I started working as a doula in 2011. I decided to become a birth doula after the amazing natural childbirth of my first daughter. I had a natural childbirth in the hospital with an awesome group of midwives, who have mostly moved on to other ventures, save one midwife who is still there from the original group that attended me.
I loved my natural hospital birth. I learned that I am a lot stronger than I ever thought possible. I didn’t know it then, but having a natural birth in the hospital setting is freaking hard. I had no idea how hard it is just to even get the chance to try.
Let me tell you how lucky I was.
I was lucky that:
- I had amazing midwives to care for me. In 2010, when my daughter was born, there were very few hospital-based midwife groups in Houston.
- I was able to go into labor on my own, which is a HUGE deal when trying to have a natural birth.
- I only went 1 day past my due date before labor began.
- Even though my water broke before labor began, I began having HARD contractions within 3-4 hours after my water breaking.
- I wasn’t pushed to try to get contractions going because they began so quickly after my water broke. In fact, I had no idea that conversation could have happened.
- I did not need pitocin to help stimulate contractions at any point in labor.
- Once I was taken to my delivery room, one of the delivery rooms with the awesome tubs in it was available for me.
- I also didn’t have to be on continuous monitoring. My midwife was able to monitor my baby using a doppler. (They don’t really do that anymore as far as I’ve seen. Once Texas Children’s was built, they switched to using the waterproof continuous monitors. Sometimes those may get taken off, but not if there is any medication in the system.)
- My labor was fast. Not just for a first time mom, but fast for anyone. By the time that I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore and that I was about to ask for the epidural, I was 9.5 cm.
- I didn’t have a persistent cervical lip, which I’ve witnessed. It’s definitely no fun, especially when trying to have a natural birth.
- I only had to push for about 30 minutes.
I was very lucky that all of this happened for me this way.
It was one of the most empowering experiences of my life. I had no idea what the word empowered meant until I pushed my baby into the world with nothing for the pain except sheer hard-headed determination. I finally knew what it felt like to feel proud of myself.
And I wished that every single person could feel proud like that.
So I became a doula.
And then came the push back.
I must admit, I wasn’t prepared for the push back. I thought having a natural childbirth would be impressive. You know, like how if you tell people you ran a marathon, they’re like, “Dude! That’s awesome! You’re amazing!”
Nope. It didn’t happen like that. The only people who were impressed by it were those who had had a natural childbirth themselves. But it wasn’t really that they were impressed, but more like, “Yay! I have a friend who gets why this is so cool and doesn’t think I am crazy! Let’s talk about birth all day!”
At the beginning of my doula career, natural childbirth seemed to finally be making a name for itself. Maybe it had something to do with the whole Business of Being Born thing. I dunno. Maybe it is because smart phones and social media apps were starting to come out, which helped information travel fast.
Soon after natural childbirth started to become more mainstream, the push back happened. There were the arguments about, “What is NATURAL birth anyway? ALL birth is natural. NO birth is natural. You don’t get any gold stars for having a natural birth.”
Natural childbirth almost seems like a dirty word in the birth community these days. With all the different childbirth courses coming out, very few focus on natural childbirth anymore.
But I still believe in natural childbirth. I still hear the stories. I still witness the pride of those who were able to achieve their goals. I still witness the pain of those who didn’t. It sucks to try as hard as you can at something and not have the outcome you want. Believe me. I’ve experienced that plenty. It really really sucks.
But I still believe natural childbirth is super empowering. And I’ve been told that other types of births are too. I don’t doubt that, but I’ve never experienced it.
I still believe natural childbirth is a worthy goal. I still believe it is okay to WANT one. I still believe it is okay to try for one. I still believe that it is cool to be proud of yourself for achieving one. And I believe it is okay to consider it one of your greatest achievements in life.
I still believe it is okay to believe that natural childbirth is a better way to give birth. I also believe it is okay to disagree with that idea. Natural childbirth is better for me. Epidural births are better for most other people I know.
Some people believe that running is better than yoga. Some people believe that yoga is better than running. Some people believe that brownies are better than ice cream. But what I find absurd is that natural childbirth seems to have so much more opposition if anyone dares be proud of it or even believe it is a better way to give birth. No one has ever tried to demean or insult me for having run 5K’s, 10K’s, or half-marathons, but they certainly have tried to about my natural childbirths.
The thing is, I am super secure in my decision to have tried for that goal. I don’t regret having tried. I think it is a goal worth working toward. People can try all they want to make me feel bad about it, but I don’t regret it one single bit.
And the funny thing about being a doula is that there is this idea that doulas aren’t really supposed to have opinions about things. But that’s not really true. We doulas are human. We’re going to have opinions about things. But what we really don’t have opinions about is how YOU should give birth. We can’t say what is right for YOU. It is deeply personal, just like my desire to have natural childbirths.
My belief in the awesomeness of natural childbirth does not mean that I think you or anyone else SHOULD have one. It just means that if YOU want one, you better believe I will be one of the very few people you know who:
1. Has had one myself
2. Won’t think you are crazy for wanting one
3. Won’t be one of the ones to say “just get the epidural.”
My job as a doula is to be the one person who doesn’t tell you what to do. I’ll present options and act as a sounding board, but I won’t tell you what you should do. I try really hard to help people learn to trust their own instincts. They are the ones that have to live with the memories and consequences of their decisions. Not me.
But man. I still believe in natural childbirth. There is just something about it. And if that is a goal you have for your upcoming birth, you’re not crazy for wanting to try. It really is pretty awesome.