Sometimes a cesarean is necessary and a family knows this before labor begins. This gives them a chance to prepare in ways they may not have thought of during a regular labor-turned-cesarean birth.
How fun to have the first English/Spanish contribution for 31 Days of Doulas! Clara is a doula in an area of Argentina with a high cesarean birth rate. She told me, a woman basically has to be progressing very fast to have a vaginal birth. When faced with so many obstacles to normal birth, it is important to retain your passion for doula work -- what brought you here in the first place? And to have an incredible support system in place. I am confident Clara has both. I am also confident that she will make a difference in the lives of the families she serves. I can't wait to see where doula work takes Clara!
The night after my first birth as a doula I couldn’t sleep -- I was very sad, very tired, and very quiet.
“My water broke, no contractions yet, the midwife told me to go to the hospital at five.” I was on a bus, busy with formalities when I received the mom’s text. I went back to my house as soon as I could, checked-in with my doula group on WhatsApp, washed my hair, got my doula bag, printed DONA certification papers, and left. Filled with excitement and adrenaline, I was happy. At last, 2 years after my first doula course, 3 months after my DONA training, a mama had trusted me to be her doula, and I was over the moon; although I knew this wasn’t the best scenario.
“Remember all our plans? Well, we are going to let them go.” I said that to the mom, but I was saying it to myself, too. An hour later I was in her bedroom, had turned the lights down, and understood that the couple’s choice was to go soon to the hospital. I had half an hour to time contractions. With the birth ball, rebozo in dad’s hands, and massage, a few contractions came -- shy, like someone who comes into a new place and doesn't know what to do. Respecting their decision to leave for the hospital at five (we had an hour or so of driving), I suggested we go.
“Wait, I have to do some stuff before -- get me the hair iron.” So there I was, with a mom about to go to the hospital not in labour -- but I was supporting with love what was important to her though it wasn't ideal to me. I took the iron, and while she was on the birth ball I did my best so she wouldn't realise I have no experience with hair irons (my hair is so straight!), and my fingers were burning. I took my time, this was important to the mom, so it was important to me. When I finished I helped the dad so he wouldn't forget anything. She put on perfume, called for a car, and we were out.
“It’s not a big deal, just relax yourself.” The driver had been a policeman, and he had attended three births himself. I think this man knew more about births than a lot of OBs. The energy in the car was pretty high, there was confidence and smiles, but the mom already knew that as soon as she entered the hospital, the interventions and protocols and rules would start.
“We’re going to try a vaginal birth, ok? But you know that at 37 weeks, your cervix is immature, and a c-section, is always a possibility, ok?” The midwife talked to the mama, but she was in another place. She sadly signed admission papers -- each form was a broken expectation given away with her street clothes and her credit card.
“Everything is perfect, Clari. There’s always a bigger plan than the one we can see or understand.” The WhatsApp group of my doula-mates was strong, careful, douling the doula. The same group that replied when I asked for a photo of “Labouring in bed” by Penny Simkin. In the hospital, I learned I would not able to be with the couple in the room -- rules are rules and only one person goes with the mama. We all sat in the waiting room. I lent my doula stuff to the dad and gave him some advice and information. When the mom was finally called, she was so upset I didn’t know what to say as they walked away.
The waiting room was full with grandmas, aunts, sisters and expecting couples. Absolutely every birth of that afternoon/night was a cesarean birth. C-sections were so many that the OR was full all the time. I cried a little, then got calmed -- I did my best, there was nothing I could do but wait, think positively about them, pray a bit, and wait some more. We were on the 10th floor, and as I watched elevator numbers rise up, I tried to visualize it was the mom progressing to 10. I listened to sticky-sweet love songs on TV, and whenever I opened WhatsApp, my doulas were always there, supporting me.
No news. I texted the dad, sending him inspirational pictures, advice, good intentions -- they knew I was there. Time passed and I thought that maybe so many scheduled c-sections (Easter holidays were coming) would give her some time to progress. Five hours later, I saw the OB, and then the midwife.
“The baby was born.” I never, ever wrote a message so fast. I needed them, I needed my doulas. Their experience was my support, their words, my relief. I asked the midwife if everything was fine and she said yes, “she didn’t progress and she had a c-section." She said I was able to see them now. I started to go down the stairs. I cried. I cursed. I read messages of support, of the lovely presence beyond this hospital, doula sisters. I held my tears and entered the room.
“You know how this works… doulas, midwifes, the more you know about it, the worse it is.” I thought the worst was over, I was wrong. There was the midwife, putting poison in mom’s mind with her words, blaming the c-section on a painful tired new mama who knew too much or had too much support, who was still dealing with anesthesia. I turned down the lights, stroked the mama, and watched a new mama with her baby -- the greatest love that exists, the one that heals everything.
Mi Primer Acompañamiento
La noche de mi primer acompañamiento como doula no pude dormir, estaba muy triste, muy cansada, y también muy tranquila.
“Rompí bolsa, estoy sin contracciones, la partera me indicó que me interne a las 5.” Estaba en un colectivo yendo a hacer trámites cuando recibo el mensaje de la mamá. Volví a mi casa lo más rápido que pude, di aviso a mi grupo de doulas, me lavé el pelo, agarré las cosas, imprimí los papeles de DONA y salí. Después de la excitación y la adrenalina inicial, disfruté. Por fin, después de 2 años de mi primer formación de doula, a 3 meses de la capacitación de DONA, una mamá había confiado en mí, y yo estaba en las nubes de la felicidad, aunque sabía que el escenario no era el mejor.
“¿Viste todos nuestros planes? Bueno, los vamos a soltar.” Se lo dije a la mamá pero me lo dije a mí misma. Una hora después estaba en su cuarto, había bajado las luces, y comprendido que el deseo de la pareja era llegar pronto al sanatorio. Tenía media hora para llamar a las contracciones. Con la pelota, un poco de manteo de parte del papá y masajes, fueron llegando algunas contracciones, tímidas, como quien recién llega a un lugar nuevo y no sabe bien qué hacer. Respetando el deseo de llegar puntual a la institución (teníamos una hora o más de viaje), sugerí ir saliendo.
“Esperá, antes tengo que hacer cosas, alcanzame la planchita.” Ahí estaba yo, con una mamá a punto de internarse sin trabajo de parto, acompañando con profundo amor lo posible, lo real, dejando de lado lo ideal. Agarré la planchita y mientras ella estaba en la pelota, hice mi mejor esfuerzo para que no se note que soy casi inexperta en el tema (mi pelo es hiper lacio) y que me quemaba los dedos. Me tomé mi tiempo, esto era importante para ella, así que fue importante para mí. Al terminar ayudé al papá a que no se olvide nada, ella se puso perfume, llamó al remís y nos fuimos.
“No es nada del otro mundo, solamente hay que relajarse.” El remisero había sido policía, y había atendido él mismo 3 partos en vía pública. Hoy creo que el remisero sabe más de partos que muchos médicos. La energía en el auto estaba alta, había confianza y sonrisas, pero la mamá ya sabía que apenas pise el sanatorio, empezaría el baile del protocolo institucional.
“Vamos a tratar de que sea por vía vaginal, ¿sí? Pero igualmente vos sabés que en semana 37 el cuello está inmaduro y que la opción de la cesárea siempre está, ¿sí?” La partera le hablaba pero ella estaba en otro lado. Firmaba los papeles de la internación con tristeza, cada formulario era una expectativa que se iba, que debía entregar junto con su ropa de calle y la tarjeta de crédito.
“Todo es perfecto Clari. Siempre hay un plan más grande que el que podemos ver o entender.” El grupo de whatsapp con mis compañeras doulas atento, firme, douleando a la doula. El mismo grupo que respondió de la mejor manera cuando les pedí una foto de “Trabajo de parto en la cama” de Penny Simkin. Ya me habían dicho que no podía pasar, que por normas sólo pasa una persona, que es la misma que luego entra a sala de partos. Nos sentamos a esperar la internación, le pasé mis cosas de doula al papá, le di consejos, y le reenvié la información de Penny Simkin. Cuando la vinieron a buscar, el ánimo de la mamá estaba tan bajo que no supe qué decirle.
En la sala de espera había abuelas, tías, hermanas, parejas. Absolutamente todos los nacimientos de esa tarde/noche habían sido por cesárea, tantos que el quirófano no daba a basto. Lloré un poco y después me calmé, había dado lo mejor de mí y ya no podía hacer nada más que esperarlos afuera, pensar positivamente en ellos, rezar un poco, y esperar. Estábamos en el piso 10, miraba los números que indican en qué piso está el ascensor y visualizaba que era ella quien progresaba a 10. Escuchaba canciones melosas en la tele. Abría whatsapp, las doulas ahí, conteniendo, acompañando.
No hay noticias, buenas noticias. Le escribía al papá por whatsapp con imágenes inspiradoras, consejos, buenas intenciones, ellos sabían que yo estaba ahí. El tiempo pasaba, pensé que tantas cesáreas programadas (ay, los médicos, se acercaba Semana Santa) quizás le den tiempo. Cinco horas más tarde, veo pasar al obstetra, y luego sale la partera.
“Ya nació.” Nunca escribí tan rápido un whatsapp, las necesitaba, necesitaba a mis doulas, su experiencia era mi sostén; sus palabras, mi consuelo. Pregunto a la partera si estaba todo bien, me dice que sí, que no progresó y fue a cesárea y que podía pasar a verlos. Empiezo a bajar la escalera. Lloro, puteo. Caen mensajes de contención, de presencia amorosa incluso a la distancia, mensajes de doula. Bajo la escalera, contengo las lágrimas, espero a que salgan las enfermeras y el obstetra y paso a verlos.
“Viste cómo es esto, doulas, parteras, cuanto más sabés… peor es.” Pensé que había pasado lo peor, pero no, ahí estaba la partera, culpando a una mamá dolorida, cansada, aún bajo los efectos de la anestesia, poniendo veneno en el suero con sus palabras. Bajé las luces, acaricié a la mamá, y contemplé el amor más grande que existe, el que todo lo cura.
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!
I finished another project I am so excited about! I wanted to put to pictures these 20 ACOG statements that came out in March with the goal to avoid a woman's first cesarean. Now some asked why the images didn't exactly match the recommendations. All I could reply back with was, some of these things, you wouldn't want to see in pictures, either because they would be boring, or because they would be graphic. But more to the truth is, I wanted the pictures to represent patience...we need to be more patient with labor. We need to give moms and babies more time to perform this task.
I am so grateful to all the families, doulas, and photographers who shared pictures with me -- the response was overwhelming. Because the focus is on preventing the initial cesarean birth, I am pleased that some of these moms are shown laboring toward what ended up being successful VBACs!
Patience is the key. Many of these are based on evidence that shows with more time, a woman can birth vaginally. And speaking of time -- research shows it can take 10-17 years before new evidence is implemented into practice. If we familiarize ourselves with these new recommendations, we can be the driving force behind ensuring the care we receive is current when our caregiver might still be doing things out of habit, comfort, or custom. Let's spread the word!
Pin these! Help raise awareness and get this information out there into the hands of the families that need it. The goal is to educate families, so they can enter into their providers' offices knowing what ACOG now recommends.
Stay tuned for August's adventures in celebrating World Breastfeeding Week and Breastfeeding Awareness Month. Like my Facebook page for resources that can be used by educators, doulas, and of course, breastfeeding mothers!
Have you heard "6 is the new 4"? When looking at the stages of labor, it was taught that 0-4ish was latent or early labor, 4ish-7ish was active labor, and 7ish to complete (what we call "10") was transition. After seeing that we misjudged the amount of time in active phase, it is possible many women received cesarean births simply due to what was thought of as non-progressing labor, when in reality, with 4-6 more hours in that phase, birth would have happened on its own. Patience is not only a virtue, but it is also the safer way to birth for moms and babies.
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.
I am incredibly excited to share today's post. When Keegan mentioned this to me, I was amazed -- that she had helped a mother through birth trauma by something as simple and genuine as a ceremonious bath intrigued me. Reading her story left me awestruck. If you feel you have a client who may benefit from a rebirthing, I would encourage you get in touch with someone who has experience in this area -- Keegan would have great information for you, I am sure!
As a postpartum doula and birth educator one of the areas I see a gap in our maternal care system is postpartum follow up, particularly when it comes to birth trauma. Most expectant mothers imagine what it will be like the day their new baby arrives. Others are afraid of what will happen on their birthing day, and try to put it out of their minds. Some women have a plan of how they would like their birth to go and some even put the words down on paper to give to their care provider.
When a birthing day does not happen the way a mother envisions, it can result in shattered expectations and the loss of dreams. Any situation that a person is put into where they are forced to make a decision under duress (or without their consent) can result in guilt and second guessing. Many of these mothers have difficulty forming the essential bond that new mothers have with their baby in the first days of life. Some develop perinatal mood disorders. They are not typically seen by their care provider until their six week follow-up, and even then new mothers struggling to manage birth trauma are often missed, and continue to fight their feelings alone. This is my story of a time I was able to help one of these mothers dealing with birth trauma by facilitating a rebirthing.
I received a call from a new mother, who was still in the hospital after she experienced a traumatic emergency caesarean section. She described to me that throughout her pregnancy, she envisioned seeing her son enter the world in a gentle way, surrounded by love and met with joyful anticipation. Unfortunately the birth had not happened according to her plan and after many long hours of labor, her doctor decided that it was time for her to meet her baby and sent her for a caesarian. I knew she needed to see her birth in a new way, and to have a second chance to have the birth that she wanted. Physically, her recovery was difficult, and she and her son had difficulty establishing breastfeeding. He had been separated from her for over an hour after the birth, and was having trouble staying latched on and was often fussy at the breast. Mama was feeling hurt and powerless and she told me about the loss she had endured. They were all home from the hospital on the fourth day after her son was born, and I met with her soon after they arrived at their house.
I had heard about the idea of a rebirth, and I suggested that it may be a way for her to begin her healing. I had her prepare a letter written to her baby, telling him the story of the birth she had imagined for him. She spent some time talking through this with her husband, and when they were finished I ran a warm bath for them, lit some candles, and dimmed the lights. She and her baby got in to the bath skin to skin and I read her letter. Her eyes gently closed as she held her baby close and I saw them both relax almost as if they were melting into each other. She helped her baby to her breast, and he was able to latch on. He seemed like he was almost asleep, maybe he was just finally relaxed enough to nurse. They stayed in the bath for some time, and I encouraged her husband to stay and sit with them.
I waited in another room, and when they all came out to join me, something had shifted. There was a stillness and peace that was tangible and I could feel their deep love resonating though their home. I stayed with them long enough to see baby latch on again. I saw her eyes fill with tears of relief, smiling as she looked at her husband beside her. This was the new start that they needed.
Everyone who was there that day experienced their own rebirth, and I am forever grateful that I was able to be a part of such a special day for this new family. Every mother with birth trauma deserves a chance to find healing and peace, and I am humbled to have a role in that journey.
Keegan Barkley is the founder of New Journey Postpartum, LLC, serving the Indianapolis area. She is a DONA trained postpartum doula, a HypnoBirthing Instructor, a Sacred Pregnancy mini workshop and Birth Journey instructor, and she is trained in Rebozo techniques for birthing. She also offers babywearing and cloth diaper consultations, basic breastfeeding support, and birth trauma and pregnancy loss support. She has worked in mental health and substance abuse counseling for seven years. If you are interested in learning more about rebirthing or any of the services she has to offer, please visit her website or her Facebook page.
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."
Many expectant parents find the last weeks before their baby’s arrival to be fraught with a rainbow of emotions. The excitement builds as the due-date comes. This date has been the goal. Although realistically only 5% of babies are born on their due dates, we still cling to that date as if it means something bigger than it does. Just as every fruit on the same tree reaches ripened maturity at different points in time, so do our babies. One survey suggests 7 out of 10 babies are born past their estimated due dates (as a birth doula, I can say this backs-up my experiences with mothers and babies).
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)