Birth Lessons

**EDIT** Original post 2012 (pictures not included)

January. What a whirlwind. 3 births plus the weeklong Birthing From Within retreat. All around the grounds in Ojai where we stayed for the birth retreat were these little gems of awesomeness painted on small rocks. I immediately wanted to paint one, to leave my mark on the land. I asked the groundskeeper for "permission" and was met with humble disapproval. Apparently the spirits on the land, our anscestrial spirits, do not appreciate our desire to paint our mark on the raw land and have expressed their disapproval to the groundskeeper during times of deep meditation. Who am I to question that? Though it did lead me to question why exactly I wanted to leave my mark where I had been; from where do these desires originate? And how might that relate to birth? As a doula, do I desire to leave my "mark" on a birth? Change it from what it might otherwise be? Paint my own impressions upon how the mother experiences it?

The first birth of the month started late at night; mom and dad labored privately and we checked in throughout the night on the phone every hour or two. I met them at their home around 5am and helped keep mom calm and comfortable, encouraging rest between contractions. Quietly refilling the hot water bottle with water from the tea-kettle for mom's back, finding her a snack of fresh blueberries in the refrigerator, providing counter-pressure for her back pain. Time marched on and I accompanied them to the hospital. Mama handled contractions well and effectively opened completely.

The second birth was a planned VBAC that turned into a repeat Cesarean for reasons that aren't all that important in the context of this blog....Oh if you must know...the amniotic fluid started to decrease and mom effectively advocated for more time to try to bring the fluid levels back up. She went home for the night and soaked in the tub, drank amazing quantities of water on the half-hour, every half-hour, and soaked up some oxytocin-inducing goodness at home. Past her due date, she encouraged labor to start with some different methods of labor augmentation that aren't all that important in the context of this blog....Oh again if you must know! Nipple stimulation and rubbing castor oil on her belly were just a couple of the things she tried. I accompanied her the following morning to the hospital and held her hand as she learned that the amniotic fluid levels had decreased further and she prepped for the Cesarean. The third birth was midwife-attended at the hospital and mom and dad weren't quite sure if they were in labor. I met them at the hospital *maybe* two hours after their first call to me and after *maybe* another 45 minutes she was fully dilated and ready to push.

What did I learn along this journey? Did I desire to leave my own "mark" upon these births? I can say with honesty that I am learning to let go and allow birth to happen and unfold without judgment nor expectation. I can provide my ever-changing perspective and expertise, and humbly feel into what each mom and couple needs from their doula in that moment. In birth #1, I learned that pushing isn't always a relief for a laboring mother. I learned that even the most dedicated birth team and laboring mama can't always change birth fate and influence a birth outcome. It is not up to me to leave my "mark" on this birth. I witnessed an OB pull out all the stops and oversee this mother during the pushing stage for over 5 hours. And I learned that sometimes a Cesarean in the most compassionate outcome for an exhausted mother and baby. I realized that this lesson was necessary on my path as a labor doula. And that in times like these, more than ever, mom needs the emotional support of a doula and compassionate birth team.

In birth #2, I learned that taking action empowers the Love Warrior, a necessary component of surrender to an otherwise unwished for Cesarean. Mama took action, used her voice, consulted her resources, and didn't give up or give in as she birthed her baby via Cesarean with the support of her husband and doula. She transcended her birth journey and into her parenting journey as mother of 2. Not that birth can be wrapped up in a neat little box, far from it. But I have no doubt that this mama took some deep lessons away from this birth, and it is not up to me to leave my mark upon what those lessons are for her.

In birth #3, I learned that there is such a thing as a painless early stage of labor. I learned that labor can be FAST. And again, it is not my place as a doula to impress upon anyone my own version of the birth. Mom experienced this birth in her own way, and for her the transition into the post-partum period turned out to be what held her own lessons to learn. Not mine. Hers. Love birth! More to come...

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