I Remember Where I Was A Year Ago

Actually, it was a year ago tomorrow. I had a prenatal appointment birth to attend with a couple at noon nine-thirty in the morning. I had been hired after being referred by someone whom I had never met, a Facebook “friend”, who had shared my name with someone she only knew through a listserve for women from their country.

I was feeding the chickens at 8:30 and was expecting the couple, who live an hour away, to show up at my house for an initial interview, at noon. Instead, I received a call from dad that mama’s water broke and they were on their way to the hospital. I rushed to the hospital and was hired on the spot. Some of you may remember the story from my old blog…OB physically pushes my client, baby crowning, backward on the bed, on her back (previously damaged and repaired and was not supposed to have pressure on, much less birth on, and throws her legs into stirrups while client is writhing…) Annnnyyywayyy…mom and dad were thrilled that I was there to help during the labor phase…

One year later …

Today I surprised this sweet mama at her daughter’s first birthday party. She was shocked and I was thrilled and we both remembered and connected. And she honored me and one other special woman who made her birth so memorable. Other guests were unaware of the power of this dedication..More happened that day and the next that will forever remind me of the loving kindness that is shared by strangers-when given an opportunity to step up save the day.

The mama gave birth that day to a baby at 36 weeks gestation in a rural hospital; the baby girl was strong. This baby was small and even though nursing, by the next day the hospital staff was pushing and pushing the parents for the baby to receive nutrition formula. I offered to bring donor milk to the hospital or try to procure some expressed milk from another mama who had birthed with me three months prior who lived in the same community. What happened next was just fantastic. The other mama went to the hospital and nursed this new, small baby-and had never met the other woman before that moment.

How powerful a bond was made in that second between those two women!

The other mama, her husband and child were also at the birthday party today, so I got in a twofer. And the other mama was also honored at the party, no one else knowing the power of this connection. Oh, my heart just sings today!!!

 

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A Birth, A Birth and a Death

Sometimes it just happens. You meet someone on a holiday, you hook up, and months later, find yourself in the same city, with that same person, planning a life together, anticipating the new life that you carry within. Yes, it happens.

I remember that call, asking for help and guidance, meeting with the couple for the first time, hearing about their plans (he is moving to Atlanta), and agreeing to be their doula, or guide, as they called me, through this very unknown and unplanned time in their lives.

Moving forward to the birth….it was exquisite. I arrived at their house (he moved in with her) and she was meditating to a beautiful CD, doing yoga and he was making sure she had water, juice and snacks. He was happy to see me. She just smiled. She and I moved from her room downstairs to up, and he followed with the CD player, same meditation, for hours.

Her parents came for support, encouragement and to prepare food. (Her mother, recently diagnosed with cancer.) Mama and I went into her bedroom and she went on the bed for a massage. Baby started gyrating. Membranes broke. Mama took a shower and we gathered things to go to the hospital, 30 minutes from the house.

Mother and daddy kissed their daughter good-bye. It was so touching.

It was a phenomenal and peaceful birth,; at the last moment, I asked dad if he would like to catch their baby. He did and it changed his life forever, he said.

A year later, the couple married, their wedding covered in a national magazine. They purchased a house, conceived again. I remember getting the call. What was I doing in mid-October? Attending your next birth, I hope. And, by the way, how is your mom? She is not well, was her answer. Not well at all. However, she is very excited about this baby, and hopes she lives to meet it.

We were in communication weekly through her pregnancy, as she needed support because her mom’s cancer was spreading, her health failing, and she was in hospice. And, as her estimated due date got nearer, she said that her mom’s doctors couldn’t believe she was still alive. Was she suffering? What was she holding on for?  I suggested she ask her mom. And she did. Of course, there was only one answer: to meet this baby. My client felt the pressure of that. I suggested that she allow her mom to live with her decision without feeling that pressure.

And, then came 40 weeks…we talked. And then, 40 weeks and 6 days. She called. I am ready, she said. I need to get things moving along here. My practice will start suggesting interventions soon. What suggestions do you have, Shari?

It only took seconds. I said I would give her suggestions for “natural induction” tomorrow. Then, I asked her four questions. When did you stop trusting that your baby knows when to be born? When did you stop trusting that your body knows when and how to have this baby? When did you stop trusting god? When did you stop trusting your inner wisdom? I said to think about that and tomorrow she could call for the induction suggestions. She never called.

That was Thursday. Friday, she spent the day on a task: storing summer clothes and bringing out winter ones. Saturday, she went to a party and when asked when she was having the baby, said tomorrow. Indeed, in the supermarket on Sunday, felt that first rush, called me, finished shopping, and four hours later, unexpectedly birthed her baby in the peace of their new home. I was there a moment afterward, helping hold things together, calming the paramedics who had been called, preserving the sanctity and sacredness of the moment. She untied the string that the EMT had placed around the umbilical cord, and felt as it ceased pulsating. Her husband severed the tie between mother and child when it did. She nursed her newborn, birthed her placenta in bed, and the EMTs departed. Her husband brought her soup he had made while she was in labor. Everything was perfect.

The next day, it was quite cold, and they stayed home alone, tending to their newborn daughter. Their two year old son was brought home that evening. The next day, they all went to visit her mom, who held the baby — and took her last breaths only hours later.Image

What’s Mine is Mine

I had an interesting experience a few years ago. A friend had attended her first hospital birth, as doula for her friend. This would be her first certifying birth, as she had just completed her training seminar.

My friend had told me that her friend was hoping for a VBAC. Off they went. Labor went well, then a pause, then the baby’s heartbeat had variables and late decels, then the doctor decided to extract the baby with forceps. My friend saw the doctor offer no anaesthetic and, as he pulled the baby from her body, witnessed the fourth degree tear that ensued. It was very traumatic. For my friend.

My friend went home and cried. For days. And couldn’t talk about the birth. And she cried some more.

She finally told me about the birth, and how it had traumatized her and how she didn’t think she could be a doula. She had told me about her own birth and how respectful and present everyone had been and how terrible it must have been for this woman to have the baby ripped from her body and to have been torn open and asked how anyone could ever heal from that experience. She mourned that woman’s birth. She could not process the birth with the mama.

Many months passed. My friend was leaving town and stayed with me for a few weeks. One day I had an “aha” moment and asked if she would like to process the birth experience. She agreed to. It had occurred to me that my friend had taken something from the birth that did not belong to her. She had taken the experience and labeled it “horrible” and embodied it as her own, and it did not belong to her. She could be neither sympathetic nor empathetic, as she had ceased to solely be present for her friend. She heard me. She got it. She meditated on it. She energetically gave the birthing mama back what was hers and finally could process the birth and talk about her experience.

There are many ways in which we can take what is not ours. When we talk about another person’s malady, when we don’t consider that holding sacred space is not about “me”, when we don’t consider that a story is confidential, (even when not told so), and when we gossip, are just a few.

Please allow me to keep what is mine. And when I hold space sacred for you, I will allow you to have what is yours, and I will hold that sacred, too.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want…

…but amazingly, you usually get what you need. Sometimes birth is just. like. that.

My last doula clients changed practices at 35 weeks gestation. We had just met and they were telling me that they had never heard of a doula before finding me online, none of their friends or family had ever used a doula. They also did not know that midwives practiced in Georgia or what a midwifery model of care was. They asked for some education, so we spent several hours talking about the difference in a medical model of maternity care and a midwifery model. They got that their beliefs were in line with the midwifery model, thus the change in care providers. They were comfortable from their first meeting with the new practice, knowing that now their dreams for their birth, no longer including an epidural, were in line with their (newly discovered) beliefs.

And then it came at 39 weeks and 5 days: that first rush of waters. Off to the midwives! What? Not my waters breaking? Hydro-what? Patience being tested, mama, I told her. I know you are ready to meet your baby…but if it had one fingernail left to grow, would you want to rush it? She came for a massage and decided to enjoy the remainder of her pregnancy. She didn’t have to wait long…her labor began in the middle of the next night. She and her husband labored into the afternoon, walking, resting, time in the bath and asked me to meet them at the hospital. Intense, she said.

Once at the hospital, her cervix was checked and dilated to 3cm. Go home, mama. You have some work to do. Sleep, eat, be patient.

When she returned to the hospital late in the night, her cervix was dilated to 6cm! Woohoo! We worked with hypnosis, imagery, movement, rest and in the waterbirth pool…8cm, 9cm… then stuck. Looking at her belly, we could tell baby was in an awkward position. The skilled midwife attempted to assist the baby in adjusting. A second midwife joined in. The OB was called. Baby was truly in an odd position and then came my words: What are her options? Surgical birth, he said. Explanation of the baby’s position well understood.

Mama: Let’s do it! Dad: Let’s do it!

Everything was perfect. In our first prenatal meeting I had talked with this couple about empowered birth. They understood that an empowered birth comes from making educated decisions, and what the birth looks like isn’t always what you imagined. They are delighted with their birth, all 30+ hours of it, including the family-centered surgical birth that brought their (surprise!) baby boy directly to mama’s chest, where he suckled immediately.

They got what they needed.

On Birth Stories and Healing

I have been reading some birth stories that clients sent me. Often I assist in finding lost misplaced memories, filling in the blanks, as when giving birth, sometimes the mom’s timeline gets skewed. It’s interesting how some women remember their births.

I remember one of the first times a mama shared a birth story with me. It was a previous birth, one at which I was not present. It began beautifully: The sky had just opened after a raging thunderstorm, and as I looked out the window at the first ray of sunshine anyone had seen in a week, I felt that first surge of energy from my womb. Little did I know what lay before me, and that I would meet my daughter later that evening.

Quickly the story soured into a litany of sad comments about interventions that culminated into feelings of weakness and despair, the mom believing (as she had been told) that this was all to save the life of her unborn child, and then resolve that her body was not, indeed, capable of knowing how to birth a child without the capable hands of some expert at the helm, taking charge. (Later, as she read her hospital chart: failure to progress.)

At the end of the story, however, things changed and became happy again, because this mom had forgotten buried these feelings between the time of the birth and the writing of the story, and there was a thrill of having a beautiful and healthy baby and it was: her perfect birth.

Whaaa?

With the previous birth, she told me in our initial visit, she felt her doula did not help in ways that could have prevented these interventions. She had heard that I was strong and capable, and would advocate for her in the new hospital and help her husband know how to speak for her when she couldn’t speak for herself. And, didn’t I know something about hypnosis? And, did I think that the problems she had with her first birth could possibly happen again, or maybe even mar this birth?

That began a journey into her past that helped her reclaim her power, her inner strength and resolve to have this baby the way she wanted, when it was ready to come, in the position preferred to give birth.

There was lot of self-forgiveness in those hypnosis sessions. She felt she had to forgive herself her ignorance. She engaged in knowing her options. She changed her previous birth story to reflect her truth.

And in this birth she changed her organic memory, remembering her body’s knowledge of what she carried all along: she was made to have these babies in a normal, natural way, and she could do it. She would do it. Then came birth day, rainy, cloudy. ImageAs her baby emerged from her body, once again, the sky opened up and the sun shone. She took him to her chest and she cried for herself, for him, for her three year old daughter. She had reclaimed her human right as a woman.

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