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.

Perfect Birth, Part One: This Doula’s Perspective

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 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

Ask the Doula: “How Do I Know Which Foods Are Safe to Eat?”

Jen,

 I am not sure how much you typically focus on the food side of pregnancy with your clients, but I have found it to be fascinating and slightly overwhelming with all the conflicting research. Do you have any opinions on eating raw honey or sprouted grains during pregnancy?

-Client

Dear Client,

There is a lot of conflicting research! I could obviously go either way here, but when it came to my own kids, I generally found that I felt better (emotionally) if I just played it safe. The worry I experienced whenever I pushed the limits simply wasn’t worth it. Another thing to consider is that neither of those foods offer significant health benefits. So in the big picture, I find myself asking, ‘Why bother?’ Avocado would be just as delicious on a sandwich, and a little agave nectar, or even sugar, would sweeten my tea just fine. One thing you do know to be bad for the baby is stress. So if it’s going to stress you out to eat it, don’t! (I do actually recommend raw honey during labor, though. It’s perfect for keeping you energized.)Some questions for you to keep in mind in the future are: a) where did you find the information and b) how badly do you want to eat the forbidden food (whatever it is)? If you got the info from your doctor, then follow it. If you got the information elsewhere with no mention from your doc, it’s probably not that big of a deal. But if you’re like me, and you find yourself questioning your decision to eat a debatable food that you could have lived without, then you’ll know to choose more carefully next time.

Chances are, you’ll be fine–whatever you decide. I mean, honestly, as long as you’re not eating paint, the likelihood of something you have eaten affecting your baby are very slim. But overall, I’d recommend going with the least stressful scenario for you (and always follow your doctor’s orders).

Jen

Do you have a question you would like to ask about wellness during pregnancy? Email your question to:  edenspromisellc@gmail.com

Jennifer DeBrito, CCLD, CCBE is a doula and childbirth educator in Colorado Springs. In addition to coaching expectant parents toward a Christ-centered childbirth, she also specializes in wellness coaching for prenatal and postpartum families. She is the author of Expectant Parents Workshop and the proud owner of Eden’s Promise, LLC.