I came to doula work in spite of all of my births. My first child was born fast and furious with barely any input from me. Her delivery was mostly based on her (which is good) with any remaining decisions left squarely on the shoulders of the doctor and hospital staff (which was not so good). I took the birth classes and breastfeeding classes. I read all the books. But for some reason I didn’t realize I had any power. I trusted (blindly) that everyone would do what was best for me and my baby and it never occurred to me to question what was happening. My doctors were great, but the experience was not.
That birth sucked. It was horrible for me and I’m not sure much better for my baby girl. I had sub-par post-natal care in the hospital and I came home shell-shocked from the whole thing.
Then my second child was born and it was the complete opposite story. Looking back, it was actually the type of birth I should have wished for, but I didn’t understand how to make it better. The baby took forever, as he had no desire to leave his warm nest. I went unmedicated (meaning for pain) forever but I was given both pitocin and an IV drip almost immediately, tying me to a bed and making it difficult to manage the excruciating pain caused by induced labor.
I laid in bed writhing for 15 hours while the doctor refused an epidural because it would “slow things down.” Again, I wasn’t in charge. I wasn’t empowered. I wasn’t informed.
For my third, I was so terrified of a C-section (he kept turning around in all that empty space) I allowed the induction and subsequent drugs because that was what I felt would ensure the safest delivery into the world. It wasn’t perfect, but at least I felt like I made the call.
It wasn’t until after all three of my babies were born that I got more into understanding empowered birth. I studied up on all that I didn’t learn in those hospital birth classes I so dutifully signed us up for. I learned about what exactly goes on in the body during labor and how it’s all set up to work. Then I learned the steps moms could take to take back their birth experiences, like choosing progressive hospitals and asking the right questions of doctors. I learned about pain management techniques that didn’t involve narcotics or IV lines. I watched videos of births. I read more books on childbirth than I thought were published. I studied among some of the greatest doulas I know. I immersed myself so deeply in the world of childbirth that I’m sure the people at every bookstore and baby store I frequented kept waiting for my bump to appear.
And now, I’ve learned enough to know that all births are different and even if they don’t look the way you thought they might, if the mom feels empowered, no matter the means, the outcome is the same; a beautiful baby with happy parents.
I had three beautiful babies and of course we are very happy parents. I’ve spent a good deal of time trying not to feel guilty or bad about the way their births went. Could I have done things differently? Yes. Could we have been more natural and less at the mercy of our medical staff? Yes. But we all came out well. My kids are great and I am now passionate about helping other women take back their birth stories so they never have to wish they tried more or harder or regret the choices they make. My birth stories aren’t perfect, but if they lead to this, me being there to help others be empowered in their births, then they just might have been exactly what I needed.
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