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.

The Birth Story of Cami* (2nd child, induction, no pain meds)

The Birth Story of Cami*

*identifying information changed, for client privacy 

 Tuesday was a great day for the Moore* family. Just one week prior, Elizabeth* and Mark* had returned home from their doctor’s appointment, disappointed with the news that their baby would not be induced that day as they had hoped. Cami’s small ultrasound measurements had kept Dr. Hingle* on her toes for several weeks, as she tried to decide when would be the best time for Cami to be born. While technically it was good news that the induction could wait, because it meant that Cami was healthy in the womb and could be allowed to grow in there a little longer, it still made for a long week as they waited for the time they could hold their baby in their arms.

The following Tuesday, the induction time was set for 5:30 a.m.Elizabeth sent me a text to inform me of the plan: start Pitocin at 5:30, possibly get an epidural, get water broken at 7 a.m. I met them at the hospital as they were getting settled in. The three of us chatted with Sarah*, the nurse who had attended to Elizabeth while she was in labor with Eliot. Seeing a familiar face was comforting to all of us. To me, it felt like a nice reminder of how God had come through for us with the birth of Eliot—and how He would do it again.

Because Dr. Hingle was already at the hospital at 6 a.m., things were done in a different order than we had been expecting. Instead of starting Pitocin, Dr. Hingle broke Elizabeth’s water (or, at least, thought she did). As a supporter of Elizabeth’s birth plan, Dr. Hingle hoped that this would cause Elizabeth to go into labor on her own, without the use of Pitocin. She told Elizabeth that if she wasn’t in labor after a few hours, then she would recommend Cytotec to soften the cervix, and if necessary, follow it up with Pitocin to start contractions. An epidural would probably have been placed coinciding the use of Pitocin, but as it turned out, neither was necessary for little Cami to be born.

Mark, Elizabeth, and I walked around the Birthing Center, waiting for contractions to start. Elizabeth did feel a few light contractions, but as her nurse, Elaine explained, we knew she wasn’t in labor yet because she still looked beautiful. What Elizabeth was experiencing was early labor symptoms, like she experienced at home before she went into labor with Eliot.

Because Elizabeth had not yet fallen into a labor pattern, one dose of Cytotec was administered around 9:30 a.m. The three of us relaxed in the hospital room for the next hour, chatting and snacking on hospital food, and once Elizabeth was allowed to get out of bed again, we resumed our alternating pattern of walking, birth ball, monitoring, and restroom breaks. It was during one of these  breaks , around 10:30 a.m., that Elizabeth’s water finally broke. Movement continued to encourage release of the fluid, so we just kept on moving.

Dr. Hingle was due to return to the hospital around 12:30 to check on Elizabeth and decide whether or not to start Pitocin. I think we were all prepared for this course of action, yet were still pleasantly surprised when Dr. Hingle opted not to start Pitocin after all. With Elizabeth still only at 3 cm dilated, Dr. Hingle really could have gone either way on that decision—but the fact that she was encouraged, was encouraging to us as well.

By this point, Elizabeth had started to grow more serious and was falling into more of an active labor pattern. To encourage full-blown labor, Mark helped her with taking a warm shower to relax and stimulate Oxytocin release. It worked. By 2:00 p.m., Elizabeth was in full-blown labor.

Having been up most of the night before and not having been allowed to eat anything of substance all day, Elizabeth grew tired quickly. (Also, having been in the same room for so long, and thinking of herself as “in labor” since 5:30 a.m. probably didn’t help her mindset.) To freshen up the environment, we changed the lighting and the music, applied some aromatherapy, read scripture and prayed.

Elaine, Elizabeth’s nurse, came in frequently to assess our progress and joined in as a both a coach and team member. She was a Godsend, applying pressure to Elizabeth’s sore back and offering her knowledge and words of encouragement. Mark stayed with Elizabeth the whole time, getting her through each contraction. Elizabeth would often signal the beginning of a contraction by saying, “Mark, I need you.” He would then hold her hands and look into her eyes, coaching and encouraging her, one contraction at a time. I told them then, and I’ll say it again now: they are a great team.

Sometimes it seemed like Elizabeth might ask for an epidural. She talked about wanting to be done, or feeling afraid of what she knew was to come. More scripture, more prayer, more aromatherapy, more movement and more encouragement; supporting her through one contraction at a time, we each gave her all we had to offer. Whatever we may have lacked as her support team, I know God provided. Although Elizabeth had been planning to get an epidural this time around, she never did ask for one. I give God the glory for that. Whatever the reason, He wanted Cami to be born without one. So, He got Elizabeth through it.

Hours passed by quickly as we rotated through various positions, hoping to help Elizabeth cope as Cami dropped into position. Around 5:30 p.m., Elaine called Dr. Hingle to give her a progress report, and the two of them tried to decide whether Dr. Hingle would have time to attend her son’s school performance. Elizabeth had spent some time “resting” on her side, and it was clear that it wouldn’t be much longer before she would need to push.

Whether or not she made it to the performance, I don’t know. Dr. Hingle came in around 6:30 and checked Elizabeth, finding her at 7 cm. Dr. Hingle prepared some warm washcloths as compresses,  and just a few contractions later, she told Elizabeth to go ahead and start pushing. It took Elizabeth a few contractions to focus and re-learn “how” to push, but once she got it down, Cami was born quickly. The way Cami was turning as she was delivered explained the back pain that Elizabeth had felt during labor. (Like her brother, Cami had apparently decided to do some last-minute gymnastics before being born.)

Cami was born at 7:30* p.m. She had a strong, healthy cry and seemed happy to be placed on Elizabeth’s chest as she snuggled in for warmth. She was placed quickly on the scale after a few minutes, weighing in at 5 lbs. 7 oz. Little as she was, she was strong and healthy, and learned to nurse after just a few tries.

I went to visit the three of them in the hospital the next day. It was fun to see them with their second child; they were so relaxed and comfortable with their new baby. It’s amazing what a little practice can do! As we reflected on Cami’s birth story, the three of us found ourselves wondering what had happened to the epidural she had been planning to utilize as pain management. The goal had not necessarily been for Elizabeth to have a natural birth; after all, we had gone in thinking the day would start with Pitocin and an epidural. Instead, it took one little dose of Cytotec to get it started, and the rest had happened naturally. No one was holding out on pain management for any particular purpose. None of us really know why it went how it did.

My only thought is that God knows what Cami needs. He also knows what Elizabeth needs. Between the two of them, I know God was caring for one or both of them with how He worked things out. The truth is, God knows what we need even better than we do. And when we place ourselves under His care, He is able to provide what we need—even if we don’t know to ask.

Elizabeth and Mark, I am so glad I was able to be there to support you through Cami’s birth. The way the two of you lean on each other and God, is nothing less than beautiful. Thank you for the honor of inviting me to attend Cami’s birth. Baby Cami, may your birth story always remind you that God knows what you need. It’s not about asking for the “right” thing; it’s about seeking His presence in your life. As long as He is with you, all of your needs, whether spoken or not, will be met in Him. May that truth always be with you.

With love,

Jen DeBrito

Jennifer DeBrito, CCLD, CCBE, is a doula and childbirth educator is Colorado Springs, CO. She is the author of Expectant Parents Workshop: Devotional, and owner of Eden’s Promise, LLC.