Belly Up

* bellies * birth * babies * breastfeeding *

Monday, June 24, 2013

"Let Me Tell You My Story"

Hey doula!  Let me tell you my story!
When in the course of conversation it comes up that I am a doula I sometimes get the response of  "you do what?" or "what the heck is a doula", but more commonly I get told birth stories...lots of birth stories!  I have heard literally thousands of birth stories from friends, strangers and other women after they hear I support laboring moms.  Some of these moms have fabulous stories, some very scary ones.  Some are recent experiences and some were decades ago.  Women remember their births and most want to share the special tale of how their child arrived.  I listen to them all and hopefully nod and smile in all the appropriate ways. 

I really do love hearing the stories.  When I hear comments like, "my C-section was necessary" or "my labor was really, really, really hard so I had to get an epidural".  I hopefully also nod and smile in the appropriate ways and let these mom's know that I think their story is important.  I wasn't there and they are not asking me anything, really just looking for acknowledgement of their choices, their experience and perhaps my approval, which of course they don't need.

However, I recently had a acquaintance talk to me about her upcoming delivery which was going to be an elective repeat C-section. She told me this was the only option available to her. I try very hard to listen to everyone and support the choices they make and only offer suggestions if asked, but this time I found myself unable to just nod and smile.  I looked right at her and told her (very nicely!) that she knew she had other options.  There are many OBs in our area that would help her have a VBAC and we had even had that conversation previously.  It wasn't that she didn't HAVE options, it was that she had already CHOSEN her option.  And that's OK.  It is OK to choose an option that I would not....however it is not OK to say you have no options to justify your choice. 

Empowered birth and informed decision making is about knowing your options, and deciding what is best for your situation and then owning that choice.  It is even a valid choice to hand over all decisions to someone else - be it an OB or your in-laws or your hubby (all of which I have seen).  It just isn't OK to say you didn't have choices when in most case you do.  From the choice of care provider, to birth location to when and how to deliver, there are lots of options and almost none are irreversible until the baby is out.  (Obviously a mom giving birth to say triplets has many less options than other moms, but even then she has some choices and can feel empowered in making them.)

I often work with moms who are planning a birth that is going to be hard to pull off with their
Informed choices, amazing births
chosen providers.  Now I admit, changing providers late in the game is less fun than starting with a great one, but it isn't that hard either.  One of my most memorable examples of this is a couple who wanted a VBAC.  At 41 weeks her provider scheduled a C-section and said her time was up.  They had a choice.  One choice was to have repeat surgery, the other was not to.  In this case, mom made an appointment with a new OB and didn't show up for her surgery.  The same day her surgery was scheduled she met with that other OB and at 41 weeks and 2 days she had a beautiful all natural VBAC.  That happy ending does not mean though that if she had decided to trust the first OB that she had run out of options.  It would have meant that she had chosen to have her baby via C-section.

When it comes to birth, know your options so you can make informed decisions.  Or maybe even  make a choice to not explore your options (though that is obviously not what I recommend!).  Just know that choosing not to explore your options is in and of itself is a choice.  Empowerment in birth does not come from having a perfect labor, it comes from a couple making the choices that are best for themselves and their baby and being proud of how and why those choices were made.