Thursday, November 1, 2007

well on my way

I'm sorry for the lack of posting lately. The truth is, I've been working on this post for the past few days. It's one that is important to me and I want to get it just right.

This weekend, I began my quest in becoming a doula. For those of you who don't know what a doula is and are thinking that this means I'm going to become someone who raises 3 legged mythical creatures with wings or makes concoctions to heal the sick, I will explain what a doula is.

A doula is a woman who provides labor support to an expectant mother and her partner. She supports the mother during labor by suggesting various coping techniques and by providing constant emotional support. She also provides the expectant parents with resources and information so they can make informed decisions about their birth. The goal is to have a positive birth experience. There have been 15 studies done about the benefits of having a doula and all of them have concluded that having a doula present at a birth is very beneficial and helps ensure a healthy mom and a healthy baby. You can read more about the benefits of a doula here.

I've been studying about birth since I was pregnant with W. It quickly became a passion and while I was pregnant with CB, it almost became an obsession. After my birth experience with W, I was determined to have a better experience with CB and I read every book and went to every website possible to get every word of knowledge to make it happen for me.

With the help of a doula, the overall outcome of W's birth was what I wanted: a natural, unmedicated birth. However, his labor and delivery were filled with a lot of stress, a lot of intervention, and a lot of fear and rightfully so, as my little acrobat had managed to tie a true knot in his cord and had then managed to wrap the cord around his neck 3 times and his ankle once. He ended up being fine after he was born, but I was not. I was extremely upset by what had happened and I felt like no one listened to me or even cared about what I had just gone through. When I would tell his birth story, everyone would immediately say, "Well, he's fine and that's all that matters." But, that isn't all that mattered. I mattered too. It was my birth. My experience. My emotions. My reality. It happened to me.

In the days following his birth, after being bullied and treated poorly by people who are supposed to love and care for you, I shut down. The week after he was born was literally the worst week of my life. I couldn't enjoy my child and I didn't trust anyone. I felt so alone and so scared because here I had this little 5 pound baby who could have died and I was the person who was responsible for him. But I couldn't even take care of myself. How was I supposed to take care of him? Throughout all of this, the only person who I felt could truly empathize and understood how I felt was the doula who had attended W's birth. She was my saving grace and the person who kept me from going off the deep end.

Thankfully, CB's birth was amazing and what I needed to help heal from W's birth. With her birth, I was able to realize how sacred and special giving birth really is. After CB was born, I felt like I was in a place where I could stop being sad about W's birth experience and angry about how it had been robbed from me. I also realized how strongly I felt about my belief that every woman is entitled to a good birth experience and that I wanted to be someone to help facilitate this. That is when I started looking into becoming a doula.

This weekend of training was the most challenging and emotional process I have gone through in a long time. As we were listening to so many birth stories and watching so many birth videos, I started to realize how much trouble I really have with the American way of birthing babies. It has become such a medical procedure and women are treated like a sick person and a product and not the beautiful, powerful and strong beings that they are. Giving birth shouldn't be scary or feared. Instead, it should be celebrated and embraced.

I'm not saying that everyone needs to have a birthing candle and give birth in the middle of the forest. But I do believe that women need to have a calm environment to labor in. I believe that women should be supported and cared for by the people they love. However, I have a problem with the "spectator sport" that giving birth has become. Even if the mother isn't in pain and is feeling good, all of the attention should be on the her and the job she is doing. Giving birth, in any way, is hard work work. It bothers me when the mother's needs and desires aren't put first.

I also think it has become the standard to have a bad birth experience. The majority of women you talk to when you get pregnant are eager to share their horror stories. It's almost like they think that if they had a bad or hard or scary experience then you will or should have one too. This makes me sad for so many reasons but the main one being most of these experiences could have been turned out a lot better had the mother been educated about all her options and had the doctors let nature take it's course.

We are taught to trust our doctors, but sometimes they can do more harm than good. In 95% of uncomplicated births, the body knows what to do and, if allowed, can do its job without intervention. However, with a 30% and rising c-section rate, this is clearly not reflected in the States. The innate, instinctual aspect of giving birth has been taken away and replaced by a time clock. Women are no longer in control of their births. Their power has been taken away and this is what has made giving birth become such a scary and feared experience. If women were given their power back and allowed to feel that strength that so many women have felt before us, I firmly believe the state of giving birth in America would be so much better than it is. Please take note that I am not bashing doctors and I am not trying to say that doctors are stupid and don't know anything. They serve their purpose and it's a very meaningful and important purpose, especially when there is a real complication. What I am bothered by is the impression that all women are emergencies waiting to happen and that every woman needs to be monitored and "under control" at all times because there is going to be something wrong.

As hard as this training was to do, it is also the best thing I have ever done. I feel like I was born to do this. I now feel like there is a reason that I had to go through the hell of W's birth and that I can turn the negative energy I had into something positive to help others.

I could go on and on about this because it's such a passion of mine, but I will shut up. As I have said all of this, know that I am not judging any one's birth choices. Different people want different things and there is nothing wrong with that. I'm not trying to be a cause or a politician. It is just my desire that everyone have resources to educate themselves and to be supported during this poignant time in their lives.

If anyone has any questions about this, please email me. Also, if you live in my area and are pregnant or know someone who is and wants a doula at their birth, please PLEASE get my info. I need to attend at least 3 births to get certified. You would be helping me out so much and I would love to be able to return the favor by helping you or them have a meaningful and joyous birth experience.


clanelder said...

FANTASTIC! I'm so happy for your choice and for the women who will benefit from all you have experienced.

I'm No Heroine said...

That is great! I would recommend reading "Misconceptions" by Naomi Wolf (unless you already have) which discusses the "hospitalization" and "medication" of birthing. Not to say that hospital birth is wrong, but a non-hospital, non-medicated birth is not as accepted in this nation as it is in others. Sorry I'm not pregnant, so I can't help you with the certification, but good luck.

Hilary said...

Wow, good for you JoAnna! I wish I could recommend some pregnant friends to you -- the only one I know right now lives in Santa Barbara. What a meaningful thing to do with your life...I'm impressed.

Vanessa said...

I feel the same way about birthing. I however have not been through it, but have attended many, as I had to do 90 hours of maternity nursing, last fall (I'm officially an RN now.) Anyhow, after seeing the medicated way its done in the hospitals now and how it is treated like an emergency waiting to happen, I realize that that is not what I believe in or want. It should be a natural part of life! I'm so thrilled you are becoming a doula. I think it is a great addition to birthing women, and I know that when I do get pregnant, I want a doula and a midwife.

Congrats, and good job!

Jean said...

Good for you JoAnna! If you want to come to Mass. in May, I'd love to have you as my doula! Sorry I don't know anyone out there.

Stefanie said...

That's so great that you are becoming a doula. I know what they are since I took a class in "pregnancy" from the college. I agree many mothers are treated so much like emergencies. Really the body knows what to do, unless there is a real problem. Heck women have been giving birth without medical help for centuries and most of them lived. One of the great things I learned from the doula I spoke with (she had helped with over 150 births) was that a doula really can help to translate the medical terms to the mother and father so that they can make better informed decisions. When I get pregnant if there are no complications I really want to give birth at a birthing center. I have heard that they treat you better. It would be helpful to have a doula there too.
I am so proud of you. I know you will be a great help to many women.

jenn castro freezing in illinois said...

hey lady...
well, i'm not pregnant, obviously. gotta get hitched first and that is proving a task as it is.

BUT i have been TERRIFIED of even the idea of getting pregnant and have steered clear of it all together in my mind for some time now. In fact, my basic option for having kids was to adopt b/c of my fear of the whole birthing thing and a kid coming out of me. just doesn't appeal to me.

but after reading this, you have shed a little hope ray of light on the whole thing for me. i admire GREATLY what you are doing and want YOU to be my doula whenever that time comes!!!! by then i'm sure you'll be a top expert and i probably won't be able to afford you. but i know YOU and how brilliant and compassionate you are.

i love you!

p.s. you have GOT to check out some of these links:

and a personal fav:

and a product after your nickname!

(fairy) Godmother said...

Good Luck JoJo!