home birth week : q & a, part two
What is a doula?
A doula is a woman who provides non-medical support and care to a woman in labor. Doulas are trained in different laboring positions to help cope with pain, relaxation techniques, and massage. Doulas also act as advocates for their clients, making sure the woman's wishes + needs are met, acting as a buffer between the medical staff and the mother. Doulas also help encourage the father or partner to be as involved in the birthing process as they feel comfortable, providing information and acting as ally.
How do you feel about having older children present during a home birth?
I have been thinking a lot about this topic recently and I really believe that it depends on the age of the children and the number of adults present at the birth. When I had Graham, Sela had just turned two and was very curious about how the baby was going to come out. I had wanted to try to have her present for the birth, but it just didn't work out. I was too focused on working through contractions and needed Brian's attention and support, so she spent the night at my aunt's house which is right around the corner. When she woke up the next morning, my aunt brought her over just in time for the newborn exam, and I felt it worked out well.
When I was talking to Briana about this topic last week, she said the key to having a successful experience is to have one adult for every child present, not counting the mother or father. I feel this is a great rule of thumb, especially if the labor runs long and the kids are feeling restless or anxious.
I'm hoping with the the next baby my children will be able to watch the birth, as I feel it's important for children to understand that birth is a normal, safe, and important event. Birth is an intense experience, not to mention messy and sometimes loud, but it is also a natural and normal experience, and I think the more exposure we can give our children, the more prepared and confident they will be as they go on and make their own choices.
What kind of pain management did you use?
I've never taken any childbirth classes or used any specific method to help me cope with the pain of labor, so I can't really vouch for any program specifically.
Here are the three things that helped me the most:
1) Yoga. I started practicing yoga regularly just months before I found out I was pregnant with Sela and continued my practice through both pregnancies. In yoga you are constantly using breath and meditation to help cope with physical discomfort and negative, discouraging thoughts. You learn to breathe through anything and to focus on letting go and embrace the experience for what it is. I used deep yoga breathing and even yoga poses to help me work through the contractions. It really helped my to accept the contractions and to stop fighting against the important and necessary work they do by recognizing and saying to myself, "This is me. This is just my body giving birth. This is me."
2) Education. The more I know, the less I fear. I read (and continue to to read!) stacks and stacks of books, articles, and studies on childbirth. I watched videos of home births and talked to midwives, mothers, and doctors about the stages of birth and what to expect. I knew that with a home birth there is no option for a medicated birth, and so I made sure I was prepared long before labor began.
3) Support. I truly believe you can accomplish anything if you are surrounded by people who love you and are fully invested in supporting you through the journey of natural childbirth. It still brings tears to my eyes when I think of the tender hands and hearts that served me so tirelessly during the birth of my children. I can still remember the gentle words of encouragement whispered at the moment I thought I could go no further, "Rachel, you are doing a beautiful job. You are strong, even stronger than you know. Let's have a baby."
Ultimately, my support system gave me something I never could have achieved on my own: the beautiful, powerful and sacred experiences of bringing my children into the world on my own terms and in my own way.They made it all possible and then turned around and showered me with praise and love, giving me all the credit for something that I could have never, ever done alone.