L&D and another birth

Last week, I oriented myself to the labor and delivery area of the hospital, which was the final step before officially starting as a volunteer doula. I figured out where I could get water, ice, sheets, towels, washrags, birth balls, and grape syrup (which is the only (unsatisfying) addition to ice chips that epidural moms are allowed throughout their entire labor).

During the orientation, I was able to apply some comforting counter-pressure to a young mother whose epidural was taking awhile to kick in. I made attempts at Spanish conversation with her parents. Note to self: I must review key terms in Spanish for labor and delivery.

In the end, I spent most of my* time with the only mother on the floor who was doing an unmedicated birth. When I met the couple, I was really struck by how relaxed they were. We tried some of the tips for “getting labor started” and chatted for quite a bit. I didn’t realize until later that we were building a relationship that would come in handy the next day!

The following day was my first official day to volunteer. Not surprisingly, the same woman I’d worked with the previous day had not yet delivered and said she would like to have a doula. I arrived and spent about half of the day with the couple–through labor, delivery, recovery, and first breastfeeding.

I’m learning more and more about who I am as a doula. I’m also developing strong opinions about the kind of care a laboring and postpartum mother should receive. For instance, my training in yoga is so strong that I have a hard time encouraging a woman to push if she is not feeling the urge. I’m more about encouraging her to do what her body tells her (if you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you’ll know what I’m talking about). There will be times when I will need to cue pushing–especially with epidurals because they numb the urge to push. But as of right now, it just hasn’t seemed like my role.

I’ve also been able to see firsthand one of the other huge benefits of unmedicated labor and delivery (the kind of benefit that could change the world for the better), which is that women get a glimpse at how powerful they are. When that strength is unecessarily numbed, women can miss out on experiencing their potential. My disclaimer to this of course is that epidurals have their place and are appropriate for some women in some situations. However, as a culture I think we are far too quick to numb ourselves from feeling and experience. When we open ourselves up to that experience, we have the potential to access something really powerful.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I’m a bit surprised by how quickly this is taking off for me. So far, I’m still really enjoying it, and I think I’m well suited for the work.

*When I blog about births that I attend, I’m mostly just talking about my experience and how I felt as the attending doula. I’ll leave it to the moms to tell the rest of the story if they wish.


2 thoughts on “L&D and another birth

  1. Chelsey

    Hmm. Having now given birth twice, medicated the first time and unmedicated the second, I can’t say that one was better than the other. The first was certainly more comfortable and enjoyable (once I got the epidural; transition is a bitch), and I got to joke around and talk to people instead of writhing in pain; the second was just…different. I didn’t feel more “powerful” because I did it without medication; I just did it sans medicine because it was faster and I didn’t want an IV or to be laid up in bed. But I have to say I really think women should not be pushed toward or away from medication; there is certainly something to be said for having a relaxing, relatively enjoyable experience (see: epidural), and there is something nice about being able to chillax in the tub between the transition contractions that make you want to climb the walls if only to jump off the roof to end the god-awful pain. So. I’ve done it both ways, and I’m glad I had someone there to support me in both decisions, not pressure me toward one or the other. Sure, women are innately powerful, but modern medicine does wonders for making the experience wonderfully less painful.

    1. sherewin Post author

      This is a good point. Labor can be empowering whether it is unmedicated, with an epidural, or via c-section. The important point for mothers is that they feel like they were in control of the process (informed of each intervention before it happens and educated on the pros and cons of the intervention). As a doula, my job is to educate and support the mother no matter what choice she makes. That means supporting an epidural if that’s what she wants—no guilt. That said, there are plenty of medical reasons to seriously consider an unmedicated birth. It’s a point worth making because the vast majority of mothers now choose to labor with epidurals. Fortunately, they’ve made good advances with epidurals (including a walking epidural!) But, too often women get epidurals, which is a spinal block and a cocktail of drugs (which do enter the baby’s bloodstream) and the mother sort of falls asleep in a fog until it is time to push. There are many stories where women feel like they missed out on their birth experience because of this. Despite the medical and emotional risks, an epidural might still be right for many women, which is why it is so important for individual women to weigh the pros and cons and think a lot about what might work best for them. Chelsey, I’d love to read your birth story. If you’ve written it and are willing to share, please do!


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