On February 21st, I'm at 40+4. I'm home alone with my two girls Émilie 3 years old and Chloé 17 months old. Daddy Simon's at work. The day before, I had an appointment with one of my midwives, Maggie, and she gave me a good stretch and sweep and told me I would not pass the weekend. The morning of the 21st I sent an email to my doula, Nelia, to make sure she was available and close if things started (I guess I had a strong feeling). Around 2 pm, I get a really strong contraction, the strongest so far with this pregnancy. I even had tears in my eyes. Of course, my 17 month old decided that in the peak of the contraction, was the best time to have a Mommy-take-me-in-your-arms-right-now-or-i'll-cry-and-scream-for-an-hour..... fit. Then I got another contraction, and another. Ok i'm starting the timer... 3 minutes, 6 minutes, 3 minutes, 2 minutes.. hmmm could it be?
I sent another email to Nelia, told her what was happening, and she called me right away. She thought I was in labor. She asked me if I wanted her to come now, I would get a break with the girls while daddy would be on his way. Ok in about 30 minutes she will be there, I tell Dad on msn come home , I think this is it!
When Nelia arrived, the girls were so excited! Chloé asked to be picked up and stayed in her arms for a long while and Émilie gave her a tour of the house (cutie). We worked through early labor managing the girls, they knew something was happening, Chloé especially wanted lots of extra care.
When Dad arrived, he took over as promised (he was going to be our man servant and caretaker hehe).We went upstairs for some quiet time. I called my midwife and she came in the early evening, as well as the birth photographer.
When my midwife Jaquie checked me, I was at 3 cm (1 more than the day before). So I continued contracting, I felt alot of pressure on the cervix as well. Émilie was so excited with all the people in the house that she wanted to come and join us. Dad also brought up a platter of fruit, chocolate and doughnuts , as well as water bottles (I had already set up a tea and coffee station in the room). The girls came in and out of the room with innocent curiosity (to use Nelia's words).
At one point though I had to ask that Émilie leave because she was too hyper and it was bothering me a bit, I was not concentrating on my contractions as much, I got distracted.
So it went on, we talked in between contractions, it was very pleasant, we laughed at what I was wearing (white underwear, bright pink tank top and brown bootie slippers). Two hours have passed, Jaquie gives me another check up to see how things are progressing. Nothing changed, still at 3 cm and still thick. So she left to try and get some rest (it was around 8 pm) because it seemed that a couple of other babies were preparing their grand entrance that night as well. The photographer left to get some rest as well.
I was bummed a bit, I did not want things to stop.
So It was just me and Nelia then. We had a relaxing and peaceful time together. I put on some music, a Robert Plant and Alyson Krauss album (Raising Sand) we listened to it 4-5 times I think and baby was moving like a maniac every time the song, "Gone Gone Gone" came on and every time I got a contraction. I also went on Facebook to chat with some friends. I had told them that baby was probably on his way and they were so excited. They loved a belly picture I posted them on the spot HAHA.
At around 10 PM things started to really slow down. Contraction spaced to about every 20 minutes.
My body was tired, and letting me know. After Nelia let me sleep for a little while, she told me that things had slowed, and that we could let them progress in this way or we could try to get back.
So we decided to flip over after each contraction because every time I changed positions, the contractions would come again. That worked and got things closer, but still not at the frequency and intensity needed. She suggested the breast pump and I agreed. I plugged it on the right breast for about 5 minutes and BAM I flung myself on my right side, taking a really strong contraction that took us both by surprise! I took 2 more back-to-back right there. So we called Jaquie again (around 11 pm). The contractions were 6 minutes apart. She returned in the wee hours of the morning. Since no one knew how fast things would progress (this being my third baby) all the midwives were called, as well as the photographer Leeanne.
Jaquie checked me and I was at 5 cm and about 40% effaced. ONLY THAT?! Câlisse! (in other words ..fuck), At least I was in active labour now!
The other midwife, Kathleen and her student Meredith arrived then, as well as Leanne.
Kathleen left soon after arriving to go check another mother in early labour not far from my house.
So I started moving through labour. I was very active in my body, went in the tub, sat on the ball, used the birth stool, drank water etc. The best position was squating on my knees (kinda like a frog) but my knees got tired fast, so I had to keep moving around. I went back to the tub and had another check up, I was at 6 cm and 70% effaced, Why is it taking so long? My body is playing tricks on me GRRR!
We discussed breaking my waters, but she wanted to wait for Kathleen to come back and that I get to 7 cm.
I got out of the tub then took a few contractions on the bathroom floor, and a few on the floor in my bedroom (still squating). I remember at this point looking in the room (between two really painful contractions) everybody was sipping tea and chatting, while supporting me. It was such a pleasant birth!
The contractions were really painful now, I mean REALY painful. I was crying and loosing control a bit. Nelia and Jaquie were both helping me throught this part, I needed to come back or I would have lost it! I was tired and loosing mental strenght.
Kathleen came back then. I was now sitting on the ball and letting a few FUCK's out here and there! And the the TABARNACK's came. Oh they all found it funny to ear me swear in french HAHA. I wanted to go in the bed at that point and take some contractions on my side. I knew it could slow the contractions, but I didn't care. I needed a break! Jaquie told me she would examinate me between two contractions. I was now at 7 cm so she decides to break my waters (it was 7:06 am). BAM strong contractions (3 I think)! I was screaming my heart out, hitting the pillow and towards the end of the last contractio. "OH I'm pushing, gosh I'm pushing, I feel the baby coming, I feel it really well too!!''
Jaquie checked me and I was at 10 cm and fully effaced, but there was a lip of the cervix that wouldn't move. She told me ''You are going to have to push on your hands and knees we need this lip to move.''
So here we go, I'm on my knees in my bed, holding Nelia's hands so hard (I even broke the skin a bit with my nails, so sorry Nelia =S).
First contraction, crowning.
Second contraction, head born.
Third contraction, shoulder's passed and baby's born!
It's 7:18 am
I pick him up, I'm holding him tight. I'm in love again, of course! They are moving me in the bed to get me confortable and take the bloody sheets off the bed, but I'm locked with him, nothing else matters!
He wants the breast. I feel it, so I help him a bit and he latches on (he stayed on for a good hour I think).
It took 12 minutes from breaking my waters to baby being born!! =O
Placenta came out fast and easy and I cut the cord myself!
I was checked to see if I needed stiches (only 3 small ones) and I giggled the whole time (whaaaat?, I'm thicklish!) Everybody thought that was funny haha!
When we were presentable, Simon and the girls came up. Émilie had been asking to come see the baby since 6:30 am! She jump in bed and was amazed by her brother. She wanted to kiss him and hold him. Chloé was more quiet, at first she was more concerned with all the people in the room, but when she saw him, her face lit up and she was very curious. Simon looked proud and happy, his third child, his first boy!
We calmed down and examined baby, he weighed 9.7 pounds and was 53.5 cm (21.1 inches).
After that we slept well. I looked at him for a while with a smile on my face and then slept, he was already fast asleep at the breast. =)
What an adventure!
Ask any questions that are relevant
Is she certified?
When did she become certified or why is she not?
How many births has she attended?
How many clients does she usually take in a month (any more than 5 clients in a month is a red flag)?
How much will she charge, does she have a sliding scale, what is the payment schedule?
Does the payment change if she is unable to attend or if you end up needing a c-section? If it doesn't work out can you get a refund or find someone else who might work for you?
Does she have other services available like belly casting, placenta encapsulation, photography, breastfeeding services, babysitting, or postpartum services?
Does she have a back up, can you meet them?
Get to know your doula on a personal level
Is she married, if so how long?
Does she have children, how many, how does she feel about her birth experience?
Why did she become a doula?
What is her overall philosopy on birth?
Did she breastfeed, how long, how does she feel about it?
Build a relationship
You should have at least 2 prenatal appointments with your doula. During these appointments you'll probably go over things she'll do to help you along during labor and if complications arise. Also during these times you should begin to get comfortable with her touching you in case massage, hair stroking, or counter pressure are used to comfort you during labor so you can let her know what you do and do not like beforehand and to build the comfortableness with her. If you would like she may have relaxation techniques to practice too which would be helpful so you know you can completely relax in front of her. Personally, I found an included belly casting session really helped me open up and get comfortable with my doula.
If at any point you are not comfortable with your doula: First determine if the issue can be resolved and try to fix it. If you think it is something that will affect your ability to remain comfortable with your doula for future appointments and/or during labor, birth, or postpartum then you should talk to her respectively and tell her you just can't do it; She may know someone else available that you may be comfortable with.
If you are a doula or want to become a doula: The steps also apply to you but from a different standing point. Try to give your client as much information as possible so that the family can feel comfortable with you; like a friend rather than business. Reassure partners that you aren't there to take their place, but rather to help them help the mother or step in when they need a break. Beware them that you can not speak for them, you are not a medical professional, and can not give medical advice; You are simply there to support the family and help comfort the mother.
A Midwife, Doula, and Postpartum Help for Healthier, Happier Mom, Dad & Baby
Who uses a doula, midwife, and postpartum help?
Barefoot hippies? Hollywood divas?
Yes, and millions of everyday, hardworking people around the world who have decided either through their cultural heritage or personal research that for them, a natural childbirth and postpartum care with the support of a midwife, doula, and other services makes for the healthiest, safest, and happiest ways to give birth to and care for the new spirit in their lives.
Natural childbirth in a hospital, homebirth, and postpartum care have become so uncommon in the U.S. (and increasingly in other countries) that they are now considered by many to be too difficult, unnecessary, or even frivolous.
But, just a glance at the number of women in the U.S. who fail to have a natural childbirth (when that’s what they intended), fail to breastfeed (even when they wanted to and tried), and who suffer from mild to severe postpartum depression offers a clear indication that the now standard, mechanical template of childbirth and postpartum care is gravely inadequate.
And it’s not that millions of women wouldn’t want a natural childbirth or magical postpartum time of healing and bonding.
It’s that a great majority have no idea what hospital protocol they’re up against when they enter Labor & Delivery, or what kind of postpartum care is considered standard and necessary in countries around the world (and that women experiencing loss—miscarriage or stillbirth—also have postpartum leave and care[i]).
Countless women go into labor having said for nine months, “I want a natural childbirth.” And they mean it. But then what happens?
Here’s a look at just a few of the standard procedures upon entering the hospital:
When you enter the hospital, you will either be placed in a wheelchair or you will walk to a labor room. The routine is being hooked up to an IV, one or several monitors, denied food and even beverages (other than ice chips, which in many cultures are considered something to avoid in labor). Depending on how “progressive” the hospital and staff are, you will be allowed or encouraged to walk around and work different labor positions to encourage the baby into the correct position and allow labor to progress, or you will simply be advised to stay flat on your back—which is considered by many in the birthing world to be one of the most painful and least effective ways to labor.
Around the time you start experiencing stronger contractions and the pain sensations are increasing, hospital staff [strangers] will appear at your door encouraging the use of drugs.
You will be checked periodically by doctors, residents, and/or nurses and student nurses [more strangers]. When you’re dilated far enough, they will move you to the delivery room where your doctor, or a stand-in if he or she has been called away to more pressing matters, will stay with you as the baby and the placenta are born.
This is all assuming that you’re not put on additional drugs to speed labor (if in their estimation you’re taking too long). While 24 hours or longer is a common length of time for a mother to labor—especially with her first baby—many hospitals encourage drugs to speed the process if it passes 12 hours.
It is also assuming that nothing has happened to encourage the doctor to perform a cesarean section (now at 30-50% of deliveries in the States, varying by doctor and hospital).
All in all, as Jennifer Block states in her book Pushed: The Painful Truth About Modern Childbirth and Maternity Care, a mother—even in a “routine” birth in a hospital—may have “up to 16 different tubes, drugs, or attachments.”
After the baby and placenta are born, they are both taken away in most instances. The baby to be washed (unnecessary and considered by many to be stressful for the newborn who’d rather be on her mother’s chest and latching!), weighed, measured, and treated with various pharmaceutical products.
The placenta will be taken to an incinerator.
Postpartum care? Women are sent home from the hospital with a few formula samples and a diaper bag.
That’s how we care for new families?
The most sacred rite of passage has become cold, mechanical and offensive.
Fortunately, the pendulum is swinging back.
Many new parents are discovering the mind/body/spirit benefits of hiring various support/services to help them on their journey either at home or in the hospital.
There are many (and increasing numbers of) people who serve new mothers in pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum, and I wrote about several—doulas, midwives, postpartum doulas, maids, cooks, and nannies—in my book New Mother. Since publication and through interaction with readers, I’ve discovered even more services.
For example, a service called Best Fed Babies offers breastfeeding support with a certified lactation consultant 24/7 via phone or Skype to mothers anywhere in the world. I would have loved to call them when I woke one morning at 3:00 AM with a plugged duct—and how many of us have similar questions or issues in the early days and wee hours of nursing!
Mother’s Concierge services are another wonderful and flexible source of help. One company called Pampered Mamas in Baltimore, Maryland offers in-home pre/post natal massage; nap Nannie; in-home baby proofing consultations and much more.
A company in Los Angeles, CA called MotherBees doesn’t just deliver any old regular meal to postpartum mothers, but combines traditional postpartum foods with locally sourced seasonal ingredients. Replenishing and restorative foods—at your door!
In our modern culture with nuclear families living in isolation, many new parents lack knowledge of what will happen during childbirth, what procedures they can accept or decline (in the hospital), what they’ll need postpartum, or what is available to support them. Just knowing the names and types of services will help mom and dads-to-be to research better and find exactly what they need to create their childbirth vision.
Ora na azu nwa, or It takes a village to raise a child, is a Nigerian Igbo proverb made popular by Hillary Rodham Clinton’s book published in 1996. Birthing and raising healthy happy children does require support, but we don’t live in villages.
However, we can create our village—hopefully with the support of nuclear and extended family members and long-time friends, and also with the help of people trained, experienced, and specializing in mother and baby care. With so many different services available, everyone can find the perfect fit for their needs, budget and desire.
May you be surrounded by love and support, and may you experience abundant peace and joy on your blessed journey of motherhood!
*No affiliation or compensation associated with the services mentioned in this article.
Illustration, I See You, used with license from Healing Art, Jane Delaford Taylor
 Abridged excerpt from New Mother, by Allie Chee, Hestia Books & Media, 2012
 Pushed: The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care, Jennifer Block, Da Capo Press: A Member of the Perseus Books Group, 2007
November 2009: It begins with a 21st century version of Love At First Sight. Online chatting leads to hours-long telephone conversations leads to a 500kms round roadtrip leads to an all-encompassing connection, all within 6 days.
A week or so later we have a night in the city together, we talk and spa and listen to music and the Universe tells us that this is Love, capital-L Love.
The next day we wrap ourselves into each other as we watch “The Time Traveler’s Wife” at the cinema. As we leave in separate cars, I weep. The storm rolls in. It feels wrong to be going in opposite directions today.
January 2010: Regular weekend visits each way and daily hours-long phone calls have been great, but just not enough. I cry each time we part, I cry each time we hang up the phone. When we’re apart I haven’t ever felt lonely like this, and when we’re together I haven’t ever felt complete like this.
February 2010: We plan a whole weekend together, to see Mumford and Sons at the Laneway Festival. He books a room, we make dinner plans with friends, we organise babysitters and time off work. Mumford’s are amazing, and the Universe tells us that Love will not betray you, dismay or enslave you – it will set you FREE. And in secret, with the Universe’s blessing, our love-child chooses us and starts his journey.
First week of March 2010: him – “So …. how many days late are you?” me – “LA LA LA LA HANDS OVER EARS I CAN’T HEAR YOU LA LA LA LA LA LA”
Later in March 2010: me, with tears flowing : “I don’t know what to do”…. him, with incredible love: “Have a baby with me”.
July 2010: Chaos ensues as two households become one, two different families meld into a whole new dynamic. But there’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be… it’s easy…
July 29th 2010: Dropped from the free publicly-funded homebirth program. Anxious but not shocked. The Universe is pushing me towards a homebirth – if I wasn’t sure before that I needed one, I am sure now. Birthing in a hospital is not an option. There’s nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time, it’s easy!
August 2010: Midwife booked, the serene and inspirational Lisa. Doula booked, the wise and gentle Miradija. We have a homebirth plan in progress.
October 2010: Preparations are in full swing… the Way ahead is Blessed by beautiful friends, the birth pool is delivered and inflated, the urn is borrowed, the surprise Playstation is secretly bought for the children, the nappies are bought, the clothes are washed, the cot, change table, slings and pushers are ready. The birth space is readied by beautiful friends, bringing new energy in our home. And there is movement at the station, gentle and irregular movement. It’s not early labour, it’s just labour. It’s not stop-start or a failure to progress, it’s just labour. Labour is just a series of contractions that eventually push our baby out of my womb. This is the beginning of that labour. There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done. It’s easy!!
November 3rd 2010: Rocky Horror night on Glee. We watch it at Mike’s mum’s house, after a magnificent feast of Roast Lamb and Vegetables, followed by decadent chocolate ice-creams. On the way home, holding hands with my love and silently connecting, and with children sleeping in the backseat, the tightenings become more regular, more pronounced. Every 5 minutes for an hour – excitement building… A text message is sent to Lisa, LOLing that I’m not even sure if this is it, I’ll try to get some sleep, I’ll ring her when they wake me up. I awake the next morning still in one piece. Oh well. Maybe tonight?
November 4th 2010, 2 PM: Curtis and I go have coffee with Aunty Chrissy. Over the hour or so that we’re there, regular and stronger tightenings get me feeling like I should be at home. I get home and tell Mike, we re-inflate the birth pool and start filling it. I put music on, I put my Blessingway necklace on, and begin walking and dancing through the contractions. We boil the urn and pour that in… Mike decides that the urn/pots of water idea won’t work, he needs to go out and buy a water heater…………… so off he goes, and I continue to dance.
November 4th 2010, 5 PM: I text Lisa and Miradija, LOLing that I could be wrong again, maybe I’m jinxing myself, it’s still manageable at the moment and I think maybe I’m subconsciously waiting for the children to go to bed, I’ll text them with updates. I continue to dance.
November 4th 2010, 6 PM: I text Mike, where are you can you come home please. He comes home, without a water heater, LOL! He boils water on the stove and in the urn. He sets up the Playstation. The blonde girl and boy are transfixed by it and forget I’m in the next room dancing. The dark-haired girl seems to know that her life is about to change, she’s about to be a sister. She knowingly holds my hand, and dances with me.
November 4th 2010, 8 PM: Miradija texts me, I reply “yes come now”. I text Lisa “they’re on top of each other come now please”. Miradija arrives and I’m weepy. I feel like I need to pee but can’t, and Miradija suggests a shower might help, so as she begins baking the groaning cake, Mike helps me into a hot shower. It helps a little but not much – I am just sick of standing, I am getting tired and need to recharge. I get out of the shower and make my way to the living room. I strip off and get into the pool……… bliss.
November 4th 2010, 8:45 PM: Lisa arrives. It suddenly becomes quite real to me. I follow my body’s instinctive movements, I breathe, I groan. The cake bakes, the children wander around, the candles are lit, the music is loud. Jeff Buckley.
I am kneeling. I rest, almost asleep, between contractions, floating and trusting and enveloped in love. I go onto my back. I need supportive hands through each contraction. The little children are watching Barnyard in our bedroom. The music takes me away. Fleetwood Mac.
Mike holds me, kisses me, whispers to me, comforts me, follows me. Lisa’s hand on my head. Follow the pain, she says. Go with it. Relax your face. I don’t want to do this. I don’t think I can do this. Come on baby, get out, get out! Relax, breathe, go with it. I go back onto my knees. The pain leads me, and I chase it now. The music soothes me. The Beatles.
November 4th 2010, 10 something PM: Each contraction makes me roar and chase the pain harder now. I feel like I have hours to go. I roar and my body pushes.
November 4th 2010, 10:20 PM: My body pushes. I feel the pressure, I feel the head, my body pushes, the head is out. Lisa says she’ll push the baby towards me under the water and I should pick it up. The Beatles sing “I feel fine”. My body pushes, Lisa guides it towards my hands, I pick up my baby. He’s here, oh my god he’s here. I did do it! I did do it!!
It’s a boy. The cord is around his neck 4 times, tightly, too tight for Lisa to remove. We spin him a few times to unravel his life-rope. He adjusts to being earthside, his father and sisters watching. The water is very bloody, and within minutes I feel more contractions and my body wants to push out his placenta. One big push and it escapes, but membranes remain. Lisa suggests I get out of the pool, carefully, how do I feel, is the blood loss affecting me? I feel fine. I feel amazing! I sit on the couch, Lisa helps with membrane removal, and we gaze at this baby. He feeds. I eat warm cake. We look at the cord, it’s finished its job and awaits our next move. We have a hand-made cord tie, sent by beautiful Honey. Lisa ties off the cord and Mike cuts it. More baby-gazing, more feeding. Daddy snuggles. I shower and we all get into our bed. Lisa and Dija leave about 1:30 AM.
We gaze. We fall in love with him, and deeper in love with each other. We never once regret him. Months ago, we thought this was bad timing, but we were wrong, so wrong. He is here, the first act in this love story.
WHAT IS SUPPORT?
Support is unconditional.
It is listening…
not judging, not telling your own story.
Support is not offering advice…
it is offering a handkerchief, a touch, a hug…caring.
We are here to help women discover what they are feeling…
not to make the feelings go away.
We are here to help a woman identify her options…
not to tell her what options to choose.
We are here to discuss steps with a woman…
not to take the steps for her.
We are here to help a woman discover her own strength…
not to rescue her and leave her still vulnerable.
We are here to help a woman discover she can help herself…
not to take that responsibility for her.
We are here to help a woman learn to choose…
not to make it unnecessary for her to make difficult choices.
Who I am as a Doula
As a DONA certified birth doula, I accompany women in labor to help ensure a safe and satisfying birth experience. I am DONA trained and adhere to DONA’s “Code of Ethics” and “Standards of Practice” (as stated at www.DONA.org). I draw on my professional training, knowledge, experience, and my own son’s birth to provide emotional support, physical comfort, and as needed, communication with other professional staff to make sure that you have the information you need to make informed decisions as they arise in labor. I can provide reassurance and perspective to you and your partner, make suggestions for labor progress, and help with relaxation, massage, positioning, and other techniques for comfort. I am independent and self-employed. As your doula, I am working for you, not your caregiver or hospital.
I will meet with you and your partner a few times before labor, as well as communicate by phone and email, to become acquainted. We will explore and discuss priorities and any fears or concerns, discuss your birth plan and to plan how we might work best together. I also want to know your own best ways of coping with pain and fatigue and how you and your partner foresee working together.
I usually wish to go with you for at least one doctor visit, preferably towards the end of your pregnancy. This gives me additional information so that I might best serve you.
I will also inform you of times when I am unavailable for labor support. To cover those times, I will arrange for a qualified back-up doula whom you may also meet.
When You are in Labor
I prefer that you call me when you think you are in labor, even if you do not yet need me. I can answer questions and make suggestions over the phone. We will decide if I should come right then or wait for further change. I usually need approximately one hour to get to you from the time you ask me to come. We will also decide where to meet – at your home, the hospital, or the birth center. Except for extraordinary circumstances, I will remain with you throughout labor and birth. If there is a limitation on the number of people who may be present, it will be assumed that I will always be present.
I usually will remain with you for one or two hours after birth; until you are comfortable and/or your family is ready for time together. I can also assist with initial breastfeeding. I am available to answer questions about the birth or your baby. I would like to visit while you are still in the hospital. I would then like to get together about a week after you return home to see how you and your baby are doing, to deliver a special letter to your baby, to review the birth, and to get feedback from you about my role.
AS A DOULA, I DO NOT:
- Perform clinical tasks, such as blood pressure, fetal heart checks, vaginal exams, and others. I am there to provide only physical comfort and emotional support.
- Make decisions for you. I will help you get the information necessary to make an informed decision. I will remind you if there is a departure from your birth plan, however.
- Speak to the staff on your behalf. I will discuss your concerns with you and suggest options, but you or your partner will need to speak directly to the clinical staff. I may, however, ask questions of the staff in order to facilitate discussion.
- Tell you what to do. I will only make suggestions based on my training and experience.
- Replace your partner. Rather, we work together, as a team, to help make you feel safe, protected. It is then that you are able to let yourself go with what nature intends for a woman who is giving birth.
I believe this quote from Tao Te Ching beautifully summarizes what a doula does……
“You are a birth servant. Do good without show or fuss. If you must
take the lead, lead so that the mother is helped, yet still free and
in charge. When the baby is born, they will rightly say: ‘We did it
My husband and I had longed to have a baby, and when I fell pregnant we couldn’t quite believe it had happened so quickly. We were so excited!
It was not the most straightforward of pregnancies. I felt more ill than I could have ever possibly imagined, making ordinary tasks almost impossible. At six weeks it hit, ‘all day and all night’ sickness. I spent most days lurching from my bed to the sofa and back, unable to eat almost anything. I only threw up once, but I wished I could have been sick more often for the relief that would inevitably follow. Food shopping and even opening the fridge was unpleasant because of the smell. Despite how distracting this was I would console myself with the knowledge that all this nausea was my body maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Thankfully at 13 weeks the sickness began to clear.
Having been offered a routine ultrasound, my husband and I opted for it, keen to follow the development of our baby. We were eager to see her on the screen. My heart sank when a blood test was promptly requested- the nuchal fold of skin that is at the back of the baby’s neck was thicker than was considered “average”. We were given the option of a CVS. I had heightened levels of HCG in my blood stream and had a 1 in 50 chance of our baby being born with a chromosomal disorder. In accordance with my age group it should have been 1 in 1400. We went ahead with the procedure, and in short it was the most awful and traumatic experience of my life and the week that followed was no better while waiting for the outcome and the decisions that would have to follow. The call came informing us that our baby was perfectly healthy, so now finally we could get on with looking forward to the future and the growing excitement of becoming parents, or so we thought. We had had the best possible news and for that we were grateful. (For information on this and related tests, read this.)
The next few weeks were good and hopeful. I felt well and started to enjoy this pregnancy, my bump was developing nicely, and we began telling people. I was amazed by the miracle that was unfolding within. I felt proud of my little baby.
At 16 weeks we encountered a rather unforeseen and unpleasant altercation. Though unrelated to the pregnancy, I was upset and hurt by what had happened. I didn’t handle it well. Had I not been pregnant, I believe I would have come to terms with what had happened and moved on. But I couldn’t and in retrospect I felt it had been a difficult ride up until this point. I hadn’t processed what had gone before and I was left in essence traumatised, we both were. I did not realise this or what a vulnerable state I was in. I felt as though I had fallen into a hole, had been swallowed up and couldn’t see my way out. Like an avalanche, out of nowhere, I didn’t know which was up. Now the physical had become psychological. Over the following weeks I became overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety, stress, hopelessness and despair. My sleeping became irregular and I began suffering with panic attacks and having huge bouts of crying.
I struggled to articulate my concerns. I did not have a history of depression and although I was aware of the possibility of Post Natal Depression I had never even heard of Prenatal Depression. This pregnancy was planned, I had the most supportive and understanding husband. My life was great; to the outside world everything was fine. You’re supposed to be happy when you’re pregnant, and blooming and radiant, aren’t you? All of this added to my feelings of guilt and concern for our unborn baby. Could she read my thoughts, could she feel what I was feeling, would the heightened levels of the stress hormone Cortisol in the amniotic fluid affect her brain development, would this make her an unhappy person? I could not stop thinking these things.
How I Coped with Prenatal Depression
Towards the end of the second trimester the realisation that I would actually have to give birth began to dawn on me. So my quest to gain control began. I could not face the prospect of a traumatic birth experience after everything we had already been through. It was a gradual build towards my positive outlook; some days were not so bad, others were still awful. Several things seemed to coincide.
I phoned my midwife in a flood of tears, convinced my baby wouldn’t love me. She referred me to my general practitioner. Though my provider was sympathetic to my concerns, no headway was made to help me. There is a huge lack of medical understanding and research on Prenatal Depression. Medication was not an option for me. By the time I received a referral to speak with a counselor I felt it was no longer necessary.
I decided instead to begin to write about how I felt and I also joined several classes and met other new mums to be. We would meet weekly for Aquanatal classes (find one in UK). Not only did the exercise invigorate me and alleviate all the aches and pains associated with pregnancy but we discussed everything from carpal tunnel and Restless Leg Syndrome to what colour of pram we were having. We also discussed our plans to breastfeed and maternity leave. This for me was one of the most healing experiences and I would advise anyone to do this. I am still close with these women, only now conversations are all about first steps, weaning and teeth.
I also joined a class run by a Doula and she gave me practical and invaluable information on labour and birth. I learned about positioning for me and for baby, my rights and the informed decisions I could make, breathings and visualisations, and books to read. My favourite book was Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. My favourite topics were massage, essential oils for pain relief, and of course all about Oxytocin.
I began to feel so empowered! My depression and anxiety began to fade. I found a new focus and I started to look forward to birthing my baby.
I went on to have the most wonderful, positive natural birth experience with no doctors, interventions or drugs. Just privacy and peace. I delivered our 8lb 11oz baby girl in water after 5.5 hours of active labour. We were blessed to have a wonderfully intuitive and observant midwife. I learned to understand myself and to trust my body. From all the sadness before, our birth was the most wonderful experience. Motherhood has proven to be the most fun and fulfilling role of my life. As for my daughter, well, she is a happy, calm and contented little girl.
I have since learnt that 1 in 10 pregnant women suffer bouts of depression and anxiety, a figure which echoes that within the population generally (source- these statistics vary per country/region). Depression before pregnancy can increase the chances of having postnatal depression, but the majority who have PND do not have Prenatal Depression. Medical professionals mistakenly thought pregnancy hormones protected women from depression, leaving women more vulnerable after having given birth when the hormones plunge. It is now believed that the rapid increase of hormones at the beginning of pregnancy can disrupt brain chemistry and it is now starting to be recognised. Those considered at a particular risk are those with a personal or family history of depression, have had fertility treatments, previous pregnancy loss or complications or a past history of abuse. The symptoms can include anxiety, sleep disturbance, trouble concentrating, panic attacks, excessive crying, or feelings of anger, confusion, hopelessness, despair and emptiness.
I encourage all mothers-to-be who are feeling as I felt to build your support system, make friends, join classes, and communicate with your partner (it is their experience as well). I did not or could not consider quite the impact it had on my husband until a long time afterwards. Do fun things, make plans. Focus on your psychological wellbeing as well as physical health.
Educate yourself and be kind to yourself. It sounds simple and obvious, but in the busyness and confusion, excitement, fear and unknowns, it can all too easily be overlooked. Like many other things I came to realise with motherhood, all the trials and tribulations that one experiences are only a phase.
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Call your care provider, by this point you will have a great relationship with them and they will help you through it over the phone, putting your mind at ease until they arrive. Have your partner call whoever you were wanting to attend your birth (doula, friends, family, photographer) and if you changed your mind on having people there that is completely okay! Have your partner start filling up your birthing tub (if you are a fast birther, start this early as it takes awhile) or wait until your care provider comes and they will help with that. Keep in mind you can always top up the tub later on with hot water, if the water sits for awhile. This is a way better option than not having time to set it up. In fact if you have an inflatable pool, having it inflated and waiting in those last couple weeks is a good idea.
Make sure that if you are going to have your placenta encapsulated you contact that person so they know to be ready to do that. And remind your care provider that you want your placenta encapsulated so they can make sure that it gets bagged up and placed in your fridge or freezer appropriately.
Go back to: Step #10: Making Your Birthing Space
Go ahead to: Step #12: Postpartum Care
Go to: Birthing Methods Main Menu
Birth support? Isn’t that what my care provider is for? Well yes, however in some instances they are there to make sure nothing bad happens and recognize when a labor is not going right. Additional birth support can be helpful; they can remind you of things you wanted and make sure that you understand what is going in. What is the name of this support person? A Doula.
A doula is someone you can hire for the birth and/or postpartum care. They can help your partner or family support you as you are laboring. A doula is someone you hire to be there for the entire labor (a midwife might be called during your labor to another mother who maybe closer to birthing baby than you) and will not leave your side. She can be a great interpreter for you and your care provider especially in a case of transferring to a hospital for any reason, since some midwives do not have hospital privileges.
For postpartum care, she can help you with simple breast feeding issues, do household chores, hold the baby while you and your partner get some much needed rest, and make sure you are not having any postpartum complications or mood disorders, like postpatrum depression
or childbirth PTSD
to name a couple.
If you are not sure a doula is someone you want to have at or after your birth, a great book for your partner or family to read is The Birth Partner
by Penny Simpkin. It has a great easy layout for understanding what is happening during your labor physiologically, emotionally, and mentally. There are instructions on counter pressure, massage, and breathing techniques to help you handle your contractions.
Creating a Birth Plan is a great idea regardless of where you are birthing. This makes sure that you and your care provider are on the same page in terms of what you want for and from your birth. When you're in labour you will not want to spend a lot of time explaining your wishes. It's nice to have people just know their role and what's expected of them, this makes for no suprises with conflict in your wishes.
Some considerations of things to include:
- Your desire for a doula or photography
- Who will be present at the birth
- Interventions that you DO NOT want: if there are alternatives of homeopathic or natural options have these available
- Where do you want to birth: the pool, bed, birthing stool
- Delayed cord clamping
- Who will receive the baby
- How & what position you want to push in: directed pushing or instinctual pushing
- What you would like to have done with your placenta from keeping it to bury, lotus birth, encapsulating or having it disposed of
To learn more about birth plans visit this site or any other resources you can find online.
This birth plan article may also provide you with additional things to consider in your birth plan.
Go back to: Step #5: Tests and Ultrasounds
Go ahead to: Step #7: Gathering Birthing Supplies
Go to: Birthing Methods Main Menu
Finding a provider can be hard. You can ask friends, family, google or other search engines, and social media. You need to find someone who is not afraid of homebirth. Who will support you and comfort you the way you need. If there is any gut feeling of tension or insecurity with that person, discuss it with them and if that does not resolve, find another provider. Keep in mind that some countries/regions have very strict guidelines on what is considered a low risk pregnancy, and under certain conditions this assessment may make it difficult or impossible for you to remain in their care. Your care provider will be able to tell you if you are considered a low risk pregnancy.
Once you have done your research through friends, family and online, make a list of all your prospective providers. Don’t forget to look at Family Practioners, Naturopathic Doctors, Certified Professional Midwives, Direct Entry Midwives, OB/GYN’s, and Certified Nurse Midwives (not all of these options are available in all areas).
Your best bet is to call and see if they will do a free meet and greet appointment. Most should although if you are going through a family practitioner or OB/GYN you may have to pay for the office visit (although many are covered and you will only have to pay your co-payment.). Make a list of questions to ask your prospective providers. Some midwives do take insurance and some don’t, and many will offer different payment plans. Believe it or not, some will let you pay in installments or even let you trade services with them for payment in finances are an issue. Choosing your care provider is a personal decision that you really should weigh carefully against your personal feelings and those of your partners. You want to feel comfortable with the provider and feel like they are working for you through the enitre pregnancy, birth and after care.
Questions to ask:
- Transports/Transfer rate (how often a laboring woman is transferred to the hospital)
- Reasons for transport
- Episiotomy rate (a surgical cut into the perineum to help avoid tearing)
- Cesarean Section Rate within transports
- Are Doula’s allowed/welcomed
- Waterbirth ability
- Postions for delivering
- Pain Relief Options
- Medications/Oxygen for hemorrage or resuscitation efforts
- Co-Care with an Obstetrician
- Back-up care
- Twin or other multiples, Breech, VBAC options
- Breastfeeding support
- What will risk me out of a homebirth?
- How do you handle transfer of care if risked out?
Here is a comprehensive list of questions to ask your care provider.
At this point, you can decide to go with a care provider or whether a Unassisted Birth is right for you. Once again this is a very personal choice, that will take much consideration and thought.
Go back to: Step #1: Is Home Birth Right for You?
Go ahead to: Step #3: What If My Partner/Family Disagree With Home Birth?
Go to: Birthing Methods Main Menu