New Life: Part I

Each birth unfolds uniquely, reminding me of the unpredictable nature of birth. As a humble witness, I attempt to walk to the center of the storm – in the middle of the beautiful chaos – with my clients and welcome the motion and breath and trance-like awareness, the fear and pain and sensations that can only be described in moans.

Of course I cannot be wholly there like they are; I do not feel the corkscrewing of the baby’s head down the canal, the way the womb knows after millions of years to expand and contract; the moments of respite the body provides between surges as powerful as gravity itself. But maybe I can be that soft inhale she hears at the very peak of a surge; the one she just doesn’t think she can make it through without collapsing at her core. Perhaps my hands can provide the precise amount of kind firmness on her shoulders, easing them back into her body – down, down, down – and freeing up her energy. Perchance I will heed the voice in me that whispers “step away, provide space” and walk away quietly as I observe her diving into that sacred, deep, mysterious, scary place alone so that she can emerge triumphant on her own accord, in her own time.

This I know: the women I serve don’t need me. But sometimes, I really need them.


Three births in nine days. Three very different births. Nothing compared to a midwife’s schedule, but a bit daunting and emotional for a little ol’ doula. Birth stories #12 and #13 coming soon…

Birth #11

General summary: Primip (first time mama), went into labor 2 days after due date, natural birth, approx. 6 hour labor. Note: was dilated to 4 cm for a few weeks prior to labor.

One word summary: Instinctive

My lesson: Sometimes giving space and standing out of the way is the hardest and most needed support of all.

My client and her husband labored at home for a few hours until they decided to make the trek across the street to the hospital. On my way to meet them at 11pm, I received a text from my client’s husband: “6cm, 70% effaced!” When I talked to her husband on the phone shortly after that, I could hear my client moaning deeply in the background. Oh, how I love that sound. She was immersed in her work and I could tell she was moving through labor land with a primal ease.

I walked into the dimly lit hospital room to see her walking and swaying, supported by her husband. Even through surges, she was focused and keenly aware, often reminding herself “Down and low, down and low” (her vocalizations) as a surge began. With her husband as rock solid support (a perfect “Bradley Method” partner who walked her softly through relaxation/visualization), she spiraled through her birth journey with an intense confidence and incredible body intuition. A researcher and scientist by nature, one of my favorite moments came when she told herself between a contraction “I can do this, my body was made to do this, millions of years of evolution have perfected this”. Later, through numerous contractions, we all joined in as she chanted “I can do it, I can do it, I can do it”. I recall chanting the same mantra during Indigo’s birth as well. And then sometimes, after a surge, she would moan “Oh that SUCKED!” with a deep, heaving breath.

My support consisted mostly of verbal encouragement, continual offering of sips of water, a cool washcloth to her head and shoulders, the occasional counter pressure, and a loving, firm touch. I sat in silent awe, watching the two of them in some of their most intimate and vulnerable moments; maintaining a rich and beautiful rhythm to bring their baby into the world.

The hospital was quiet and calm, with only one occasional – and extremely supportive – nurse coming in to check vitals. The glow of my LED flicker candles and faint aroma of vanilla filled the room with a sense of serenity.

She kept active, moving, walking, rolling on the birth ball. And within only a few hours after arrival, she repeated the “I’m feeling tons more pressure” phrase two or three times which signaled it was time for me to request the nurse. Up on the bed she moved, and the nurse proclaimed her complete and ready to push. She began to very calmly voice some normal fears and when I told her “Just push past the fear” she said “Just keep telling me that, ok?” And so I did. After a few directed pushes, she began to hyperventilate and was given an O2 mask to wear for the duration of her labor. After only about twenty minutes of pushing, I immediately looked into my clients face and told her that her baby’s head was out.

Then suddenly, I heard the doctor gasp and let out an urgent “OHHH!” I twirled around just in time to see the rest of the baby literally shoot out and slide halfway down to the doctor’s knees, where he was caught upside down. We nervously all laughed as the doctor took a few moments to recuperate before even moving or lifting the baby up. I couldn’t believe the force and momentum that little body had upon exit from his mama!

The cord was cut (by dad, who initially hadn’t wanted to cut the cord but agreed in the moment) and baby was placed on his mama’s chest. Mama immediately cuddled her son, and with beads of sweat on her forehead and an exhilarated clarity in her voice, turned to her husband and grinned gloriously “We did it! Oh my god, we did it!” Minutes later, still high from birth, she looked at me with glossy eyes and said “That was the most amazing thing ever. That wasn’t so bad at all!” And then, shortly after, she and her husband mentioned they’d likely plan a homebirth next time.

And all that right there? That’s why I love being immersed in the birthwork of women.



6 Comments Add yours

  1. Birth stories always make me cry.

    I wish you could be my doula.

  2. AwakeMomma says:

    Me too! The crying and the wishing.

  3. janistan says:

    so wonderful that you are doing what you so love, and is so good at it.

  4. Beth says:

    We’ve never met in person, but I read your blog because I have met Jeanette. I appreciate you sharing your love of birthwork and birth stories. It’s inspiring. I wanted to share with you that I have decided to follow my heart and do birthwork. I am gonna leave my comfy career and start fresh to be a labor and delivery nurse. I want to be in a hospital setting as the supportive, calming, birth-loving person families need. So, it’s off to school.

  5. bella says:

    I know in my bones that you are a gifted doula.
    And I hear your words and they echo my own knowing, that each birth is its own. There is no clear path, right way, one way to birth.
    To bear witness to birth, to life being born, to courage and a woman’s vulnerability and power, is to know that we are all connected and that miracles abound.

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