Wonderfully Made Births

Changing childbirth, one woman at a time.

Archive for Pregnancy

Expectations

I sat in the comfy chair at Starbucks, reserving the other one for the pregnant woman I was to meet along with her boyfriend.  I knew he was a business owner, so when I saw an obviously due-pretty-soon woman walk in beside a pierced, North Face-wearing man, I thought: that’s not them.  She looked model-thin, wore high-heeled boots.  She looked pretty, delicate – I couldn’t see that couple wanting to hire me, a doula.

So when they came over expectantly and introduced themselves as my potential clients, I was ashamed.

Often when I meet with a client for the first time, I form an impression, born of experience and an understanding that not everyone has the same view of childbirth.  At some point during our relationship, I realize that this person will likely be induced, this one will end up with an epidural, that this one is too scared or too tired to have an easy time of it.  I am generally right.  And I don’t hold judgements about those decisions.  It’s not my job.

My job is to be supplier of information, supporter of informed decision making.  I had my births, now it’s their turn.  I take these decisions seriously, and try to ensure that my clients have access to all the information they need.  But I cannot make the choices for them.

But I see, now, that sometimes I will be surprised.  This beautiful, put-together woman in the high-heeled boots had the most amazing labor.  There are times when all outward signs tell you nothing.  When there is nothing but intuition telling you that this is really labor, this is transition, this is time to push.  She was absolutely quiet during her contractions.  She withdrew into herself, grew serious and focused.  Between, she chatted and laughed like the rest of us.  I kept thinking, if she wasn’t dilating they would give her pitocin because this couldn’t be active labor.  But she was six centimeters dilated!

Then, during one contraction, tears began falling down her face in a steady stream.  She didn’t sob, and it didn’t seem like a reaction to pain.  Instead, it seemed laden with emotion, and I wondered if it might be transition.  Then just as suddenly, she was ready to push.

She worked hard during pushing, and leaned heavily on her partner, but she still shone through and was amazingly strong and fearless.

I am constantly amazed by the power of this rite, the strength we are able to find within ourselves even when exhausted and unsure.  And I am contrite in the face of my wrongness, my judgement about what kind of person won’t succumb to fear.  And I am grateful for the lessons.

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A New Conversation

Your birth, your way. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?  Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple, but it doesn’t have to be a debacle, either.

One of my favorite quotes is this one, from Laurie Stavoe Harm:

“There is a secret in our culture, and it’s not that childbirth is painful, it’s that women are strong.”

Whether you believe our bodies were created or evolved, the fact is the design is not flawed. Our ideas about it might be, but for the most part we can do this thing, this incredible, life-changing thing that makes us feel powerful and amazing, without a whole lot of help.

Of course sometimes things happen to make it so that we do need help, a little or quite a lot. And yes, it is wonderful that we have great technology and medical knowledge to keep those situations from becoming dangerous or life threatening. My argument is not that we should toss all those medical ideas out the window. I am a firm believer in supporting what a woman feels is right for her. I do not have to live with the decisions my clients make – they do.

I know enough of depression, guilt, and anger to understand that a woman’s ability to chose her own path through pregnancy and childbirth can mean the difference between a satisfying experience and a nightmare, no matter how things progress.

What I do insist on, and would love to see, is this:

Let’s change the way we talk about birth. Is it painful? Hell yes. But is it also the most incredible kick-ass moment many of us ever have?  Yes, absolutely it is. I want my daughter to understand that. I want to talk about it with all the energy and joy I felt when each of my children was born. I want to see the discussion start to center around the transformational experience, rather than the fear.  We can talk about the pain, we can talk about the doubts that creep in no matter how many babies you’ve had – the thought that oh my God I really have to push this terrifically huge baby out through my tiny little vagina and I have changed my mind please God, please I want a do over!

But let’s also talk about that moment when a mother first touches her baby. That moment that all the hard work and self-care of pregnancy and labor manifests itself in a tiny, perfect little person. The moment a baby is born is also the moment a mother is born. Let’s remember that the birth, while beautiful and exhilarating, is only the beginning of the journey.