Monday, April 24, 2006

Baby Time

A few months ago I wrote about how mothers' perceptions of birth are unique and no one should presume to know how a woman feels about her own birth. The client who was the subject of the first few paragraphs of that post -- the woman who had a beautiful birth in my eyes, but who experienced the birth negatively -- had her second baby last week.

I was there.

She arrived at the hospital in active labor and was 3-4 centimeters on arrival. An hour later her water broke and, as you'd expect, contractions became a lot more powerful. By the time they got her in a room, drew blood, and monitored the baby, she was a VERY uncomfortable 6-7 centimeters.

This labor was tracking very similarly to her previous one, including the rupture of her membranes and ensuing back labor.

She had said ahead of time that she'd be willing to try going medication free, which she did at her first birth, but she did not want to be engulfed by pain again, the way she was the first time. The midwife and I coaxed her into the jacuzzi. Unfortunately, its jets weren't working well and she was not able to get any relief for her back labor. She came out of the tub and announced she wanted an epidural.

She was eight centimeters. It was 30-45 minutes since her last check. She was cruising. The midwife and I exchanged glances. We both suspected that if she held out another half hour, she'd be pushing.

On the other hand, she looked and sounded exactly like she did in her past labor. The labor whose memory made her cry weeks later. No one was going to tell her she had to face that again.

She got the epidural and was understandably relieved. She felt better. She could think and be aware of her surroundings.

Yes, the epidural slowed labor. Yes, it lowered her blood pressure and the baby's heart rate dropped (nothing a little oxygen and some ephedrin couldn't help). Yes, her uterus hyperstimulated when she rolled her nipples to pick contractions up three hours later. And, yes, she sat in bed almost six hours waiting for her cervix to open the last few centimeters.

But, she delivered her healthy baby vaginally. And she volunteered that this labor was "so much better than the last one." She felt very positively about the way things went.

This is why we doulas have to remember that we work FOR our client and in service to her wishes. I might have preferred she have the baby naturally and quickly. But that was not what she wanted. It was her birth and she had the power of directing it.


Blogger CG said...

What an awesome doula!! I love what you just wrote. I have had 3 babies all natural (1st - hospital, 2nd home, 3rd hospital). My home birth probably would have been good for many people but it was bad for me. I was judged pretty harshly by some in our birth community when I related my story and when I decided to go back to the hospital for #3. But at the same time I had two wonderfully supportive friends and doulas. Not everyone is comfortable in the same setting. That is so awesome that you see that!!! Keep up the good work - I enjoy reading your blog.

6:36 PM  
Blogger Rhainnon said...

Great writing. I love hearing about this.

9:07 AM  
Blogger I am a Milliner's Dream, a woman of many "hats"... said...

This is a great reminder, once again, that "THIS IS NOT MY BIRTH!"


12:09 PM  
Anonymous Lindsay said...

Wow, thanks for that.
I get so caught up in the natural birth being safer and faster that I forget it's not always about that (as long as safety is not compromised). Not everyone perceives the experience of birth in the same way, and what is to me deeply moving and empowering is painful and traumatic for another woman.

Good job remembering to take care of her mind and emotional well-being as well as her birth.

11:54 AM  

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