Hold Onto Her: An Essay

Cat Ennis Sears is a writer, a doula and a mother in Richmond, VA. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and published in Printer's Devil ReviewNecessary Fiction, and other publications.  

There have been so many babies the last two weeks. They lay in their mother’s laps in the soft and gathering twilight. The mothers look tired and some are happy and some have a sadness to their eyes and I remember to be careful there, to follow up. There has been my inhale and reminder to only be as present as I can be. I have taken to repeating “hold onto yourself” every time before stepping out of the car. It helps.

 Sometimes I am too present. I leave pieces of myself behind, in their homes, in their labor rooms, in their operating rooms, in the space between their breast and their baby’s grasping lips. I try to remember to gather up each piece of myself before I leave the babies and the mothers, and allow time to put myself back together.

Births take a lot out of me. Preparing women for birth takes a lot out of me. There needs to be an inhalation, taking in what nourishes me. I used to not understand this. I used to think birth work nourished me. It does. But it also does not.

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There are the fearful eyes, the moaning, the thrashing and they ask is this normal, and it is. But that doesn’t make it any easier. There is the wet dark head crowning, the unbelievable miracle of it, the enormity of it. It is everything. There is nothing else. To be human is this moment. This moment contains everything, like a fat bubble reflecting the world, swelling slowly before bursting. I hold a leg and hope I can get that birth photo that everyone wants, the one with the wet baby on the breasts.

Birth has been kind lately. There was a time when I knelt in awe of birth, afraid to make eye contact with what I saw as an indifferent and powerful ancient god, this force that ripped through women I had come to care about. A birth plan ceremoniously presented to a nurse, as if she is control of birth. I felt that I could hear birth laughing at the expectation of control. There were neonatal resuscitations and emergency Cesareans, placental abnormalities, nucahl hands, hemorrhage, cervical scar tissue, third degree tearing requiring operative repair. 

Then there was a string of easier births, tired mothers with glowing eyes, out of breath, proud, relieved, happy, the glow of fresh pink on their cheeks, hungrily eating sandwiches, their babies nestled against their breast as I took my leave.

And still I am in awe of birth. A new mother’s belly, still slack with child, looks vulnerable in a cotton maternity nightgown as she holds her baby wrapped in a green swaddling blanket against her chest. She is in the midst of the shattering. And she says she is fine. But hold onto her. Hold onto her.

Who is Richmond Doulas: Bri Grocholski

A Birth Story

The Third Degree

This is the story of my natural birth in a hospital setting that turned into a medical birth.  My goal is to educate and encourage women to birth on their terms.  Please consider your provider and the location of your birth!

A note from Richmond Doulas...such a huge thank you to Cori for sharing both of her birth stories and the inspirations and wisdom she drew from both her births. It's our dream that women could enter any hospital, be treated by any care provider and receive compassionate care, but until birth culture changes in the U.S., choosing your care provider, as Cori puts it, is time well spent. Here is some more information about choosing a care provider.

Delivery Day

I woke up with contractions around 7 a.m.  They did not subside after an hour like they had the few days before.  I kept busy all day to distract myself but knew it would be the day to meet our baby! 

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I felt a gushing sensation around 2:30 p.m. - My water broke!  I called my OB and let Donna Westcott, my doula know. I wanted to labor at home as long as possible to make sure I received as few interventions at the hospital as possible. 

Finally at 4:45 we decided to drive to the hospital.  Contractions were much more intense and getting closer.  I continued to breathe through each contraction visualizing the pain going through my body and out my toes.

Contractions were painful but purposeful. And things seemed to be happening so much quicker than I thought they would.

At the Hospital:

My first nurse was a bitch… She wanted to hook me to the monitor immediately; she did not want to undo it so I could go pee. She did not care that I felt nauseous, and she said it was still hospital policy to check me to see if my water actually broke because so many people mistaken it for pee leaking!

Finally, the hospital OB came in but seemed annoyed.  He looked over the birth plan and scoffed at a few things: He said we would only delay cord clamping about a minute and reassured me there would be no episiotomy.  His biggest concern was the possibility that my baby was close to 9 pounds.

He left the room for a while and when he returned he was determined to check my cervix. He was impressed with how far along I had gotten. Again he made me feel unimportant and even though I was determined to birth naturally he seemed like he would rather do C-section to get it over with.  He did not offer pain medication, which I appreciated.  But he did insist on checking me more often than I felt necessary.  The last time he checked me, I peed on him. (he deserved it.)  They also would not let me out of the bed to walk around or unhook me from the monitor.

I remember transition…It was painful.  I also remember that being the only point at which I said: "I can't do this."  Donna, said you can and you are!  Donna’s soothing and calm encouragement was so nice to have throughout the birth!

Before I knew it was time to push… My biggest regret is not waiting for my body to tell me when to push. 

This is the point it became a medical birth and my nurse and doctor were screaming at me to push for ten seconds!  The nurse held my leg and I was lying on my back… They did not know when my body was contracting. I was pushing when they told me to.

I remember a sense of relief during stage two; like my body was doing all the work, there didn’t have to be any actual pushing.

Where it all went wrong:

I should not have been on my back and I should not have pushed for a count of ten, my body was not ready for that! I should have used the positions I practiced.  I should have spoken up and birth the way I had planned.  I should have breathed my baby out.

In a medical birth, the doctor does not listen to the woman… (*A woman’s body is amazing and knows what to do. Let your body do its job!)

Time really escapes you in labor. Pushing didn’t seem to last long.  I remember a burning sensation when the baby was crowning, Donna told me that was normal.  The doctor did not talk me through the birth.  I am so grateful for Donna being there and coaching me through. The OB was more into making sure I pushed hard enough.

After an additional push baby slid out onto the table. (A baby girl was here!)

The doctor was not seated, did not catch my baby, and did not have adequate towels underneath me.

I was numb from that point on.  I suffered a third-degree laceration and had postpartum hemorrhaging (maybe my body was being nice and didn’t want me to remember the pain and it was my body’s adrenaline reaction to go numb.)

But this is where I question if counter pressure on my vagina and perineum and assisting the head and shoulders through would have helped.  I really should have been more determined to ask for different positions during pushing.

The OB tried to partially repair me in the delivery room with no success.  I had a hard time staying still and he continually yelled at me to stop moving.  I only held my baby girl for a couple minutes on my chest before the doctor had packed me with gauze and took me out of the room on the way to the OR. 

The doctor did not explain what had happened. He did not use the word tear or hemorrhage. He just said I had no choice but to get a spinal block and come to the OR.

My husband was left in the room with Donna and a baby who was a few minutes old.  No information was shared with them except that I had to be taken out of the room and they could not be in the OR with me.

In the OR:

The anesthesiologist was pretentious.  He actually said “see this isn’t so bad” when putting in the spinal tap, “you could have done this in the first place.”

In the OR, there was still no explanation of what happened. Dr. G, the OB I had been seeing in the office for prenatal visits, arrived to help repair me.  She did not acknowledge me.  I was awake and aware during the repair and continued to ask them questions: How is it, is it bad, what does it look like, what are you doing?  They ignored me and did not speak to me directly. 

A nurse assistant held my hand and talked with me the whole time (she was so sweet).  Another nurse brought me a phone so I could tell my husband I was still alive and that everything would be okay.

After what felt like an eternity, I finally made it back to the room, with a catheter and no feeling in my legs.  The OB informed me he ‘lost’ a sponge (gauze) that he packed me with when I was hemorrhaging and to make sure it wasn’t still inside me he ordered an x-ray. 

After the x-ray, I finally got to hold my baby and try to nurse her!  She did not have a good latch.  It had been three hours since she was born and hunger had set in. 

Breastfeeding was uncomfortable and I could not feel my legs.  I also still did not really know what had happened… I was disappointed Dr. G. never came in to check on me after I made it back to the room. (So much for being her patient.)

I held my baby all night.  I continued to try and nurse her with little luck.  Instead of sending in a lactation consultant or a nurse who could help me get a latch, one nurse gave me a nipple shield.  (Hindsight is 20/20, the nipple shield may have saved my breastfeeding journey! But it led to many weeks of stress and anxiety that I could not feed my baby without it- Why couldn’t I be coached on getting a better latch instead of using an artificial nipple?) 

In the morning, two nurses came in to help me out of bed and into the bathroom where I passed out and they had to use smelling salts to wake me!  I returned to the bed weak, helpless, and groggy. 

Eventually, I moved to a postpartum room.  Those nurses barely came into check on us.  One did come in to give the baby a bath but did not welcome my help with my child…

Discharge Day:

A well respected and favorite OB discharged me.  She told me three things: 1 Here are your prescriptions for Oxycodone and ibuprofen, 2 you can sit in a bathtub or sitz bath a few times a day for swelling and pain relief, and 3 you need to make an appointment to see this specialist in a week.  (At this point I still have not been told what actually happened, she had the perfect opportunity to show some sympathy and do her job, yet nothing, she didn’t want to be bothered either, I was not her patient….she lost my respect.)

I was so scared to leave the hospital! I cried, a lot. I did finally take a shower but still felt numb, weak, and terrified.

The First Days Home:

I don’t remember much except that I was helpless.  (A feeling I do not do well with!) I did not take the oxy but did take ibuprofen for pain and swelling.  I was uncomfortable and spent a lot of time in bed trying to nurse.  I would cry every time she nursed.  I would look down at this perfect little human and knew that I loved her but could not express that love with words.  I continued feeding her and holding her. But all I really wanted to do was leave.  

The Specialist:

A week later I went to see Dr. S., an urogynecologist.  She was wonderful! Smart, direct, and caring.  Finally, someone explained what had happened, she even had an illustration.

She informed me I had an infection in the laceration and listed what we would try to do to fix it.  Surgery was a last resort. My instructions were to sit in a sitz bath at least three times a day, take a whole concoction of antibiotics and drink Miralax to make sure all my stools were super soft! (gross, I know)

I had follow-up appointments weekly.  The only time I left the house was to go to the doctor.  I continued to be devastated and uncomfortable. I blamed myself for the tear and the infection.  I continually thought about what I should have done differently. Not pushing the way I did, not laying on my back, also what did I do to get this infection? Did I deserve it somehow?

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The Last Resort:

Finally, at five weeks, post-partum, Dr. S. said we needed to go in and surgically remove the infection and repair the tear.  I lost it.  I was so nervous.  I was hoping to go my whole life without any major surgery…

I had two options for hospitals.  I will not go back to the hospital I delivered my daughter in for as much as a hangnail. So I chose a different location.  The surgery was scheduled for the next day. 

I was not prepared to leave a five week old at home without me.  I had no bottles or formula.  No milk pumped.  I barely had the hang of breastfeeding (I was still using the nipple shield).

I had total faith in Dr. S. to get me repaired and keep me safe.  But major surgery is still frightening. 

The surgery was successful and Dr. S. informed me it wasn’t as bad as she thought it was going to be, the infection also was localized and not systemic and she repaired the other trauma to my vagina.

My recovery nurses at this hospital were so sweet and compassionate.  They helped me set up the breast pump and kept all my milk frozen for me.   

I continued to see Dr. S every other week until I got the all clear to resume all normal activity two and a half months postpartum!

The New Normal:

It took me months to feel completely comfortable in my skin (squatting scared me, I felt like I would just rip into a million pieces). At about eight weeks postpartum, I had breastfeeding down!  I nursed my baby lying down, standing up, one handed, with a pillow, without one! 

I continued to have feelings of anger and grief.  I still blamed myself but was mad at the hospital OB.  I didn’t know who to blame.  

I changed to a more positive outlook shortly after.  I realized it could have been worse (I could have died; it could have been a 4th degree tear going through my rectum completely)

The whole experience made me stronger and I couldn’t love my daughter any more than I do! 

Baby #2

I had a lot of anxiety after finding out we were pregnant with baby #2.  I feared that I would tear again, get an infection, and not be able to take care of a two and a half year old and a newborn. 

I told Donna we were expecting as soon as we found out because I knew I wanted her to be there.  She was an amazing resource and coach the first time around!  One of the first things we discussed was what provider I should use.  It didn’t take much convincing to know I should switch to a practice with Midwives. 

I broke down in tears at each Midwife appointment. I was so nervous to birth again.  They comforted me and really encouraged me to be positive. (I read positive birth affirmations daily and those positive thoughts made me believe and trust my body going into my second birth)

The pregnancy was uneventful and healthy and I enjoyed spending quality time with my oldest while she was the only one.

I thought labor was fast the first time…

On the way to the hospital my water broke in the car.   Upon entering the hospital we were met by Donna and my midwife.  Both were so happy to see us.  They were both encouraging and calm and no one was annoyed to be caring for us.  It was a positive experience from the moment we got there!

I birthed my son about twenty minutes after getting to our room.  I was coached and talked through the whole birth.  The nurses were welcoming to both Donna and the midwife.  Everyone respected each other’s position in the room. 

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I labored in positions that were comfortable to me and I was not yelled at to push harder.

My son’s entrance into the world was calm. 

My vagina was in one piece. 

I felt empowered because my body did what it was supposed to do. His birth was a completely different experience because of my caregivers and I am grateful for that.    

My advice to any soon to be mom, veteran or not, is to choose your provider wisely, research birth positions and use them, but also be ready for anything!

XOXO,

Cori

 

An Exercise: Being Strong in Labor

This exercise was created by Virginia Bobro, formerly of Birthing From Within and Pam England. Check out Pam England's new book: Ancient Map for Modern Birth, or a local Birthing From Within class for more juicy exercises. This exercise was adapted by Cat Ennis Sears, BFW mentor, for the RD Blog.

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When you're pregnant, a lot of things can alert your worry muscle. Maybe you've heard birth stories from others, things you'd like to avoid, and you are thinking of how you would want things to go differently. Maybe you're worried about your support options, logistics, or needing medical support that you were hoping to avoid. 

Sometimes, we get into a state of avoidance. We put our fingers in our ears (positive birth stories only, please!) with the hope that blocking out the thought of unwished for events will prevent these things from occurring. While it's true that fear is not helpful in labor and birth, and adrenaline can decrease natural birth hormones that make labor safer and more efficient, the act of total avoidance (trying to avoid fear at all costs) paradoxically arises from a place of fear. And completely avoiding the thought of unwished for events does not decrease the likelihood of those events occurring, but does increase the likelihood that you will be unprepared for those events, should they occur.

A positive visualization of how you would like your birth experience to go, without qualifiers and without "if's" and "but's" is the first step toward trusting birth. It's important to know what your ideal birth would look like, what you are hoping for, what your dreams and goals are. Visualization is a powerful tool that evidence suggests actually changes our brains, and can in fact change outcomes.

So go ahead and visualize your ideal birth, without qualifiers, without "if's" and "but's."

Next, I invite you to go one step further in your preparation for birth, and visualize not only your perfect birth, but visualize something unexpected happening. And (this is the important step) don't stop there: visualize how you and your support people will cope with that unexpected event. Visualize yourself being strong and present, giving birth in awareness, being there for the moment, no matter what happens. What, specifically, would help you cope with something you were hoping to avoid? Is it a prayer, is it holding your partner's hand, is it closing your eyes, playing a specific song, or just focusing on your breathing? Close your eyes and see yourself doing that thing.

Birth is unpredictable. Our bodies are fallible. And if something unwished for does occur, it does not mean you did something wrong, or weren't prepared enough, or should have done this or that differently. You can truly trust birth and postpartum when you know that you have coping resources you can pull on, should an unwished for event occur. This is a deeper kind of trust.

Being Strong in Labor

With your partner or support person...

Each of you fold your paper in half twice (once horizontally, once vertically) so the fold-lines make four quadrants. 

In the first quarter: Draw the first image that comes to mind when you think of being strong in labor.

The second drawing: Draw being strong in a long, prolonged labor.

The third drawing: Being strong in a cesarean birth.

The fourth: Being strong in... [choose a situation that is personally powerful to you, something that you are working to avoid]. 

Share your images with your partner.

Did anything surprise you? Was there anything you hesitated to draw? Did not want to draw? The takeaway is that we are often much stronger than we realize. And, in my mind, all of this is already within us. In some ways, this is an exercise in intention.

 

Poem: An Invitation to Birthing From Within Mothers

There are so many ways we try to "get it right" as parents. Let's just start with love.

Invitation to Birthing From Within Mothers
This work was compiled and edited by Juji Woodring with contributions from Alejandrina in AZ, Lia from South Africa, Alisa from Texas, Charlene, and Tamara D., with thanks to Oriah Mountain Dreamer for inspiration

image by RVA local doula and birth photographer,  Joyful Birth Services

It doesn't interest me how many
prenatal books you've read,
I want to know if you hear your
child whisper to you
when you lie awake at night.

It doesn't interest me who you are
or where you came from,
I want to know if your authentic
mother warrior will awaken
when you birth your baby with all
that you have.

It doesn't interest me if you have a
birth plan or where you plan to
give birth.
I want to know that you will meet
your birth with an open mind and
open heart.
I want to know if you can fully
embrace the path you must
journey to birth yourself as a
mother.

It doesn’t interest me if you birth
in silence or as a lioness roars.
I want to know if you are willing to
do whatever it takes to birth your
baby, regardless of how you look,
how you sound, or what others
may think. I want to know if you
are willing to journey to your
depths and through the unknown.

It doesn't interest me how many
stitches you get,
I want to know how you are
moving in your body.
I want to know if you can take
each movement of your achy
dripping body and know that it has
done a marvelous, miraculous
thing.

It doesn't matter to me how you
feed your baby.
I want to know if you are willing
to nurture your baby
from the depths of your soul and
with unconditional love.

I want to know if in the dark of
night,
you can raise your tired bones and
weary spirit and do what needs to
be done to care for your children

I want to know if you are willing to
give up your judges and ideals of a
perfect parent and surrender to
your heart and belly
to love your baby until you ache.
 

Nathaniel: A Birth Story

Nathaniel: A Birth Story

Yesterday, Shea heard his brother's heartbeat. He said, "my brother," and put his hands on my stomach. He smiled shyly and wanted to hear the heartbeat "again." I'm so excited for them to meet each other.

Nathaniel Ashe Sears, 7 pounds, 14 ounces, born December 19, 2014 at 4:14 p.m.

He holds his tiny hands up to the glass and says, “There, Mommy, I want to eat there!” Inside is a pool hall, completely inappropriate for a toddler. “No, Shea, just one more door down.” I drag him into Ipanema. I don’t know it yet, but active labor will start in less than 12 hours. I wanted to take Shea out for dinner, just me and him, knowing that the time of his being an only child is getting shorter. I am having near constant Braxton-Hicks contractions that don’t stop when I sit down, stand up, walk, lay down, take a bath, drink water, or anything. They are just constant, lasting for 2-3 minutes with a 30 second break in between and it’s been that way for 2 days. It’s exhausting but I try to ignore my too tight abdomen as I pick Shea up and carry him through the door of Ipanema. I am expecting to go past my due date on this one too, and I don’t take any contractions seriously. Only if they are deep low, and getting longer, stronger, closer together. I decide, only then will I pay attention. Thinking back, I realize how almost heroic it is that I went out for dinner alone with a two-year-old while I was in actual early labor.

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Upcoming Birth Related Events: March through June

By: Gloria Miles

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Want to know a little more about the upcoming events, classes, or workshops coming in the next several months regarding birth? Below are a list of classes, groups, workshops, and get togethers for moms, doulas, CBEs, and anyone interested in birth, postpartum, and breastfeeding. If you know of any upcoming events that are not listed, let us know and post a comment with name, date, and location!

Every event name has a hyperlink that leads to the webpage or Facebook event page with all related information, including location and sign up information. 

***These events may or may not have costs associated with them.  Some may require preregistration.  

March Events

Side by Side: Working with LBGTQ Pregnant Folks and Parents
MyBirth and Friends of Side by Side
March 7, 6 p.m - 9 p.m.

Embracing the Adventure of Breastfeeding
Embrace Birth Center
Mar 10, 10 a.m.

Low Intervention Birth Class
MyBirth
March 10, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Baby Chat-North Side
Stir Crazy Cafe
March 14, 10-11:30 a.m.

Prenatal Car Seat Check with McRae Brittingham, CPD
Babies R Us, Short Pump
March 17, 6PM
Recurs every 3rd Saturday

Be Preparedish-Meet with a Certified Postpartum Doula, Tips, Tricks & Resources
Babies R Us, Short Pump
March 19 7pm
Recurs every 3rd Monday

Baby Chat-Bon Air
Perk Cafe
March 20, 10-11:30 a.m.

Birth Circle
Embrace Birth Center
March 23 9:30 a.m.

Student Doula Mentoring Program
Urban Baby Beginnings
March 24, 11-12 p.m.

NRP with Karen Strange
NOVA Natural Birth Center
March 24 8:45-4:45 p.m. 

Breastfeeding Support Group with McRae Brittingham, CPD
Babies R Us, Short Pump
March 27, 6:30-7:30
Recurs every 4th Tuesday

Baby Chat-Church Hill
Captain Buzzy's Beanery
March 27, 10-11:30 a.m.
Recurs every 4th Tuesday

April Events

La Leche League of Richmond
MyBirth
April 3, 6:30 - 8 p.m.

Breastfeeding Basics
Bon Secours
April 7, 1-4 p.m.

Embracing the Adventure of Breastfeeding
Embrace Birth Center
April 7 10 a.m.

Interprofessional Collaboration Workshop
Virginia Baptist Hospital
April 14 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Be Preparedish-Meet with a Certified Postpartum Doula, Tips, Tricks & Resources
Babies R Us, Short Pump
April 16 7pm
Recurs every 3rd Monday

Baby Chat-Bon Air
Perk Cafe
April 17, 10-11:30 a.m.

Birthing from Within Childbirth Classes
At Three Sisters Midwifery
Starting April 18 (4 week series) 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. 

Birth Assistant Training
NOVA Natural Birth Center
April 20-22 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Prenatal Car Seat Check with McRae Brittingham, CPD
Babies R Us, Short Pump
April 20, 6PM
Recurs every 3rd Saturday

Cesarean Birth Class
Bon Secours
April 21, 2:30 - 4:30 p.m.

Birth and Baby Fair
Science Museum of Virginia
April 21 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Peace Filled Mama Play Shop
MyBirth
April 21 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. 

Hypnobirthing
Joyful Birth Services
April 23, 10-12:30 p.m. (series)

Breastfeeding Support Group with McRae Brittingham, CPD
Babies R Us, Short Pump
April 24, 6:30-7:30
Recurs every 4th Tuesday

Baby Chat-Church Hill
Captain Buzzy's Beanery
April 24, 10-11:30 a.m.
Recurs every 4th Tuesday

Birth Circle
Embrace Birth Center
April 27 9:30 a.m.

May Events

La Leche League Meeting
MyBirth
May 1, 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.

Birth After Cesarean Class
MyBirth
May 2, 6:00 - 9:00 p.m. 

Baby Chat-Bon Air
Perk Cafe
May 15, 10-11:30 a.m.

Prenatal Car Seat Check with McRae Brittingham, CPD
Babies R Us, Short Pump
May 18, 6PM
Recurs every 3rd Saturday

Embracing the Adventure of Breastfeeding
Embrace Birth Center
May 19 10:00 a.m.

Be Preparedish-Meet with a Certified Postpartum Doula, Tips, Tricks & Resources
Babies R Us, Short Pump
May 21 7pm
Recurs every 3rd Monday

Breastfeeding Support Group with McRae Brittingham, CPD
Babies R Us, Short Pump
May 22 6:30-7:30
Recurs every 4th Tuesday

Birth Circle
Embrace Birth Center
May 25 9:30 a.m.

Baby Chat-Church Hill
Captain Buzzy's Beanery
May 29, 10-11:30 a.m.
Recurs every 4th Tuesday

June Events

La Leche League Class
MyBirth
June 5, 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.

Hypnobirthing Classes
Joyful Birth Services
June 11, 7-9:30 p.m. (series)

Prenatal Car Seat Check with McRae Brittingham, CPD
Babies R Us, Short Pump
June 15, 6PM
Recurs every 3rd Saturday

Embracing the Adventure of Breastfeeding
Embrace Birth Circle
June 16 10 a.m.

Be Preparedish-Meet with a Certified Postpartum Doula, Tips, Tricks & Resources
Babies R Us, Short Pump
June 18 7pm
Recurs every 3rd Monday

Baby Chat-Bon Air
Perk Cafe
June 19, 10-11:30 a.m.

Breastfeeding Support Group with McRae Brittingham, CPD
Babies R Us, Short Pump
June 26, 6:30-7:30
Recurs every 4th Tuesday

Baby Chat-Church Hill
Captain Buzzy's Beanery
June 26, 10-11:30 a.m.
Recurs every 4th Tuesday

Birth Circle
Embrace Birth Center
June 29 9:30 a.m.

Christian: A Birth Story

By: Gloria Miles

Every mother, every child, has a birth story. This is mine; this is the story of my firstborn, the story of transformation into motherhood. Birth, motherhood, all of it, transforms people into clearer versions of themselves. I learned things about myself through the pregnancy, labor, and the days that followed. I was stronger and more vulnerable, impatient and more stubborn than I thought I was. 

Labor began hours after I thought it had. I was sitting playing a card game with my husband and his friend as gentle contractions moved through my abdomen. I could feel them coming and going, but I didn't focus on them. 

Later that night, I couldn't sleep. At this point I'm not sure if it was discomfort or excitement or both. I advise women to go to sleep when contractions begin, but I know that most first-time mothers will ignore the advice. I was also the excited first time mother who could not possibly sleep with the thought of holding my brand new baby on the horizon. Of course, actual labor was hours away, and the actual birth wouldn't occur until later the next day. 

At the hospital, I was contracting away, but the first vaginal exam gave me bad news. I was only four centimeters, almost fully effaced. The obstetrician told me I had a choice: pitocin or I could go home. 

I chose pitocin. How could I go home? 

I had heard terrible things of pitocin, especially how severe contractions could get with it. With bated breath, I signed consent forms and a bag of pitocin was hung next to the IV fluids. I smiled broadly at the addition and looked at my husband. "Are you ready?" 

He laughed and told me, "I hope so." 

Six hours later, I was fully effaced and only at a five. The pitocin had strengthened the contractions, but they were very tolerable. The nurse stated it was time to break my water. I didn't want to, but I felt that since I had agreed to pitocin, that what followed needed to be agreed to as well. 

Two contractions after my waters were ruptured, the pain intensified in the center of my pelvis. My eyes grew huge and I looked over at my husband for help. The pain is still something I can't really explain. I squirmed on the bed, not knowing I could have stood up or walked around, even attached to the bags of fluid. After an hour, I was in tears and begging my husband to find the anesthesiologist. 

Mercifully, the anesthesiologist walked into the room ten minutes later.  The epidural was placed and my husband almost passed out after seeing the needle. He was carefully led to a couch where he sat for a few minutes to recover. I didn't care at all. The medicine ran through my back, my abdomen, my thighs. It felt warm and wonderful. I started drifting off and fell asleep. 

I was woken up a few hours later by a nurse. Another vaginal check. I was at a nine! Party time! I didn't realize that it would be a few more hours before I'd be ready to push. It took almost another hour to reach ten centimeters and then even more time for baby to "labor down." 

When the nurse stated I could begin pushing, I was energized. It was time to meet my baby! The first forty-five minutes or so, I pushed with intensity and for as long as I could hold my breath. The next forty-five minutes was much harder. I had napped for a few hours earlier, but aside from that, I had been awake for a day an a half. I hadn't eaten as per hospital protocol. I was very tired. 

"I can see the head!" my husband proclaimed.

I looked up at him, hopeful. 

"Yeah! When you push, you can see," he paused and held up his hands and made a small gap that could probably fit a quarter, "about that much. And then it goes away." 

I wished that I hadn't had the epidural. Then, I could have kicked him. 

This kid is never coming out, I thought. 

I pushed and pushed and pushed. It was only for an hour and a half, but I worked hard that entire time. 

"Do you want to feel the baby's head?" the nurse asked. 

I paused, reluctant to feel such a small area and discourage myself.  When I reached down and felt around, though, I felt so much of the baby's head.  The term is crowning and the nurse was buying time for the OB to arrive. I looked at her and grinned. He was almost here! I actually was moving my baby.  The worst part of having had such a heavy dose of epidural medicine was that there was no feed back of my progress. I could not feel anything aside from a general pressure that felt like it had always been there. 

The doctor walked in at that moment and smiled at me. "Looks like we're having a baby!" she exclaimed as she put on her gloves. "Give me just a second and to sit...and alright, go ahead and push with the next contraction." 

At this point I could tell when to push due to the tightness of my abdomen.  A few more pushes and she asked that I stop pushing.  

My husband told me that it was the weirdest sight, the doctor grabbing his son's head and (from his perspective) pulling until the body was somehow dislodged. 

I felt the strange relief of a body sliding out and heard a loud cry. I didn't even look, I collapsed back and closed my eyes. The cord was clamped and he was placed onto my chest. The abrupt placement of my baby and rough toweling roused me and I looked down. Dark gray eyes looked around and he cried again. I wanted to bat the women away. 

Leave us alone.

The pediatrician entered and looked at my baby while the obstetrician delivered my placenta. What a strange and hectic time! He immediately declared my son too pale and wanted him under the warmer. After some negotiation I bought about ten minutes to try skin-to-skin before resorting to the warmer.  He left.  By the time he came back, my son had pinked up and was beginning to root.  This satisfied the doctor and I was left alone. Well, as alone as someone in a hospital can be postpartum. 

My husband and I gazed at our first-born.  We thought he was perfect, cone-head and all. I couldn't believe that I could create such a beautiful creature. I didn't realize how perfect little newborn toes and fingers were, how delicious they smelled, and how arduous a process it could be.  It couldn't always be that involved, could it?  I let that linger in the back of my mind until I became pregnant with my second. 

The birth of my first was such a learning experience for me. I love it also, because it is the day that I met one of the first people that have changed my life in such a profound way. I didn't realize that while a mother is a teacher, a child teaches more; I'm still learning. 

 

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Guest Post: The Six Words that Changed Everything: AKA Why I Became a Doula

Guest Post: The Six Words that Changed Everything: AKA Why I Became a Doula

When I found out I was pregnant, it was not by surprise. That’s what conceiving via intrauterine insemination (IUI) will get you—thinking about nothing but getting pregnant every minute of the day from the moment you decided you were ‘ready’ to have a baby 2 years ago (those of who have been through infertility can understand this new kind of crazy).

What was a little bit of a surprise; however, was that once I was given the clear from our fertility doctor to move on to normal prenatal care, the choice of provider was up to me. Wait, you mean there are choices? My go-to plan was to find an Obstetrician (OB) who my friends and family recommended. But then I learned of a friend’s experience with a Midwife group, and that’s when everything changed.

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Guest Post: Why Moms Make the Worst Clients, and Why I’ll Never Stop Training Them.

Guest Post: Why Moms Make the Worst Clients, and Why I’ll Never Stop Training Them.

I’ve been a Personal Trainer at a gym for over 8 years. After having my first child 4 years ago, I saw how different my body was and took a course in Pre and Post-Natal Fitness with the goal to help other moms through those changes. Little did I know Moms would become some of my favorite yet worst clients. See, Personal Trainers only get paid after they train a session with a client, and I soon saw my paycheck take a hit. Here’s why…

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Birth Story: Lauren Patterson

Birth Story: Lauren Patterson

My Sweet Poppy,

Here I am with only one week left until your first birthday, and I’m finally sitting down to write your birth story. It’s not that this is something I haven’t thought about. Trust me, I’ve thought about it literally every single day. I always knew that the story of how you came into this world was something that I wanted to spend time capturing, so we would never ever forget a single detail. I think how I feel about your birth and how I feel about being your mom is so overwhelming that it’s been hard to actually sit down and do it. Your birth is the single most monumental event in my life and always will be. Here it goes...

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Who is Richmond Doulas: Cat Ennis Sears

Who is Richmond Doulas: Cat Ennis Sears

Doula Spotlight
Cat Ennis Sears     
"There are no standard paths. Points of comparison do not exist. Each of us is so totally unique that our processes are bound to be like no other. Linear progress can be planned when you have a goal, when you have a map, but not when you explore the unimaginable unknown. The dreamworld of creation can make your reasonable mind dizzy with its changing grounds.  Nothing can control your intuition; this is its beauty and power. Life flows throughout it, ungraspable, unmeasurable." --Michele Cassou

Business Name: Birthing From Within Richmond
Facebook, DoulaMatch
Services: Childbirth education, certified birth doula, certified postpartum doula, acupressure
Years in practice: 4
Number of families served: ~31 births, ~13 postpartum families, ~40 childbirth education students (that overlaps)
What is your fee? $700 (birth), $25/hour (postpartum), classes $150-200

Cat is the eleventh doula featured for Who is Richmond Doulas. If you want more info on what the series is about, click here

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How do you recover from a long birth?

How do you recover from a long birth?

It may be your first birth. It may be your tenth. But sooner or later, you will have that marathon birth. The thirty hour birth they tell legends about, the birth that you will be processing for weeks, the birth that balances out the shorter ones. This is the beauty and the difficulty of doula support: there are no shift changes. Your continued presence is so valuable to provide continuity to a family who is working long and hard to meet their baby through a rotating cast of care providers, nurses, position changes, comfort measures, and more. The family will be blessed to have you, and you will know you made a difference. But that doesn't make it any easier to recover, especially after the birth feelings wear off, and you're at home, tired, with a crazy messy house, maybe crazy children, and there's not enough coffee in the world!

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How do you recover from a postpartum doula overnight?

How do you recover from a postpartum doula overnight?

Guest post by McRae Brittingham of Aunt McRae's New Family Support. McRae is a postpartum doula, breastfeeding peer counselor and child passenger safety technician. Read more about McRae here
With input from Amy Washington, postpartum doula of Mom4Hire, & Erica Angert, postpartum doula of Erica the Doula, LLC.

This is a two part series. This week, we'll be talking about recovering from a long night as a postpartum doula. Next week, we'll tackle recovering from a long birth. If you want to learn about a day in the life of a postpartum doula, click here. 

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Holding Space

Holding Space

I feel like the hardest part of doulaing (if I can turn that into a verb) is doing nothing.  Many of us, myself included, feel that urge to do something when labor is going. Sometimes, though, the best thing to do during labor is to hold that space. 

What is holding space?

Holding space doesn't mean inaction.  Sometimes it can be coupled with massage or hand holding or talking.  However, many times it is almost literal in the sense that one can hold space simply by being near someone. 

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Birth Story: Brandy Buckel

Birth Story: Brandy Buckel

Brandy Buckel shares her inspirational birth story in this week's blog post. We thought it was beautiful to read! Thank you, Brandy, for allowing us to share your story with the world!

If you'd like to share your birth story on the RD blog, please email it to us at rdoulas@gmail.com, along with a few photos. We are looking for all kinds of birth stories to help normalize any kind of birthing experience in RVA!

Being a plus sized girl, when I was pregnant I was already overweight. I was 4'11 at 185lbs and wore a size 16. I didn't care about my weight when thinking about how I wanted to labor; it wasn't even an issue but I found out quick while at my first visit to the birthing center that weight DOES matter. I was told if my BMI hit 50 I wouldn't be able to labor at the center. I KNEW i wouldn't hit that but it still kind of hurt to hear.

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Parenting and Birth Doula Work

Parenting and Birth Doula Work
You mean, you just go to a birth when you’re called? What do you do with your kids? What about work?

For a lot of people, it’s not sustainable to just up and leave your job responsibilities and/or leave your kids with someone to go to a birth. Childcare and job responsibilities are the number one reason why there is such high turnover in doula work. Maybe as this profession grows, we’ll figure out other models that allow more people to enter and stay in this field—perhaps a pregnant person would hire a team of doulas who take turns being on call. But for now, most doulas work on the model of being on call 24/7 for their clients. On one hand, this consistency and certainty that the person you've built a relationship with will attend your birth is one of the reasons why, I think, doula presence can be so effective. But on the other hand, while being invited into a birth space is a sacred invitation, the logistics are not always easy to arrange. This blog post will explore how to make the logisitics of being on call 24/7 a little easier.

This is a two part blog post. Part One  will explore the resiliency of your children, and how to prepare and reunite with your kids. Part Two will explore different options for resources on where to drop your kids--other doulas, your friends/family/neighbors, your partner, paid childcare. Stay tuned and join the conversation!

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Who is Richmond Doulas: Sarah Hendricks

Who is Richmond Doulas: Sarah Hendricks

Doula Spotlight
Sarah Hendricks
 

Business Name: DouLife
Facebook, DoulaMatch
Services: ToLabor Birth Doula
Years in practice: 1
Number of births attended: 4 (with lots coming up!)
What is your fee? $550

Sarah is a kind and knowledgeable woman who brings so much to the birth community. She is dedicated and so passionate about this work. If you're pregnant, take some time to sit down with her and chat and find out if she has any availability for birth!

She is the tenth doula featured for Who is Richmond Doulas. If you want more info on what the series is about, click here.  

 

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What to Consider When Hiring a Doula

What to Consider When Hiring a Doula

So you're pregnant and considering hiring a doula. Maybe you knew all about doulas for months before you were expecting or maybe this is all new to you! You know that you're inviting this person into your birth space and those first few vulnerable and sweet weeks postpartum...what should you consider when hiring them?

What is more important: how many births they've attended, what kind of training and certifications they have? Or their personality and whether you vibe with them? Of course their fee has a lot to do with your decision. If you qualify for Medicaid and are located in Richmond, be sure to check out Urban Baby Beginnings to connect with a volunteer birth or postpartum doula. (You can self refer on their website).

If you're able to afford the standard birth doula fee of $500-1000 or postpartum fee of $25/hour, you can find yourself with a long list of potential available doulas! (If you have questions about the cost of a birth doula, check out this blog post where we talk about getting covered by insurance and other questions about what goes into a birth doula fees.)

We asked some of our members (many of whom entered the birth world by hiring their own doula for their pregnancies) what they think is important to consider when hiring a birth or postpartum doula. Here are their four major themes to consider.

As doulas, we consider being hired an honor, and we know that being invited into this time of your life is a very special decision!

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