Helping other mothers birth (with lots of CAPS and lots of emotion)
Birthing. Among mothers (and mothers-to-be), how one births can be such a touchy subject, with strident feelings on both sides of the fence — from natural childbirth to highly medicalized.
Normally, in my real life, I keep my own views tightly under wraps. If someone asks me, or if the subject comes up in normal conversation, I might share that I have had five children with no meds, or, if I’ve heard through the grapevine that so-and-so expectant mother is going to try to birth naturally, I might chime in with my $0.02. But probably most of the people who know me don’t have any idea about my views on birthing, unless they read my blog. 😉
That’s because, up until very recently, I have thought that — seeing that having a natural childbirth stance immediately puts many women on the defensive — I’d rather maintain a good relationship with a friend (or acquaintance) than make her feel like I think less of her since she didn’t (or doesn’t plan on) birthing naturally.
I’ve only been at the labor of two friends. One — a long time ago — was my dear childhood friend, who labored for 30 hours, and ultimately ended up with a c-section. The other was a friend who, though previously having a home birth, did end up with an epidural but birthed v@ginally. With both of those, I don’t think I was of much help; I was more of an observer and mostly-silent support.
Soon, I’ll be attending the birth of my good friend Erin’s baby as an actual coach. I’m very much looking forward to that. But, how did I get from “mostly-silent support” to “I WANT TO HELP YOU!!!”??
Starting after Fiala was born in October… well, I don’t know what it was, exactly, but knowing that it was likely that she was my last child, I started really reflecting on birth, and… I just didn’t want to let go of the experience of birthing her. It was so lovely, and as my bloggy friend Laura recently said, in such a lovely way:
I am so attached to our unassisted birth that every day that goes by makes me a little sad in a bittersweet kinda way. I’m having to let it go as a present experience and let it melt into a beautiful memory. but memories or good. and once i get over ths hump where I try to hold on to it for dear life, I will be able to relish the memory. [who knew you could have depression over a GOOD birth experience! ha]
Not that I gave birth unassisted… but when I read her words, I thought, “EXACTLY!! That was TOTALLY what I was going through after Fi was born.” Exactly.
So, in the wake of that, to keep the memory and experience present, I started watching shows like A Baby Story, Birth Day, and Deliver Me, shows that I had NEVER watched, previously. And, while they held my interest intensely, more often than not, I found myself apalled at what doctors — and even hospital-based midwives — routinely suggested, and what women just said, “OK” to — interventions that I could tell were not necessary, or just the fact that, other than the very rare birthing-center birth or home birth, pretty much all the shows just had the women laying in bed, being pumped full of pitocin, which led to an epidural, which — a great percentage of the time — led to a c-section. According to my experience, it all just didn’t seem real.
But was that real? Is that real?
I mean, I became better and better educated with each birth, but I never considered myself an expert on natural birth… However, a vast majority of the women profiled on each of those shows demonstrated a complete ignorance of what, to me, seemed like very basic knowledge. Like, a woman would be interviewed, and would say, very early in labor, “I want to birth naturally.” But, then, she’d lay in bed, and then the doctor would come in and say, “Well, you haven’t progressed in three hours; we’re going to jumpstart you and hook you up to pitocin,” and I would internally scream, “NO! Get out of bed! Go take a walk! Do something!!!!” But, she’d just say, “OK,” and then after being hooked up to pitocin, discover that it made contractions hurt WORSE — “discover” because NOBODY TOLD HER what pitocin would do. Then, unable to handle the abnormally strong contractions from pitocin, she’d then get an epidural… and — wham! — the natural childbirth just walked out, slamming the door. And, yes, the mother would end up with a baby in her arms at the end of the show (unless the show ended with the baby in the NICU), and yes, she’d be content about having that wee one. But, I definitely have seen women in tears that their birth didn’t end up being what they wanted it to be, or if not in tears, with disappointment around their eyes, but saying things like, “Well, it was necessary. At least we have the baby!”
That made me sad.
And… frustrated, or something. Like, “How could she not know _____? Why isn’t anyone telling her?”
And then I realized how much the merciful graciousness of God had been over each of my children’s births, and that, due to circumstances that were very little to my own credit, I was still able to birth 100% naturally, in a hospital setting.
Looking into it a bit further (mostly via reading natural childbirth advocate kind of blogs), I began to realize that I was the anomaly, and that all those shows, unfortunately, ARE real — are real life. Most women experience THAT.
AND, it began to dawn on me that a great percentage of women WANT a natural birth experience, but haven’t received any guidance about what road she needed to travel down to avoid the “cascade of interventions” that led to the highly-medicalized birth — v@ginally but with epidural, or ending in a c-section. I had previously assumed that MOST women who got an epidural wanted one before they even got to the hospital! And, yes, there are definitely some women who go that route… but many don’t want it, but still end up with it, because no one is advocating for them.
And, it began to hit me that I needed to change my outlook on the whole thing of birthing, and educating women. It began to dawn on me that I was able to DO what many women WANT to do, and that maybe I could help them attain their hope of delivering naturally — which truly is better for Mom and better for baby.
I still don’t know exactly where I’m going with this — I’d like to study to be a doula. Training is only 2-3 days, and $300-400. I need to save my money!! 😀
I have a friend… I like her a lot, but I can’t say that we’re super-close. When she and her husband moved here to the Valley a few years ago, she was newly pregnant, just a few months behind me, when I was pregnant with Audrey. I knew that the birth of that baby ended up being VERY difficult for her, and it led to her opting for a cesarean with the birth of her second child. Recently, though, she shared more details with me… and at the end, I was very nearly in tears, and afterwards, I COULD NOT GET IT OUT of my mind… I thought, I prayed. I sent her an e-mail. We talked more. The short version is that she went into the hospital very early in labor — with only her husband; she didn’t know anybody well enough in town to feel comfortable asking anyone — and since she was “progressing slowly” the OB broke her water. Well, what no one knew at the time was that her baby was OP (with the back of the head against the spine, instead of the front of the head — in other words, upside down). So, breaking the water cemented that baby in position… no one suggested her laboring on hands and knees… She ended up having an instrument delivery and a 4th degree laceration, from which she is suffering, still, more than three years later. As she told me her story, I asked her if she had tried one thing or another, or if the doctor had suggested this or that, and she said, “No… I just didn’t know! I didn’t know!” No one gave her any options than lay there and say yes to the doctor.
I felt guilty. I felt like I had totally let her down. Back then, I knew she was new in town, but I didn’t even think of offering to accompany her in her birth. I didn’t think she’d want me. But, I knew at least a little bit that could have helped her. Even though my knowledge about birth is tiny compared to many, I could have helped… I could at least have helped her not panic. She said that she and her husband felt very alone and scared and confused… I could have helped.
Maybe I will become certified as a doula. I’d like to. Maybe I could even supplement our family’s income as a doula! I didn’t know until very recently that they typically make $300-500 or so for each birth. That would be awesome. However, my main motivation now is just to be of HELP. Even before I get certified, I am definitely going to OFFER to accompany friends — even if they’re not close friends — as they give birth. Previously, I was afraid of offending them, afraid they’d say, “No,” and I’d feel pushy or stupid. BUT, I’m over that. I will definitely be tender and careful in what I say, and how I say it. But, with my friend’s story in mind, I am no longer going to think, “Oh, there’s NO WAY she’d want me there while she births…” I’ll just get over my insecurities, and at least offer. And if she says no, and it’s awkward, well, I’ll just deal.