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

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.

The Birth Story of Eleanor* (First child, induction, no pain meds)

The Birth Story of Eleanor*

Names changed for client privacy

              I started working with the Smiths when Dani was just beginning her third trimester of pregnancy. I met with her and Aaron three times in their home, to cover the necessary material, and to get to know them a little bit. I found Dani intelligent and inquisitive, often asking about birthing options even I was not aware of. Aaron was very supportive of Dani’s desire to be prepared for the event of childbirth.

               Dani was interested in making sure she advocated well for baby “Peanut.” Several weeks before she was due, she had convinced Dr. Adele not to follow general protocol for Peanut, which would have been to induce her once she made it to her gestational due date. I found it interesting that this was even a concern to Dani, because most mothers can’t even imagine going past due. Yet, Dani almost seemed to be planning on it. I was curious to see whether she would be right. As it turned out, she most certainly was.

               Dr. Adele monitored Dani and Peanut closely during the days following the due date. From carefully observing the amniotic fluid levels, Dr. Adele was able to determine that Dani would need to be induced, and set the date. Dani had advocated well for Peanut; the induction was not just being scheduled because of protocol; it was being scheduled for good medical reason, and well past Dani’s due date. Dani had already been experiencing mild, irregular contractions in the days prior, which is symptomatic of “Early Labor.” For Dani, these contractions had resulted in a 2 cm cervical dilation, which gave her a good head start for being induced.

               Just before 11p.m. on a Wednesday night, the first dose of Cytotec was administered. Dani continued to experience irregular contractions throughout the night. She and Aaron tried to rest as they waited for labor to begin, but found it difficult. Nurses coming in and out, the sound of Peanut’s heart rate on the monitor, and general nervousness all probably contributed to the issue.  Still, they were glad to know they were safe and in good hands.

              Around 3:30 the following morning, I got a call from Aaron asking me to come into the hospital. Dani’s water had broken after the second dose of Cytotec and the contractions were getting stronger. The agreement had been for them to call me whenever they felt ready for me to join them, in hopes that we would all get some rest. I have to admit I was glad to get the call; I was awake most of the night out of excitement for them anyway.

               When I arrived at 4:30, I found them sitting quietly in the hospital room, Dani on the birth ball and Aaron on the doctor’s stool, both watching the monitor that showed Dani’s contractions. I observed Dani for a few contractions, turned the down the volume on the monitor, and offered a few tips (one of which was to stop watching the contractions, which were “coupling”—a dysfunctional labor pattern that can also be a symptom of early labor.) We walked a lap around the halls of the Birthing Center, pausing so that Dani could lean on the hand rails during her growing contractions.

               Dani’s nurse, Michelle, met us in the hall because the wireless monitors weren’t picking up Peanut’s heart patterns. By around 5:30, the four of us made our way back to the room so that Michelle could reset the monitors. Upon our return, Dani started feeling nauseous. This indicated that there were hormonal changes occurring, and I felt encouraged (although I don’t think Dani enjoyed it very much.) Michelle explained that she would be back in about an hour to decide about whether to start Pitocin.

               Because they had been up all night, and the day shift nurses were about to come on and would possibly start Pitocin, I suggested that Dani and Aaron take a hot shower to relax and stimulate the release of Oxytocin. I figured it would also refresh their mindset and help them to welcome the new day. I stepped out into the waiting room and spent my time in prayer, giving thanks that Dani was being given the opportunity to experience labor as she had wished. In response I felt led to write the following instructions to myself in my notes: “Support. Kindness. Be Faithful.” These words cued me in to how God needed me to care for Dani. I was appreciative of the reminder that nobody’s labor experience is ever exactly like anyone else’s, and that I would need to remain in tune with her and Aaron in order to help them the way God wanted me to.

               At 6:30, Michelle came in to start the Pitocin. A cervical check showed that Dani had dilated to 4 ½ cm, which, according to Dr. Grantly Dicks-Reed’s “Pillars of Parturition,” explained why Dani didn’t particularly want to be in labor anymore. She had approached the first “Pillar.” I reminded her that a new rush of endorphins would be coming, applied aromatherapy to her feet, massaged her back, and offered ideas for new positions to try. Aaron was always present, encouraging Dani, praying over her, and providing scripture for her to read. He seemed very in tune with, and respectful of, Dani’s need to quietly withdraw within herself as her contractions grew in intensity and frequency.

               The nurses changed shifts and at 7:30 a.m., nurse Juli came in to meet Dani and assess her progress. As soon as I saw her, I knew we were in good hands. While Michelle had been an excellent nurse, I have worked with Juli before—in fact, I had even joked with Dani and Aaron that if they could try to go into labor on a Thursday during the daytime, they would probably end up with the best nurse ever. As it worked out, it was Thursday, it was daytime, and that nurse was Juli. I was tickled to see her and felt so grateful for this little ‘nod from God’.

             The Pitocin had been turned up from 2 mU/min to 4 mU/min. Dani had dilated to 6 cm and was in a good labor pattern at this point, so Juli decided to keep the Pitocin level there. Dani did a great job of remaining passive during her contractions, welcoming each one and sometimes even verbalizing the word “down,” in an effort to coach her body through the hard work it was doing. Dani’s mom, Charlene, arrived around 8:40 to find her daughter in full-blown labor, working hard through every contraction to keep from fighting her body’s efforts. I explained to her the same thing Aaron had explained to me upon my own arrival, which was that Dani needed quiet and plenty of space. He had proven exactly right about that.

              Not once did Dani lose her composure. As labor progressed I tried to encourage her to keep her eyes open so as not to feel isolated in the pain. For many women, shutting the eyes leads to a fearful state that can make it difficult for them to deal with labor the way they ultimately hope to. But Dani was not afraid. Aaron stayed with her, offering his quiet support, just as she needed. Sometimes she would pray, and other times she would express the intensity of her contractions, yet she was always totally calm. Her eyes were closed, but she was never alone. She had a good support system and had called on the presence of the Holy Spirit. I believe she was kept in perfect peace for this reason. (Isaiah 26:3)

                At one point Dani briefly considered asking for an IV pain medication. But almost as quickly as she thought of it, she changed her mind again. We stuck with scripture, aromatherapy, massage, back pressure, and position changes. By around 9:15 a.m., Dani was so tired that she was falling asleep between contractions. Juli instructed her to lie on her side with a peanut-shaped ball between her knees. At 9:40, Dani informed us of a strong need to push.

              Juli called Dr. Adele in. As we awaited her arrival, Dani mentioned wanting to push in a squatting position. Juli told her the baby was “right there” and that pushing in a squatting position would cause the baby to be born too quickly and would likely cause injury to Dani. (It is times like these that I so value the experience and insight of good medical professionals.) At 10:10, Dr. Adele arrived and told Dani to go ahead and push. I watched in amazement as Dani remained passive, even at the brink of delivery. She wanted to be sure to take her time, working with her body so as not to cause injury to herself. I have never seen anyone so calm at this point in labor. After several more minutes of waiting, Dani went ahead and started pushing. It didn’t take her long. Baby Eleanor was born at 10:30 a.m. (She remained “Peanut,” however, until she was named later that morning.)

          Aaron was much braver than he thought he would be. Of all the horror stories he had heard before, none of them were true for him. It wasn’t gory. He didn’t pass out. Watching the birth of his daughter seemed to bring him to life. His quiet support turned to proud excitement as he and Dani introduced themselves to their beautiful 7 ½-pound daughter. A whole new energy seemed to beam out of him as he cut the cord and informed the nurses of their wishes for various newborn procedures. He even took a picture of the placenta.

           Dani changed in the moments after Eleanor’s birth, too. While just minutes before she had been so incredibly tired and withdrawn, she was suddenly energized and interactive. She spoke to Eleanor as if she had known her all her life. She beamed right alongside Aaron. Together, the three of them made a picture-perfect family.

           Before I left, Juli pointed out that Dani had only been in active labor for about 3 hours. As I think about the incredible progression and the way Dani sailed through it with such steadfastness, I know that it was God’s power that got her through. And really, it was God’s kindness that made it quick. By seeking God’s presence, she and Aaron had all of His goodness in the room that day as their precious daughter was born. It was beautiful and amazing to witness.

 “With the help of the Lord, I have brought forth a child.” Genesis 4:1

              Dani and Aaron, congratulations on the birth of your beautiful baby girl. You two are a great team. Thank you for welcoming my presence; it was an honor to be there with you. And baby Eleanor, may you always know that God was there the day you were born. May He be with you ever more. Happy Birth Day.

Sincerely,

Jennifer DeBrito

Jennifer is a Holistic Christian Doula in Colorado Springs. In addition to coaching couples through a  Christ-centered childbirth experience, she also specializes in wellness coaching for pregnant and postpartum women and their babies. She is the author of Expectant Parents Workshop and the proud owner of Eden’s Promise, LLC.

To learn more about Jennifer, please go to EdensPromiseLLC.com