After being a doula (or midwife) and hyping yourself up with so much preparation and thoughts about how your own birth would go?
Apologies in advance for how insanely long this is... I'm still processing.
I doulaed part time several years ago, and then had to stop due to scheduling. I'm hoping to return to it as a full time career after my DD is about a year old. I've been very interested and immersed in pregnancy and birth for probably five years now. I've known for years what I wanted my birth to look like, and spent a lot of time thinking about and preparing for it.
I'm 3.5 weeks postpartum now, and I'm having trouble thinking positively about my birth, even though I know that I have tons to be happy about. It was a 14.5 hour labor, from water breaking and first contraction. We went to the hospital too early, because I was convinced I must be further along than I was-- cxns were every 3-4 minutes, and lasting 45 seconds to a minute long as soon as labor started... so even though they didn't feel super intense, we went in to the hospital, because my mother had all very very short labors, and we were worried we'd wait too long. When I got to the hospital I was only 4cm, and ended up laboring for another 11 hours. I'd wanted to show up pretty close to transition.
Things went really well for a while, we were able to use the shower, and contractions in there were intense, but totally manageable. DH and I were in a groove, and I felt in touch with my body and peaceful. I had the water running over my back and was able to fall into an almost sleep in between pains. Then our nurse came in, and made me go back down the hall to have another 10 minutes of monitoring. At this point I was still waiting for them to move me over to the low risk side (I was temporarily on high risk due to staffing) so I didn't want to give them any reason not to move me, and we got out of the shower and went back. While on the monitor, it's like I totally lost control and peace with my body. Contractions from that point on -hurt-, and I felt like I was trying to escape them, rather than embrace them. Within an hour of getting back to the room I started internally considering pain medication, even though I never voiced it.
Finally we got moved to a low risk room, where the nurses were sooo much better, and I was able to calm down a bit. I think it was during the walk from one room to the next that I started hitting transition. I was stopping what felt like every 30 seconds in the hallway for intense contractions, and about 10 seconds after they started, my body would involuntarily bear down-- but contrary to what people say about it feeling good when they get to start pushing, it hurt like nothing else. I started tensing up pretty bad during the contractions, and not fully relaxing in between.
Once we got to the room, I requested to be checked and was 8cm (thankfully- I so badly needed to hear I was making progress!) and decided to go back in the shower for a bit. Again, contractions were definitely more manageable in there, but still difficult. I wasn't listening to my body, talking to my baby, visualizing anything... any of the things that I had practiced and been so sure I would use. I was just... trying not to freak out during contractions. The nurses were great, and allowed me peace and privacy in there while they just sat in the room and waited. After about an hour I think, one of them came in because they needed to check baby's hb again. She was great about trying to do it without disturbing me or making me change position, or get out. I'm really thankful for how much she respected my groove. She had asked for my birth plan as soon as we met, and made sure to read it over and ask questions, and I feel like she really listened to it. Anyways, she was having a lot of trouble finding the hb, so she went and got the other nurse to try, same thing. But they were great, took almost ten minutes of trying, and getting both of them almost soaked, until finally DH offered to turn off the water for them for a few minutes. They let me stay in for another ten minutes or so after that, but said that it looked like I was getting pushy, and that combined with the hb was getting a little bit questionable, and they'd feel better if I got out. I felt like crying, but understood.
Again, after getting out, the crazy, bearing down by themselves cxns started. I felt out of control, and disappointed with myself already. I got checked again shortly after getting out of the shower, and was complete, so I got to start pushing. That's where I really get disappointed with myself... I know so much about waiting until your body pushes involuntarily, until you can't help it anymore... letting your body guide the way. But I felt like it had been sooo long, that as soon as they said 'complete' it all went out the window, and I conformed to exactly what I urge women all the time not to. I started pushing with every contraction, as long as it was strong enough. I pushed as hard as I could, and didn't stop to think about whether my body was trying to push, or just my mind. I laid in bed on my back for most of it, even though the nurses were ok with me getting up. They brought me a squat bar, but I gave up after a few contractions and proclaimed it too hard. I ended up lying back and they wrapped a sheet around it, so I was able to put my feet up, and then push on the sheet, which helped.
I can't say enough how great my nurses were. I had said I didn't want any coached pushing and wanted to be free to deliver in whatever position I wanted. They were totally supportive of that, and waited until I looked totally forlorn before offering a suggestive (like the squat bar) and said I was welcome to assume any position I wanted, as long as I delivered over the bed (ie if I wanted to squat/stand on the bed, I was welcome, just not squatting on the floor). They encouraged me, and told me I was doing so great, and was so strong. My husband was wonderfully supportive, and my doula whispered praises into my ears. Everyone was fantastic. They did exactly what I wanted them to... it just felt to me like my body wouldn't listen.
I ended up pushing for 2.5 hours. It was a lifetime. The first two hours solid felt like I wasn't making any progress, and after every contraction ended I felt like crying because it felt like it was never going to end. Again, I'm so sad ay myself for not embracing this time, and not listening and connecting to my body. I ran from labor instead of experienced it. I just wanted the whole thing over, and it makes me so sad now, because I can't ever get that experience back. By the time she finally crowned, they called the OB in, and she kind of took charge a bit, and I was so frustrated that I totally let her. She said "we're going to have this baby out in three contractions" and I was like "heck yeah!" Things went well again, and it was nice to be making progress that last half hour... and then she crowned, I delivered the head (I just typed we... which gives you an idea of how I feel about this part, because -we- didn't deliver anything, -I- did, but it doesn't feel like I owned it...) and then when I got to the shoulders, she was a bit stuck. Now first off, I'm sad that I didn't reach down and touch her head as she was crowning. I made no effort to ask to help deliver her, even though it was on my birth plan, it's like at that point I didn't care. But now I do. I could have done it myself. I could have helped guide her out, and I didn't. I miss that opportunity. And then with the stuck shoulders, it wasn't really anything terribly serious, really only a matter of seconds I'm sure... but instead of being told what was happening, and being given the option to move positions, etc, the doctor just waited for my next contraction, got me to push and then pulled on my perenium, resulting in a second degree tear. I knew better through, which is so frustrating. Baby was doing fine, and I should have been allowed that extra time to allow her to come out without force, or to change positions and free her a bit. I should have embraced those moments when my daughter was entering the world.
I'm so thankful because my doula capture several hundred photos of the labor and the birth. I know she's got crowning and birth shots, and while I wasn't sure I wanted them, I'm so glad I will have them now. I wanted to be more present during that than I was.
I have so much to be thankful for with the labor and birth- I had great staff on low risk who respected my wishes and simply held space for me. They treated me like a competent individual who was able to make her own decisions, and I was never questioned on any of those. I didn't have, or even get pressured for an IV or saline lock, nor at any point did one of them mention pain killers. They offered to set up a mirror for me, when I forgot to ask, and allowed me to labor and push in the position that felt comfortable to me. During pushing they waited until I felt the need, and in between they stayed quiet when I needed them to. After the delivery, the baby took a little bit to pink up, but they were great about not making a big deal about it, and left her on my chest for almost ten minutes before taking her to the table and giving her a bit of oxygen. They kept reassuring me just to touch her and talk to her, and that it was normal, instead of fear mongering. They didn't suction her. The doctor allowed me to deliver the placenta without a pitocin shot, or applying traction, but by simply waiting for my body. She also didn't fuss at all about being asked to wait to cut the cord-- and even as baby was slow to pink up, they still respected these wishes.
So I have so much that went right-- and yet because I had such high expectations because of my experience, and my research, and so much thought put into it... I still feel let down. I feel sad about it. I guess I'm just wondering if that's normal, and how you guys process this. I feel like any other person would feel so greatful for my experience, and yet I can't let myself appreciate it, and that sucks.
It helps just getting it out. I want to sit down and write my full birth story, but I haven't been able to. Even just writing down this bit, I feel more ready, so I suppose even if that's all it does, then it's worth it. Thank you guys for listening :)
Doula mama, medic daddy and Tenley Harper born naturally 11/29/11
I am not a birth professional exactly - but i do work with moms and babies and I know enough that i felt like i was in the position you were in .. at least i was going into my 3rd birth - having had 2 previous births without knowing all that i know now my 3rd was a home birth and i had great expectations that it would be different because i wasn't in the hospital, and i'll just say it was different, but really it was the same.. something about the way i birth babies, there are a lot of things i didn't have control over no matter how much i knew or where i gave birth or who was there helping me.. and even though a lot was better/good i found myself feeling the same kinds of feelings you described.. maybe if i was more in control things would have been different.. maybe if i held it together, or if i'd decided to have a birth tub available.. my youngest is now 15 months old and i can tell you that it does get better.. I feel better about everything now than i did in the first few weeks/months .. i find myself remembering more of the good and less of the 'bad' .. it will get better
Sending you hugs. I have to say my first natural birth traumatized me, not the way my first birth did, but holy crap not what I expected. I had read so much, and prepped so much, I had a vision and you know what it went straight out the window and I lost it. I planned a homebirth and ended up transfering because I was afraid of the pain, and really in the end it was a great birth. I got to the hospital complete and ready to push, but it wasn't the birth I wanted. It took me about a year to really process and feel good about the birth. There were lots of things I felt bad about, that I felt I failed about. Birth teaches us lots of things, and sometimes it teaches us how little we know or how unpredictable life can be and it stinks! It sounds like you did good, hang in there, give yourself some time to mourn what you feel was lost and recover (I found birthing from within a huge help in this situation!), talk to your baby now. You mentioned a few times regret in not talking to her, in not touching her, sometimes processing that with your baby, telling them what you wanted to happen instead of what did can be incredibly healing as well. Sorry if this sounds disjointed, wishing you all the best!
Sami , wife to , mama to Tate 10/14/05, Kaleb 12/17/07, Bram 3/13/10-11/17/12, Alden 2/1/12, October 2014
you know, even though we may come to the table with a lot more knowledge of what we'd want and how we think things should go, it's hard for a doula to be her own doula during a birth... everything you know in your logical, clear doula head kind of goes out the window when it's you going through it... and, in truth, that's the way it should be... you need to get out of that space in many ways to birth...
while my first two babies were born before i was a doula, my third was just born 3 weeks ago... and even though everything i had wished for, i got in that birth experience, i still felt really let down in some ways... for example, i wanted to birth my child in water and i did (my first two were land babies)... but i was disappointed that i didn't find the water more enjoyable or comfortable than birthing on a bed... i also had a very different pushing experience this time (constantly intense vs. having a break in between urges to push) and it really threw me that my "favourite" part of labour for my first two kids wasn't my favourite part for this baby...
even though it may seem like trivial things to fixate on, i think it's okay to feel let down post-birth... maybe i bought into the idea that i knew what to expect, having done it before, and i therefore should labour "better" this time... and maybe i forgot that each baby's journey earthside is, first and foremost, their journey and (as Barbara Harper would say) "the baby is the driver and the mother is the vehicle"...
either way, be gentle with yourself... and remember that we may not get the birth we want... we get the birth we need...