Sometimes, no matter how much preparation a person has done, things happen differently than expected. Someone can choose a great medical team, take informative classes, educate herself on her options, hire a doula, and still face interventions or difficult decisions. Feelings can come up of guilt, or shame, or betrayal. She may have doubts, or may even lose faith in herself – that if she had just done it right, her birth would have happened a different way. An unrealistic belief system sometimes seems to exist in birth circles, that if a mama just “trusts” enough, she’ll have the “right” kind of birth.
As a doula,the perspective I share may be shocking. Here’s a truth: Sometimes, birth needs help.
Not every time. Perhaps not even most of the time. Certainly not with the “36% cesarean rate” frequency that is currently our cultural norm. But, it does happen. Babies engage in positions that they can’t get themselves out of. Birthing people develop medical concerns that place health at risk. Infections happen. Distress happens. Life happens, and it’s unpredictable.
There is no routine intervention – internal exams, iv fluids, fetal monitoring, medications, epidurals, forceps, surgery – that is categorically, inexcusably wrong 100% of the time. There are valid reasons that each of them came into being. There remain valid causes for each to still be in use. There is a time, place, and circumstance in which each one can and has been health- and even life-saving for a mother and baby. A birth activist’s opposition is not to the existence of these interventions, but to the routine overuse of each of them, as though every mother and baby pair is the one in imminent danger.
So, what is a laboring person to do?
Education, information, and strong continuous labor support all go a long way in avoiding the steps that can lead one down a path of unnecessary or premature intervention. Choosing a medical support team that tends to offer low-intervention birth essential. Asking good questions throughout pregnancy, learning more about the options that exist, and saying “no, thank you” to the ones that are unnecessary is a key component. And then, the time comes to let go.
So much of the birth process revolves around the power to surrender – not the surrender of one’s voice or the right to speak and be heard, but surrender to the process that is birth.
Sometimes,”trusting in the process” includes trusting her own intuition in knowing that something isn’t right, and that it’s appropriate to ask for and accept help. When and if the unexpected circumstance should arise, which they sometimes do, then and only then comes the time to make each decision as it comes.
Know your wishes and priorities, discover your options that are available in the clear and present reality, and with that in mind, make the best choice for you in that moment. It is this, and not the mental checklist of do’s and do-not’s, that is the hallmark of a truly empowered birth. In the end, it’s not about whether your birth measures up to anyone else’s judgement of picture-perfect and ideal. It is by being an active and informed participant in your own experience that you can know that you created the right experience for your own birth and your own baby. You can be at peace with knowing that you made the decision, unique to your individual birth, that your judgement indicated was wisest in that moment. That’s the very best birth experience that anyone has the power to create.