Reflections on Motherhood and Life as a Doula

Monday, August 30, 2010

Is it really birth?

I recently "attended" my first "birth" - other than my own - and it was quite an experience for me.  I wasn't able to do my job as a doula because I had a 3 week old at home who needed to be nursed often.  But I did stay by this woman's side for about 9-10 hours of her "labor". 

I learned a lot from this first experience.  I saw first hand how much a woman's emotional stability affects the outcome of her birth.  For her privacy, I will call the woman Jess. 
When I first met Jess, she was planning on scheduling a cesarean section because she had been diagnosed with multiple high risk pregnancy diseases.  She felt that she was okay with having a cesarean.  But Jess, being the incredible woman that she is, listened to all of my horror stories about my cesarean and opened her mind to the possibility of vaginal birth - and not just vaginal birth, but natural vaginal birth.  She armed herself with knowledge and talked to her doctor and became a mini advocate for natural childbirth. 
As her due date came closer, she became more and more excited and anxious as every first time mother does.  Her doctor warned her that her baby would be too large to birth vaginally if she went past her due date and scheduled an induction date for her.  Jess was not happy about an induction, so she did everything in her power to talk the baby out before no avail. 
Not only were they planning on inducing her, the doctors had her come in the night before the induction to try to soften the cervix.  As if labor isn't hard enough work, they gave her extra hard labor with the pitocin and took away the much needed sleep before the induction. 
After about 4-5 hours of induced labor and only a few centimeters dilated, Jess asked for an epidural.  She apologized and thought she was being a wimp.  I had to remind her that it didn't matter how much she was dilated, she was having unnaturally painful contractions.  I probably would've gotten the epidural too. 
As she lay there, permanantly on her back, pain free, and bored, I watched how the nurses and doctors treated her.  Although they all seemed to be kind, not one of them checked on how she was doing emotionally.  I never heard REAL words of encouragement.  They just continuously reminded her that "this part" takes really long - it wouldn't take so long if she was at home, living her day to day life, not even knowing that she was softening and opening.  Nature made the first part easy for us. 
I even heard the one nurse tell her and her family that the epidural barely passes through the placenta and causes no harm to the baby (is this what we call informed consent now adays??? telling lies??), that the epidural actually gives the baby more oxygen (news to me!!!  then why do they have you where an oxygen mask when you get it??), and that pushing is easier with the epidural (maybe for them)!!!!  UNBELIEVABLE!
I watched as fear, boredom, self doubt, and exhaustion took over my mini advocate.  It was beyond depressing.  I left late that night, knowing that her family would be by her side if there were any changes, and went home to my own family to nurse them off to bed.  I prayed the whole ride home that the baby and mom would be safe and that God would let happen what was meant to happen - even though I hated what I knew the outcome would be. 
In the middle of the night I received a message from Jess, with the picture of a baby, delivered by cesarean section.
The doctors say she gave birth to a baby boy, just as they say I gave birth to a boy two years ago. 
Is birth pumping a mother and unborn child full of synthetic hormones???  Is birth interrupting the natural hormonal blueprint?
Is birth yanking a baby out of an incision in the abdomen??
Her baby was of average size, maybe even on the smaller side.  I'd be interested to see what their reasons were for the cesarean - failure to progress?  CPD?  fetal distress/the baby couldn't handle labor?  
All reasons to make the mother feel a little more like a failure.  Her body isn't cut out for childbirth or it can't make a baby healthy enough to handle labor.  I wonder if they will ever write in their records that the outcome of the labor was because they made a mistake and screwed up the process.  I want them to rightfully take the blame for once.
A mother is affected emotionally by a surgery like this.  It takes a long time to heal from a cesarean - and not just physically.
Everyday I look at my son and wonder, how does he heal from this?  He was ripped from his mother's womb, whipped around like a ragdoll and taken from me for a very long time.
He doesn't get a second chance at birth...

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