I spent my Mother's Day weekend this year giving positive encouragement to a dear friend through the labor of her second child, and then was able to spend the last hours talking, being, and walking with her (although not nearly as much walking as she did - wow, her stamina still amazes me - good thing she was very active during pregnancy) and she moved and squatted and hiked the stairs to bring this baby down into the world. Late at night (on the 3rd day), her birth team decided to transfer to the hospital and transition to medical care. It was an emotional night and I'm sorry I had to miss the earlier parts of her labor as well as the moment everyone was able to meet baby - but the emotions running through me, I know, couldn't be half as much as the emotions running through her.
What I continue to find so empowering about her birth, and the birth stories that I hear like it, is the respect from a home birth team for not only the physical health of the mother and baby, but the emotional health as well. To give a mother space and time to get into her groove over days of early labor. To come to her home at the moment she decides to lean on someone. To reassure the family that the baby is handling contractions just fine and momma can go a little deeper into her labor land. To say "yes, we're all tired, and everyone could use a fresh face" when they know they might not be providing all the support momma needs. To trust in her body, in her baby, and that God has made this design perfectly - from working through labor and birth, to knowing when care is helpful and desired. To hold hands in prayer as we leave for the hospital and provide positive thoughts when the medical team tries to bully her with scare tactics.
There are so. many. reasons. why I am rarely ever impressed with a medical team - because they completely disregard one of the most important factors of the birth experience - the LONG LASTING emotional affects of birth. The emotional affects of the way a mother is treated on her milk supply, her postpartum experience, her parenting experience, and her empowerment.
I saw this mom empowered through many stages of even the short amount of time I was there. She stood strong with her wishes in a very respectful way, even though staff rolled their eyes and were offended of her choices. She took part in her care with dignity and pride because she knew that she had been supported well - with calm and encouraging communication - while she was laboring and home. She knew that this cesarean was chosen after working through labor in so many different ways that this was an as-needed decision to give her and her baby energy and health after the birth, and not because she was on someone's time limit. As the midwife puts it, "She was a rock." And, she was.
She, despite the obvious drain of contractions over three days, was hiking the stairs while the birth team was taking a break from being up all day and night through harder labor. She was so incredibly calm breathing through contractions - such a quiet and confidence glowed from her with each one. Above all, to be able to hear her say "Yes, this is what I want" is, for me, the most reassuring part of the entire time I spent with her. To watch the soft side of her husband support her through contractions and also take care of their first child through labor. To have listened to her first pregnancy and birth experience, be with her in conversation and prenatals during this second pregnancy, and then watch her take a positive and decisive role in her birth lets me know that this will be a healing experience for her, and that is so important for mothers.
It doesn't always happen instantly. It might not be the birth we imagined, planned, or even the way we envisioned our support being. But, it is the MOTHER we imagined. It is the care and love that we knew she deserved and that she has been able to experience. To have people in her life that believe in her and allow her to make the decisions for herself and baby will be very special to her postpartum and new parenting experience.
This birth has confirmed so many things about my beliefs. It has empowered me even more to protect birth for more mothers. To share knowledge with families so that they may have the same loving support that this family had. To encourage dads to take the lead role in protecting the mother, even if they're fumbling with what to say or do - because they will be by this mother's (and baby's) side through moments that no one else will experience. To take a birth series, and sit in a Man 2 Man class where you can get straight forward information on how to support mom. To encourage parents to choose the birth team very wisely and only allow those providing positive energy and love, who will care about this family and child, and who can provide support through all choices. The birth doesn't end with a baby, this is the beginning and those experiencing this transition need to be a part of the family's life through postpartum and beyond. This also confirmed for me that I am an educator and that is important for me to know. I will continue to attend births where I have time to get to know the parents, attend prenatals, and develop a deeper relationship to learn and share that experience but my focus will be on reaching out to parents before this time to help empower them to make decisions that really support their needs physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
How did your birth affect you emotionally? Was it the outcome, the support, a combination?