Monday, April 11, 2011

"Tonight, I became a doula."

Pretend today is March 1st... the past several weeks have been insane and I'm just now able to write this.

Today, I attended my fifth birth.  Today, I was born as a doula.

Everything went very differently than we were anticipating and planning.  The idea was spontaneous labor when the baby was ready, laboring at home until Mom felt like it was time to go to the hospital, using a lot of movement to help things progress.  Birth balls, showers, tubs, walking... until it was time to push out the baby.  Mom was okay with an episiotomy if it was necessary, but there would be immediate skin to skin, hopefully a breast crawl, and spontaneous breastfeeding initiation. Baby would room in and never leave her side unless medically necessary. It was a powerful and well-researched and natural plan, and very little of it happened.

We went in Monday for a 41+1 non-stress test and found that over the weekend since her last appointment on Friday, the amniotic fluid had decreased by about half and the placenta was showing signs of age. After some discussion with the midwife, Mom decided it was time to give her body a bit of a boost getting going. We went to the hospital that evening for some cervical ripening and to settle in for the night and next day. Over the next 20 or so hours (12 of which were spent just letting the ripening agent work) there were broken waters, fetal monitor issues, pitocin, an epidural, and Jane Austen. There was much more, but I feel like those details should be left up to her to disclose if she so chooses. Nothing went quite as planned and I personally found myself learning and growing, gaining understanding of why doulas are so needed, especially when things do not go to plan.

Pitocin didn't mean I wasn't doing my job. An epidural didn't mean I wasn't necessary. Mom was at peace with every decision made and every intervention given, but for it to be as natural as it could be among everything that happened, she really needed both of her birth partners: her husband and myself.

Probably the most poignant period for me was during pushing. She had some difficulty finding a position that worked for her to help bring the baby down but while she was on her left side, her husband held up her right leg and I sat at the end of the bed, pushing up her right sitz bone to help open her pelvis. We held this basic position for at least 45 minutes, while I encouraged her by saying how much of the internal monitor wire was coming out with each push. It wasn't much movement and when she moved to the other side and the baby really started to descend it became clear that it had been from scalp distortion rather than the baby really coming down, but that simply is not a position that just anyone could or would put themselves into.

It takes a doula to use your body that way to help a woman in labor, to be that close to such an intimate part of the human body and be completely unfazed by that fact. It takes a doula to reapply warm compresses during crowning while you wait for the midwife to come in from another birth. It takes a doula to stay with Mom while Dad goes and watches baby on the resuscitation table, and the midwife stops the bleeding. It takes a doula to take the placenta home and clean it up to freeze for eventual planting while the family's still in the hospital. Professional doulas aren't the only ones who do these things, but you need that doula spirit for it to work for you and for you to work for Mom.

I had doubted myself during the labor, while she was getting her epidural, pleading with God whether I as really set up for this work of mothering mothers and easing babies' ways into the world. I had my answer within hours of the question being asked.

On the afternoon of March 1, 2011, I became a doula.
"Sisterhood" candle lamp ©Maya Hill,

Jena Vincent of Abundance Massage

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Fearless Woman: April

Excerpt from my date book, A Fearless Woman.
Artwork detail ©Jeannine Roberts Royce
She Dances to the Beat of Her Heart
She discovers that she has astonishing flairs,
wisdoms and gifts unheralded, and perhaps even
inspired dance moves she did not know about.

This is no time to behave.
This is no time to be shy.
-"A Fearless Woman" 2011 date book,

Jena Vincent of Abundance Massage