I am a birth worker,
arguably the most woman-centric job on the planet. I work with women at their most vulnerable, most powerful, most female. Giving life is something only we can do. It is beyond awesome. And yet, women in childbirth are subjected to disrespect, abuse, and downright misogyny on a daily basis. I am confused by the number of hospital staff I have encountered on the maternity floor who do not seem to like working with women. Perhaps a career move should be considered?
As a doula it is my job to support my client. It is not my job to speak for my client, and sometimes I have to sit and listen and hold my tongue while others try to knock my client down. As a doula I have no power, but I try to make my client feel powerful, powerful enough to stand their ground and say “I’m doing this my way” when faced with pressure from those who feel the need to run the show. Sometimes I feel very uncomfortable.
As a doula I am a witness to a lot of underhanded stuff.
As a feminist I want to scream. “Don’t talk to her that way!” “She is an adult not a child!” “You are her doctor not her boss!” I want to say, “He’s not right.” “He doesn’t have the right” “She’s impatient; her agenda is not the same as yours.” I want to say “a healthy baby is not the only important thing. “ I will be misunderstood. A healthy baby is important -but what about a happy and healthy mother? What about an empowering birth experience?
What about respecting the woman as well as the child?
I am a birth worker, and a feminist. But I rely on my husband’s income to support our family. If giving birth is not respected, how can I expect birth work to be respected either? I believe in the work I do, but my belief doesn’t put much food on our table. I am told to charge what I’m worth, but if the birth experience is not respected, the worth of a doula is not clear.
I am a doula and a feminist.
I love my work. I do it because I believe choice in childbirth is a feminist issue. I never wanted to be political, but I will fight for this. We were all born. How can we not respect the one thing that we all have in common?
I know what you’re thinking: “aren’t inductions always awful?” “Don’t you hire a doula to avoid an induction?” “aren’t doulas all anti-intervention at all costs?” The answers to these questions are no, yes and not at all. Sometimes inductions are necessary. Doulas are not magicians. Interventions have their place. Last month I was privileged to attend the birth of a sweet-faced little girl. Her Mother had developed complications and the decision was made to induce at 38 weeks. Here is what my client taught me about how to have an awesome induction.
Step 1. Keep a positive attitude. So your birth plan was to have a water birth at home with midwives, and you find yourself checking in to the hospital for an early induction. Oh well. It’s still your birth and your baby, let’s make the best of it.
Step 2. Take one step at a time. The OB is most likely to offer you gel, AROM, Pitocin, and an epidural as a welcome package. Try to space out these interventions. See if the gel will work by itself. Try to relax, sleep, and let your cervix do its thing. Put off the next intervention for as long as possible.
Step 3. Walk walk walk. Try and move around as much as possible. The longer you can stay mobile, the better position your baby will slip into for an easier birth. Remember, gravity is your friend. There are many upright positions for labouring even if you want to rest in bed. A portable fetal monitor even allows you to shower or get in the bath. You can still move around with ruptured membranes and a Pitocin drip if you are determined to do so.
Step 4. Don’t be a martyr. You don’t have to suffer. Pitocin induced contractions are much harder and stronger than the natural kind. Very few women can manage them without pain relief. Getting an epidural does not mean you’re a failure, it means you can enjoy some pain-free time to rest up for step 5.
Step 5. Wait till you feel pressure on your rectum and push that baby out like a boss. That’s what the epidural does best – gets you through transition without batting an eyelid. If you stop pressing the top up button when you begin to feel pressure in your bum you should have enough sensation to push effectively when the time comes. Slow steady pushing is the way to go.
That’s it, my 5 steps for an awesome induction. Remember, it’s still your birth and your baby and you are the one in charge.