Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Doula, Doula

Photo not topic relevant, but too cute to not share. 

Until this spring I would describe myself as purposefully ignorant about the medical system and medical topics. I am a sensitive person, medical issues make me queasy, uncomfortable and afraid. When friends have been pregnant, I have shown obvious disinterest. My strategy to manage the discomfort was to avoid, avoid, avoid. While this approach allowed me to steer clear of discomfort, it did not benefit me when real medical issues inevitably arose. During my moms illness I was powerless. All family members of terminally ill people feel this way, but I was powerless in my knowledge base too. When doctors said they couldn't do anything, I couldn't argue. When they said she needed to have an uncomfortable procedure, I had to blindly follow them. I felt like I failed her. Then when I started having abdominal pain in the 20th week of my pregnancy, my doctor was out of the office and her co-practitioner wouldn't even take the time to talk me through the symptoms I was powerless again. I submitted to unnecessary medical tests. I felt alone. I had Nick, but he was in the dark too. And he is so empathetic, that my pain became his. It was too overwhelming for us.  We needed more support.

My doctor is amazing. Truly, I adore her. Nick and I purposely selected a small hospital and a small OBGYN practice. I know myself, and I know that I need to feel heard and seen. When my mom died, my doctor hugged me, she changed my appointments from monthly to bi-weekly, she listened and responded empathically to every anxious question, she respected my decisions and she called me personally with every lab result. She continues to do all of these things, but she's a medical professional. There are boundaries with her role. She cannot hold my hand in the way I need right now. Being pregnant without a mother is very painful. 

Since that 20 week scare, I've been trying to take back some power by educating myself about pregnancy and birth choices. In this pursuit I've seen a lot of judgment and defensiveness. Women who choose to have natural births (when the stars align and allow them to) have to defend themselves, and many seem to do so by attacking women who choose to use pain management options. And vice versa.  I won't go too deep into how this observation has disappointed me, but as I write this blog post it feels relevant. Who out there will read this post and judge me to be too self indulgent or less of a woman/mother? Many won't, but some will. 

In my quest I have identified a few things that are important to me (if the stars align and I have options).  I will be straight forward, I intend to have the epidural. I also have hopes that I will be able to avoid medical intervention until further in the labor process. These are personal choices that I have made based on my body, my mind and my research. There is no right way to have a baby. Sometimes we have a say and sometimes we do not. But if we do, I have decided that I wanted someone in our corner to help ensure that my voice ( and Nick's) is heard. Enter doula Betsy. Betsy says that a doula's true purpose is to take away the fear associated with birth. Betsy takes my phone calls, emails and text messages when I'm feeling anxious. She meets with me to discuss my birth preferences, she helps me plan for breast feeding, she talks to me about the loss of my mother, she supports Nick, and when I'm in labor she will be by my side, holding my hand and talking me through the process. She will help me understand what the doctors are saying and assist me in voicing my decisions. Nick and I will not be alone. 

Again, I know that some individuals may feel that I'm too indulgent (hiring a doula) or less of a mother (prioritizing pain management). But what I hope, is that some women out there hear me say this:  This is your family, your pregnancy and your body. Whatever you choose, however you do this, you are a strong woman and mother. There is no right way. Read, talk, and make your own choices.