Sunday, February 6, 2011

100% real life, as seen by doulas

Gina at the Feminist Breeder posted a most excellent angry rant about the Lifetime TV show L&D reality show, "One Born Every Minute". She had some issues with the way a couple planning an unmedicated birth was portrayed in the documentary, but this is what she had to say about the medical staff's attitude towards them:

And now thankfully the show is over, and I never have to see that nonsense again. Except that I do — in real life — every time I attend a birth at a hospital with a high rate of unnecessary interventions. As a doula, I can tell you that Lifetime’s “One Born Every Minute” is 100% REAL LIFE, and the things happening on that show are absolutely representative of what’s going on in EVERY labor and delivery unit where the staff and providers do not practice evidence-based medicine or the midwifery model of care.


You can read the post for a blow-by-blow of each interaction these parents have with the nurse Gina terms "Nurse Dread". In a follow-up post, Gina has a clip of one of their interactions with said nurse - or more accurately, their doula's interactions with the nurse. If you are planning to give birth in a hospital setting you suspect or know will be hostile to an unmedicated, low-intervention labor, you need to watch this:

This is what doulas want you to understand: as Gina puts it, this is 100% REAL LIFE. The nurse's tone, attitude, demeanor, were so intensely familiar to me.

This is how it is. Bleeding from a thousand passive-aggressive cuts. "I'm trying to take care of ALL of you, especially your BABY, and I can't do my job! Haha, I'm laughing, YOU'RE RISKING YOUR BABY'S LIFE. Here's the monitors laid out nicely [those are the belts she's messing with], why don't you get back in the bed now." And I guarantee you she'll be back every 10 minutes with a variation of the same speech. "You know, when you're making such slow progress, we just get very worried about the baby. We want what's best for both of you, you know that. Right?? Mommy and baby, we care about you both so much! We just really need to be able to know what's going on in order to do that." And on. And on. And ON.

This is not because the nurses are evil horrible people bent on ruining birth. I bet this nurse is a wonderful person and takes excellent care of her patients. But she is made so profoundly uncomfortable by a labor that goes off her standard script that she cannot handle the situation respectfully or gracefully. She is constantly trying to nudge it back to what she's used to seeing, so she can get back on-script and go on with her life.

And this is why you need a doula. In this clip, the the parents aren't even seen; the doula's the one to deal with the aggro, then go in to communicate the situation to the parents (and probably discuss with them how to negotiate the next steps). Listen to how the doula is working to defuse the situation, acknowledging the nurse's concerns, reminding her the parents' priority is a healthy baby, and offering her some alternative ways to think about the situation ("people have different pathways"). The mother portrayed talks in an interview with Gina about how the doula was, in fact, the person handling most of the stressful interactions with the nurse:

[talking about her disappointment with the way the show handled things]:

I wish two things: 1. that they’d portrayed our doula in a better light. She was incredibly supportive, and had to field the majority of our conflict with Pam. AND, she did everything on zero sleep, since she came directly from another long birth, and 2. that they hadn’t insinuated that Eleanor was in trouble, and that we were putting her at risk. Every time we were on the monitor (which was 20 minutes of every hour), she was tolerating perfectly well, and even when we were pushing, her heartrate stayed up. There was never any danger.

From now on, whenever I'm trying to explain to someone why it's important to have a doula when you're planning an unmedicated and/or low-intervention birth, I'm going to point them to this show. You need someone between you and those negative attitudes to absorb as much as possible for you, and to keep the comments that do hit home from sapping you of your confidence and energy. Please, please, don't try to do it alone - find someone who can help protect you, and keep you feeling in control and confident, no matter how things go.


Mollie Hartford said...

Oy, this show has lead to some uncomfortable conversations around my office lately! My boss first texts me and says, "Mollie, you'd LOVE this show!" (one look at the trailer and I knew I wouldn't). The next day she gives me the blow-by-blow of the "annoying natural couple" and the "aggressive husband and doula", how they were refusing treatment and "moaning like she was having an orgasm the whole time". "I hope you're not going to be like that" she says to me . . . :/

Susan said...

"Moaning like she was having an orgasm the entire time"??? If only it WERE that pleasureable, eh? ;P

I'm a member of (to rustle up potential doula clients!) and there's been some interesting discussion on there about this show as well. Thankfully, most of it has been quite positive toward the family and the doula, so clearly even though it was biased against natural birth (for the sake of drama and entertainment, of course), there are still plenty of moms who are clear-headed enough to realize that NCB is not a horrible thing.