Birth Team: Who Do You Really Want at Your Birth?
Last week CiC hosted its Healthy Birth Choices Workshop, Birth Team: Who Do You Really Want at Your Birth?, for expecting women and partners. Facilitator Shara Frederick reminded the audience that what often strikes parents after they give birth is that it’s “not about what happens at birth, but how we feel about it and who made us feel that way”. We were so lucky to have new and experienced parents on our panel: Rachel and Noam who shared their hospital birth story, Meg and Michael who shared their homebirth story, and Melissa who shared the uniqueness of 3 different births with difference levels of support – and their babies who comfortably bounced, nursed, and slept their way through the workshop – and to bring back the always popular Maiysha Campbell, a DONA-certified doula in New York City.
The parents shared these stories on our panel:
Rachel began her birth story with a memory of being four years old, witnessing her brother’s birth at a birthing center. She began her birth education there, having taken a Siblings & Childbirth preparation course. Fast forward to her own pregnancy, Rachel’s biggest question when assembling her birth team was whether her own mom should be there, or whether to hire a doula. A friend suggested she give her mom a role which was very helpful. She also took a Bradley Method childbirth education class with her husband Noam, which gave them both the confidence they needed to birth without the aid of a doula. Her mom knew from her own birth experiences and her mothering experience what Rachel would need – cold clothes when she was nauseous, for instance. She also videotaped the birth and gave Rachel a gift she never would have had otherwise, which was to really SEE the birth as it happened.
Meg and Michael shared their birth story next. Meg had been seeing an OB practice in the city that she had liked well enough, but when she became pregnant she felt that the care she was getting was pretty impersonal. She saw a different doctor each time, no one ever remembered her due date or much about her pregnancy. “It takes a village to have a child, and in NYC, if you don’t have that village you pay for a village to come to you,” Meg said as she described her process of moving to a midwife who did home births. She wanted a very feminine, maternal style of care and this midwife offered her that. With her midwife and her doula, Meg gave birth in a very intimate birth pool with only Michael and her dog standing by, just as she’d dreamed. Michael appreciated being so involved in the birth team, but knew how important it was to have the doula there and Meg agreed. The midwife and doula tag-teamed for days after the birth to make sure everyone was healthy and settling in well. This team was their village.
Melissa rounded out the evening with her 3 birth stories, one 6 years ago, one 2 years later, and one just a few short weeks ago. She had her first baby with an OB practice in a fairly clinical setting but was encouraged to have a doula present, which was an excellent decision for her. She had wanted to be surrounded by strong women, just as her family members had been before her. While the medical staff “swarmed” the first birth, she was reminded of her high school track coach, cheering her on in ways she couldn’t have imagined until it was happening. With her second baby, she felt more confident about the process of labor and wanted a more maternal circle again, so she opted for a midwife who happened to deliver in a birth center. She went 42 weeks before labor began, and gave birth to a 10 lb. baby in a fraction of the time as compared to her first birth. She loved the experience, and figured she’d repeat it if she had another baby. When that time came, she found a midwife who partnered with an OB, and delivered in a hospital again. Although it was vastly different from her first or second births, she had her circle of family around her and loved it.
Maiysha, a doula, provided several tips for parents considering inviting family as part of the support team. She suggests chores, having people pick up groceries, preparing their special dish a week after the birth, and if all else fails, suggests using “policy”, such as, “the hospital policy is that for the birth there is a limit to who can be in the room”. Clarifying the birth mother’s expectations early is important, and building a new family means setting boundaries with existing families to have the birth experience you really want.
Checklist for expecting women choosing a birth team:
- Choose people to join you who are not afraid of birth and can put their needs aside (while you are in labor)
- Consider hiring professional labor support to support you and your partner through this journey
- Surround yourself with positive stories and people
- Tour your hospital or birth center to know what kind of access you will have to comfort tools
- Think about how you deal with pain and stress on a daily basis. Apply what you know about yourself to labor
- Consider who is going to support you in the postpartum period. Think about the roles you can assign, the foods you will need, the help you will want