A former doula & class client sent me a link to a blog piece by Cherylyn, a doula in Utah. Natalie knew I would be interested in this woman's journey of recovery from her first birth which was traumatic and left her feeling victimized and angry. Each of her next four births led her down a new path toward healing. On her journey she made many different choices for where, with whom and how to birth. Each birth was a necessary step in her process. In my classes and through my doula support I honor each woman's choice because I can't judge where she is on her path. It is my responsibility to give information and it is her responsibility to listen with an open heart for what resonates with her. Only she has the answers. Only she can access her intuition. It is my hope to support her in this process through my own intuitive listening so I can respond to her needs along the way. This is why I support women in all birth settings. This is why my classes are designed to teach couples no matter where, with whom or how they are planning to birth. My hope is to give them the tools to have a positive birth where ever they birth. Please read this article if you are preparing to birth or if you are in the process of physical and emotional recovery from a less than positive birth. Then sit quietly for a moment and take her message into your heart. Let it carry any feelings of guilt, doubt, or mistrust in yourself away.
Now let me tell you about Natalie. I met her and her husband, Tobin, at a Birth & Baby Resource Network event. When it came time in the circle for sharing their tears as they shared spoke volumes to me about the depth of their birth trauma. As the event broke up I approached them and encouraged Natalie to visit our SLO chapter of the International Cesarean Awareness Network, even though hers was not a cesarean birth. I knew that the circle of supportive women at their gatherings could help her heal her wounds. Unfortunately there is no local support group for women with negative birth stories except ICAN which is labeled a cesarean support network. Women with birth experiences like Natalie's aren't sure they would belong at an ICAN meeting. The women of ICAN would want me to stop here and say that these women absolutely are welcome and that supporting them is also part of their mission. Unfortunately the general public doesn't know that.
As Natalie's second pregnancy progressed we came to understand that not only had her birth left her with many emotional scars it had also left her with many physical ones. Like her emotional ones, these scars were hidden deep within her and they had the potential to threaten this new pregnancy. Bottom line; she was no longer the same inside and this pregnancy was therefore risky for Natalie and her baby. She was advised that the least dangerous route for her baby's birth was a cesarean. She listened to this advice. She listened to her intuition. She listened to her husband's fears. She listened to her desires. She listened to her body and she waited.
Natalie experienced an incredibly healthy pregnancy. She worked and mommied right through it. She blossomed and so did her baby; growing right on schedule, moving vigorously and letting her mom know she was doing fine. Natalie did a lot of talking, to Tobin, to me and to her doctor. She weighed all the different risks of having or not having a surgical birth; risks to her and risks to her baby. She knew what she wanted but was also willing to make needed changes or compromises. We brainstormed all kinds of possible scenarios for her birth. Then she wrote her birth plan. This plan was unique to her; not something you can download from the Internet with check off boxes. It encompassed many possible avenues for her birth to go. It was detailed. It was flexible. It was respectful and grateful to the people she knew she was going to need to rely on to see her safely through. Then she listened to her body and she waited.
When her water broke I believe all three of us held our breath and made a silent prayer that all would be well. Then Natalie and I released our breath and went to work creating as much normalcy to this labor as possible. But I don't believe Tobin let go of his breath until both mom and baby had come safely through. Natalie carried herself in labor as she does in life, with quiet unassuming strength and graciousness. You would never guess at the depth of her determination, or physical and emotional strength. Tobin told me she can be stubborn but he forgot to also tell me how courageous she is. Immediately after the vaginal birth of her beautiful baby girl she began to have an issue which required her doctor to step in and Tobin, the baby and I to step out. Natalie kept her composure throughout while Tobin died a thousand deaths holding his baby and waiting for news about his wife. For him life stood still and minutes felt like an eternity. All I could do was reassure him that she was in good hands. Dr. Yin and the French hospital staff knew how to take care of her; that's why she had chosen to birth here. In what was actually a very short time he received the news he was longing for; Natalie was fine and would be reunited with him soon. But I don't think Tobin breathed until he saw Natalie's pretty face again; all smiles and wanting to put her new baby girl to breast.
So why did I decide to tell you about Natalie? Because she knows a thing or two about healing, about listening to your intuition, about creating the birth that is just right for you and your baby. Your choices may be different than hers. You may listen to her story and think, "I would never put my baby at risk like that." That's fine. You are entitled to your feelings and if your heart had told you to make a different choice than Natalie's I would support you in that choice. But this was Natalie's choice and it brought her very far along her path as she journey's toward complete healing. So I understand why Cherylyn's story resonated with Natalie. I get it. Do you?
Thank you to Natalie and Tobin for inviting me to accompany them on their journey!
To Read Cherylyn's piece about her choices as she journeyed toward healing visit her blog: Mamas and Babies