Monday, June 3, 2013

Dear NUCB-aspiring Mama

Dear mothers-to-be:

This letter is especially for you if you are hoping to have a natural unmedicated childbirth (NUCB) with as minimal interventions as possible.

I hope your pregnancy is going well. I hope you are able to enjoy it as it truly is a miracle to have a life growing inside of you... this little life that you are going to come to love in a way that you cannot yet even fathom.

But right now, your focus may be on the birth. It's a big day!

You want to feel empowered, you want to feel fearless. You want to trust birth. I get it. I've been there and I know many other mamas that have been there, too. I'm a birth doula. My sole purpose is to be there for the mother to help her have the experience she desires. I cherish the role I have as a doula and take it very seriously. It is an honor and a privilege to be with a woman as her doula!

For my own personal reasons, my preference has been non-medicated, minimal intervention (unless interventions became needed, which they did not). It is how I gave birth to both of our children and going forward, if we decide to have more, it is still my preference. I truly understand the desire for a NUCB.

You may be thinking that fear has no place in birth. What you have read, what you have watched, what you have heard is all sending you the message that trusting birth is all you need to do. Trust your body, trust your baby, trust birth. You might be thinking that.... a hospital will turn your birth into a medical event; a doctor is only concerned with the bottom line; a "medwife" (a CNM) has become too brainwashed by the medical world. They all have fear in their hearts and minds and don't believe in the natural process of birth… or at least, they don’t believe enough.

What you may not realize is that those seeds of fear have already been planted in you. You likely now fear interventions, hospitals, hospital personnel - if you are giving birth in a hospital (especially if it's not your first choice to do so), you may be thinking you are going to have to put up a "fight" to get the birth experience you are hoping for. Your mind and body are being conditioned to tense up when you head to the hospital. This is not going to help you emotionally cope with labor nor is it going to help your body if you are full of tension. You may be like me -- some one who had no reason to fear a hospital other than b/c of what I was led to believe by others, by books, by movies but NOT by personal experience.

Or you may fear your hospital b/c you had a bad experience with a prior birth. Talk to your doctor about it. Tell him or her that you need help processing it. Your doctor and the nurses that assisted in your birth are the ONLY ones who know the details of your situation. Perhaps in hindsight certain measures were "unnecessary" but at the time, they may have been the safest, most ethical way to proceed. For anyone else to make assumptions on whether or not your birth should have unfolded the way it did is JUST making assumptions... and filling your head with fear and doubt and anger and essentially, making you feel foolish for consenting to the measures taken. Don’t allow someone take advantage of you like that.

Perhaps your experience was traumatic, you may have been neglected, you may have had a horrible care giver, etc. If that is the case, I am truly sorry and I hope that you are able to speak to a professional to work through what happened. A fear of anything that can lead to anxiety attacks or irrational choices (such as avoiding hospitals or proper medical care at any cost) is not healthy and can be dangerous.

While I have seen and greatly appreciate the strides our maternity system is making, not all hospitals are perfect. Not every care giver is going have A+ bedside manners and not everyone will be in a wonderful, welcoming, plenty-of-sleep-and-able-to-brighten-your-day mood every single day at their job - we are all human. We all have off days. Not all hospitals have beautiful, updated maternity suites and can provide the ambiance and experience you would get in the intimate setting of your own home. But birth is not just about ambiance and experience. More than anything, it's about having a healthy and safe baby and mom. If it wasn't, there would never be any home birth transfers. The end goal ultimately (and rightfully) outweighs the process - any ethical birth worker would agree.

You may be thinking that your desire for a natural childbirth is setting you up to feel empowered. And it can be a very empowering experience! But I have heard many, many times that it ends up doing the opposite. Women end up feeling like they have failed completely if their birth experience doesn't end up the exact way they hope. It may be a smaller matter that ends up bugging you for days or weeks or maybe even longer... or your "worst case scenario" may have unfolded -- even with a healthy baby to hold and your body recovering well.

A less than ideal birth experience is not the worst case scenario. In this day and age in our country, the loss of a baby or mother in childbirth is so rare that it's easy to take for granted that childbirth is not without risks. Our perinatal mortality rate here in the USA is fantastic. But it is not perfect. No country in the world has a perfect perinatal and maternal mortality rate. Loss happens. It happens b/c childbirth is not without risks -- no matter where you give birth, no matter how healthy a mother and her baby may be, no matter how low risk a pregnancy might be before labor begins.

While the birth experience is important, it is not everything. We don't get pregnant to just give birth. We don't carry a baby for 40 weeks to just give birth. Labor and birth are a matter of hours (maybe days) but raising your child is what you will (hopefully) do every day for the rest your life.

While, to you, your birth experience may inspire you as a mother - it may help you personally feel more connected or fit to take on the ups and downs as a mother - but it does not mean that someone whose experience was the complete opposite will be any more or less fit to be a mother, any more or less connected, any more or less anything. Our babies - whether they are born vaginally, surgically, or by someone else's body - are our children. Our bond with them is beyond so much more than any single moment in time.

Please don't lose sight of what it's all about. Don't go into your birth thinking it will be a fight. Ask questions (please do!) but don’t attack anyone or assume they are against you. There are so many hospital personnel that love their job and want to do everything they can to give you the experience you desire. Go into your birth with a kind heart and open mind, with good energy, a welcoming attitude and the excitement that you will soon meet your baby! And please, don't let your plan become so rigid that it becomes an obsession – especially at the potential risk to yourself or your baby.

At the end of the day, you can love your birth experience as much as you want, but it will never love you back. Your child will.


Doula Dani