While preparing for the birth of my second child, I had hopes for a different experience for the second time around. Don’t get me wrong, I knew I got a great kid out of the deal the first time, but somewhere in me, I knew that it was possible to have something… different. I just wasn’t exactly sure how.
From my son’s birth a year before, two moments stood out in my memory that gave me an inkling of possibility and hope. I remembered the few minutes after my membranes released, in which I suddenly felt peaceful and calm, and wasn’t in pain. I remembered thinking clearly, “hey, maybe I can actually do this.” I remembered also the words of the wonderful nurse who let me know in no uncertain terms that she could not tell me what to do, but that I could let her know my wishes. I remained grateful to her for giving me the words that brought my newborn son to my arms for even just that five minutes.
I wondered if it was possible to connect more deeply and intentionally to that place within myself; if there was a way to get to that feeling without it being fleeting, and birth without fear. I believed that, even if it were necessary to face every intervention from my first birth for a second time, if I could be in that place of knowing what was happening and not being scared, I would feel completely differently about my birth.
Having already found comfort in Dr. Sears’ The Baby Book, I looked into The Birth Book to learn more about my childbirth options from his medically-balanced perspective that also honors intuition and instinct. It was there, in a small sidebar on the right-hand margin of a page, that I first came across the word doula. It was just a brief snippet about a doula being a person trained in labor support to take the anxiety out of the birth process. Given that this was the pre-Google stone age of 1998, I called the 800 number given, asked for a list of doulas in my area (snail mail!), and began my search.
Finding my doula Kathy was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Her brilliant smile and her passion for birth put me at ease. She listened to my birth story, helped me uncover my fears and desires, provided reassurance and perspective, and encouraged me to believe in myself. She pointed me in the direction of good educational resources, provided information about different options available to a laboring woman, and helped me know what questions to ask my doctor long before we were ever in the birthing room. She was available as a sounding board throughout my learning. I would call her to ask questions, like “Hey, Kathy, I read today that when you reach the point of saying ‘if it gets harder than this, I can’t do it’, that’s as hard as it’s going to get. Is that true? Because if that’s true, I think I can do this.” She didn’t do the work for me, and held me completely responsible for my own choices without judgement. What she did do was ask good questions and offer unconditional acceptance and support. She helped me discover the pieces that I had been missing. She shared with me in the “a-ha” and “oh, wow” moments along the way.
I chose a different hospital that was farther from home, but smaller and more intimate, with a birth center environment and more non-medical options available to laboring mothers. I found a different doctor; one with privileges at this smaller facility. I took an out-of-hospital childbirth class, which helped me learn about how natural birth happens. I learned about alternative comfort measures that I could use, and how to reprogram my own negative self talk with positive affirmations and belief statements. I began to integrate the belief that the body growing my baby would know how to get my baby born. I began to believe that I was strong. I was still scared sometimes, which is normal anytime someone is dealing with the unknown, but I was not terrified.
To be honest, I wasn’t completely sure yet that I would have an unmedicated birth. I was ok, though, with taking myself as far as I could go, and then taking just one more step. That was all the expectation I had, and I knew I would have the support to take it.