I attended a perfect birth yesterday.
I mean it. It was everything the couple I was working with had ever dreamed of.
I texted my husband to tell him I’d be home soon, and he responded, “Congrats!” – referring to the great birth. Suddenly, after 5 years in the business, I had a revelation that rather shook me:
I couldn’t take credit.
It’s true. I did the same things I always do. I applied essential oils. I gauged my client’s need for touch vs. space. I helped her change positions, and I coached her husband to ensure that he would be the person she remembered supporting her the most. And there it was: the perfect birth.
What struck me was this question:
Why, among all of the couples I work with, who follow and implement the same “formula” that I offer, do some couples have a “perfect” birth, while others don’t?
I know some might say it’s all about the right doctor, or the right birth plan, or even – let’s be honest – the right doula. But if that were the case, then why have I seen such vastly different births among healthy women who have the same doctors, the same hospitals, and the same birth plans?
Could it go beyond Clary Sage and Pelvic Tilts?
I once read a fellow doula’s comment on a social networking site that read, “Well , you can’t win them all . . .”
We all knew what it meant. Lots of other doulas on the page even “liked” it, presumably out of pity. She clearly had attended an ‘imperfect’ birth, and she felt like a failure. As if the brand new life she had witnessed emerging was somehow less because of how it had entered into the world. Or, more accurately (and sadly), as if it was a loss.
What if there’s more to it than that? What if we are muddying the waters in an already beautiful journey by always aiming, either inwardly or outwardly, for that ‘perfect’ outcome; by calling ‘imperfect’ birth a loss when it is obviously a valiant and triumphant win? What if we are stirring the pot of disappointment and depression when we should be aiming for balance and gratitude?
Every birth is a win. Every birth is perfect.
I’ve fought hard in the past to protect my clients from the aftermath of a disappointing birthing experience. In my humblest opinion, I work harder than most to set realistic expectations and to help train hearts—along with minds—to be prepared for whatever is to come.
But am I, as a doula, willing to admit that my worth is not wrapped up in the outcome of a birth, any more than a mother’s should be? Am I willing to see an imperfect birth as its own brand of perfection, without second-guessing my own work?
The perfect birth I attended yesterday wasn’t more. And neither am I.
I’m good at my job. I like what I do, and I know that my presence and skills can bring great comfort and guidance to expectant parents. But I have to be willing to admit that imperfect births aren’t shameful. Not for the mother, which I already knew, but not for me, either. With this new revelation, I am even more free. I can love more fully and offer more of myself, knowing that my presence matters, but probably not in the ways that I think. My support can be truly unconditional, and I can come alongside new parents to celebrate every birth – no matter what it looks like – as a victory.
That is what a perfect birth looks like.
Jennifer DeBrito, CSP, CCLD, CCBE is a Master Splankna Practitioner, Doula, and Childbirth Educator in Colorado Springs. She is the author of Expectant Parents Workshop: Devotional, and the creator of the Expectant Parents Workshop childbirth preparation class. Jennifer was the 3-time doula to Suzanne Hadley Gosselin (esteemed author of Expectant Parents, a pregnancy/childbirth/parenting book by Focus on the Family). In addition to coaching expectant parents toward a Christ-centered childbirth, Jennifer also specializes in prenatal and postpartum wellness coaching and Splankna Therapy Colorado Springs. Jennifer is a featured blogger for My719Moms.com. To learn more about Jennifer, go to EdensPromiseLLC.com.