Choosing a Doula

Choosing the right doula for you may seem like a daunting task.  So many personalities and experience levels to choose from.  For some, knowing where to start can be a barrier to starting the search at all.

Once you get started you may wonder how many people you need to interview before you find the right one.  I don’t think there’s a formula for how the search should be done, but do think that there are universal indicators that might help you sense whether you have found the right one for you.

For one, there has to be chemistry.  You’ll recognize this by Read More >>

Beautiful, Peaceful Hospital Birth

 I had the pleasure of attending this birth as a support person.  It was a quick, yet peaceful birth.  The family did a superb job communicating their needs to all involved.  Both the hospital staff and midwife were very supportive of all that the family wanted.  Everyone present made sure that the mom had all she needed so that she could focus within and ride the currents of the birthing process.

Overall, it was an empowering experience for all involved.  Even the nurse on staff was gushing about how beautiful the birth Read More >>

My Path to Becoming a Doula

I had the pleasure of sharing my doula journey with Brio Birth.  Ever since attending my first birth as a doula I’ve been wanting to write about this.  I’ve grown so much, and my perspective has changed quite a bit along the way.  I knew that writing it out would give me the opportunity to work through my thoughts and feelings better.

When I was asked to write a guest post Read More >>

Every Step Along the Way Teaches Us Something, Even the Mistakes

We are all on a journey.  As we learn new things, our perspective and needs evolve.  This is how I have been coming to terms with things that have happened in my past.  In particular, the home birth of our daughter.  When I set out to have a natural birth, I decided to have the baby in a birthing center.  After I spoke with a local midwife, I learned that birthing at home was an option too.  This was a new idea to me so I was a bit nervous at the thought, but decided to look into it more before I shot the idea down.  The more I looked into it, the more it appealed to me.  Films like the Business of Being Born, and Orgasmic Birth sealed the deal.  My next step was choosing a midwife.  I called the first one I had talked to back, and set up an appointment for a consultation.  It went well.  I especially felt at ease with her experience and low transfer rate.  Still, I knew that I needed to look around more before I decided on anything.  After searching the net, I was able to get a hold of a list of midwives.  Only this list meant very little to me since it was only names on a page.  I had no connection to these women, nor did I know where to start.  I felt lost.  I searched some of the names online with little luck.  My instinct at this point told me to get references from the initial midwife.  I did, and they checked out.  I felt that she was a safe bet so I proceeded forward. The midwife was great at every prenatal visit.  She took extra time after each one to talk with me about my concerns, and also to chat about natural birth.   Then at 28 weeks, she suggested that I get an ultrasound for my 32 week consultation with the back-up OB.  I expressed how I was not comfortable getting one given my prior “big baby” experience.  I didn’t want to open any doors to trouble.  Plus, I knew that my baby was healthy.  Still, she pushed the idea saying that it would help rule out complications that could be present at birth.  Her suggestion planted a seed.  By the next visit I was having doubts.  I started to wonder if I should have one done….especially since I would be having the baby at home.  I called to let her know that I would get one done.   As it turned out, my hunch was right.  My baby was right on track to being a 9 pounder by 40 weeks.  According to the OB, this meant that I would need to have the baby by then, or my home birth was out of the question.  I was furious.  I called the midwife, explaining that this was the exact reason that I didn’t want to get one done.  I was angry at her, but most of all, I was angry at myself for allowing “the professional” to cloud my judgment.  I knew what my body was capable of, and was pissed at what I set myself up for when I knew better. I started to get the feeling that she was no longer the right fit for me.  Given all the difficulties of getting the insurance to cover the home birth as well as the bond I had formed with the midwife, I decided to proceed forward.  Basically, I allowed fear to keep me married up with a provider who I was not compatible with.   At the birth, I found my premonition to be true.  She pressured me to break my water very early on.  I was able to hold her off at that point since my surges were still manageable.  Once I hit transition though that changed.  I no longer had the motivation to push her away since, well, things were intense, and quite frankly, I was looking for a way out (transition is a very vulnerable time where the needs of the woman can be confusing).  She proceeded with breaking my water to speed things along, and then stuck her hands inside of me to move my daughter since she was posterior.  Her reasoning for adjusting my daughter’s position was that I would have had to push a lot longer otherwise. 

The reason why these interventions bother me so much now is that there was no good reason to do either of them.  My labor had been progressing very quickly, and I feel like I endured unnecessary pain all in the name of “routine procedures” she had come to adopt from prior births.  There is no telling what my body would have done had she left it alone.

The reason I am sharing all this is I feel that others may be able to take something from my experience.  There may be people who look at my story confused as to why I didn’t make a change when I sensed our differences.  Well, I believe there may be something for those people to learn too as empathy seems to be lost at times when we are reading a birth story.  As birth professionals, we should strive to understand and respect each and every woman’s journey.   I feel that at the beginning of my journey to home birth, I did mesh with my midwife.  I felt at ease with her knowledge of pathology, and her logical nature.  As I learned more, and became more confident with my body and the process that all started to change.  I evolved into an entirely different client.  It was me who had changed, not her.  I was not prepared at 32 weeks to search for and connect with a brand new midwife.  I honestly didn’t know where to even start.  So I settled.  Now that time has gone by, I can see that what I went through was not in vain.   In a way, I feel that she was a stepping stone to where I am today.  Without going through that experience, I might have remained blind to the fact that even home birth midwives intervene with the birth process in the absence of medical necessity.  Because of her, I now understand why some women make the decision to give birth unassisted.   These are lessons I will use as I support other laboring women as well as if we decide to have more children. 

Natural Childbirth is Not as Crazy as it Seems

Why any woman would choose to have a baby unmedicated is an oddity to some.  I think this lack of understanding stems from a general misunderstanding of the birth process; the idea that birth is unbearably painful, and the only way through it comfortably is to medicate the body.  Some even have a hard time accepting that the baby will fit through the exit safely.  Where there is misunderstanding, there is bound to be division among people.  The particular misunderstanding I am pondering at the moment is the idea that women who decide on a natural birth are trying to prove something.  That natural birth is pointless given modern technology’s greatest gift, the epidural. Now don’t get me wrong.  I received an epidural during my son’s birth, and that was the one drug that I felt was necessary given the circumstances.  The reason this notion bugs me is because I find it quite unsettling that anyone would ever misread me, or anyone for that matter, as trying to prove something for no good reason.   I can’t speak for every woman, but I know that for me it went beyond trying to prove something.  Heck, I signed up for the pain management program, Hypnobabies, because I am not someone who deals with pain well.  For me, the decision to go natural was so that I could bring my baby into the world safely.  So that I could become more familiar with my body and what it is capable of.  I also sought to find out if Grantly Dick-Read was right about childbirth being a normal process that can be comfortable for the majority of women given the right preparation.  It wasn’t until I experienced how empowering natural birth can be, that I understood at a deeper level why my intuition steered me towards it.  There is something that happens to a woman when she feels the rushes, and allows the power to surge through her body without fighting it.  When this happens a woman is at one with her body.  She is allowing her body to work per it’s design as to facilitate the arrival of the unborn baby.  Being connected during this intense process can be transformational, as a woman is forced to confront her deepest fears and scale walls she never thought possible.  A woman empowered through birth knows her inner strength and trusts her motherly intuition.  A natural birth also means one less barrier to connecting with the newborn baby. I love these quotes, and think they accurately reflect what I am trying to say… “There is power that comes to women when they give birth. They don’t ask for it, it simply invades them. Accumulates like clouds on the horizon and passes through, carrying the child with it.” ~ Sheryl Feldman “Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers – strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.” -Barbara Katz Rothman Now that is not to say that birth is the only way a mother can connect.  It’s a good place to start though, in my opinion, given all the challenging aspects that present them self along the parenting journey. 

Question Everything

One thing that I have come to learn as I journey through motherhood is that as parents, it is critical that we question everything.   Lately, I have been thinking about some of the common held beliefs that often go unquestioned.  One being that the advent of hospitals saved women and babies from childbirth.  ACOG perpetuates this notion with all their campaigning against home births.  The other claim is that vaccines eradicated deadly diseases.  The CDC has this one on their website most likely to reassure worried parents.  I have found that neither one of these claims tells the entire story.   My recent reading into the history of childbirth has concreted my beliefs that birth is not the risky venture that ACOG makes it out to be.  Many of complications that occurred during childbirth were and remain to be caused by man.

When women started using doctors as opposed to midwives, birth experienced some hiccups as most doctors had never even attended a live birth.  In addition, doctors tended to interfere more with the process which was dangerous considering the poor living conditions and hygiene practices.  Women who opted to have their babies at institutions often were forced to share beds with other women while rats crawled on the floor below them.  Male doctors would do frequent internal exams, often right after working on cadavers of women that had died from childbed fever.  Nurses were Read More >>

More than meets the eye

I came across a post in a pregnancy forum where a woman was blaming a tragic GBS newborn death on the mother’s decision to have her baby at home.  Some in the forum pointed out that pertinent information surrounding the GBS test and treatment was omitted.  Even so, this woman continued to use the unfortunate event to convince people that home births are dangerous.  At one point she begged for advocates of home birth to admit the risks and move on.  That by having a home birth the mother is putting her experience over the health of the baby.  The truth is there are risks to childbirth regardless of the place.  It just so happens that a lot of people have an easier time accepting tragedy when it happens in the hospital.  My aim is not to convince you of the safety of home birth as there are plenty of studies out there that confirm that.  My goal is to show there is more to this issue than meets the eye.     When deciding where to give birth, we usually start out by measuring the risks in tangible ways such as complications and death.  It is hard for us to evaluate the intangible consequences with a clear mind when such strong emotions are at play.  Many mothers have to go through a crappy experience to realize the importance of playing an active role in the decisions that take place during childbirth.  It is no coincidence that mothers who are dissatisfied with their experience often go on to struggle with postpartum depression.  How a mother feels during the birth of her baby will follow her for the rest of her life.  It plays a huge role in how she interacts with the newborn, how she feels about herself and how she interacts with others.  There are many studies that have been done that document this.  When we dismiss how a mother feels about her experience, it only serves to delay the healing process and ignores the problem at hand.  Surely this is an area we should be paying more attention to since all of us come from mothers. One only has to learn about the history of birth, to realize how much we don’t know.  From the prevalence of x-rays, gassing unwilling moms, doing away with midwives to routine episiotomies -it is clear to see the dangers in not exercising caution.  I am sure the people 50 years ago had a hard time accepting that their “new and improved” way could actually be causing more harm than good.  Something we should all consider when we are deciding what tests and procedures to have done.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that all forms of intervention are bad.  I am very thankful that modern technology allows us to save babies and moms who would have otherwise not made it.  The problem is this life saving technology is being used in excess.  We have hit a point where it is creating problems for low risk women, who likely would have been fine had they been left alone.   Every woman has a different set of beliefs surrounding the process, her body and what she is comfortable with.  There are physical limitations as well.  Given these differences, every birth should be approached and treated as a unique event.  We need to concern ourselves more with what level of intervention is acceptable for low risk pregnancies and births, and ensuring informed consent takes place for those who want or need to go a different route.   That is far from where we currently stand.  Births are scheduled for convenience and managed for efficiency.  A number of machines are used to monitor mom and baby for the sake of malpractice risks.  Procedures are often carried out without informed consent.  This disturbing trend is exactly why more and more women are choosing to bring their babies into the world outside of the hospital.  It isn’t so much “the experience”, as it is about avoiding unnecessary risks that the management of birth brings.  There are hospitals that are trying their best to be sensitive to the unique needs of women, yet so many continue to do what is best for business.  This should be cause for concern for all who value the autonomy of women.