My So-Called Life

I completed doula training last weekend, just in time to attend a client’s birth on Wednesday that will count towards my certification! It was so special.

After a 24 hour, Pitocin-induced labor, she beautifully and courageously birthed her son with every shred of strength left in her numbed body. Directed by the Doc to begin pushing because she had been “complete” for 2 hours, she began pushing while at -1 station. And though I protested it more than once, they had her lying flat on her back, me and a nurse holding her legs back. And 2.5 hours later pushed her posterior baby out with a fierce, yet graceful, force. No episiotomy, no forceps. Just his wet, slippery body sliding out in one big grunt, his face “sunny side up”. I could not have been more proud of her. I was so lucky to be a witness.

Because she didn’t have the natural, amazing Oxytocin (“hormone of love”) coursing through her body, and because she was exhausted, she wasn’t up to holding her baby after the labor. Who could blame her? I tried, tried, tried to have her nurse him right away, as she had expressed her strong desire to breastfeed during our prenatal meetings. But, understandably, her exhaustion and medicated state made this request unappealing to her. Instead, I held him close and whispered my welcome to him, telling him how loved he was. After awhile, we laid him next to his Mama and they tenderly cuddled one another and continued the incredible process of bonding that started nine months ago. What a lovely moment. She had worked so hard for that.

My client was a birthing warrior. At one point, at 2am, she began to sob atop her bed, where she was constrained by numerous monitor cords and an IV. I looked into her eyes, held her close, and said “Perfect, let it all out, let it flow, we are right here for you, we love you…” She then firmly said she needed “time to be alone with herself”, although she allowed her husband and me to sit silently in the dark room, flickering with the light of some battery-powered tea-lights I had purchased. She found an incredible, rocking rhythm to move her through her intense surges, as she sobbed loudly and moaned. Inside, I was so excited for her. I knew this was the “moment of truth” and that if she could get past this stage she would zoom through with confidence. I could sense she was searching deep inside for strength as she allowed the overwhelming birth energy to surround her. Soon, I returned to sitting behind her and applying counter pressure through surges. Then nurse arrived to check her. She was at 3cm, laboring without pain meds, and decided it was time for some relief after 10 hours in labor.

Five hours later, still at 3cm, she got the epidural as well as some much deserved sleep. I napped along with her, at one point awakening and not having a clue as to where I was. At 10:30 am, she was 5cm. And, 45 minutes later was declared complete at 10cm!

My third birth experience as a doula, and I, in total awe, was addicted to watching her bring her baby down. Seeing his tiny head inch forward, witnessing her opening up perfectly for him, was incredible. I’ve never been so close to the “action”! Her very supportive nurse friend coached her with love to birth him down, though my client couldn’t feel any effect of her concentrated pushing efforts. The nurse massaged her with each push, helping her stretch nicely. I was surprised at how well the nurse and I worked as a team, focused solely on protecting Mom and baby’s birth experience. And when baby’s head was nice and visible, she called in the Doc. I ramped up my positive affirmations, hoping it would influence the Doc’s actions…”You are opening and stretching just perfectly. Your body is doing exactly what it needs to do…” I desperately wanted to avoid her being cut and I remember how she had cringed weeks earlier at the thought of her baby being born with the assistance of forceps.

The female Doc sat patiently for more than half an hour, helping to encourage my client with every push. And, like that, he was born…so quickly that the Doc had not even donned her second glove or called in the nursery staff! We all shared tears of joy and laughter at baby’s swift, posterior entry into the world. He was healthy and peaceful. I immediately turned to the Doc, with tears streaming down my cheeks and hand on her shoulder, and said “Thank you”. With a nod, I sensed she knew what I meant…”Thank you for not cutting her, for letting her body work, for letting baby slide out on his own accord…”.

Respect. Total. Hope for the future of birthing women in hospitals. Love and honor to my client who worked so hard without complaint, who mentioned more than once she just “couldn’t wait to meet him”.

My life’s work. So fulfilling and humbling. Up next: two homebirths! Back to my roots.



6 Comments Add yours

  1. New Mama says:

    How amazing! I’m looking forward to hearing more birth stories.

  2. Brooke says:

    Dear Leigh,
    That quiet, still pause after labor & birth is waht Pam England calls the center of the labOrinth. This time of quiet, perhaps even as you witnessed the time of disconnect where the mother lets all of herself return from the cosmos, is completely normal. Birth is hard work. And we can do it. But to expect a pure surge of immediate love every time a mother births is setting women up for mother guilt – Why didn’t I feel that for MY baby? So it is great you were there to normalize this and give her permission to be in that space. It is a very important topic we cover in the Father’s/Birth Companion classes in BFW. It is mixed in with other elements of ‘Birth Etiquette’…how birth attendents can honor the woman when she is in LaborLand. We even cover what birth companions might do if the mother/baby are separated; how the father should hold the space for the mama if cesarean or nicu or some other situation arises. It’s fabulous stuff. As a doula, and a mother, you know all this instinctively, but for fathers or other first-time birth companions they really need to learn these things! Her husband was lucky to have you there to model himself after!

    I’m so excited for you that you are out there doing your birth work. So excited.

    much love,

  3. leighsteele says:

    Brooke –
    Thank you for this insightful comment. You are right…and I’d never thought of it that way before. I guess that’s why Pam England is such a goddess! I will remember that for my next birth and be an even better doula in that way…supporting, loving, encouraging, watching, waiting…
    By the way, I cannot wait to see what your “birth work” has in story for you!
    Love to you,

  4. Ninotchka says:

    Leigh: This was beautiful and thrilling! Thanks for sharing it with us. After having two doula assisted, med-free deliveries, I would never do it any other way. Even Guy, who is the “anti-crunch”, recommends having a doula to anyone who will listen. Your life’s work is truly precious. As are you!

  5. amygeekgrl says:

    wow! congratulations first on completing your training! how wonderful! 🙂
    and secondly, even though it doesn’t sound like the birth went as “planned,” it still turned out very well. that’s awesome that the doctor respected her wishes not to be cut. and it sounds like you were a perfect doula for her. 🙂
    if i weren’t planning a homebirth this time around, i’d definitely have a doula present (and wish i had for my daughter’s birth).
    thanks for sharing this w/ us. 🙂

  6. S says:

    What a beautiful story. I simply cannot read birth stories — ANY birth story — without tears forming in my eyes. It is such a powerful and magical experience.

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