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.