Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Birth Continuum

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Most people come to me because they are seeking a natural birth. I teach natural childbirth classes and serve as a birth doula in Sugar Land and the surrounding areas. As a Birth Boot Camp Instructor & DOULA, I specialize in natural childbirth. I am happy to support any and all types of births, but I seem to have found my niche. Or, rather, it found me.

I have been thinking a lot lately about HOW to have a natural birth. When I say lately, I mean the past 4 years while working as a doula. I keep trying to find that magic formula that guarantees the kind of birth that people want. I guess a lot of people have been trying to find that magic formula. No one has been able to come up with something that works 100% of the time.

I like to think about birth like a continuum, with one side being 100% the birth you desire, and the other side being 0% the birth you desire. This looks different for everyone. Everything we do or don't do pushes us to one side or the other. We all start somewhere in the middle. Some might start a little closer to one side or the other. Our starting point and where we end up on the continuum depends on factors both in and out of our control.

Factors out of our control:

Age
Health of Mom, Baby, Partner
Anatomy
Parity
Previous Birth Experiences
Life History
Insurance/Finances*
Birth Location*
Care Provider*
Just plain luck

Factors within our control:

Exercise, or lack thereof
Nutrition
Choice in care provider*
Choice in birth location*
Insurance/Finances*
Taking a quality birth class
Hiring an experienced doula
Desire
Determination

*You may have noticed that these are in both categories. I understand that money can play a HUGE role in how, where, and with whom someone can give birth. Sometimes insurance can take our choices away, or at least feel that way, and can provide sometimes seemingly insurmountable barriers that are, for lack of a better word, crappy. Please talk to your doula and/or care provider about your financial worries. Most are willing to work something out.



One of the biggest factors from the "Within Our Control" category that seems to make the biggest impact on how someone gives birth is determination. I realize determination isn't everything. It is a continuum, remember? I've also experienced enough life to understand that wanting something badly enough doesn't necessarily make it so. But determination goes a really long way. I have seen some women overcome incredible obstacles, achieve the birth that they want, for no other reason than they were stubbornly determined to do it. And other women decide that they would rather go a different route than what they originally planned for no other reason than they've determined that they don't want the same things anymore. And that is a good enough reason to change plans.

Determination is not the same as control. Being determined to give birth a certain way does not mean that we control every single minute aspect of labor. Part of giving birth, and especially giving birth without pain medication, is giving up some control. Control what you can, and let the rest of it be. There is always a point in labor someone has to decide, "You know what? This kind of sucks. Ok. It really sucks. It hurts. This isn't what I bargained for. I really feel like making a lot of noise, and jumping out of my skin, and cussing, and hitting something. I want to cry. I want to do things that are completely out of control." And that is the precise moment to let go. Let go of all the things that you thought labor should be. Let go of the poise and control, the politeness, and the manners. Roar or go quietly inward. Do what needs to be done, with no apologies. Keep on keeping on. Stay the course if that is what you want to do, or find a new one.

One of the amazing things about having a DOULA by your side is she won't judge you for changing course. DOULAS understand that this is YOUR birth and you get to do it YOUR way. Your DOULA will provide you with unbiased support every step of the way, no matter where on the continuum you land.