I attended a birth yesterday/last night/this morning (it was a long one – first babies can really take their time!). It was an amazing, wonderful experience – it always is! As part of my doula certification process I have to write an essay with 500-700 words detailing the birth, the mother’s emotional response, my role as a doula, and what I learned during the process. I just finished typing it up (names are removed for privacy reasons). Here it is, if you’re interested. And now I’m going to bed!
April 19, 2011 – Piedmont Hospital – Atlanta, GA
Mom and Dad desired a natural, no-intervention birth. At 41 weeks, 1 day her contractions began (4:00am, Sunday, April 17). They continued sporadically throughout the day and night and into Monday. Mom had a cervical exam at the OB’s office Monday morning – 2 cm, 90%, -2 station. At 2:00 pm, she felt she needed my help. I arrived at their home at 3:00pm. Her contractions were coming every 5-7 minutes. She had not slept since early Sunday morning – she was very tired but coping well by deep breathing and using yoga sounds, but was struggling with tensing her muscles. I helped her during contractions with massage and by reminding her, muscle by muscle, to relax and let her muscles remain loose. Over the next 8 hours I assisted her with walking, breathing, relaxing, getting into various labor positions (her favorite was a hands & knees position, resting her upper body on the birth ball), and staying nourished with light meals and plenty of water. At 11:00 pm, contractions were between 3-5 minutes apart and becoming increasingly more intense, so the decision was made to head to the hospital. A cervical exam at 11:45 pm revealed that she was 3 cm, 100%, -1 station. The midwife expressed that this was not good progress and that intervention would soon be required to speed things along (she recommended rupture of membranes after 2 more hours if things had not progressed adequately). Mom felt discouraged that so little progress had been made and that there was the possibility of unwanted intervention. Mom, Dad and I walked the hospital halls with renewed determination to get things happening! I encouraged Mom during contractions to focus on the goal – an open cervix and her baby moving down the birth canal. With every contraction, Dad and I talked to her about opening up and moving her baby down. Mom concentrated on visualizing exactly that. The contractions were becoming more and more painful, but she remained determined, breathing deeply and steadily and relaxing her muscles as Dad supported her weight in a “slow dance” position and we both reminded her of the goal. At 12:45am, while walking in the halls, her water broke – we were all elated! Mom remained serious and determined as the contractions quickly increased in length, intensity and frequency. A cervical exam at 2:00am revealed 5-6cm, 0 station. The midwife was satisfied with the progress, but Mom was discouraged (she felt that she should be farther along after so much hard work). I encouraged her that getting to that point was likely the longest part of the process and that things should move along more quickly now. Within minutes, Mom was feeling the urge to push. Contractions were coming about 2 minutes apart and lasting almost 2 minutes. At 2:15 am her cervix was 8-9 cm dilated. Mom was struggling to remain in control – she was in immense pain and very exhausted. Dad and I coached her to focus on breathing steadily, deep breaths in and out. We helped her to blow through several contractions, to avoid pushing while the final lip of cervix receded. At 2:20 the midwife gave her the okay to begin pushing as she felt the urge. She was fearful of the intensity of the urge and the pain she was feeling. I encouraged her to not be afraid by talking about how powerful the urge to push could feel but to use it to fuel her pushing, and that she had to push through the pain to deliver her baby. She quickly learned to bear down while curling into the push and to focus all of her energy downward to push her baby out. At 2:54 am, a perfect 7 lb, 5 oz baby girl was born.
This birth solidified to me the importance of patience in the birthing process. Mom was in labor for close to 48 hours. Her desire for natural childbirth required extreme patience and commitment. Waiting beyond her due date when she was being pressured to schedule induction, waiting at home to labor instead of going to the hospital early, and waiting a few more hours before consenting to intervention once we arrived at the hospital made the difference between the wonderful birth experience and outcome that this couple desired and a vastly different scenario which would have been the opposite of what they wanted. I plan to begin planting “seeds of patience” with my clients from the first time we meet until the moment of birth – I don’t think patience can be over-valued.