Thursday, July 7, 2011

To Doula or not to Doula...that is (or was) the question.

I don’t think I have blogged much about what I hope to experience during and after the birth of Mr. LBZ.  This actually surprises me because his upcoming birth and what I hope to gain from it has been on my mind since I found out I was pregnant.

You see, my birth experience with BBZ left much to be desired.  For a long time I attributed the negative experience I remember to the fact that I got the epidural, which led to a snowball effect of interventions, something that I have come to learn is honestly quite common.

As I continued to do some self-exploration, I realized that it wasn’t the experience itself that left such an emotional wound inside me, but rather the way I was treated.

For a while I thought that the 3rd degree tear, the months of healing, the scar tissue and the fact that I felt all of the stitches I received was the reason I had such a wound from the experience, but that wasn’t it at all.

I was shopping at a local breastfeeding support and resale shop recently and while checking out I chatted with the woman working there and learned that she was a certified childbirth educator.  She shared some information with me and asked me to join a birth class she was holding there on Tuesday evenings.  As much as I wanted to attend, weekly babysitters from 7-9pm are just not realistic for us, so I declined and went on my way.

A few days later, a friend from LLL posted an article about childbirth on Facebook.  I commented something about how I hoped to heal some wounds that I was holding onto from my first birth experience and she suggested the very same class, as she apparently is friends with the woman I bumped into at the store.  Small world!

In that comment she tagged the woman’s facebook page, which I visited and “liked”.  That prompted the woman to then contact me and offer both individual classes in our home or doula services.  After some phone tag we finally connected.

It was during this hour-long phone call that I came to realize that it really wasn’t the trauma of the physical effects of the birth I was holding on to, but rather the emotions of how I was treated during the last 20 minutes or so of the ordeal.

I am going to try and put into words what it felt like.  I describe in the story how the room filled with people, they put oxygen on my face, that the woman picked up the phone next to me and said they were going to do a “forcep delivery with variables” and I had no idea what they were talk about.  No one talked to me.  No one even looked at me.  At that moment, I wasn’t even a person.  I was a being on a table and they were all doing their job…the way I do at my computer.  Without even a thought about what I, as a person, was thinking or feeling.

I remember pushing hard, the way my doctor asked me to, then not knowing if I should push again.  I waited for her to tell me and she didn’t.  I pushed but I didn’t know if I was supposed to or not.  Then suddenly, he was here.

They handed him to me in an attempt to distract me from the pain I was experiencing while they stitched me up.  I saw him, I heard him, but I did not feel what I expected to feel for my newborn baby.  I felt disconnected, unsure of him, and unsure of what I was supposed to do.  I didn't even know that I was supposed to be thinking of delivering the placenta.  I actually forgot that part and wondered why they were still working on me.  No one told me what was happenning.

As the room emptied and I was there with my new son, my mom and my husband I didn’t feel the way I thought I would feel.  I felt…powerless.  Utterly stripped of any power I had over my body, over myself, and over the way my son was born.  Some people have described a term called “birth rape” which I don’t really like.  But rape is not about sex, it’s about power.  The powerlessness I felt was like nothing I have ever felt before, and it is a feeling that I continue to associate with my birth experience to this day, although I already feel like I am healing.

While talking with this kind woman on the phone, I realized that it was the loss of power that I was grieving, not the natural birth.  I do want a natural birth and I really believe that I will have that, but it is not what will heal the emotional wounds I have.  Control is what will do that.

I have changed doctors, changed hospitals, read countless beginnings of book (my interesting book-reading habits are another blog for another day) and have had some very serious talks with N about how I need his help to keep control over the situation so I may leave with a feeling of empowerment and connection to the baby that I so desire.  I will not allow what happened to me to happen again.  I am more educated, more prepared, and more confident about what I want and what I deserve as a person and as a human being.

N and I together decided not to hire a doula for our birth experience.  He and I spoke at length about it and feel that we can handle it and have the experience that we both want.  I am so excited to embark on this with him and to know that we will be able to have what we want…no matter how our sweet LBZ physically comes into the world.  Because that is not the issue…the issue is having control and power over the situation.

When I was laboring naturally with BBZ, I felt a connection to N that I hadn’t felt before.  We were a team, and we were doing so well together.  N said that after I got the epidural, he had this uneasy feeling and couldn’t sit still.  I later read that men produce a hormone while his partner is laboring that allows him to deeply connect with her and support his partner.  I believe that N was experiencing this without any way to direct it after the epidural took away the need for his support.  Interesting stuff.

So I’m not sure why I have hesitated to blog about any of this.  I think I wanted to keep my wishes somewhat quiet because I know that when some people hear that a woman hopes for a natural birth that comments can include ones that are not supportive and of the “yeah, right!” nature, and I just didn’t want to expose myself to that.

When I was getting close to BBZ’s birth, I remember thinking that it would be cool to tell people that I did it naturally.  This time, I really don’t care about that.  I hope that I can accomplish this goal mostly because I have seen enough natural birth videos to see the look of pure accomplishment and connection to their baby that each woman feels following her birth experience.  I crave that.  I need to experience that.  It means as much to me as bringing this little man into the world does.  And I know N and I can do it.