It’s about so much more.

Birth birth birth. On Saturday I attended a really lovely, uncomplicated birth that really gave me back a little of the faith I’d been losing. Honestly, the last four births I’ve attended have all been pretty frustrating for me in one way or another. They’ve also been really great, in their own way, teaching me so much. Each of those women seemed to be happy with their experience (with the exception of the first one– she was basically bullied and traumatized and we did a lot of work talking about her whole experience for weeks afterwards), and I really feel like I did my job as a doula as well as I could, and learned a lot from each unique situation. So that’s great.

Despite the good outcomes, each one left me sighing on the way home- and not just for lack of sleep. I wasn’t satisfied, and it wasn’t because these women were making different choices than I would have. It was definitely in part because of the system, but I also couldn’t quite pinpoint what was bothering me. I mean, I know that the system is broken- that’s part of why I wanted to do this and be there for women. However, these women knew their choices (and in some cases chose not to know…), and have healthy babies and feel generally good about things. Why should I feel like something was missing? I really started to question my motives and was just doing some thinking.

Then there was this birth. In some ways I think we dodged bullets- her labor was fast and uncomplicated, and we had a really great midwife and nurse. At one point that pesky fetal monitor was making the nurse and midwife nervous, but I don’t think my client even knew. They just watched and waited a minute, then looked at me and said "Those monitors… we’re pretty patient." and I just said "I am so glad for that!" In the other situations they would have insisted on internal monitoring, and likely scared the woman in the process, but they were just so cool about it. It was great. Her birth plans were respected all the way, the environment was peaceful, everything just flowed. What happened, though, was when she lifted that baby to her chest she reminded me of how I felt 2 years ago– holding my baby for the first time. She was elated. She said things like "That’s it? I mean, no, it was hard… but, I’m done? I have a baby! MY baby! That’s what I’ve been so scared of?" and "Why do I feel so good?" I told her that she needs to tell her story- that that’s the side of birth that people don’t hear enough of. I don’t think it’s that her birth was particularly easy, either. It just wasn’t traumatic. It was normal. She didn’t need to be rescued, she didn’t need to be told what to do, she just did it. It was hers until the end. I realized that that has been what I’ve mourned in these other births. Always, always, someone was there to disempower the women I was with. And despite what I did or said, it’s difficult to bring a laboring woman back from "I know this wasn’t part of the plan, but I just don’t think you’ll be able to have this baby vaginally" or "It’s not anything you’re doing wrong, but your contractions just aren’t doing the job they are supposed to." And on and on like that, untruths and scare tactics… it’s horrible. And these women left not even knowing what they didn’t get a chance to experience. I think it’s possible to have a great variety of birth plans/preferences and still leave feeling like it was yours

Of course I want my other clients to find peace with their experiences, and it’s good that they feel the way they do. I wouldn’t say anything to compromise that. Also, every experience is different, I know that. But I know what I felt after birth, and attending this birth was such a good reminder of why the "healthy baby, healthy mama" outcome is not all that matters. I care about whether or not these women emerged from these births feeling like they had control. I care about whether or not they felt helpless or powerful. I care about whether or not they were told the truth, or if they were pressured into things they didn’t want. I care about the effect that this birth experience will have on their future ones, if they choose to have more. I care what these experiences do to their self-image and their spirit. Anyway. It’s just about so much more, and I wish that there was more reverence for this process.

Anyway, I have one more client due next month, and then I’ll be taking a break to garden and have my baby and focus on other things. This birth was definitely something that I needed- it was nice to leave the hospital feeling truly content for a change.

🙂

Gracie
Gracie

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Comments (16)

  1. moondaughter20

    Hi! I stumbled onto this post from our mutual friend ‘s journal, and I just wanted to tell you what a powerful and uplifting thing it was to read. I think anyone who has you assisting their birth is fortunate. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      What a thoughtful and nice thing to say. Thanks for this comment. 🙂

      Reply
    2. wolfteaparty

      This +1. Sidenote: I’m thinking about going to a midwifery school or being a doula if I get the chance…

      Reply
      1. Gracie (Post author)

        Yay! That would be so cool! We need more, that’s for sure.

        Reply
  2. muirichinnahali

    I’m with you 100%. I couldn’t regularly doula in hospital environments. As much as I want to be there to help and empower women during the birth process, I would lose my mind with the frustration that comes with it. My first was such a disempowering birth, and I still mourn certain things that happened/didn’t happen. It was such a needless fight the entire time. I didn’t know just how vastly the difference could be until I had N. I felt AMAZING. I can not even put into words just how incredible, how powerful, I felt that day. I wish every woman was able to have that experience. Hopefully I can play a part in helping some do so, in my own ways, too.

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      Yeah, I’m realizing that I may end up needing to be somewhat more picky about who I take for clients and where- at least in the future. I’m realizing that being a good doula has to do with my own emotional/mental investment in addition to being able to be professional and able to advocate for whoever needs it. I have to nurture both sides and find a balance that keeps me feeling refreshed and encouraged about birth, and also motivated to help women in those more challenging environments. It’s good that you’ve figured out those boundaries, I’m sure I can learn a lot from you!

      I’m really glad you were so empowered with your last birth. That’s wonderful. I’m sure that just having that experience and being open about it will make a difference in other people’s lives.

      Reply
      1. muirichinnahali

        I do hope that people can take something from my birth experiences. Much of the time I think people look at me like I’m a little nuts, but then when the comments come in about how something I had said was helpful or inspiring… it feels good. I want to sign up for the CBE program soon too, so hopefully I can reach more people that way eventually. I would consider some doula work, but I do think I’d have to be picky and not do it very often. Our area is particularly horrendous and behind-the-times in maternity/baby care. And even with one empowering birth under my belt, I think past traumas could easily rear their ugly heads and I could get a little too passionate in the face of the “system.” 😛

        Reply
        1. Gracie (Post author)

          Your plans sound exciting! It’s really wise, I think, to have those boundaries with the doula work, if you choose to do it. I don’t even have the trauma that some people have had and I want to get up and yell sometimes… so it’s just good to know your limits. But we also need good people out there helping these women!

          Reply
  3. yayhappens

    It is so rewarding to read about experiences that others find rewarding too.

    Working with people during something so spiritually significant and feeling like our role is also significant and having that acknowledgment of making a difference can mean the whole world sometimes.

    I’m glad that you were able to get that out of this client and also hope that what is coming up for you will be more of the same.

    Much love!

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      🙂

      Reply
  4. purerandomness

    I’m so glad you had an experience that re-affirmed for you the joy of birth. I don’t think any of us can experience that often enough! I went back through the link to Vera’s birth story and, while I read it after it was posted (and commented), I relate to it much more intensely now. Labor is heavy stuff. Heavy in a good way and I really identified with your writing about letting go and moving through labor to the end result of a beautiful baby. Because that’s what I did.
    As I’m approaching the 1 year mark for Ben’s birth I’m regretting that I allowed so much of his labor experience to pass away from me. At the time, the intense feelings and emotions were so raw and powerful that they scared me, but now I feel as though I’m lacking in my memories of the event. I have a few striking moments of clarity in the blurred memories that I do have and they are so amazing.

    If only every woman could experience birth the way you and I did!

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      Isn’t that funny- reading birth stories before and after? I remember I watched the Business of Being Born when I was about 7 months with Vera, and then I watched it after… it was so much more powerful for me!

      I know that you had a long labor like I did, and it’s hard to keep everything straight- especially because time works so differently in labor (surprisingly, I’ve found that to be true for me as a doula, too). I hope you can patch things together and feel it out again in whatever way you need. That’s part of what’s so interesting about the experience of birth- in my experience, it keeps teaching you things about yourself long afterwards. I also experience that blurriness, but I wonder if doing it a second time will bring anything back for me.

      Reply
  5. ladyfaith3

    birth

    I find that this thrid time I will be giving birth I am sort of fearful about my ablity to deal. This is the most natural bith friendly doctor I have ever had and I am worried. I’ll even be able to labor in a tub if I want but the memory of pain sort of has me afraid. My second birth was so fast!
    do you have any fears and how do you manage them before labor or during?

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      Re: birth

      It’s hard work! You need support, definitely. I think I’m a little… apprehensive about the pain. I also remember that with Vera I reached a point in pregnancy where I was really instinctively ready to do it, and I wasn’t scared at all. I’m counting on that some. I’m staying healthy, trying to get exercise (although not as much as I’d like!), which will only help me. I also have the safety of my home, Jeff, my midwife and probably her apprentice- and I’m planning on asking my mom to be with Vera (so possibly there or out with her, depending on what V needs). I know I can do it, and I just will. I’ll have lots of encouragement. As for during the birth, I’m also just planning on staying as much in the moment as I can, dealing with each contraction as it comes.

      If I were going to be in a hospital, I would definitely have a doula there with me. Not necessarily one that got paid, but maybe just someone that I knew I could trust and would really advocate for me- someone who knows about birth. Is there anyone around that you could ask and spend time with in preparation for this birth? Many doula’s have a sliding-scale, too, so paying for one might not be as bad as you think. If neither of those things work out, it might be worthwhile to really talk to your husband about taking a really active role and learning together. I dunno if I’m off base, but if I were in your position then that’s what I’d do. 🙂

      Reply
  6. haurelia

    You’re so right…the system is broken. I am feeling sad to not be doing birth work right now, but also very happy to not play a part in or bear witness to “managed” birth (or, “birth gone amok” as I sometimes thought of it). So many threads spring to my mind from your post…the way we’re born and it’s importance, giving birth and it’s relation to who we are as women, mothers, partners and people; and most of all, the need for women who’ve had good birth experiences to share their stories and enthusiasm whenever possible. I tell every person who may listen that I loved labor and birthing, and count it as one of the highlights of my life thus far!

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      I was always so curious about your experience as a nurse there… have you ever written about it?

      I love that you used the word “loved” while describing your labor. That’s awesome. I totally agree. 🙂

      Reply

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