Sydney’s friend’s mother asked me the other day how I came to this profession. No one had ever asked me that, and I guess I’d never really told anyone. The truth is, if someone had asked me what I was going to do with my life, I certainly would never have thought that I’d be doing THIS. In fact, at the age of 18, with the world before my feet, I ventured off to college in Greensboro, NC, where I was ready to take on the world. Social Work was my major, and I wanted to be a Marriage and Family Therapist. Today, I do not believe that’s where my gifts and passions lie, nor do I want to do anything like that.
But, it was in college that I first heard about HypnoBirthing, and became dedicated to a gentle birth for my future children. Little did I know that I’d become a HypnoBirthing Childbirth Educator. It was in 2007, when I was with my mother in Babies R Us at a Breastfeeding Fair, which was meant to be a pitstop on the way to Barnes and Noble to buy the HypnoBirthing book, because I had no idea that there were classes to help me along my journey to the gentle birth. As I was filling out a raffle to win all kinds of baby items, I happened to glance at a sheet of paper that had the word HypnoBirthing on it. I picked the piece of paper up, and saw that classes were offered in my area, so I flagged down the manager and asked where the distributor of the flyer was. I was directed to Nicole, who taught my HypnoBirthing classes, attended our birth, and continues to be one of my friends.
Fast forward to my labor and birth. July 16, 2007, at about 5:30pm, I began to feel the first of the surges, accompanied by diarrhea. They began at 20 minutes apart, sped up to 10 minutes apart (which is when I ate dinner), then accelerated to 3 minutes apart upon entering the bath tub to relax. My mother in law informed my husband that I was in labor upstairs in the tub, and that I was surging at 10 minutes apart, so when my husband came into the bathroom and heard me say, “I think it’s time to go”, imagine his shock. About an hour later, we were on the way to the hospital, and were soon checked in. We had Birth Preferences that were given to the nurse who would attend, and I was given the privacy to labor, with intermittent monitoring, vaginal exams only at my request, no mention of moving or hurrying things along, and freedom from an IV. There were no references to pain, only to comfort level and how it could be improved, and my team was with me (husband, mother-in-law, and Nicole).
As labor continued, exhaustion began to set in, and my focus became diverted to what was beginning to be translated as discomfort, and my relaxation was dwindling. Position changes, sitting on the toilet, moving, walking, squatting, swaying, moaning, breathing, swaying, moving, moving, moving… Baby come out. At hour 17 of labor, I said I needed “help”, and everyone in the room knew what that meant, but no one acknowledged it, they instead encouraged me, stayed with me, loved me, comforted me, took me on the journey of labor. At hour 20, all relaxation had left, and I again spoke of needing “help”, and out of exhaustion, cried and begged. Jeremy and I talked about it, and I told him I could not get our baby out of my body without first resting, and I was getting none with my extreme exhaustion and surges that were doing their job.
At hour 20, when help was requested, I was 10 centimeters open, but our sweet baby was not moving, no progression, just sitting there, and at hour 20, the nurse told us our baby was “sunny side up” (OP – Occiput Posterior, back of baby’s head on my back, not the optimal position for birthing a baby). We tried one last position to get the baby to drop out of my pelvis so she could reposition correctly for birth, but to no avail. Shortly after, help was delivered, and I drifted in and out of sleep. I rested, and eventually was awakened so our baby could be born. The doctor arrived, and was extremely hurried, so much so that the understanding nature, beautiful bedside manner were all gone. Instead, the person who sat with her fingers in my vagina, stretching my perineum was a stranger to me. Because of being medicated through epidural, I was not able to feel my natural impulses to aid my body in birthing my baby, so I had to use forced pushing. About 2 and a half hours after beginning to push, our beautiful Sydney was born.
It was at that very moment that my life changed, and I know everyone says that, but a shift took place in my life. We had never known that we would have a girl, and at that instant that she was there on my naked skin, something in me began to heal. Years of tattered relationships with women in my life, years of hurt from my own relationship with my mother, years of anger toward her, years of not forgiving her, years of pain, were welling over with a healing power I had never experienced. It was at that moment, when I looked at my daughter, that I knew my role as woman had been defined. I felt an overwhelming sense of appreciation and love for her.
It was not until much later that I decided I needed to help women to give birth in a conscious, gentle manner. I am so thankful I’ve made this choice, and so grateful for the support of my Sydney and my husband to do what I am so passionate about. For me, birth was my defining moment, it was when I’ve felt strongest in my life, it was when I felt most empowered, most in control, and above all, I knew my body was built to give birth. Never in my mind was there a doubt about my ability to birth my baby vaginally. Sydney’s birth is the reason I do what I do today, it is my reason for looking forward to doing it all over again when I’m blessed to do so. It is the reason I tell women and their birth companions that they can do it, that they are made to do it, that it is normal, natural and healthy to give birth freely, gently, consciously…
The births I have attended as a doula have all reaffirmed my belief in the power of birth. I’ve witnessed as women became women, men became men, and they together became parents, nurturers, providers, givers, unconditional lovers of their new little life that they created together.
I do this because it has to be done, I do this because Sydney’s birth guided me to it, I do this because I believe in my entire being that women have a right to know they can give birth gently, I do this because women are powerful beings, I do this because I love it.
Birth changes me everyday.
A very special thanks to the couples who have welcomed me into their births, and to my Sydney who is the catalyst for this change. You’ll never know how much this all means.