For some reason pregnant women are bound to receive unsolicited stories and often they are horror stories. Such stories add to our culture’s fear of childbirth. A positive story does not need equal a smooth and easy birth. If there is one thing I have learned as a doula it is that women are amazing and strong and anything can happen during childbirth. Here are some of the remarkable stories that have come to stand out through the years.
One woman I worked with had a standard hospital delivery with her first baby. She was induced. She remained on her back in the bed for the better part of a day and when it came time to push she couldn’t be of much help. Her baby was born with the assistance of forceps. The baby weighed 8 pounds 10 ounces. She chose a different path for her second baby and used a midwife at a birth center and hired me to be her doula. She went into labor about ten days late and progressed fairly quickly using the spacious tub at the birth center. It came time to push and she pushed and pushed and pushed. We tried every position possible and she worked so very hard. The head was rotated and she continued to push. The baby was tolerating labor very well but after five hours of amazing effort with no further descent of the baby’s head, we transferred to the hospital where the baby was born by Cesarean. The baby weighed 9 pounds 2 ounces; only 8 ounces heavier than her first, which was born vaginally. Sometimes a baby’s head becomes “too old” to mould enough to fit down the birth canal. It has developed past the point of fitting. With her next baby she chose to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean) and chose a hospital midwife who would support her. This baby, too, went over by a few days but she eventually went into labor on her own. She chose to use an epidural as a tool of relaxation as the urge to push came on strongly before dilation was complete. Her body continued to progress and soon she was pushing. This baby weighed 10 pounds 12 ounces and there was no tissue separation! A fabulous VBAC! The baby’s head was able to mould and her pelvis was certainly able to accommodate. For her next baby she chose another VBAC. This baby came a week early and weighed 6 pounds 15 ounces, four pounds smaller than her previous baby. Labor was, again spontaneous and she achieved the un-medicated birth she had been hoping for. Anything is possible!
When we first found out we were pregnant, a friend prophetically told us to hire a doula. “If the labor is easy, then you might wonder why you spent the money,” he said. “If not, it will be the best money you’ve ever spent.” As it turned out, he was right. Our labor lasted 24 hours and was anything but easy. Our Christmas baby decided to wait until January to arrive, finally appearing – two weeks late. We were induced at the hospital on a Friday night, launching the labor with a small pill called Cytotec. My husband likes to remind me that within hours I announced, “I’m not sure I can do this.” By Saturday morning, the contractions were frequent and painful. We called Angie, our doula, who – along with my husband – spent the next 8 hours comforting, distracting, feeding and energizing me. She stroked my head – for hours – talked to me about my inner power and guided me into different positions at a time when I was so exhausted I felt like I couldn’t move. She was a respectful advocate and team member, using her knowledge from hundreds of births to make practical suggestions. Because my husband has a bad back, we wanted someone who could relieve him when he needed a break to stretch. Angie filled that role beautifully, helping him make it through the labor marathon without too much pain. When my son was born – unfortunately, with complications – she remained by my side as we learned that he would need to spend time in the NICU. At a time when there was great uncertainty, she provided emotional stability – she even helped us clean up and pack our bags to move out of the delivery room! We appreciated her concern in the following days as our son gradually improved and eventually went home from the hospital in excellent health. Angie spent hours getting to know us, answering our questions about childbirth and finally providing additional strength during our labor and the days that followed. Everyone could benefit from a doula like her.
I worked with a sweet couple who was expecting their first baby. As is very common, she went over her due date by about eight days. What was unusual about this is that the cervix was dilated to 6-7 cm and 90% effaced with no signs of labor. All this woman needed do was to get a few contractions and it seemed her baby would quickly be born! Her membranes were swept by her midwife and a labor pattern began. Within a short time dilation had reached 8 cm. Things were looking good! The mom continued strong in labor but nothing changed, however, for the next fourteen hours. Dilation remained at 8 cm, the baby didn’t budge a bit from where he was. The mother was so good to try every position and technique possible to get the baby to turn and labor to continue to progress. The hospital staff was anticipating a Cesarean delivery and, quite frankly, so was I. After many hours of effort, with strong contractions coming consistently, the mom decided to use an epidural. Pitocin was added into the mix to try and increase the strength of the contractions. After four hours dilation was finally complete and pushing began. But the baby didn’t budge. The wonderful midwife was unwilling to give up on a vaginal delivery. She called in a back-up obstetrician who would also give this woman every chance possible to birth vaginally. The doctor attempted a manual rotation which worked some then used forceps to turn the baby’s head and bring it just a bit further down the birth canal. The mother was able to finish up the job of giving birth to her son. Anything is possible!