Perfect Birth, Part 2: It’s Personal

A couple of weeks ago, I shared my heart about an issue that I know plagues expectant mothers everywhere: what does it take to have a perfect birth?

I touched on the fact that while childbirth education is imperative, and support during labor is helpful, we still don’t know how any woman will react to the labor process until she is already in the moment. I made the point that all births, no matter what they look like, are victories to be celebrated. And I mean that. All births are their own brand of perfect. But sometimes, for some women, the truth is this:

Even perfect birth can be traumatic.

I would be foolish not to acknowledge that some women have frightening or even life-threatening births and are forced to come to terms with their experience. For one reason or another, the process simply doesn’t “work” in some situations. For some of these women, my testimony about my disappointing birth experience and my injured feelings of self-worth might be exactly what they need. But for others, well… maybe not so much.

Beyond our physical, emotional, and spiritual bodies, we are each also composed of our own complicated list of experiences. We have a mind, which we discuss in class, but we also have a subconscious mind, which we couldn’t even begin to cover: immature in its ability to make sense of our experiences, and endlessly vulnerable to the hoaxes of the enemy (again: see the Devotional). Working quietly behind the scenes, beneath our cool, collected exterior, it shapes our reactions to every one of our life experiences.

It’s personal.

In the five years since starting my childbirth services company, I have had no choice but to grow as an individual. I have been brought to my knees by some of my own life experiences. Shaken to the core of my beliefs. The shaping of my character as an adult has been arduous, and I have fought hard to find—and hold on to—what is true. In the process, I have also come to see some of that which is not.

I have learned something very important: We are each fighting our own battles. Maybe that sounds cliché, but this is relevant in all areas of life – including the quest for a great birth. For me to come alongside a woman and preach “worth,” when her own personal life experiences have shaped her to need a message of “safety” (for example), would mean that I have missed her altogether.

But how can I help? How do I know what someone needs, when it is beyond their own understanding? How do I discern the tune of their song, unless they themselves can sing it to me?

It’s possible.

The message I offer in my classes about worth and birth idolatry and relationship problems is—in all humility—good. It is quality stuff, and I will continue to teach it. But if I am to partner with God in caring for souls, then I must work from the heart with all of the skill allotted to me. There is more I can offer on an individual basis, seeking hearts and re-adjoining them to God’s in a way that is so much bigger, so much more personal, than the quest for the perfect birth.

It’s time to integrate more. Eden’s Promise is ready to offer you – each mother, father, and child- more than I ever dreamed possible. Click here to find out more!

Jennifer DeBrito, CSP, CCLD, CCBE is a Master Splankna Practitioner  Colorado Springs Doula and Childbirth Educator.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 Parentsa 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.

10 Easy Steps to the Best Doctor or Midwife

By Jennifer DeBrito, Colorado Springs Doula

A trusting relationship with your healthcare provider is perhaps the single most important factor that you can control in ensuring a positive childbirth experience for you and your family. So, how can you determine who will be the best fit for you? While many people choose their OB/GYN or CNM based on insurance coverage, proximity, or prior gynecological experiences, you may wish to include the additional considerations in your selective process:

1) Is their personality a fit for you? It doesn’t matter how ‘good’ a provider is at their job if your personalities clash and you can’t communicate well. Try this: List 5 words describing the kind of care you would hope to receive from your provider, as well as any other traits you would like them to possess (such as male or female, outgoing or quiet, etc.).  Keep those words in mind as you move into your search.

2) Are their beliefs a fit for you? List your preference for religious persuasion, as well as any beliefs that are important to you, such as nutritional concepts, and “how” you want your baby to be born. Add this to your list of preferences.

3) Word of mouth. What have been other people’s experiences with providers you are considering? Using the words on the list you created, you can now open it up to social media to see who is recommended.  Try to be specific about what you are looking for (such as, ‘I really want a natural-minded, female CNM with a patient and quiet demeanor in the delivery room’), and avoid being too general (as in, ‘Who likes their doctor?”). Online reviews are another great way to get a feel for a provider’s personality and style of care before you even meet them.

Keep in mind that all healthcare providers are likely to have a bad review or two. But if a provider consistently receives complaints about the same issues and concerns, consider it a red flag. Also, you may see complaints about things not important to you, which you certainly have the right to ignore if you desire.

4) Education and experience. Not all healthcare providers are created equal! While all physicians or CNM’s have been through rigorous testing and are required to meet a certain standard of care, you might also consider such things as where they attended school and how long ago. Keep in mind that sometimes the trade-off for years of experience can be a more old-fashioned view on childbirth (note that I said sometimes, not always). Another consideration is that a specialized degree in high-risk obstetrics would probably indicate that the provider is more focused on testing, statistics, and loss prevention and less on encouraging a ‘natural’ birth. (If you are more ‘natural’-minded, it can help to ask a provider about their current c-section rate). Take the time to think through the provider’s education and what it would likely mean for you. Then make your decision based on what is important to you.

5) On-call rotation. Unless a provider is part of a very large practice with multiple other providers, then it is likely that your doctor shares their on-call rotation with a few other practices. It is good to know ahead of time who your chosen provider shares call with, so that you can research the other practices and possibly even meet them.

6) Interview. This may sound a bit tedious, but it is amazing what can be revealed about the provider and their staff by simply stopping in for a quick little chat. Are they friendly? Punctual? Do they listen? Smile? Is their office clean and organized? How do you feel after leaving? Did they possess the traits you are looking for? Do you feel like they meet your criteria? Then go home and schedule a real appointment once you’re sure. It’s totally worth the 20 minutes.

Once you have chosen your provider and have started attending appointments, there are a few ongoing questions you should continue to consider:

7) How long are your appointments? Too long? Too short? Just right? Do the provider and their staff value your time, and make time for you in their day as well?

8) How is your relationship coming along? Are you growing more comfortable with your provider with each appointment? Do they sit down and talk to you like you are a real person, or do they treat you like just another part of their busy day?

9) Do you feel heard? Is the provider answering your questions and addressing your concerns, or do they just minimize them and move on?

10) Do you trust them? At the end of each appointment, ask yourself: do I trust that my provider is knowledgeable and capable? Do I believe that they care about me and will do what is best for me? If the answer to this is ever a ‘no,’ then perhaps they are no longer a good fit.

If, at any point during your pregnancy you should wish to find a different provider, it is totally within your rights to do so. It also bears noting, however, that it is also within the rights of a provider to opt not to bring you on as a new client—particularly if you are very close to delivery. By taking the time to do your research in the beginning, you will ensure that you are choosing a provider with staying power, whom you trust to work well with you in the delivery room, understand your values, and provide the amazing care you deserve.

This post was exerpted from the Expectant Parents Workshop Study Guide, written and used by Colorado Springs Doula Jennifer DeBrito in her Expectant Parents Workshop Childbirth Classes.

Jennifer DeBrito, CCLD, CCBE is a Colorado Springs Doula and Private Childbirth Educator. She is the author of Expectant Parents Workshop:Devotional, and the proud owner of Eden’s Promise, LLC. In addition to coaching expectant parents toward a Christ-centered childbirth, Jennifer also specializes in prenatal and postpartum wellness coaching. Jennifer is also a featured blogger for My719Moms.com. To learn more about Jennifer, go to EdensPromiseLLC.com

The Birth Story of Evan (First Child, Induction, epidural)

The Birth Story of Evan Russell Short

Born December 24, 2013 at 4:28 a.m.

            Evan Russell Short was a Christmas surprise. Born about a month early, he is a perfect example of the way that God can weave unexpected circumstances into healing, faith-building experiences.

When I met with Rachael and Daron for the first time on the patio at Starbucks, Evan was barely even a bump in Rachael’s belly. As they listened intently to my presentation, they made me think of a quote by Emily Bronte that says, “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” They both seem to possess something in their character, a steadfastness or unassuming gentleness or patience or faith, that lends them a deep connection to one another. At least, that was my first impression of them, and now that I’ve known them a bit longer I still see it (although I still can’t quite put my finger on it).

Over the course of our three prenatal meetings in their (immaculate!) home, I eventually got used the knowing glances the two of them would sometimes share with each other as I spoke. I learned to take those looks as encouragement, knowing that their closeness would serve as a huge asset during childbirth, and that whatever they were exchanging looks about would hopefully serve as good conversation for them after I left.

We covered a lot of information in order to get the two of them prepared for childbirth. Ultimately, our focus was on seeing God’s hand in everything, from science to the deepest matters of our hearts. Neither of them asked a lot of questions. Instead, both offered a quiet acceptance of the information, along with nods of understanding. When asked directly, they were willing to share their thoughts, but for the most part, they were both just incredible listeners. As I spoke, I prayed for the Holy Spirit teach them wherever I was falling short. I believe God presented Himself in many ways throughout their preparation and childbirth experience.

One way the Spirit presented Himself was as their Guide and Comforter during Rachael’s prenatal appointments. While a mild disdain for needles is fairly common among many people, the severity of Rachael’s aversion to having her blood drawn was fairly acute. And, of course, blood draws are a routine part of prenatal appointments, so they found themselves dealing with the issue often. When they were discussing the topic of glucose testing with me, it was Darron’s unwavering support of Rachael that caught my attention; it was then that I realized how deeply protective and completely “on her side” he was on the matter. I found their side-by-side stance encouraging, but I did wonder how they would navigate the numerous tests offered and/or recommended by their doctor.

Together, they managed their way through it, by asking for prayer and seeking God’s discernment and strength. They carefully weighed the importance of each blood draw, and got through each of them one at a time. Every report of a successful ‘poke’ was proof to me that God was at work. Additionally, God provided them with His divine discernment regarding which tests to go through with, and which ones would be unnecessary for them. By standing together and seeking God’s guidance, Rachael and Daron handled the issue beautifully.

Another way that God’s hand was evident in their experience was with how Rachael’s water broke. Four days after our last prenatal meeting, as Rachael perused the childbirth book I had left with her, she learned about the different ways that the amniotic sac can rupture. After learning that it is sometimes just a slow trickle, she was able to identify when her own water broke the following morning. There was no way she would have suspected it otherwise, an entire month before her due date. But this little coincidence, which was truly a ‘nod from God,’ ensured that Rachael was in the hospital and in the care of excellent professionals when Evan was born. Without that little clue from God, who knows where Rachael would have been when she finally realized she was in labor. And considering how quickly her active labor progressed, God’s protective planning becomes particularly evident.

Rachael had always emailed before, so I knew something was up when my phone rang. It was the day before Christmas Eve, and I was standing outside watching my breath as my children played when I learned that Rachael’s water had broken. She had spent much of the day suspecting that this was the case based on what she had read the day before, and Dr. Baer had just confirmed it. She and Daron were headed to the hospital, struck by the sudden revelation that they were going to have a baby by Christmas!

I arrived at the hospital around 5:30 p.m. to find a very calm Rachael, despite the I.V. that had just been placed in her hand. I brought Daron some little sandwiches to snack on while we waited to find out what the plan was. We soon learned that Rachael was already dilated to 2 cm and her cervix was very soft, so all she needed was a little Pitocin. (Apparently, the back pain she had mentioned during our meeting a few days prior had actually been a symptom of very early labor. It is amazing how everyone truly is different!)

Of course, it took a while for the Pitocin to be administered, then even more time for it to kick in. We spent some time watching T.V. and just hanging out. We all ate some snacks, and they debated some about whether to put a post on Facebook now, or to wait until after the baby was born. (It was also somewhere around that time that they accidentally let Evan’s name slip—which I was pretty excited about.) We started trying out labor positions, even though Rachael wasn’t actually “in labor” yet. Rachael’s cheeks were flushed a pretty pink, and I figured that even if she didn’t realize things were happening, her body did—and we might as well help it along.

We had a couple of nurse changes occur over the next few hours, from nurse Jen to nurse Jan, and then back to nurse Jen again. The charge nurse, Julie, stepped in a couple of times, as well. All of them had to battle with the monitors, because we were changing positions and making it hard for them to read the baby’s heartbeat. They were each kind and understanding, and regardless of who we had, it was obvious that Rachael was in good hands.

At 8:30, the Pitocin dosage was increased again, to 10mu/hr. That was the one that did it. Rachael has a quiet strength to her countenance, and she did not change much in personality when the contractions came. She did, however, ask calmly about those “breaks” I had told her about that were supposed to come in between contractions. She wasn’t getting any of those. The nurse took that as a sign that she could turn the Pitocin off, which was now coupling with Rachael’s Oxytocin and causing one big contraction. Rachael labored the rest of the time on her own Oxytocin, but she still never really experienced the “waves” of contractions that she had been expecting. Instead, she was experiencing what is called “back labor,” a constant pain in the lower back caused by the baby being positioned up against the back of the pelvis.

At 10:00, the nurse checked Rachael and found her to be only 2 ½ cm dilated. The nurses were having a hard time monitoring the baby due to our frequent position changes, but we kept rotating through them, anyway. I applied some aromatherapy to Rachael’s feet, and later, her back, and also applied ‘grounding’ acupressure, in an effort to ease Rachael’s discomfort and help the baby to move down.

Around 11:15, nurse Jan came in to recommend the use of an internal monitor in order to get a continuous read on the baby’s heart rate. Feeling unsure about the implications of that particular intervention, Rachael and Daron prayed about it. As they prayed, a few questions came to mind for them to ask the nurse, and upon asking them, they were able to decide not to proceed with the monitor. God was so faithful to be present with them during that moment of decision!

At 12:00, Rachael learned that she was still only 3cm dilated. I reminded her that if labor had started on its own, chances were she would just now be coming into the hospital to find out if she was “in labor.” I was trying to help her to orient herself on the timeline I had previously explained to her, but she just stated plainly, “that’s not very encouraging.” I smiled and wondered, as we entered the morning of Christmas Eve, where Mary was when she was at 3 cm dilated with Jesus. Was she at the Inn yet? Or were they still outside of town? I didn’t share the thought, but now I rather wish I had. Perhaps Rachael would have appreciated the poetry of it, as I did.

Rachael and Daron continued our established routine. Hourly (or more frequent) potty breaks, meditating on scripture, prayer, and changing positions between hands & knees on the bed, sitting on the birthing ball, and slow dancing were all utilized as comfort and labor progression techniques. At 1:25, Rachael’s water broke a little more while she was on the birthing ball, which nurse Jen and I celebrated. We knew it indicated more change and more progress to come.

I mentioned before that Rachael had been experiencing an intense pain in her lower back. She described it as “searing” and “hot.” The constant pain, however, was still difficult to see for those of us supporting her. Rachael was inwardly focused as she tried to accept what she was feeling, even though she was finding no relief. It was her words alone that gave a clue as to how she was feeling; she was otherwise quite stoic. I gave her some peppermint and lemon whiffs, to try to boost her energy and spirits some, and nurse Jen got her a heating pad. Still, the pain was constant—and based on how quickly everything went next, I can only imagine how incredibly intense it must have been for her. In hindsight, the level of pain tolerance she exhibited was quite remarkable, as the entirety of her “active labor” and “transition” phases barely even totaled two hours long!

At 2:00 a.m. we learned that Rachael had progressed to 4 cm, a measurement I knew was disappointing for her to hear. To me, it signaled the official start of “active labor,” which I found encouraging. I kept hearing signs of the first—or was it the second?—“Pillar of Parturition,” which I had taught them about in our meetings. (These are words and attitudes that accompany certain progress points during labor, which indicate an upcoming release of pain-relieving, mood-enhancing endorphins). I truly felt that things would be speeding up soon—but I also know better than to make such promises. As someone who has experienced labor myself, I know that no “soon” is ever soon enough! I simply tried to remind Rachael and Daron that labor wouldn’t last forever.

Daron was incredible at supporting Rachael through labor. He was calm and comforting, remaining totally present as he massaged her back, prayed for her, and “danced” with her. He also got the task of untangling the monitor and IV cords down to an art! He made sure Rachael knew that they were in it together. It was difficult for him to coach her through contractions, because Rachael’s were presenting as a constant back pain, but he continued to apply warm pressure to her back, encourage her, and most importantly, listen to her. Daron never left her side, and never wavered as a source of support for her. As she leaned on him, he reminded her of who her true Source of Strength is. Together, they sought the Lord’s strength and together, I know they received it.

After that last cervical check, the plan was for Rachael to labor for another hour and half, and to be checked again at 3:30. At 2:30, she mentioned the idea of an epidural. While we had discussed previously that Rachael was open to whatever needed to happen during labor, it was also generally understood that the likelihood of Rachael requesting a needle of any kind was extremely low. I honestly went in expecting that she would not ask for an epidural, because of her fear of needles. Also, because many laboring women like to complain about wanting an epidural even though they don’t actually want one, I encouraged her to just get through one contraction at a time. Still, I felt for Rachael in that she simply was not getting any kind of break. For her, “one contraction at a time” probably sounded lot like “just keep enduring the unending pain.”

The next 30 minutes went very slowly. During that time, Rachael discussed with Daron that she really wanted to enjoy this amazing experience with him, and that she was serious about the epidural. Of course, Rachael herself could have pushed the button for the nurse at any time, but she didn’t. It is understandable that she needed support from her husband; she needed help making the decision because with an epidural comes a new set of unknowns. In Rachael’s case, she had never had the staunch desire for an “all-natural” birth, but as one of her supporters, it was still hard to know whether it was what she really wanted. (It’s always hard to tell.)

I could see that Daron was trying to weigh it carefully in his heart, not wanting to agree too early or too late. While that was occurring, I tried to distract Rachael with more position changes, and even prayer. I prayed for God to provide Rachael with a sense of peace, and some relief from the pain. I believe the Spirit provided these things immediately, by simply confirming for Daron the truth of Rachael’s request. Finally, with his arms around her as she leaned on his chest, he looked at me and said, “I honestly think she means it. For her to ask for a needle…”

Nurse Jen came in just as I was walking out to get her. I quickly explained Rachael’s decision about the epidural. Due to my previous experiences with other nurses, I had assumed that a cervical check would have to take place first, and I was trying to get Rachael to that 3:30 goal in hopes of getting her the most encouraging measurement possible. (Often times, just knowing whether or not they have progressed any further helps women to decide for sure about an epidural, and I have seen them change their mind upon learning they were close to delivery—which I had a feeling Rachael was. And it’s my job to make sure she’s sure!) Nurse Jen said that no cervical check was necessary, but offered it to Rachael anyway. It was when Rachael refused the cervical check that I finally believed she was sure about the epidural. And as long as she was sure, then so was I.

I left the room at 3:15 so that the epidural could be placed. At 3:45, I re-entered the room to learn that immediately after the placement, Rachael’s water had broken the rest of the way with a great big gush, possibly due to the relief of the epidural allowing Rachael to relax. They had experienced a little scare with the baby’s heart rate dropping from that huge change in his environment, so there were lots of nurses in the room. Rachael was wearing an oxygen mask, but everything was fine. I asked if she was feeling any better yet, and she breathed a relieved and emphatic, “Yes!” Nurse Jen informed me that Rachael was ready to push except for a little lip in her cervix. Praise God for that HUGE development! The nurses were still watching the baby’s heart rate closely, so we rolled Rachael to her left side until it was time to push.

At 4:00, it was time. Rachael did an amazing job of figuring out how to push. Nurse Jen did end up talking Rachael into letting her go get a mirror, but I don’t know if Rachael ever used it. I do know she hadn’t necessarily wanted to. Daron was incredible at counting with her, standing at her left side and helping her to make the most of every contraction.

Dr. B* arrived just in time for delivery. He was in a serious state due to his concern about the baby’s heart rate, which was continuing to drop after each contraction. Understanding the urgency of getting the baby out quickly, I tried to remain quiet to ensure that Dr. B’s instructions would be heard. He was very clear and direct, and Rachael was quick to comply. At 4:28 a.m. on Christmas Eve, Evan Russell Short was born!

Daron and Rachael were both filled with such obvious awe and wonder at the sight of their baby boy. Evan’s first cries filled the room, bringing forth tears of joy from both of his parents (and their doula). He was placed on Rachael’s stomach and Dr. Baer waited for the cord to stop pulsing before clamping it. A couple of minutes later, Daron was given the honor of cutting it. Because Evan had scared them a bit before delivery, he was taken to the warming bed for a quick exam. Dr. Baer reminded Daron that he should probably be taking pictures, since they wouldn’t be doing any of this again tomorrow. His dry humor broke the haze of amazement, and Daron jumped to action.

It was only a matter of minutes before everyone in the room had finished their job, cleaned up, and left. It struck me as I watched them finish up, how very good they all are at what they do. Imagine the combined years of education and experience that had just filled that room. Praise God for every single one of those people! May none of them be taken for granted, and may the acceptance of their incredible care never be viewed as personal weakness or failure. How blessed we are to live in this time and place. God’s hand was on each of those people that morning as they ensured the safe delivery and follow-up care of baby Evan and his Mommy.

Later, Rachael mused about how apparently, she is pretty much over her fear of needles. She recounted how in the hospital, her I.V. placement had been “messy,” and then she had gotten an epidural—and how neither one bothered her. We talked about how God’s timing for Evan’s birth played a huge role in that, bringing him early so that Rachael wouldn’t have time to think too much into it and psyche herself out. God had walked her through the baby steps of routine blood draws, given her exactly what she needed to know (when her water broke), and then hoisted her right through to the other side of both childbirth and her fear of needles!

To be crippled by a fear of any kind is a form a bondage from the enemy. And I believe that on the day Rachael delivered Evan, God delivered her. Rachael, can you see how the fact that you got an epidural is greater proof of God’s provision and care for you, than if you had gone without? Daron, can you see how God confided in you, confirming His plan for Rachael in your heart? This is wisdom, this is discernment: to seek God’s hand in everything. Do not discount this amazing show of God’s presence in your experience! He coached you through every single step of your childbirth experience, bringing you a healthy baby boy an entire month early. And weaving the experience with perfect sovereignty, He even threw in the bonus of severing the grip of fear that the enemy had over you! What an amazing testimony!

Baby Evan, your birth brought the searing heat of faith-filled courage to your mother’s spine. May you grow up in the knowledge that as long as you trust in the Lord and seek His hand in everything, He will weave together amazing feats of healing and courage and wonder, giving exactly what you need, when you need it—just like He did for your parents on the day you were born. It was a pleasure to know your mom and dad as they planned for your birth, and to witness the joy and amazement they feel because of you. Evan, they have loved you since before you ever “did” anything. They love you because you are you. May you always know their heart for you, as well as God’s.

Rachael and Daron, thank you for allowing me to be a part of your birthing experience. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to peek in on your glimpses of God! I cannot explain to you how just being there with you has refreshed my vision of our Mighty Savior. If it is true that with any good deed there is an angle, well, then that is mine. Thank you, and God bless your family!

To God Be The Glory,

Jen DeBrito

*Name changed

Jennifer DeBrito, CCLD, CCBE is a Doula and Childbirth Educator in Colorado Springs. She is the author of Expectant Parents Workshop: Devotional. In addition to coaching expectant parents through Christ-centered childbirth, Jennifer also offers prenatal and postpartum wellness coaching for the entire family