It’s about so much more.
Posted On April 26, 2010
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.