So this search led me to a wonderful birth center that was 80 minutes away and offered the experience I was looking for. I called and made an appointment to tour the facility and interview them before we were even pregnant. Yes - I was going to interview them! And they passed! They too felt that a woman is not sick just because she's pregnant and the midwife commended me for being so proactive. Even though they were a distance away - I knew this was the place for us! I wouldn't have to argue about the benefits of eating and drinking during labor, not having a hep lock, intermittent monitoring, the use of water for comfort and moving around freely because they saw their benefits as well. After we were actually pregnant they recommended we take childbirth classes. So, I researched my options and found that The Bradley Method® fit our criteria. It offered evidenced based and comprehensive information, stressed the importance of staying healthy, had a great track record and encouraged your partner to be an active participant in the birth experience. The closest teacher was an hour away but we signed up for the 12 week series. The classes did not disappoint. We were prepared and ready for our labor experience. Fear never crossed our minds. We learned so much and I attribute the wonderful birth experience we had to all we learned and practiced through taking The Bradley Method® classes.
Our choices were met with well-meaning discouragement from others. We were told that having our baby at a birth center was unsafe. It was too far away from a hospital (about 7 minutes) in case of emergency. It was too far from our home and we'd end up having our baby on the side of the road. Care by an obstetrician was safer than care with a midwife. I would want the option of having an epidural - birth was too painful. After our daughter was born completely unmedicated, safely and peacefully in the water I shared our wonderful birth experience with friends and family and the bulk of the reactions surprised me. I was told - "You were just lucky." "Most births don't go like that." "It's a good thing something didn't go wrong there." "You must just have a high pain tolerance." Talk about taking the joy out of the experience! The more I told others about our experience, the more stories I heard of complications and emergency cesareans and unbelievable pain. I started wondering why my outcome was so different from the majority of others. Was it really a fluke?
I started comparing my decisions and preparation for this birth with the way the bulk of other people I knew prepared for their births. I found that the majority of people didn't approach their birth experience the way I did. Most didn't put the amount of research, practice, study and time into this event as I did. Most just went to their OB (the same one they had used for years for their gynecological care) for their scheduled appointments and then showed up at the hospital when in labor, got a few interventions, and either had a birth with an epidural or a cesarean. About half had complications that warranted an induction or cesarean. Some of these complications were highly preventable with the knowledge I learned. Did you know that preeclampsia can be prevented with a proper diet? Did you know that being induced and getting an epidural more than doubles your chance that you'll have a cesarean? Did you know that total body relaxation can be learned and be an effective tool in managing any pain you do experience? Did you know that epidurals don't always work?
I fully realize that not everyone is a super-planner like me. And thank goodness! The world would be awful boring if everyone was the same! And I know that not everyone has the time to commit to a 12 week series of classes. I also know that there are a time and place for interventions - I just don't believe that everyone should be prescribed the same care because we are not all the same. We all have different health criteria that should be addressed individually. Why weren't the majority of doctors educating their patients about the risks of these common interventions? Why didn't doctors counsel their patients about the benefits of a well-balanced diet specific to their needs? Why did doctors assume that everyone would want this "standard" of care? Maybe they are afraid of change, afraid of dissatisfied patients, short on time, overworked, or maybe they are afraid of being the change in their community. I don't know. But, I do know that lack of education and support was the common thread throughout all these births.
So - back to the title of this blog post... Why did I become a doula and Bradley Method childbirth educator? Simply, I want to be the change that I want to see. I want education during pregnancy to be the norm', not something reserved for the fortunate few who stumble across it. I want women to know that they have options and learn the benefits and risks of these before labor begins. I want women to feel supported and empowered by their birth experience, whether that is unmedicated, medicated, or cesarean. I believe in the curriculum that I teach - because I was once a student of The Bradley Method myself - and I know it is beneficial. Even if I had developed a complication that required a more medically managed birth I know the information and skills I learned during the classes would have still been of useful. And this can be backed up by past students I've had who did have medically necessary interventions. In fact, I still use the relaxation skills I learned in my daily life. I want fear to be replaced with joy. I want discouragement to be replaced with hopefulness. I want to hear stories of doctor's being supportive of their patients wishes more than I hear doctor's give excuses or outdated information. I want women to be excited about birth and recognize it for the miraculous gift it is. I am blessed and humbly grateful to be a small part in each client's journey. Birth is a miracle to be treasured. Birth matters! And THAT is why I love what I do.
The Brewer Pregnancy Diet - http://www.drbrewerpregnancydiet.com/
Birth by the Numbers - http://www.birthbythenumbers.org/
The Bradley Method - http://bradleybirth.com/
Infinity Birthing Center - http://www.infinitybirthingcenter.com/