Tuesday, November 19, 2013

When birth goes not according to plan

May I be honest for a minute? Not the kind of honest where I finally start telling the truth after speaking nothing but lies, but the kind of honest where I just allow the thoughts to come as they are and I don't edit for public consumption. Good. Thanks. I'm glad we're on the same page. I just feel like I need to get these words out of me before I burst into tears. 

What I want to say is this. Not all the births I attend are those amazing, empowering, warrior births that you hear about (in natural birthing circles). There. I said it. Please don't hate me!

Sometimes birth doesn't go according to plan. Not in the, "Oh, I wanted a water birth but didn't get one in time," or, " I changed my mind about pain meds, and I have no regrets" sort of way. It's those situations where things change so drastically that you thank God or whatever higher power you believe in that modern medicine is available to save lives if its gotten to that point. Sometimes I come home crying from a birth because, "What would have happened to her way back in the day?" And I know exactly what would have happened to her, and I start to cry harder. And I have to tip my hat to modern medicine, which at the same time it makes my doula heart cringe, because gosh darn it, why do they have to meddle with stuff so much when they don't need to, when everything is going well, but I'm glad you're here when I really need you, but please don't make me feel guilty and ashamed for not wanting to need you in the first place. Because sometimes we truly do need you, and sometimes we didn't want that at all. 

Being a doula and pouring my heart and soul into supporting moms and their families is so wonderfully enriching, but sometimes it leaves me in tears when I witness how hard a mom worked to bring her baby into the world and it goes beyond "not according to plan." When I attend a mother, her wishes become my wishes for her. Her hopes become my hopes for her. If she wants to give birth to the moon and back, by golly, I am going to pack extra fuel for the shuttle ride. I'll show up wearing my spacesuit ready to support her in the BEST MOON BIRTH EVER!

When births go "not according to plan" I do a lot of reflection afterward. Did I do enough? Did I do too much? Was I in the way? Did I support her in the way she needed? Did my presence actually hinder her progress? What if I would have just said that one thing or suggested that one position change? I'm not trying to sound like I am having a hero complex here. I know there are a lot of factors that determine how births unfold and very little of them have anything to do with me. But I just never ever ever ever want to hurt a mother. EVER. I never want to hinder her in any way. 

There is a moment with every couple I have served so far where I just see them, and it takes my breath away. I feel such awe for them. Sometimes that moment happens in the prenatal meetings. They don't even notice, but my arms get tingly, a wave of chills passes over me, and my arm hairs stand on end. I think, "These people are amazing. Just amazing." But it always happens at the birth. That moment. That, "Look at her. She's amazing, " moment. My eyes water, and I have to choke back tears for a split second and just marvel at what is before me. My admiration and reverence run deep for that split second that thankfully goes unnoticed by anyone but maybe the Divine, and I give thanks that I was able to be a witness to the majesty of that birthing mama. I will always be in complete awe of the mothers I serve for the rest of my life, even if we never meet again. I will always consider that time with them as sacred time and some of the most cherished memories of my life. 

Another thing that bothers me are the growing pains of gaining experience. Naturally a more experienced doula than I is a wealth of knowledge. She's "been there, done that" way more than I. Even with my modest two years of experience, which is exponentially more than when I started, I think back to my first few doula births. Oh, how much better I could have served those families, even as a two-years-in-the-field baby doula. If only I had known then what I know now. I can't help but wish that those mamas had benefited from the now me. I guess as I learn more and more, my future clients will have access to a more experienced doula than my current clients. It will always be that way. I'll always be the same Kristi. We'll have a connection or we won't. We'll work together or we won't, but I will always strive to do the best with the tools I have. It's just so very humbling how every birth is so different, and I learn so much from each one. 

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