It finally clicked for me. You see, I have been struggling with nonjudgmental care more than I feel comfortable admitting. I was brought up very natural minded and followed suit in my own birth experiences and parenting style. I see the value in a lot of these methods and techniques and so I enjoy teaching natural birth and I enjoy sharing about breastfeeding and attachment parenting. There is nothing wrong with that as long as I’m not pushing unsolicited advice or education on clients or people who don’t care for it AND as long as I’m not shaming or making those who birth and parent differently feel inferior. Only the problem is that I unknowingly was.
A few months ago I worked with a couple whose goal was to have a natural birth experience. After laboring for almost 36 hours and getting little to no sleep, this mom was understandably deliriously exhausted. Her eyes were dark and closing and she was unable to walk and barely able to talk. Her body was so tired that her contractions became less effective and eventually ceased to exist. I had to do a very hard thing and acknowledge that if this mom continued down this path, she would no longer be experiencing healthy pain — she would be suffering. We discussed her options and she decided she needed an epidural. Here is where my working life crumbled before me. After making that decision - a decision that I knew was very much unwanted but truly needed, this poor mama looked me dead in the eye with a trembling voice and said, “I feel like a failure. I’m so sorry.” and wouldn’t unlock her tear-filled stare. It hit me like a ton of bricks. There was no escape for me here. This amazingly strong woman felt like she failed and worst of all, she felt like she had to apologize due to her “failed” efforts. In that moment, I felt so disgusted with myself. So sad. So ashamed. So angry. She could have never failed no matter what decision she made but I had failed her. I had failed to make her feel like my support was unconditional and non-judgmental. I failed to explain that birth is almost never a perfect picture. It’s so unpredictable with so many variables and aspects. I failed to make sure she knew no matter what intervention took place or what route her birth experience went in, whether this baby was born vaginally or abdominally, she was included. Included in the “I am strong and I rocked my birth” club that all mothers, no matter how they birth, fit in! I am sure of one of two things:
1. Birth and Motherhood are hard.
2. Women are strong.
We need to stop the shaming and the mommy wars. We need to put differences aside. We need to be more considerate, understanding and inclusive. We need to love and support one another. We need to raise each other up rather than make one another feel ashamed or inadequate.
This baby was later born via cesarean after every trick up our sleeves was utilized, 6 hours of actively pushing, and baby’s heart decelerating frequently upon position changes. It was discovered she was posterior, asynclitic with a nuchal cord x3.
A good doula removes her own opinions and agendas and she offers her support whole-heartedly. I never want another woman — a woman who entrusts emotional and physical care during her labor to me - to mumble those words. I drove home in tears. Not because of the cesarean (although disheartening because of this mom’s wishes), but because of how she felt.
The vast majority of women can have spontaneous labor, low or no intervention vaginal births. However, there are times when we medically cannot. For those who experience the OR table - You are strong. You are brave. You are amazing.