Paddy turning 1 year old this week has made me reflect (ok, obsess) again on how he came into the world, and on all things to do with birth. It really is my favorite subject these days, probably because it had a profound effect on how I view myself. I had never been an athletic person; in fact, I was probably pretty alienated from sports as a young woman. I never pursued any sport at all, preferring musical, political and academic pursuits to that of the body. However, after I gave birth to Siofra I realized I'd found something I was good at...and it was my body that was doing the work this time! The renown birth educator Sheila Kitzinger
wrote in her book The New Experience of Childbirth
that after the birth of her first child she realized that she found a sport she could do. I felt exactly the same way and this realization made me feel much more complete in myself.
My own belief is that what women need most to have a positive experience of childbirth is to feel supported and safe throughout the labor and birth. This is why we chose a homebirth with Padraic and it's also why we had a doula. A doula is a woman who is a birth companion, providing emotional support for a woman giving birth. Most doulas have experienced childbirth themselves, and therefore have the advantage of understanding more clearly what the birthing woman is going though. A doula doesn't impose on the role of the midwife or doctor, as she's not there in a medical capacity, but just to support and encourage the woman. She also doesn't interfere with the woman's partner's role at the birth, either, and can actually be helpful to men who may find the birth process unfamiliar and even frightening. I've often heard of men who are frightened at seeing the woman they love coping with the intensity of labor and birth, but with an experienced doula there to calm and comfort, he can let go of that fear, understand that his partner's reaction to the intensity of labor is normal and then really devote his energy to supporting her.
My good friend Dee happened to be at Siofra's birth
(actually, although she drove us the hospital, once there she jumped out of the car with us and made her husband Richie do the parking so she wouldn't miss anything). I am so thankful that she was there. It was a crazy 15 minutes between my water breaking and Siofra being born in the hospital elevator, but having her there made me feel safer. So I knew I wanted her there for Padraic's birth, and she was able to do doula training with Michel Odent
, another big name in the birth world. She was invaluable to me during the birth. She didn't do anything strange or unfamiliar, just held my hand and told me I was doing great. I also felt that she was really in the moment with me, that she understood exactly what was happening. Even when I couldn't talk, I knew that she knew exactly what was going on, and that the baby would be here soon. I guess maybe this is what my favorite hippie Ina May
is on about when she talks about things getting "telepathic." At any rate, she's a great doula and a great friend, and I'm so thankful we've made our journeys into motherhood together.
I'm very excited about the doula training that I'm going to do in June with Penny Simkin
. I'm not sure what I'll do with the training afterwards--it may just be a part of my own personal development, or maybe I'll pursue work as a doula. The idea of working to better the birth experience really appeals to me, and who knows what possibilities are out there. What I am sure of is that there's a whole world of information, experience and understanding out there, and I'm eager to learn more! Because what could be more important than making a person's entrance into the the world the best it can be?
Padraic and the doula extraordinaire, Dee