My passion for birth began with the birth of my nephew. Before that, my primary "experience" with birth was women screaming bloody murder and cursing their husbands on tv and in movies. Naturally, I was terrified of birth. So when my sister invited me to her birth, I resisted at first. What if watching her birth traumatized me to the point that I never want to have children of my own? To my surprise, it had the opposite effect! My sister birthed with confidence and ease (no shrill screaming at all!) and I will forever remember watching my nephew be born as the most beautiful sight I have ever witnessed. A couple years later I became pregnant with my firstborn. I dreamed of an unmedicated water birth at home, but at the time it was not an option for us financially. Still, I was optimistic I could have a beautiful, unmedicated hospital birth. I saturated myself with natural birth books and positive birth stories. We took an extensive Bradley Method childbirth class. When labor day came we learned no matter how much we had prepared ourselves, the dynamics of each labor are incredibly unpredictable. I labored unmedicated for over 24 hours and eventually gave birth to my son by emergency cesarean--not what we had hope or envisioned, but nonetheless awe-inspiring. We finally got to meet our little one! The sound of his first cry brought tears to my eyes in profound wonder. Here we are gazing at him for the first time on the operating table.
Despite the joy of having our son, I was deeply disappointed by had my labor had gone. I truly believe a C-section may have been avoided if I had the support of a doula. Although my husband was there and had been educated in hospital lingo and how to advocate for me, it was also his first experience with birth and he was deeply affected in seeing me struggle through the demands of labor. We felt unsupported in our birth plan by the medical staff. Simple requests like having the lights dim and voices low were often brushed aside and even defiantly opposed. Nurse and childbirth educator Judith A. Lothian says, "In nature, when a laboring animal feels threatened or disturbed, the stress hormone catecholamine shuts down labor. Similarly, when a laboring woman does not feel safe or protected or when the progress of her normal labor is altered, catecholamine levels rise and labor slows down or stops." I do not doubt that this played a large part in the complications of my labor that led to a C-section. When I got pregnant with my second child, I decided to try for a VBAC, ideally all naturally, but I was open to interventions if necessary. We decided to hire a local Long Beach doula to ensure we would have the best possible birth experience. I had to work through some trauma from my previous birth experience and thankfully through reflection, processing, prayer, and research, I found healing. I had to learn to trust the amazing design of my body to give birth. My doula helped me to trust that the hospital environment would be a safe place for me to birth the way I wanted to and to support my husband through the emotional dynamics of labor. I am so happy that I was blessed to give birth to my second son naturally! I give so much thanks to God, my husband, my doula, and the medical staff!
After my 2nd son's birth, I decided to go after my back burner dream of becoming a birth doula myself. My boys and their births have been transformative for me emotionally and spiritually. Through all the struggle and beauty I have found strength I didn't know I had. I long to see many more women similarly empowered by the incredible gift of bearing and delivering children.