Updated: Mar 3, 2019
**EDIT** Original post in 2011
"The Winter Solstice, here in the Northern Hemisphere, occurs tonight. Solstice, coming during the coldest time of the season, a time for turning within, for darkness and quiet. The Winter Solstice brings us the shortest day and longest night of the year. It also signals a turning back toward the light and a time of celebration." -Susan Lucas, WiseBirthWays The above was written to me by my Birthing From Within mentor, Susan. She always has a way of coming into my consciousness at just the right moment, and this was no exception. Just the day before, I was called to attend a birth. As I came back to my own family, home and reality, I opened up this email from Susan and couldn't help but reflect on my experience at my most recent birth as a doula the day before. Only 5% of women birth their babies on their actual due date, as did Jess*. She and her husband let me know early in the morning of December 20th that today would be their baby's birthday. This couple took my Birthing From Within class series just 2 months prior, and that along with a couple of prenatal doula appointments led us to a place of strong trust. I was so excited along with them, and confident that they were both fully prepared for what was in store. Labor can be tough, and worth it. I was honored to walk with them through their birth labyrinth. One of the most beautiful parts of this birth was not only that mom was prepared for what to expect, nor was it that she was unwavering in her dedication to birth baby naturally; not only that her own parents were present and nearby to offer their support while giving her space for this to be her own experience; and not only that she had done her research and knew that her baby would make her appearance just when she knew she was ready. What was so beautiful to me was how she and her husband worked so well as a team and were so ready and willing to go through this birth together, to enter into this rite of passage as parents together. He was by her side the whole time, giving her tidbits to laugh at when that's what the moment needed, offering encouragement when that's what the moment needed, even stretching her beyond her comfort zone and inviting her get more upright and take a walk with him when he sensed that's what the moment needed. I watched them do their thing, held space in the room, and sensed the love. Beautiful. Jess had so much faith in their preparedness and trust in her support that she opted out of writing a Birth Plan. Yes, you heard me right! No Birth Plan. In the Birthing From Within class that I mentor, we spend some time talking about Birth Plans, and deciphering the intention behind writing them. Used prenatally as a tool to discuss with your care provider, they can be quite useful. The concern becomes when they are used in the same manner in which Dumbo the flying elephant uses the feather in his hat to make him fly...Blind Trust in something that isn't magic after all. And when Dumbo loses the feather he loses his faith in himself and finds himself falling, falling, falling. It's not until his friend yells to him that he never needed the feather in the first place that he finds faith in himself and is able to fly again. And he flies, flies, flies.
"And when Dumbo loses the feather he loses his faith in himself and finds himself falling, falling, falling. It's not until his friend yells to him that he never needed the feather in the first place that he finds faith in himself and is able to fly again. And he flies, flies, flies."
In other words, if used as a crutch, as in, "I have my Birth Plan so now I can sit back and know that I'll have this baby just like I've spelled out!" well, you might be in for a surprise. You still need to communicate with your provider and be open to doing what the moment calls for. So anyway, in this instance, Jess knew that her husband had her back and could confidently field any birth surprises that came their way, that she communicated clearly with her doctor about her preferences and what kind of birth she envisioned, and that no decisions had to be made on the spot. And that her doula was there, too, to keep them on track and help them remember their birth preferences in the moment. So when the nurse told them in early labor about the routine use of Pitocin after delivery to help contract the uterus, and mom gave a look that screamed, "Not a chance," Dad instead took the reins and said, "Can we have a couple of minutes to talk about that before we give you a decision?" Oh, my happy heart. Well done, dad. You were listening in class. No Birth Plan needed. There came a time during this labor where there was a distinct shift. "A time for turning within," as stated about the solstice above. Jess found her mama warrior, retreated inward, and was "turning back toward the light." Christmas music played softly in the room. I think even her husband sensed this shift and perhaps gave some space while I increased my doula support. I provided guided visualizations for relaxation, sips of water, cool rags on her forehead, constant verbal encouragement throughout the duration of each contraction, and reminders to enjoy the rest in between contractions. Time passes. Mama pushes. Two worlds gently collide and baby Grace is born. Love. Was it hard? It's like asking if climbing a mountain is hard. Physically taxing, at times emotionally wearing, moments of doubt and questioning. It's not at all about comfort. But afterwards you have this experience in your heart, shared only with those who climbed the mountain with you, and it bonds you even more tightly to them. Exhilirating. And as Susan wrote of the Winter Solstice, "a time of celebration." Congratulations, new sweet family. I'll always remember this climb.
P.S. Group Birthing From Within classes are now being filled for February and April 2017!