Sticks and Stones

 

When we are pregnant we glow. We are a vessel of creation.

How awesome and a little terrifying.

We go through so many emotions during pregnancy, sometimes it’s hard to keep up . We often read books and watch movies about giving birth. We talk to their friends and relatives about the wishes and plans for childbirth and what kind of mother they hope they will become. We do all of this because we feel the need to connect to other women who have experienced this transformation, we look for guidance and support, we feel a little bit more vulnerable in our times of change. What happens when you talk to people around you, who are close to you, and they say things that are a little less than supportive? They might say things like, “You might want a natural birth, but when you feel those contractions you will change your mind, you will be begging for an epidural”, or “are you sure that’s what you want to do, you know they make drugs for that, right?”. That has happened to most of us, right?

It certainly happened to me. I was always left a little disappointed that the people I was reaching out to for support let me down.

Pregnant women deserve our best.

They deserve for us to be there for them and hold them up no matter what choices they make, especially when they are based on informed decision making. Birth is a natural physiological process that has been carried out since the beginning of time. It’s only been in the last hundred years that we’ve begun to lose support to birth without drugs.

Technology and medical interventions has saved the lives of mothers and babies, that’s the truth, it has, when it’s used in a responsible and needed way. Thousands of women end up with C-sections that weren’t done for medically indicated reasons, but for convenience of the care provider and sometimes the mother and they are left permanently scarred, physically and emotionally.

So when a women says to me that she wants to try to give birth without the use of medical interventions, unless medically indicated of course, I say go for it, and then I ask “who’s your doula?”. On the other hand, a woman does have the right to choose whether or not she wants to use pain medication, and given that she has received all of the current information regarding the risks vs. benefits of those drugs, that is her choice. The point is that we should stop wasting so much time judging one another.  It’s my opinion that we all need to work more on lifting each other up instead of bringing one another down. That’s what words can do that are a little less encouraging, when they come from the mouths of the people who love us and care about us it is even more so. We can all share our experiences with one another that doesn’t cause emotional upsets to the one beside us. If we have had less than positive experiences, we can talk about and learn from it. But please, let’s not use it to discourage others from trying something that might be a little outside of what our views are. Women are powerful beings that have the courage and strength inside of us to bring our babies into the world.

{Sometimes we need a lot loving words, support and guidance to get there, but we all deserve an empowering experience where the people who surround us truly believe in us.}

Doula what?

“If a doula were a drug it would be unethical not to use it.” Dr. John H. Kennel

The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning of “women who serve”. We use it now to refer to a woman who is trained to provide continuous physical, emotional and informational support throughout the labor process and the immediate postpartum period. Not to be confused with a midwife, doulas have no clinical training. They are meant to be a support person on your team in addition to your care provider and partner. They are also there to offer support to your partner and family as well. A doula will encourage your partner to participate in the birth on whatever level they feel comfortable. They are there to offer an objective viewpoint and help you and your partner gain access to the information you need to make the best choices for your family.

There have been quite a few studies done on the effects a doula has on laboring women. This information comes from Mothering the Mother by Kennel, Klaus and Kennel (1993).

Effects on Birth Outcomes:

  • Labors are 25% shorter.¹
  • There are fewer complications.
  • Cesarean rates are reduced by 50%.¹
  • There is 40% less need for oxytocin to speed up labor.¹
  • Need for forceps is reduced by 40%.¹
  • Women request 30% less pain medication and 60% fewer epidurals.¹

Effects on the Mother:

  • Greater satisfaction with their birth experience.
  • More positive assessments of their babies.
  • Less postpartum depression.

Effects on the Baby:

  • Babies have shorter hospital stays with fewer admissions to special care nurseries.
  • Babies breastfeed more easily.
  • Mothers are more affectionate to their babies postpartum.

Effects on the Health Care System:

  • The cost of obstetrical care is dramatically reduced.
  • Women are pleased with the personalized care doulas offer.
  • The Benefit of continuous support in labor is recognized by:
    • The World Health Organization
    • The Medical Leadership Council (an organization of over 1200 U.S. hospitals)
    • The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada

 

The birth of a family

I found out that I was pregnant with our first child when I was 19.  Young and a little terrified I wanted to do everything right.  Fate brought me to a job as a barista at our local co-operative grocery store just weeks before, where I was fortunate to be surrounded by women in my community that believed birth to be a normal life event and pregnancy a gift.  I was connected with local midwives and took childbirth classes and read everything about being pregnant and giving birth that I put my hands on.  Time went on, months and weeks passed, we waited on the arrival of our baby.  I wondered about eye color and how big it was going to be, what color hair he or she was going to have. We had decided not to find out the sex of the wee one so it could be a surprise. I feel like it’s one of true surprises left in life. My sister who lived in Arizona at the time was called me to tell me she would be here on the 22nd and to hold the baby in until she got here. My response was a sarcastic… Yeah, okay. My “due date” was on the 24th so it seemed possible that it could happen.  After a few nights of what I thought was labor, which turned out to be those tricky braxton-hicks contractions, I was convinced the baby wasn’t ever going to come… maybe I was just ready.  I talked to him and told him we had a name picked out and that we were ready for him to come when he thought it was time and that our life would be safe and full of love.  Then after a night of no sleep and what seemed like constant trips to the bathroom to pee, I had my first real contraction at 5:47am.  (Coincidentally, my sister’s plane arrived in the state only a few minutes before, I guess the baby listened.)  Whoa, I thought, I don’t know if I can do this. I sat in bed for a while trying to get my wits about me. This is it, the moment of truth. I tried to rest for as long as possible, knowing I was embarking on a journey that would need my full strength, but that seemed impossible. I was too excited. I finally woke Derek up at 7 and we sat there together in bed. I called my mom and told her to come on over.  At some point we heard a small chirp and to our surprise there was a grasshopper in our covers. She assured us this was a good omen.  I called my midwife to let her know (about the baby, not the grasshopper). It seemed like she already could tell by the sound of my voice… Is it time? She said with excitement in her voice. All of these things were reassuring but I was still scared.  Scared of the change and of the pain. As the morning past I showered, and cried a little. I walked around the block a few times, I rocked on the birth ball, I rested, I ate and drank whenever I needed. I called my friends to tell them to send some good birth energy my way.  With every passing wave* I said to myself I can do this.  Then it got to a point where I stopped talking and just started doing. Rocking, walking, rolling with it one minute at a time. We kept in contact with our midwife and collectively decided it was time to go to the hospital.  We got there and I refused the wheelchair because sitting and being still was painful, walking felt good.  I got to the labor and delivery room and my midwife was already awaiting our arrival. She did a cervical exam and was excited to say I was at 6cm. Time wasn’t a factor, I was still able to keep my concentration despite the questions and the poking and monitoring that was required of the staff. I showered and layed on my side in the bed. At this point I was experiencing an intense case of chills and warm blankets were piled up all over me like I was in a nest. It felt good. I felt warm and safe. I realize now that I was in transition. The place of rest before the work of pushing out a new life began.  Then my midwife noticed my sounds changed from moaning to grunting. She asked if I felt like pushing and I said I thought that I did. I started to push with the urge. This is actually a relief, I thought it would be the worst part, but now I felt like I was able to deal with the sensations in a more active way. After a few hours of position changes and lots of cool wash clothes on my head I finally assumed the squating position on the floor, holding onto the side of the bed for support. My whole family and midwife were all on the floor with me. Finally his head emerged and I felt the ring of fire, that’s what birth professionals call the crowning of the largest part of the babies head. You slow down and feel the burning, the stretching of the skin. With a few more pushes I reached down and grabbed my baby and pulled him up close to me.  I didn’t cry, I didn’t know what to feel. I kept saying “It’s a baby” like I didn’t previously realize that it was going to be an actual human being. I really was a little shocked it was a baby. He was boy. Perfectly pink and chunky. He had a head full of thick black hair and his eyes were those of an old soul. He was perfect. We named him Oliver. At that moment my whole life was filled with a love that I had never known possible, a new view of the whole world and everyone in it. A new inner strength and confidence of what I had just accomplished, a birth free of medical intervention and medication. You can’t recreate that kind of empowerment. It was a completely unique and beautiful experience that I will forever cherish. I can look back and say with pride that I made choices that ensured full support of my body during this time. I surrounded myself with people that respected me and my instincts, despite my age. I can truthfully say that the night my son was born, so was I.