My birth completely decimated me spiritually and emotionally. Prior to my birth, I was an endurance athlete, I had complete confidence in my body. I had been to many of those perfect births that I so envy now and I had confidence in my ability to birth my baby naturally, and if necessary, by using non-medical interventions. I had planned on going on to become a midwife and I had practiced as a birth doula, so I had my birth team ready to support me. My midwives, doula and husband were aware of my birth "plan" and I looked forward to enjoying the same birth support I had given to so many women myself.
I started laboring on a Friday night, I was way too uncomfortable to sleep and rocked in a rocking chair without sleeping. I knew I needed a nap and was able to sleep between contactions for a few hours on Saturday. All Sturday night I rocked and rocked, not sleeping at all. Same story on Sunday. By Monday morning at 4am, contractions were really picking up, I couldn't breathe at all and they were one on top of the other, I told my DH to call the doula. She told me I was too "cheery" to need support but would begrudgingly come over if I insisted. Around 6am I told him to tell her to get here now. When she arrived, she promptly fell asleep on our couch. Contractions spaced out to every 10 minutes.
I had an accupuncture augmentation and went home bellowing from the strength of the contractions. I labored until around 5pm, when my water broke with a loud smack. My doula insisted we head immediately to the hospital. I couldn't walk and was ready to have the baby. The nurse began firing off admission questions, even though she already had my records from the midwife. She got up in my face when I refused to sign consent for an epidural. She handed it to my husband to sign. My doula went to fill up the birthing tub as the nurse did a cervical check. 3cm! I just wanted to go home, but was too exhausted to move. My doula stashed me in the shower. I told her it was time for drugs and she said "You're being too quiet for drugs" and left to chat with my DH.
The nurse couldn't get FHT and screwed a probe into my baby's scalp. I didn't even fight or care, I realized, too late, that I was now chained to the bed. My doula took a break and about 10 minutes later I started screaming for her to massage my back, but she was gone. I was writhing from the electrical jolts running up my back and rattling my teeth while a truck ran over my uterus. She came back reeking of smoke and I told her I had requested an epidural and she nodded. That was the extent of her "support"
My midwives were away at a conference and the OB was fine, tried to accomodate my requests, but kept tempting me with a c-section. If I'd had any energy I would have insisted on one, I had labored for so long, I was convinced that if it took 3 days to get to 3 cm, I would be there another week before I could push. She threatened me one last time and somehow my girl was born at 4pm on Tuesday.
I still don't feel like I was a part of that birth. I feel betrayed by my body and my doula. I don't feel like I can become a midwife, as I can never say I truly understand what someone going through natural childbirth is experiencing. I suppose I have done some healing, as I can actually write this without having a complete breakdown, as I have for the past 3 years. I have felt like I was moving past it and then I hear about another one of those wonderful births and the comment about "I couldn't have done it without my doula" and I am back to sobbing for hours on end.
How do I get past this?
she sounds horrendous, the furthest thing from supportive i've heard of in a doula. she came over and FELL ASLEEP on your couch? it wasn't even the middle of the night, right? it was 6 in the morning? my doula came over at midnight and stayed with me rubbing my back while my DH SLEPT! she was my primary support person for the duration of my labor at home--which worked out nicely because then DH was well-rested for the hospital portion.
anyway, point being, i'm so sorry you had a crappy doula. and that doesn't mean A THING about you or your body, mama! not a thing!
i definitely think your experience would help you as a doula/midwife--because now you see exactly how NOT to be! i also think anyone with a traumatic birth is in a better position (eventually, once they work through the trauma) to feel empathy for others, which would be awesome in a doula or midwife.
i know you need time to heal, but i think going through this will make you a better midwife/labor support in the future.
(Mama to West (11/07) Mabel Kelly 10/02/09)
Hang in there!!!
The doula I used for my VBAC has never had a vaginal birth, yet she was exactly what I needed. You don't have to experience the "perfect birth" to help others have one. In fact I think your experience could make you a better doula/midwife than someone who has only experienced the best of birth.
I can't tell you all how vital to healing that letter was. I have no idea whether she read it or not, although I have some intuition that she did. I didn't expect her to contact me, but just knowing she understands that her inaction had profound and longlasting effect on me was all I needed to feel a bit better and hopefully she will never treat another woman the same way- she's actually practicing as a midwife now. yuck!
I just want to recommend to others feeling they were mistreated to write a letter, whether you send it or not is up to you. Please tell your nurse, OB, midwife, doula what they did well and where they were lacking! It could benefit another woman in labor and could help you to heal as well.
I am so thankful to this forum for healping me come out of a deep dark depression. I have been seeing a therapist, but reading everyone's story and your supportive comments is invaluable. Thank you!!!
Forgiveness is the hardest thing sometimes but writing that letter is one of the first steps in that process and to heal. I pray that you would lean on God to take you the rest of the way. Don't let what happened to you keep you from fulfilling your calling if being a midwife is what your calling is. Don't let that bad experience have any more negative influence by letting it hold you back. You will never regret doing what you were made to do and put on this earth to do, regardless of external circumstances. Your impact on another person's life is way more important. You have an opportunity to make a thousand good experiences. God will be there for you and help you if you trust in Him. Praying for you!
This isn't likely to be a popular position, but I think it is more important to move beyond blame when it comes to healing birth wounds. It wasn't your doulas fault that your birth went this way - you are the one and only person who is in charge of your birth experience. We can't control how things go, but when it comes down to it, you are responsible for all of your birth choices. That is not to say that she didn't do a bad job, because it sounds like she did. But that is not why you had a disempowering birth. You had a disempowering birth because you became disempowered in the process, and started allowing other people to make choices for you, and expected your doula to make your birth what you wanted. It sounds like you weren't totally prepared for the birth experience, but you of course did the best you could in the moment. I also think that if you are to have another baby, you have a lot of work to do ahead of time as far as taking ownership of the next birth. If you are in labor for days, it is your job to feed yourself, rest, and stay hydrated. Other people can try to make you, but you have to put the food in your mouth, lay down, heck, take a unisom if you really need to. If you know you can't rest and know that you need to, you have to do anything you can to make that happen. I would just encourage you to continue on the path of forgiving your doula, but also meditating on some of these ideas about who is ultimately in charge of your birth. A bad doula, a bad ob, a bad midwife, whatever it is, it shouldn't stand in the way of you making decisions that make you feel healthy and empowered in the end. I totally understand feeling betrayed by your body though. That is a whole separate issue that needs its own attention, and maybe you will piece together what didn't quite line up right, or maybe you never will. It doesn't mean it would happen next time though, and it doesn't mean you couldn't still become a midwife. As a midwife though, these ideas are crucial too - midwives don't "save" women and they aren't superheros. The more women understand this, the easier it will be to heal all of our collective wounds <3
To be blunt- Your doula cannot give birth for you. Only you can do that. I think in assigning blame to the doula, you might be selling yourself short and disempowering yourself.
I hope you hear those words as they are meant: in kindness but truth. And maybe owning your experience will help you heal and move forward. It sounds like you have some seriously amazing and noble dreams to chase- and guess what? Traumatic birth experience and all, you are STRONG and worthy enough to accomplish them.
26 years old. Central PA. Married to a resident physician. DD1 - Valentine's Day 2013. New LO coming November 2015.
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