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.

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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.

The Birth Story of Charis (‘natural’ VBAC)

The Birth Story of Charis

I met with April and Andrew for the first time in spring of 2014. Andrew, who is active military, had recently learned that he was headed to Virginia for school in July. April, also active military, would be staying here. While the couple was hopeful that Andrew would be able to make it home for the birth of their baby girl, it wasn’t certain. They were therefore looking to hire a doula in hopes of ensuring support for April during what would hopefully be an unmedicated VBAC. April also explained that she has a rare blood clotting disorder, and that it had been responsible for a somewhat traumatic birth experience when their first child, Helena, was born.

April, Andrew and I had our first official meeting just before Andrew left for Virginia. Andrew is upbeat and alert (great traits for a birth partner). Unfortunately, he was in Virginia during our last two meetings, but he was good about reviewing the information I was covering with April from afar. He had purchased a Kindle version of the devotional, and was able to access all of the most crucial birthing information through his online access code to our materials. April also took time to catch him up on our meetings and the additional information we covered together from the study guide.

For our second and third meetings, April’s mom, Betty was there. It had been decided that she would also be present for the birth, so it simply made sense to invite her into the process. I enjoyed having her there; I found that her warm personality brought me a greater understanding of April. Their strong relationship was evident as we practiced labor positions, reviewed our ‘hourly plan,’ and laughed and prayed together. Our biggest prayer requests were for Andrew to be able to attend the birth, for April’s platelet count to be good, and that baby Charis would be healthy.

On the morning of October 30th, April texted me to tell me she had been having contractions. Betty had decided to spend the previous night at April and Andrew’s house, so she was there with April all morning and day. April’s dad, Steve, came by for a while, and left for Denver around 1:00 p.m. (It was around this time that Betty says April started ‘pacing,’ as contractions became more regular and intense.) Around 3:00, April texted me to tell me that her contractions were getting more frequent, but weren’t quite lasting a minute. I asked her to time them for the next hour, for a more objective understanding of her progress.

At 3:30, she texted to tell me that the app on her phone was averaging her contractions at 4 minutes apart. I gave her a call and told her I would try to be there within the hour, but cautioned that if she felt like she wanted to go in to the hospital without me, that she should. The doctors and her hematologist had already written orders for the specialized medicines she would need to be administered for the management of her clotting factors during birth, and I wanted to be sure there would be time. About 25 minutes later, she texted to tell me they were headed to the hospital.

I met them at the hospital shortly after Andrew arrived. I half-jokingly noted that he had somehow managed to beat me to the hospital, all the way from Virginia! He chuckled and added how good it had been of April to have ‘complied’ with his request to have the baby that day, so that his break from school would be as long as possible (since Veteran’s day was on its way). Of course we knew April had nothing to do with the timing; God did. He had most certainly heard our prayers.

Betty gave me an update as I set my belongings on the couch in the delivery room: April was 7 cm dilated upon arriving to the hospital! She told me that they had followed the hourly plan we had covered in our preparatory meetings while they had labored at home, and had done “Lots of ‘OK’” during contractions (also part of their training).  As we caught up with each other in the delivery room and waited for the nurses to do their required work, we even received the news that April’s platelets were at a plentiful 129! Arriving at 7 cm AND having plenty of platelets? God is so good.

April was in her hospital bed, and was far enough along in labor that she was no longer interested in moving or changing positions. She mentioned once or twice that she wanted an epidural, to which Betty and Andrew responded with the word, “Trust.” This was a word God had spoken to her during part of our training, and with that guidance, she was able to allow the idea of an epidural to slip away. April and Andrew immediately found their groove, as he stood with her hands in his, allowing her to pull against him during contractions. He was encouraging and positive, coaching her through each contraction and reassuring her that she was doing a great job.

At 6:00, about an hour after we had all gotten settled, April’s water broke when the doctor checked her cervix (9 cm!). Just a couple of contractions later, it was already time to start pushing. Betty had gone to get April’s scriptures that she had prepared for herself, and I recall being concerned that she might miss some of the excitement—but she did make it back in time. April just needed a little bit of time to learn how to push (which does often involve a bit of a learning curve). She was allowed to utilize a variety of positions, such as slightly side-lying, squatting, and then eventually, on her back. Andrew counted to ten and coached April as she pushed, with Betty and myself each holding a leg for April.

Baby Charis was born at exactly 7:30 p.m. on October 30th. It was a short, uncomplicated, pain medicine-free VBAC, with Andrew present. Charis was beautiful and healthy, weighing in at 6 lbs. 14 oz. and April was in excellent condition with no clotting issues whatsoever. Every prayer request had been boldly answered with a resounding “Yes” from God, who had told His child to simply “trust.”

Baby Charis, may you grow up knowing that you were brought into this world surrounded by a present and interactive God, who answers prayers and simply asks us to trust. May you continue to carry the faith your parents and Oma exhibited, and may you always believe that it’s never about odds or statistics, or even past experience, but about how God delights in fulfilling His promises to us – and how we can trust Him no matter what.

April and Andrew, thanks for inviting me into your birth experience. It is such an honor to have been part of such a personal and spirit-filled experience. Blessings on your family in the years (and locations) to come.

Sincerely,
Jen DeBrito

Jennifer DeBrito, CSP, CCLD, CCBE is a Master Splankna Practitioner in Colorado Springs, 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, releasing October 2014). 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.