Thursday, September 08, 2016

Birth Thoughts, Part 1: A's Birth-- Addressing the Fear

My first four births of 2016 have been very, very different.  Each taught me something or reinforced a particular concept for me.  My first birth of the year was lightning-fast, the second was a VBAC ending in c-section, the third was a long slow birth that started out with some drama and ended in a quick triumph, and the fourth was a more “classic” water-birth in which mama was respected & supported, and in turn greeted her baby with extraordinary grace.  Every birth had beautiful moments, unpredictable twists, impressive mothers and so much depth.  I am honored to have been a part of each one; no matter how many births I see, I remain mesmerized and enthralled by the process, and brought to worship of the Creator of this intricate, powerful, transformative Dance we call birth.  In this brief series each birth will get its own post and a summary of what each taught me.

(for this series each mama got assigned a letter in alphabetical order)

A’s Birth:  leaving fear behind

A hired me for her second birth.  A poised, articulate go-getter with a charming toddler, she came to me well-read and continuing to do more research.  Our kids played together as we discussed parenting and how to keep Christ at the center of a birth—I was delighted to find that she shared my faith!  Her first birth had been on the long side with a bit of trauma, and she wanted to have someone with her this time around who would make sure she understood all happenings and ensured she was able to be an active participant in decision-making.  With her first son’s birth she had experienced a lot of pain early on, and had requested an epidural.  She anticipated an epidural again this time around, but wanted to have support to enable her to delay it to minimize complication risk and also to prevent C-section once it was in place.  As we sat together crafting a birth plan and discussing her last birth, I got the feeling that her main issue was not going to be managing an epidural but rather working through fear of the process; something told me that, once she could embrace the unpredictable nature of birth and find freedom in trusting, she would not need any form of pain management.  I also had a suspicion that this next birth would be far quicker than her first and might not even leave time for a pharmaceutical option.  To my surprise, when I accompanied her to a late-term midwife appointment, the midwife brought the same point up: “you know, second births are often so much faster and you live so far from the hospital; you probably want to have some non-location dependant options to manage the labor in case an epidural isn’t an option.  I also want to assure you that if you do find your labor moving too quickly for pain meds that we will help you manage—you absolutely can do it, and we will be with you in those moments.”

I got a phone call on a Monday morning two weeks before her due date, saying “I think I might just have gone into labor… I’m taking a shower and calling my childcare just in case.”  She was still talking normally through contractions so I told her to keep me posted and went about my normal day, though I did throw my doula bag in the car and put my own childcare people on standby.  Within an hour, I got another text saying that labor was definitely progressing and she would be beginning her way to the hospital, could I please meet her there?  (She lived 45 minutes from the hospital)  Wow!  In a mad scramble I got my kids taken care of (including my own 3 month old) and arrived at the hospital about 15 minutes after they did.  She was already in transition and almost ready to push.  The room was dimly lit, just A, her husband and the midwife—A was in the middle of a contraction as I arrived, and as soon as it was over her eyes found mine and she whispered “Oh, Christina, I’m not going to get my epidural, am I?”  “No, this little boy is moving too fast for that—but I am here with you, and we are going to do this!  You can do it, your body is doing it, and I’m not leaving you for a second.”

Sure enough, within the hour, A was cradling her second son, in awe at both the gift of him and at the miracle her body had just done.  “I can’t believe I did it,” she kept saying; “I can’t believe how good I feel right now.  I can’t believe I just had a baby—I don’t even feel like I just had a baby.”  Looking back over her birth I remember a shift; a moment when she realized that “well, here I am—let’s do this,” and instead of wondering if she could do it and being afraid that she wouldn't be able to handle it, it just became about doing it.  All she needed was a voice in her ear reminding her that she was strong in her weakness, that God was good, that she was not alone, and encouraging her when her energy flagged.  And she did exactly what she had feared she could not do:  she birthed a baby with no intervention, no trauma, just support… and she did it beautifully. 

A’s birth reminded me that every woman benefits from having a support team versed in unmedicated birth, because sometimes that’s all you have time for, and in those moments you want people who aren’t freaking out, because they have done this before (even if you never have).  Fear = pain, which is why support and encouragement enable so many moms to do what they never thought they could do; because those things banish fear.  A had a midwife and a doula (me) who encouraged various positions, kept up a stream of positivity and actively kept fear at bay.  She had a supportive husband, cheering for her and staying positive the whole time. She found a strength she never knew she had, she overcame her fear, and she looked absolutely gorgeous as she did it. 

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