Friday, February 25, 2011

A Dozen Days of Doula Scoop: Day 12

Yes, I know a dozen is twelve, and I am finally working on my final blog in this series...

Birth doesn't end with the baby coming out.

Sometimes, birth doesn't unfold the way we expect. I would venture to say that our births often deviate from what we planned and/or wanted. I didn't plan to deliver Nathan via c-section. I didn't expect Daniel to need suctioning for half an hour. However, as every mama knows, getting the baby here safely is the number one priority, and doing that often requires adjustments in the plans. When your birth doesn't meet your expectations, you will probably find you need some time to process everything that happened. You may find you need to relive, blow by blow, every detail of the birth, from the first contraction to the moment you are holding your baby in your arms. You may find yourself wondering whether you might have had a different birth experience if you had made different choices. You may find yourself feeling rather blue, or even full-on depressed, even though the beautiful new baby you waited so anxiously for is finally here.

It's so easy to assume that birth ends the minute the baby leaves your body, but the truth is, the emotional aspect of birth can affect you for years. For most women, birth is more than a mere utilitarian means of obtaining a baby. It is a time of transition, the last step you take from being a woman to being a mother. Birth is also an opportunity for the full expression of your femininity. Because birth is such a unique and special time in a woman's life, a birth experience that is less than what you wanted can leave you reeling emotionally. A doula can be invaluable at this point. Since your doula has been with you through the birth process, she can help fill in the details that you can't remember (and there will be details you can't remember). Maybe you need her to remind you that you had long, painful contractions two minutes apart for six hours before you called for the epidural. Maybe you didn't know that the episiotomy was done because the baby's heart rate plummeted suddenly and they had to get the baby out. Because your doula was continuously present, knows about birth, and was not in labor land at the time, she is the perfect person to help you reconstruct the details of what happened. You can talk to your doula about your birth, because she gets it.

Coming to a place of peace about the way you birthed your baby is critical for your emotional well-being. If you are constantly plagued by feelings of inadequacy because you couldn't birth without medication, or you had a c-section rather than a vaginal delivery, you may struggle to adjust to the physical and emotional demands of mothering. The way you deliver your baby does not determine what kind of mother you will be. In fact, the experience of breastfeeding and nurturing your newborn baby can be an exceedingly healing time for a mother who feels like she missed out on having the perfect birth. The way birth happens is, without doubt, important, but it is more important by far that you love on your baby, day after day. Birth is one day; mothering is the rest of your life.

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