Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Doula memories

I've been puttering around today, catching up on some of the things I put off while getting ready for the exam. Some of my friends have been talking birth stories/birth plans lately and we talked a bit about wanting positive hospital birth stories since there are so many scary ones out there and yet there CAN be such lovely births at the hospital.

I started thinking about a birth I attended back when I was in AmeriCorps and went searching through my old birth stories (we wrote one up for each birth we attended, and when I left I kept a copy of all of mine and am SO glad I did - they are wonderful to look back through) to find what I wrote about it at the time. And I cannot for the life of me find it. I must have missed it when I was making my copies.

So, without that sheet of paper I can't remember all the information about the birth, like whether mom had an epidural or not, what # baby this was for her, even whether baby was a boy or girl! But I do remember that the family had a few older children, some of whom were present, and that they were very positive, friendly people - I really enjoyed being at the birth with them. There was a recently hired (but experienced) midwife at this hospital that I hadn't worked with before* and she was the midwife on all day as mom labored and I worked with her.

As the birth grew nearer, and mom was working hard and pushing, the midwife beckoned the dad over to where she was keeping an eye on the perineum. Baby began to crown and she said to dad, "Come here. Give me your hands." As the baby's head emerged, she laid his hands on the baby's head and guided him in catching his own baby - the first person ever to lay hands on his child. I watched his eyes widen, his face about to split apart with a smile as he did it. Together they handed baby to mom and she cuddled her new baby as they got baby cleaned off.

Afterwards, dad was just glowing, literally bouncing around the room, still unable to wipe that huge grin off his face. "Did you see that?" he kept asking everyone there. "Did you see what I did? That was amazing! It was AMAZING!"

It was even neater - to me - because these were not people who had sought out midwives to get greater control over the birth process. They were community health center patients who just needed quality affordable prenatal care, and ended up working with midwives because that's who did the births for the CHC at that hospital. And they were handed this really amazing gift of participating more fully in their child's birth.

Later the midwife told me that she had been watching me work with the mom all day, and had been going to offer ME the chance to help catch the baby, but could tell how excited the dad would be to do it. I was bowled over by that! I told her I was so glad she had the dad catch. I was just there for one day, but I hope that every year on this baby's birthday, that dad is still telling his child the story of how he helped catch him/her, and how proud he was to do it.

So that's your wonderful hospital birth story of the day, courtesy of my free association skills!

*Do any other doulas have the experience with new-to-the-system midwives that they're such a breath of fresh air? They haven't gotten trampled down by the system yet, they're not looking over their shoulders at the nurse who might "turn them in", they're just practicing how they want to practice. That's not to say that experienced midwives who know how to work the system aren't fabulous and valuable and just as subversive in their own ways - if not more - but being with a new midwife can be so...liberating.

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