Doula Liz tells her own birth stories
You'd think as a doula who witnesses birth on a relatively regular basis that I'd be peaceful and zen like throughout pregnancy and labor. I love it when my clients ask me about my own labors thinking that I had these easy as pie labors that started with perfectly aligned babies and straight forward births. During my first pregnancy I had no idea what fetal positioning was. I knew vaguely what a doula was and made the (regrettable) decision to only have myself and my husband at the birth of our first daughter, thinking that it was such an intimate event that we couldn't possibly allow others in.
Its true that my first labor was straight forward in that I started contracting early in the morning, progressed steadily and calmly, until my water broke and I raced to the hospital with bags in tow. I got to the hospital and was definitely not calm or collected. I was the opposite of that. I was climbing the walls of the shower. I needed someone to tell me this was normal - and yet, no one did. Feeling so much fear and pain I asked for the epidural. Upon receiving the epidural I was checked for only the 2nd time since arriving at the hospital and was declared 10cm! I then was laid on my back for the next several hours in order to have the baby get lower in the pelvis, sometimes called "laboring down".
I began pushing and continued pushing for 4 1/2 hours. It was only after an episiotomy, a significant 4th degree tear, and a vaginal birth, that I was told that my sweet baby Lillian was OP. Her puffy, bruised little face gave us slight indication what she must have been doing in there during those pushing hours as did her extremely molded beautiful little cone head.
Three years later, now a working doula planning to birth at home with an amazing home birth midwife, I was quite familiar with fetal position and how it can impact a woman's labor. Here I was again, in the third trimester of pregnancy with an obvious ROA/ROP (she liked to snuggle back and forth) baby. Thinking back to my previous pregnancy I was struck with fear and terror when I realized that my previous baby had also hung out on my right side for the end of pregnancy. Which naturally led me to believe that I would be suffering another 4th degree tear with a long pushing phase. I remember telling my midwife I couldn't sleep at night I was so concerned with my baby's position. I would wake up on my right side and dutifully switch to my left. If I just did EVERYTHING right, then maybe, MAYBE that baby would switch!! I followed Gail's advice to a "T", I took supplements, changed my diet, swam regularly, and sought out chiropractic care.
Five days before my due date my vigorous and exuberant Lucy Jane soared into this world. My labor was 3 hours from first contraction to her first breath. Would I call it painful? No, not really. I would say 'intense' and my husband would agree with you on that description. I did not cry out or scream because I was supported by experienced women, friends, family, and my first child. I did not fear. Lucy Jane decided to come out in the way she liked to hang out, which was ROA. I had no tearing whatsoever.
"Everything will be ok"
I'm writing this not because I don't think Gail's work is life-changing, because I certainly do! I have been to plenty of births that without Gail's wisdom and techniques would have ended in very different ways. I'm also not writing this because I think its not important to be aware and active in your goal of optimal fetal positioning, you absolutely should! I'm writing this because I want you mama's out there who are doing your techniques religiously to take a deep breath and say, "everything will be ok". The more you say it, the more you believe it. "Dispel the fear of childbirth", that's what Ina May Gaskin told me to do and I aim to do just that. I'm hoping that this little letter will find you, sweet mamas with babies in positions that seem daunting, so that you may release the fear and worry from your mind and body and allow yourself to move forward without fear.
When Liz wrote me back later, she said,
Feel free to use [this story; how you wish - cut, paste, edit... or even save for those days that you need a pick me up and knowing that we all value your work so much might just do the trick.
BTW - last week at your Spinning Babies [presentation to The Childbirth Collective at Blooma] I had 2 clients in attendance. One of them called at 3:30 am only mere hours after going to sleep after your class telling me her water broke. Little acynclitic posterior baby that was giving her a tricky lip of cervix. Luckily your information was fresh in her head and we did all of your tricks. Vaginal birth - no tears ;)