches and soreness from pushing my body to its limit (hmm, I’m seeing some parallels with birth). During my workout or race, I was working hard and the payoff seemed an eternity away and quite possibly not worth the effort.
I saw this parallel when working for another client, who had her baby attended by a pair of midwives, one being her own mother. Additionally, her husband and three of her sisters walked with her on her journey. Her labor suite was filled with kindness and care. She was treated with much tenderness and reverence, surrounded by the people who knew her best and loved her most. More than once I was moved to tears by the outpouring of love I saw.
In the moment, this made me feel superfluous and unnecessary, and I thought she and the rest of her team felt the same way. I left feeling like a fake. But in the end, my client reached out to me and praised my work during her birth.
But after a short while, with some time and perspective, the narrative changed. Allowing for that processing time and some space to be able to step back and see the whole picture lets us see the reality of the situation. Looking back, I believe I was an important part of her birth team (and so does she). I learned to give myself some time to process and take a step back from a birth that doesn’t “feel” amazing to me right away because it will change for me with time and distance.
We Must Write Our Own Story
It is so important that women write their own birth story and our telling can be less relevant for them. Sometimes, after particularly traumatic events, we can help shape that story for her and help her to discover a more positive aspect and find her own way to peace and healing. Generally though, women need space to discover, craft and retell their own birth stories. Our narrative has no place in her story.
At one of my first few births, I perceived it as pretty terrible. I’m embarrassed to say it, but it’s the truth. Obviously the births I attend as a doula are not mine, yet I as a new doula, had my own (misguided) ideas about what made a good birth.
However, this client’s unfolded almost exactly how she had imagined it. Before I left her hospital room, she thanked me for being with her and described her birth as “awesome.” I realized that in many cases, this is the first time this woman will experience birth. She defines her own best birth and has her own expectations on how it will unfold. Listening to her story as she tells it is a truer account of the reality of her story.
I encourage my clients to write their own stories. I may help fill in some details or put the timeline in order if they ask, but often, I listen to their re-tellings with an open mind and without judgement.
Finally, I’ve learned that it’s important to remain confident and self-assured, yet humble in the birth space. My clients look to me to find calmness and reassurance. If my own courage waivers, how can I help my client find her own inner strength and determination? We have to trust in our skills and experience. I don’t know everything about birth, not by a long shot, but I know I’m a good doula. And that’s something I try to remember when the going gets tough.
Jessica Goggin is a doula in San Antonio, Bexar County and surrounding areas, providing quality support to expectant and new mothers. She offers emotional, physical and informational support during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. She is passionate about helping new moms plan, prepare for and achieve one of life’s most challenging, yet rewarding experiences: childbirth! Jessica believes that during the period when a woman is pregnant, she is at her strongest, bravest and most intuitive, and that mothers on the verge of delivery achieve their best results when surrounded and supported by those with knowledge, wisdom and compassion. Learn more about Jessica by visiting her website and Facebook page.
Many of us are excited about these new evidence-based findings ACOG released in March. There are almost 20 statements that show how we can better support laboring moms to work in preventing a woman's first cesarean birth (knowing once she has had a cesarean birth, her chances of obtaining a vaginal birth after cesarean, or VBAC, are extremely low due to our climate). Basically what these statements boil down to are, women need more time in first and second stage, and we should not rush to cesarean delivery if mom and baby are doing well. Please share these.
I love Lamaze's amazing infographic which states it can take up to 17 years for medical practices to change when new information becomes available -- and Lamaze goes on to emphasize, as pregnant women, we don't have 17 years for our providers to catch up. It is all of our responsibilities to inform ourselves and present these best-care practices to our providers and see that we are treated accordingly.
"A prolonged latent phase (eg, greater than 20 hours in nulliparous women and greater than 14 hours in multiparous women) should not be an indication for cesarean delivery."
We have learned women don't line up with Friedman's Curve like we thought they should. So basically this new data tells us: dilation from 4-6 cm can take 4-6 hours longer than we thought! Patience is what we need -- give moms and babies more time when everything is going okay with them both.
I remember, growing up, hearing my mom's stories of birth. I knew I was a breech baby born vaginally, as was my next sibling after me. My mother had 5 children, and what really stuck with me was, "You can deal with anything for one minute," in regards to contractions. Amy's mother had a very different first experience with a truly life-threatening condition. I love that Amy's mother was not only able to instill aspects of normal birth in her daughter, but that as a woman who had cesarean births, she felt healing as she witnessed the birth of her grandchildren.
Every April is Cesarean Awareness Month. Cesareans of course are sometimes necessary and in some instances can be a lifesaving procedure for the mother, baby or both. In my work as a doula I have attended a number or Cesarean births and one of my favorite clients to work with are moms who are planning a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) birth.
A lot of people assume that because I am a doula that I am anti-intervention and therefore anti-cesarean. Believe it or not I am personally very thankful for Cesarean’s because my mother and I would not be here today without them. I was born by an emergency, lifesaving Cesarean.
While my mother was pregnant with me she experienced a complication called placenta previa. Placenta Previa happens when the placenta is low in the uterus and either partially or completely covers the cervix. In her situation it completely covered the cervix. This complication is a true medical indication for a Cesarean birth. It’s dangerous for the mother to even go into labor.
My mother was told she wouldn’t go into labor but would start bleeding first and to come immediately into the hospital when that happened. She had been hospitalized earlier in the pregnancy for bleeding. On June 3rd (due date was July 14th ) she started experiencing contractions, as a first time mom who was told she wouldn’t go into labor she didn’t realize what was happening.
She was staying with my grandma while my dad was at work and in the afternoon my grandma noticed her stopping to breathe through contractions and took her straight to the hospital. Upon arrival she was checked and was fully dilated. Things really got busy at that point as the doctor came in to do an emergency cesarean on her. The doctor yelled at her for eating lunch while in labor because they needed to put her to sleep. The nurse insisted that I had no heartbeat as my mom was being wheeled into surgery. She was put to sleep right after the nurse said “I don’t know where that doctor thinks he’s hearing a heartbeat at. This baby is already gone.”
Needless to say we both made it though. I was a preemie but did great. I didn’t even need oxygen. My mom still talks about what a frightening experience my birth was. She woke up assuming that she had lost her baby. She had a really rough recovery after and woke up many times asking what happened to me and being reminded that I was ok.
Now for what I learned from my mom about birth. My mom was never afraid to talk to us about her birth experiences. I’m thankful for that. Even with the dramatic way I entered this world I was not fearful of giving birth when my time to birth came because of her. She talked to us about her disappointment in never getting to birth her babies.
She went on to have two more children both scheduled cesareans. With my brother the youngest she was thankful for being able to have a spinal and be awake to hear his first cries. She searched for a provider to have a VBAC with my brother but due to the fact that she had a classical uterine incision they felt it was too risky for her to attempt.
She always talked to us about what birth was supposed to be like. Empowering, amazing and beautiful.
She was present for 4 out of her 5 grandchildren’s births. She says it was healing for her to experience those births. With the births of my children she was so supportive and helpful I can’t imagine not having had her there.
My dream is that my daughter and someday maybe my granddaughter’s won’t fear birth and that they will embrace it as a life affirming, empowering event that my mother taught us it could be.
I gave birth to my daughter Maura in late 2005, an experience that led me to become a doula. When my son Ryan was born in April 2008, the process did not work out as well as I had planned, but this only served to reinforce my desire to help as many women have the birth they've always wanted.
My goal is for women to feel empowered by their birth experience. Women need to believe in their bodies and the natural process of childbirth, and nothing makes me happier than to be a part of their blessed arrival. In addition to my work as a doula, I am a Hypnobabies instructor, and a local ICAN chapter leader. Visit my website or Facebook page to learn more.
Emily is the mother of two. Her story shows not only how we can interfere with the birth process, but also the ways to overcome our fears when we plan to work toward a different result. VBACs are hard to come by, and they require much preparation on the part of the mom. Often women don't have the support they need from their providers, and one scary word about something that might go wrong can be the chair out from under the backside of our plans. Emily shares what it looked like for her as she worked toward her VBAC.
When we got pregnant with my daughter, I knew that I wanted an unmedicated, natural birth. We prepared the best way that we knew how -- took a crash Bradley Method course, went to classes, read books and listened to other mothers. But nothing you read or hear prepares you for childbirth and I distinctly remember my inner voice telling me that all my tenseness and anxiety was making my labor pains worse and less effective. I knew it, but I could not relax myself - I was making my own labor harder and it ended in a c-section.
Even before we were pregnant with my son, I decided I would have a VBAC, and I can say with 100% certainty that having a doula was how we achieved that goal. My doula, Lisa Lute, helped us actually enjoy our labor. My husband hated the experience we had trying to labor alone - he felt helpless to help me. He felt like a huge weight of need was on his shoulders without the experience to know what to do. With Lisa there, she facilitated everything I needed from him. He was still my laboring partner, but he didn't have to figure out what I needed. She gently made suggestions - using her experience and knowledge to help me relax and have productive contractions. She knew exactly what to do and just her presence removed a great deal of stress.
During labor, she was such a blessing, but even so, beforehand. If you listen to certain doctors or read things from the ever-dreaded Dr. Google -- you can be scared out of a VBAC. You can decide a repeat cesarean is less risky. But Lisa addressed all my fears -- all my anxiety -- with a library of good information. She had the VBAC success statistics to give me, she had the history of attending many successful VBACs already in her arsenal. She had the reassurance that helped me VBAC. The doctor on-call when we arrived at the hospital was not overly supportive of our VBAC plan. It was a blessing to have Lisa with me and my husband. It was a blessing to have my very own experienced team member facilitating a wonderful birth experience. I would never choose to have a baby without a doula again.
"This is my favorite photo of my labor. Look at how relaxed my husband looks...he loved having Lisa there with us."
Alicia Wild is a doula and mother of two near the Bakersfield area. Many women experience healing from their successive births. In today's guest post, Alicia shares how she found a second healing in an unlikely place -- by the side of a doula client.
Every birth is different. This is a motto that we, as doulas, reiterate to our clients time and time again. It is something that birth entusiasts from all across the spectrum believe fiercely in. It is a saying that is proven true again and again with every birth we witness, hear about and have. No two births are alike, but just because one birth is different from another does not mean that it cannot heal the long held wounds of someone else's birth story.
Like many birth workers I've met, I too have a traumatic first birth story. While we often share these stories with sadness and often anger, it is usually these stories that brought us into birth work to begin with. I was 23 years old when I became pregnant with my first baby, our rainbow baby, but even as that was the case I still felt in my heart that he would be a boy. I loved being pregnant. The feeling of growing a person inside of your body is unlike anything else, and with little to no negative pregnancy effects I had nothing to complain about. I could feel that my baby and I were both healthy and I continued on in my pregnancy, soaking up as much information from the internet and the couple of mainstream baby books that I had. My mother-in-law repeatedly told me how proud she was of me for educating myself and being more prepared than she was when she had her own children. I was young and smart and I really did feel prepared.
At a 37 and a half week appointment my doctor told me that I was going to have a "big baby" and that she wanted it born that week. I was naive and trusting; every resource I was looking at told me to trust that my doctor had my best interests at heart. I now realize that while this is sometimes the case, it is not often so. She did my first ever vaginal exam and said that I was 2 centimeters dilated and 50% effaced. The problem is that this exam hurt more than I had ever been led to believe from friends and family who had had babies before me. This was painful. I cried because it hurt and I was not ready to go into labor while my husband (a forest firefighter) was out of town on a fire. She hugged me and told me again that I would have my baby in the next couple of days.
Immediately after leaving the appointment I began having small contractions, and within two days my water was leaking. The mainstream books I was reading told me that I needed to go to the hospital right away and so I called my husband home from his out of town fire and we went to the hospital. The first hospital that we went to said that I was not leaking amniotic fluid and released me. My husband and I felt a sense of urgency based on what we had been reading and decided to go to another hospital. They also said that I was not leaking amniotic fluid but since I was now dilated to 3, they would keep me and start pitocin. 9 hours after my induction was started the partner of my doctor came in and told me that it was time for a c-section. Being the informed but not selfishly stupid parents that we were, we accepted the word of this doctor whom we had never met before this moment.
After about half an hour I was prepped for surgery and quickly after that my son, Jacob, was born. I was given the briefest of looks, and I gave my baby a quick kiss on the cheek, and he was taken away to the nursery with my husband. I was cold, scared, alone and desperately longing to hold my new baby. After two hours of mandatory post c-section isolation, also called recovery, I was released to my room where I would surely get to be with my new baby. I quickly found that that was not the case. It would be another 4 hours before I would finally get to hold him and an additonal 6 after that before I would get to keep him for any length of time.
What amounted to essentially 12 hours without my baby became some of the most traumatic hours of my life. Even after we were finally released from the hospital I longed for those hours back. But I had a beautiful new son and certainly had nothing to be sad about. Yet, I still found myself secretly crying and mourning my experience. I had done everything I was supposed to so why was this feeling not going away? I did everything right? Didn't I? After 18 months of research from less mainstream sources, I realized that the number one thing that I had done wrong was that I did not properly educate myself.
I discovered that the reason my first vaginal exam hurt so much is because my doctor had stripped my membranes without my consent or knowledge. This is also why she was so sure that my baby would be born within a few days. I didn't realize that this procedure can cause waters to leak or even rupture. It can be especially dangerous in women who are not ready to go into labor and at 37 and a half weeks, I was certainly not ready to go into labor. Next I discovered that leaking waters is not nearly as dangerous as those mainstream books make it out to be. Women have gone up to 72 hours with complete ruptures and have had no ill effects. Lastly, after getting my medical records, I was able to refute every reason for having been given a c-section. My 7lb 12 oz baby was no where near "macrosomic," the records themselves indicate that I did not have a fever and my waters were not actually leaking. So why is it that these things were all written as reasons for my c-section? I can't honestly answer that, but I can speculate that because I was scared and started to get vocal and because it was 11:00 on a Saturday night that the doctor on call simply ran out of patience. But the only factual answer I can come up with is because I just didn't know better. It's a reason that I find many women end up with the births they are given and not the ones they want or could have had.
When I became pregnant with my second son, I did things differently. I had a home waterbirth with a midwife who I love and cherish. My baby was never taken from me and I do not still yearn for any missed time as I do with my older son. I was healed, completely and wholly. At least I thought so.
Fast forward another 2 years. My oldest is now 4 and a half and my youngest is 2. I have been a part-time doula for about a year and while every birth I had been to helped me to grow as a doula and each one was unique and beautiful, none of them reminded me of my own births. They were indeed different. I have one client who I have known since kindergarten but we were acquaintances at best. I would soon grow to love and cherish her as a friend, which is so often the case with doula work. The time spent sharing and talking with women cannot be erased just because the job is done.
My new client is pregnant with her second child and she is also looking to overcome a traumatic first birth experience Though her first birth did not end a c-section, it still left lasting scars which she, too, wore upon her heart. She calls me one May day to let me know that her water was leaking and she thought they would be heading the hospital soon. Like my first birth, she was not having any significant contractions at this point. Immediately I felt a similarity to my own birth and I encouraged her to weigh her options versus going in right away. I let her know about the studies I had read. She agreed that it was probably too soon but she wanted to be near the hospital in case she changed her mind. Since we live about an hour away from the hospital where she was going to deliver, we decide to make the trip sooner rather than later.
Ordinarily a doula would not go so early in labor, but I felt that my presence was needed. We spent the day window shopping at the mall, watching a movie in the theatre, and having dinner together. I joke that I was dating my client and her husband as we are all out enjoying each other's company and waiting for labor to kick in so we can go to the hospital. By nightfall we are all starting to get tired so I suggest that they get a hotel room and I will stay with a friend. All through the night and into the next day still nothing has happened, labor has not kicked in. Her waters have been leaking for more than 24 hours and nothing we try is moving things along. She is growing increasingly worried so we decide to go to the hospital.
At the hospital she is told she can't get out of bed anymore. She refused to use a bedpan and fought for the birth she wanted. She accepted the pitocin but not the epidural, something I know she is still so proud of having accomplished for her and her son. Pretty quickly after the very low dose of pitocin started I looked on the board and saw that the on-call doctor is none other than the woman who called my c-section. There is a sinking feeling in my chest and throat as I look to my client who is in the same position I was in 4 and a half years ago. Waters leaking for a day and a half, pitocin started and not yet working, the same time of night and this doctor. This doctor whose face is at the front of every sad memory I have about my older son's birth. I prayed I wouldn't see her, but knew I would need to hold back my emotions for the sake of my client.
Despite the similarities between our stories up to this point one key thing made all the difference in the world: my client really was educated and more than in the mainstream way I had been. She knew what she wanted and she had support to achieve it. Just when it seemed like she was destined to have the same birth experience that I had life reminds us that every birth is different and this was no exception. One simple turn and she dilated from 4 to "can't help it pushing" in 15 minutes. She pushed her baby out into the arms of a very shell-shocked nurse. When that doctor did finally show up the dread I was feeling was not there. My client did it and I helped her! I realized that the doctor wasn't the evil I had been imagining for so long. She was just a fallible person like us all. And while this was not my birth and I did still end up with a traumatic experience, my client's birth was like a second healing to me. It was a do-over in a world where do-overs don't exist. I was given the chance to change my own circumstances through her and for that I am thankful and I feel healed.
I am a mother to two wonderful little boys. I was born and raised in Kern County and though I moved to Orange County for college, my heart eventually found its way home in the end. I possess a Bachelor's Degree in Social Sciences from Chico State University, and while this is one of my biggest accomplishments, my heart truly lies with birth and ensuring that women receive their own perfect birth. I believe that women relying on women is crucial to seeing birth dreams come true, and I believe that every birth is unique, just as every woman and child are unique. What may be my perfect birth may not be yours, and that's okay. My job as a mother's assistant is to ensure that you get your best possible birth. Please feel free to contact me with questions or comments that might you have.
Our lived-in houses say so much about us -- from the paint colors, to the furniture, the pictures on the walls – even the wear of our carpets which reveal paths like game trails on a hillside. However lovely the décor or the price of the art within, a potential buyer has to be able to shape your home into her home and envision her life and experiences there.
I am pretty keen on watching HGTV. What happens time and time again is a person or couple's inability to see past the décor, dated furnishings, popcorn ceilings, and linoleum to make that space theirs. I am constantly shouting at my TV, like the enraged football fan yelling at the ref: "You can paint over that!" or "You can buy new appliances!" or "You aren't keeping their furniture!" It seems simple to me, so I take for granted it would be simple for them -- and once in a while, there is someone who sees the potential of a house so drenched in someone else's life and style, but that is not the norm.
Potential. How I love that word! What amazingness it comes with -- growing fat with ideas and hopes and hard work -- ready to push into shaped reality! But it can be hard to see potential...it hides inside, where there is no light.
Do we help our childbirth students, our doula clients, our friends and family we love, see their potential when it comes to birth? Many of us have our own stories -- our own incredible stories we wear like badges of honor or turtle shells. As we carry these parts of us, are we able to share them without offering them as a template to others?
Planning for birth is like buying someone's house. There are many tools needed to renovate and personalize the space so it feels right. There are many tools to offer moms -- amazing tools we have read about, learned about, practiced, and have extensive experience using. As doulas and educators, time and time again, the most important tool we have to offer is trust -- we can simply offer trust.
For today's post I collected an assortment of comments from moms who had doulas.
Amanda, second birth, first time with a doula: I knew I wanted a doula after my first birth did not go as planned As a labor nurse I thought I would be able to handle labor, especially with a very supportive husband. Boy was I wrong. I know I could of had the birth I wanted had I had a doula, so when I got pregnant with my second I had to have a doula! The loving care and support a doula provides is priceless! The encouragement and reassurance through out the whole pregnancy was so important to me and knowing that a knowledgable woman would be at my side to support me and my wishes for the labor I wanted was what my heart, soul and mind needed to have a completely natural birth! Ending my birthing journey with Kim Humble at my side was a perfect ending! I admire all doulas for their dedication and love of the birth process and for giving up time with their families and lives to help empower woman during their birth process.
Wendi, doulas with her second and third babies: Having a doula was the only difference between my first and second birth and wow what a difference it made! The counter pressure on my lower back during contractions was a godsend. It was so helpful physically but also emotionally to have someone there to focus on me. Avary and Evie, doula-assisted births. Avary: 1-03 with Erin Romrell in Clearwater, FL. Evie: 5-11 with Jarynna Chua, Chico, CA.
Jenny, birth with a doula after a loss: Like many people I didn't think I needed a doula. My husband is an excellent helper and I had never had problems with relaxation and delivery. However, after having a stillbirth my very good friend who is a doula gently offered advice that it may be helpful to have someone not as emotionally attached to the experience in the room to help us both. She was so very right about that. We were more anxious than we knew going into our birth experience post stillbirth. Our wonderful doula/friend/sister was there for the both of us to keep us calm and focused. My husband still did most of my support and coaching, but she was there to run interference with hospital staff and convey pertinent information in a calming way from our midwife. It also turned out to be a huge blessing in that our midwife had 5 women delivering at the same time so we had the extra attention we needed at a time when we were both immensely happy and in a bit of mourning that we didn't know we hadn't yet done.
Rebecca, first birth, doula support for birth, and postpartum depression: My doula helped me through post partum depression. She was invaluable during my birth but the support we got later was what kept me from cracking. We had her come in two nights to take the baby and let me sleep after 6 weeks of insomnia. It got me on the right path to recovery and I trusted her more than anyone else to take the baby at night while we slept.
Kari, first baby with a late decision to get a doula: The prenatal support given was invaluable. My doula helped me not only with the obvious stuff like practicing relaxation techniques and different positions, but with building confidence to have the birth I wanted. I went ten days past my "due" date but never questioned my decision to not be induced, as we had talk about the cascade of interventions that often follow. She helped me trust my body and backed me up when my gut instinct told me to switch providers at 37 weeks pregnant.
Our preparation allowed me to labor at home as long as possible, and then my doula advised when to head to the hospital. I'm grateful to have been fully in active labor when admitted, and didn't have any issues with stalling. I attribute this to how safe I felt. While in labor, my memories are mostly touch and hearing, and feeling cocooned by the women present - my doula, midwife, and midwife in training. Birth was a very female centered thing for me. My doula helped me stay centered when I hadn't even notice that my efforts and pushing were less controlled and therefore less productive. I'm happy to have had a non medicated hospital birth, and felt very empowered by the experience. I can't imagine childbirth without a doula! [Kari's doula was Avira Wenn in the Visalia Area.]
Katie, second baby though adoption, first time with a doula: We hired a doula for a pretty unique reason. My husband and I were adopting a baby, so we hired a doula for our son's birth mother. I had gone to her child birth classes with her, and was going to be with her during her labor (though I had never given birth myself). But I knew that once the baby arrived he would be my priority. I had an awful image of this amazing young woman who was giving me the most precious gift going home from the hospital with no one to check up on her, navigating a difficulty time alone. She had some specific desires for how she wished her birth to go, and we needed an advocate who would be there for her before, during and after her birth. One reason we chose an open adoption was because we feel strongly about a birth mother's rights. But we were also realistic; we wanted a baby badly. The emotions surrounding a birth and adoption can change the best laid plans, and it seemed a conflict of interest for me to be her advocate during that time. Our adoption facilitator suggested we hire a doula. I am so happy we did! Thank you, Stacie! I know initially the adoption element was a bit out of your comfort zone, but you were amazing!
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)