As we were catching up I shared with her all the happenings that have been going on with my life here in Arizona and my journey to becoming a Doula. I mentioned how many births I had been apart of. I just finished a workshop to start the process of becoming a Childbirth Educator...and she said "Well, since we are on that topic, I am pregnant!" I was so elated for her and her husband! I asked her all sorts of questions and gave a couple of suggestions...yet I also didn't want to overwhelm my good friend with what I had learned. So I held in a lot of what I wanted to share.
She made a wonderful comment: "Nancy, it seems as though you really enjoy what you are doing."
I could hear it in my own voice...I was confident of the words I was saying, the stories I was sharing and the suggestions that I was giving one of my best friends.
Pondering our conversation this week....I got to thinking, "how did I become so sure of myself!?" That is a serious question! Because anyone who knows me more than 5 years, probably knows the shy, introverted Nancy. The Nancy who loved sports, yet was just always a bit uncomfortable around people and social interactions.
Speaking in front of people: good luck. (which I do regularly now)
Sharing what I have learned with friends in the hopes it helps them: not a chance...to scared that I might offend someone before.
I started to think about "how did I get here"!!??
I seem to enter everything I do in a strange way: I started my doula work because I followed my gut and trusted this was something for me. There are a couple situations that steered me this direction:
1. When I was married, my former husband and I found out we were pregnant shortly after we married. This was about 3 years ago and I was a mess to be honest. I was in the middle of MANY transitions and didn't know what I wanted from my life and was struggling in every area except my personal life (that has never happened!)
We did what most couples do; went to the DR for a checkup to confirm that I was pregnant...after waiting for almost 2 hours we finally met this DR. I was uncomfortable yet tried to hide it. I honestly picked her because she was on my (limited) insurance and was close to where we lived. I tried to not be so nervous or uncomfortable. I mentioned to her that I eat really well, take vitamins, exercise, get excellent sleep, drink really great water...overall I have learned to take care of my body. She just...looked at me. Deer in the headlights. It saddened me. It was as if my thoughts and feelings weren't even heard. I was in and out in 15 minutes.
I won't go into extreme details, but a couple weeks later I woke up in the middle of the night and felt something was seriously wrong. We drove to the ER and were there for almost 7 hours. Laying there on the bed, I had felt baby pass. The DR on call came in and said "well, we are going to take you for an ultrasound" But I had told her that I had already passed our baby. I mentioned it again to the technician who was searching around, pressing buttons...looking for something. I told her again...and her response "wait until the DR looks at this to determine if that is true" I was NOT BEING HEARD. It frustrated me.
It has taken a lot to heal from that experience. I held in a lot of emotions for awhile because I didn't share with those closest to me. I was ashamed, hurt, saddened and scared. The fact that I am sharing it in this format is evidence I have done a lot of work around it.
2. All my siblings were getting pregnant. My oldest sister had two children, my other sister had her second son and was sharing her experience with me. She had a doula at her first and second births of her boys and her birth stores were completely different. One was a hospital birth, the other was a home birth. That opened my eyes! I hadn't even thought of being able to birth at HOME!!! What is a midwife? A Doula? Home Birth? Not needing the hospital? My sister suggested I look into becoming a doula; she thought I had all the qualities that help moms through pregnancy and birth.
My point is I have been through the feelings upon learning about being pregnant. There is excitement, joy, love, concern, fear, questions...every second can be a different emotion. Yes, my friends and some family all were having children. They didn't share their stories, they didn't divulge what they did to plan or how they were treated throughout their whole process. Birth...was never discussed. Not to mention there are so many DECISIONS to be made: what to eat? how much sleep do I need? are we having a boy or girl? what kind of parent will I be? Where will baby sleep? Do I want to breastfeed? Routine Tests? Can we afford a baby? What about childcare? Ultrasounds? Diapers, baby clothes, nursery items... I figured we could just wing it, or at least go off what we already knew. I would just ask my mom, she raised us pretty well. Or ask my friends/family, at least they have some experience! Thinking about 'researching' all these topics never really crossed my mind, until I started to become a doula.
The last couple years have been eye opening for me, and my view and understanding of birth has changed tremendously! My viewpoint has flipped 180 degrees.
I got into this field of work because I have a passion for helping others. I enjoy interacting with people and my intention has always been to be of service and help anyone I can. It is hard to explain, at a very early age; I always seemed to be one step ahead of what an individual needed. Even now, with the births that I have attended...it just comes naturally to be able to get exactly what the person needs BEFORE they know they need it.
"Our deepest wishes are whispers of our authentic selves. We must learn to respect them. We must learn to listen." ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach ~
Please learn from my experience. If you any uncertainty about the life you are creating inside you, seek others who can help you. If you know someone who is a birth professional or have a friend that had a 'crazy' birth (natural, no meds, or even...GASP...birthed at home) call her. Ask her for tea or coffee...Question the reason she made the choice she did from an investigative point of view. Its better to know, than to 'wish I would have known'. If you aren't the research type, find someone who has had the experience you want. Birth does not have to be full of fear and uncertainty. Knowledge is power, and when we know better, we can do better. I thought I would share some suggestions for how to take the next steps:
Here are 10 RECOMMENDATIONS FOR EXPECTANT MOMS:
"Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here." - Marianne Williamson
1. Investigate your Beliefs around Childbirth:
Discuss with your husband/partner/significant other. If you don't know, start with this questionaire.
As I mentioned before, birth is something that is not dicussed in our current culture. Our only knowledge of birth usually comes from what we see on TV or in movies (unless you were surrounded by a different viewpoint growing up). Water Breaks, Mom gets upset at father, screams bloody murder, is lying with her legs up and BAM! clean, baby is given to mom...so easy!! Nothing to practice here! The reality is, birth is a process. Do you remember your birth? Have you asked your mom what your birth was like? What are some thoughts that come to your mind when you think of this experience you are about to have?
2. Invision your ideal birth:
Do you want a medicated or un-medicated labor/birth? Do you want a Natural Birth? What happens during a 'natural birth'? What feelings come over your body? How does labor progress? What kind of environment are you in? Are there lots of lights, unknown people, door opening and closing? Or are you in a quite space, dim lights, no interruptions, just you and your support team? How do you WANT your birth to unfold? By allowing yourself the space to vision, you open up your mind to new ideas and things you might never have thought of. I have done this exercise a couple of times and each time I am left with the thought of "geez, I really need to learn more about _______" to investigate if I really want _____ in my space during birth.
3. Keep an open mind of stories that are shared with you:
"It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but even more to stand up to your friends." - J. K. RowlingFor some reason, the horror stories come out when people begin to learn you are pregnant. "My DR wouldn't let me do that" "I had to have a Cesarean because my body didn't work" "Homebirth is dangerous" "What if something happens" "I was in labor for 80 hours!" Thank the people for sharing, but KNOW that EVERY birth is different. Appreciate their experience, it does not have to become YOUR experience.
4. Birth Where You Feel Safest:
Choosing where to give birth is a personal decision and varies (unfortunately) by what your state (or insurance) will allow. The most familiar option is Hospital. Are you familiar with Birth Centers? Are you familiar with the option of Homebirth? Know the benefits and challenges of each option and birth where you FEEL safest. Why is it important? For some women, that is the hospital. Others, they want to be in their home. Others choose the comfort of a Birth Center. Here is a great article on the different options and the benefits of each.
5. Build a Strong Support Team:
After you determine where you are going to give birth, its important to assemble your support team. Ob/Gyn? Midwife? (do you know the difference between a CNM and a LM/CPM?) If you have chosen a hospital, PLEASE get the additional support of a doula. There are numerous research studies that show the support of a Doula during childbirth benefits the mother and baby. Unfortunately, with our current hospital medical model, the majority of the time Nurses have multiple clients, so they are unable to be with you for the duration of your labor. DRs normally come in when you are about to give birth, so its important to have someone who is educated in birth and understands ways to help you alleviate any discomfort, support you in your desires and be your loudest advocate in the face of uncertainty.
6. Receive Evidence Based Care:
Policies and procedures have overtaken patient centered care in the majority of hospitals. What is Patient Centered Care? Moms often feel left out of their own birth experience because they end up feeling more like a number than a human being. The US Maternity system is ranked 45th in the WORLD in regards to care for mothers and babies...that means that even though we have technology and education, there are 44 OTHER countries where the mothers and babies are receiving BETTER care...thought provoking yes? ...Are your needs being met? Do you know what kinds of questions to ask your care providers? If you aren't being heard and your questions being answered, maybe its time to think about changing care providers. Know you always have a choice.
7. Attend an Indepedent Childbirth Education Class:
When I was pregnant, I didn't even think about attending a childbirth education class...I just thought I would do enough research on my own, ask a couple of friends and viola! I would be prepared. After going through my Doula training, supporting women (and their partners/husbands/significant others) during the birth process...its imperative you attend an INDEPENDANT Childbirth Education course. Why Independent? Since 98% of births happen in the hospital in the US...the majority of the time Hospital Birth Classes are about teaching you to be good patients, not empowering you to honor your birth experience. Some great suggestions are: Bradley Method, Hypnobabies, Hypnobirthing, Birthworks, CAPPA and many more independent ones. Check your area because your local birth professional network (of doulas/midwives/lactation consultants) might offer their own version of classes.
Think about this: we spend thousands of dollars on dresses, flowers, food, music, tuxedos, destinations for weddings...do you think its important to invest some time into helping your baby come into this world a better way?
8. Practice Exercises to Help Prepare: Mental, Physical, Emotional
Birth is not just a physical act, its emotional, physical and spiritual. Doubt and Fear are usually the most common concerns that are discussed with women who are pregnant. Did you know that FEAR actually inhibits the birth process? We instinctively revert back to our 'fight or flight' system. Learn to address the fears and concerns you have. Investigate them! Prepare your body for labor, during your pregnancy. You dont need to go run a marathon, yet know that birth is an intense and physical act, your body needs help preparing just as much as your mind does. Eat foods that are nutritionaly sound, attend a prenatal yoga class (will help you establish your own breath), make sure you are moving throughout your day.
9. Educate Yourself on Common Procedures:
What procedures do you think are mandatory during pregnancy, labor and birth? Do you know the benefits and complications that can arise from normal birth interventions? They might be common 'procedures' but how do they affect the laboring mother? The baby? Do they hinder babies development or make it harder to establish a physical bond? Do you know what procedures you want done once baby arrives? What about the placenta?
10. Enjoy the Process:
You are not pregnant forever (although some days it might seem like it). You have created a miracle! You are growing a human inside your body, that needs to be celebrated! What you are doing is unique and something not everyone gets to experience. Focus on the moments that make you smile. Feed your soul the joys of your experience. Birthing a baby is not only about having a child, its about becoming a mom and creating a family unit. How you remember your experience will be with you for the rest of your life. Empower yourself. Stand firm in your choices. Ensure you are being supported: emotionally, physicaly, spiritually in your experience. Plan, prepare and let go, enjoy the ride.
"The mystery of life and birth is a profound invitation to be authentic as you trust and tremble your way through labor's Gates of doubt and fear. It is possible that you will become more intuitive during labor than at any other time...Allow your body to guide you in your breathing, in your unique movement, in knowing...what to do...even when you don't know what to do." ~Pam England "The Labyrinth of Birth"