Sometimes the hardest stories to tell are the most important to hear.
I was approached some time ago about a story. A really dramatic, hard to hear story. I sat with it a while, honored to have been chosen to hold her story with her, and thinking about the impact that her words had on me.
Then I thought about the impact that it could have on you. How much strength do you have in your intuition, in knowing and understanding your body's needs and your baby's?
Our whole purpose at Tulsa Family Doulas is to increase confidence in birth and in parenting for every family we serve, and we do that by providing tangible support and skills through every service we offer.
And we tell stories like this, because they are important to read. She has given full permission, but requested anonymity.
"Here I am, 19, pregnant and homeless.
I have no significant other and most of my family members have written me off for getting pregnant out of wedlock.
Throughout my nine months of this pregnancy I am simply in survival mode, I want to get on my feet before bringing my baby into this world.
The only advice I get is that I shouldn't be pregnant (thanks for the advice *eye roll*) or that I better not be planning to keep her because I clearly can't be a mother...
I let everything roll off my back and just buckle down to do this on my own.
Sometimes I read little updates on an app I downloaded on my phone that's tracking my pregnancy.
"Today your baby is a carrot!" Wait, what?!
"This is what your baby looks like." It's an alien!
"Now is the time to decide your parenting style." Um, keep her alive??
"Watch for your mucus plug, that means you will have your baby any minute." Ok, maybe it didn't say minute but that's what it felt like!
One night I go into labor and go to the hospital, the next morning I have a baby. I couldn't tell you what happened as far as medical procedures or medications or anything at all really. I was alone, and I pushed out a baby. She was pretty darn cute and I was cluelessly happy.
I stuck her mouth on my breast and she ate, put some clothes on her and that was it, we were in love with each other!
Fast forward to a few years later, I'm married to a wonderful man - I have my family and his family and we are just one happy family!
And I get pregnant again, yay!
Obviously this time will be different, I'm not alone. I'm surrounded by people that love me! Of course I'm going to have tons of support.
I couldn't have been more wrong...
We had our moment of bliss at announcing our pregnancy and everyone was just overjoyed.
And then the advice and opinions began flooding in...
- Whatever you do, DON'T get an epidural! You'll have back pain for the rest of your life!
- Make sure you get that epidural the second you get to the hospital.
- Don't buy that car seat, your baby will definitely die in a wreck.
- Just get the cheapest car seat, you're a safe driver.
- Take the prenatal vitamins or you'll kill your baby.
- Don't take the prenatal vitamins! You're poisoning your baby!
- You want to encapsulate your placenta?!?! You're disgusting
I soon realized I needed to keep all of my decisions to myself, and there was no way I could make everyone happy.
For a minute I felt relieved at my decision to block everyone and their opinions out, but that didn't last long.
Suddenly I felt so alone...I had no one to tell me I was making the right decisions and no one to just support me.
When I went into labor I felt very powerless, I was so done making my own decisions while being surrounded by people that SHOULD be supporting me.
I was asked many questions about my preferences for things and I said I just didn't care, I was completely over this!
Clearly I have no idea what I'm doing and it's completely pointless to say anything.
Labor went fine, I pushed out my baby and that was it.
Several hours later I was in my postpartum room and my bleeding was very heavy. I didn't say anything.
Hours went by of this and I finally told the nurse I was concerned.
She told me it was my second baby and I was fine. I shrunk into my bed from embarrassment.
Of course it's normal, I'm an idiot, I know nothing!!
By morning I began seizing and went into shock from the massive amounts of blood loss, the charge nurse came in and discovered I had actually been hemorrhaging all night long.
I needed multiple blood transfusions and nearly lost my life by the end of everything.
I felt so powerless and alone that I said nothing...
How could I possibly feel more alone in this pregnancy when I was surrounded by people, than I did when I was literally alone with my first?
All I wanted in the whole world was a doula. But of course I had no idea this person existed!"
It isn't about HOW our clients give birth.
The reason this story is important is because the work we do as doulas is about so much more than the birth. It is the validation that the woman has a voice. That she is the one that knows her body and her baby best and should be the one to be able to call the shots on how both she and her baby are treated.
Natural birth can be traumatizing and cesarean birth can be wonderfully empowering, or it can be the other way around. You know what? We don't know what that looks like before we walk into your birth space. Our job is to read your face, your emotions, your signals and to listen to your words.
We are the biggest proponents of normal, physiologic childbirth, but are your biggest cheerleader when plans change. We can't save you from anyone or anything, make your birth or postpartum experience perfect, or sprinkle magic doula fairy dust to help you get the birth you want.
Our only responsibility is to be that constant support to validate and equip and to increase your confidence in yourself.
In your voice.