Sunday, September 4, 2011

Back to the Middle, Part 4

Interestingly, as a doula, I pulled more and more away from 'education', and closer to support. It was not my job to educate my clients. I hear my sister doulas heads shaking right now! ;) My clients had already chosen their provider - doc or midwife- and that was not me. It was not my job to inform them of the risks of an epidural or an induction. It was my job to help them develop their questions - if they had any. The longer I practiced as a doula, the less I needed to know. I had taken a Birthing From Within workshop (or two) and also trained with Childbirth International and between them got a great balance of addressing the mentor relationship and providing evidence based information.

Evidence based- that's a phrase we bandy about as if we know what we're talking about. I can count on two hands, maybe three,  the number of studies I've read related to childbirth in my 9 years as a doula. I can probably count on one finger the number of studies I felt I truly understood.

I'd read an article about a study and consider myself informed. If the article came to a conclusion I didn't like, why, it meant that there was some crucial data missing or that someone was uninformed about the complexities of the natural childbirth community. If the article said something I liked, I spread that thing around like wildfire. The funny thing is that both 'sides' of the birth debate do this exact same thing. Dr. Amy for example has tons of experience reading studies and the ability to discern what's being said, or not said- but dismisses Henci Goer's ability to do the same. We don't like being proven wrong, and rather than agreeing that no one is right or wrong, we just disagree on what's being said - we FIGHT.

I appreciated my BFW training because it was then I woke up to the fact that I did not want to be an encyclopedia about birth. I did not want to send my clients home with giant binders of information. I felt that my job as a doula was to lighten their load, not add to it. I learned quickly how to direct my clients questions- especially when they felt that they couldn't trust the answers their providers were offering them. I get a lot of questions about epidurals. I've made it a point to NOT know the answers. I am not an anesthesiologist, and I do not understand the data that's available, and I am not responsible for the welfare of this client. I would suggest htat if my clients had questions that they might set up a meeting to meet with an anesthesiologist ahead of time, so that if they elected to have an epidural that they would choose it knowing fully the risks and benefits. I suggested they do research on their own as well.

Meanwhile I attended a few births with my own OB - watched him let my clients push while standing, push in the bathtub, told the L&D nurses that no vaginal exams were allowed unless he came and did them himself. He spent an hour and a half with me going over my own birth plan - and while we didn't (and don't) agree about everything, he respected me. He listened, and when we both agreed to disagree, he acquiesced on things, and so did I. We found a way to communicate with each other based not in fear (that I would sue/that he would cut me open), but in respect and trust.

It's extremely rare to find an obstetrician who would take the amount of time Dr. C would take, would devote as much of his personal time that he does, and who would see his clients through to the end - which doesn't mean we didn't have 10 minute prenatal visits sometimes but that was fine in those moments. Dr. C healed a lot of the wounds that I believed I had, that I was carrying for others and that I was certainly carrying for the natural birth community - just by being himself and believing in women.

It didn't mean we agreed on everything, he still thinks women in labor shouldn't eat anything - but I'm pecking away at that. ;)

After my third child was born, I was getting pretty sick of the same old stories, same old tricks. I had been run through the Dr. Amy mill on my blog (which is now drastically different as a result) and the Trust Birth faction, I had pissed off my local birth community with innocent comments that came across poorly- I found out that when I started to tell the truth about things I was experiencing, that the birthing community stopped loving me quite so much. You're not a team player if you talk about the fact that things could be better in some ways, and a lot freaking worse in others.

During my pregnancy with her I read books about childbirth again, just to see what was being written - and I noticed a stark lack of 'truth'. The stories about homebirth were largely pretty glorious. I didn't run into homebirth stories that went south. I could turn around and point my finger and hit 10 hospital stories that left women feeling alone, abandoned, dejected or otherwise traumatized.

I started to realize that in our zeal to present out of hospital birth as a reasonable option, we were unwilling to discuss the dirty underbelly - that women and babies get injured, and sometimes die, in childbirth - whether outside the hospital or in.

I noticed that we have a term for crib death, but other than SIDS, nothing for babies who sleep with their parents. A lot of self-righteousness about how wonderful we are as Good Mothers to snuggle with our babies at night, but no compassion whatsoever for those who chose to go another way.

Now I am the mother of a teenager. A teenager! I have friends who now have older children and while my playdates of old were generally a lot of patting each other on the back for how granola we were, and a silent competition for who could be more 'off the grid', now we talk about politics, books we're reading, our marriages. Now we talk in a macro sense about raising children, rather than the minutia. We spend more time talking about how we take care of our souls as women, as human beings- how we make time for ourselves, make sure we have something to pursue as our children grow and need us less and less. It's the polar opposite of how much we could bend over backward to sacrifice more, more, more for our kids. The pendulum swings.