I was led to this doula path through my own birthing journey. I struggled with memories of a traumatic birth. I then had an incredibly healing birth with the help of a doula. I wanted everyone to have what I had: an in touch with myself, transforming, NATURAL birth. I believed that the ONLY way to have a great birth was to have my version of birth. Boy was I wrong, and it was a hard lesson to learn.
It was my 5th birth as a doula and a dear friend of mine was preparing to deliver her first baby at her beautiful farmhouse. She is an organic farmer. Everything she does is natural. She was planning on delivering with a local midwife and with no interventions. Great, this is right up my alley. This is the kind of birth all my clients should want. (This was my thinking, at at the time)
Her labor started just as she was finishing up at the farm. With a full day of hard farm work over she headed home for a warm shower. I got a call about an hour later, it seemed as though her labor was going to be a quick one. Contractions were hard and close. We were all excited to meet this new little one. Hours pass and there was hardly any dilation. We hit the 24 hour mark , the 30 hour mark, the 40 hour mark and still no baby. Around 45 hours she makes the decision to go to the hospital for Pitocin (a drug used to strengthen contractions.) She started asking for the epidural. She was looking at her partner for approval and he was not meeting her eyes. She looked at me as if to ask permission and all I could do is tell her that I will go get the midwife. I begged the midwife in the hall to tell her she was 9 or 10cm. I was thinking that if she hears how far along she is, she will be able to cope and have the “natural” birth she wanted. Of course the midwife could not lie to her patient. To everyone’s surprise, she was actually 9cm. We told her she could do it. We told her we are so proud of her. Finally after more than two days of labor she was able to push out her beautiful baby boy, naturally We all breathed a sigh of relief. It was finally over, or so I thought….
I got to go home and crawl into my warm bed and sleep for 18 hours. My friend on the other hand did not make it out unscathed. She has been left with an unbridled fear of childbirth. Too much pain, more than she could take. I did not help prevent it. I felt like such a failure. How could I have not saved my friend from this experience. The thing is, she was so thankful afterwords for my presence which only deepened my guilt. I spent many nights going over all the “what if’s?”
It has taken me many years to realize all the lessons that birth has taught me. I now use a “code word” so I can tell if mom is serious about wanting an epidural. I teach each family that things change quickly in birth and it is OK if we deviate from the original plan. I talk prenatally about the importance of hiring a postpartum doula for after the birth. But most importantly, I learned about perspective. I felt so guilty because my friend did not have MY version of birth. I learned that she did not need to be “saved” from her own birth. It has changed and shaped her as a woman and a mother. It has also changed and shaped me into the doula I am today. She birthed two people that day and I will be forever grateful.
authored by: Holly Yeager