PART 3 OF 3, THE HOLISTIC APPROACH TO CHILDBIRTH AND POSTPARTUM
by Stephanie Finn, Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and Registered Nurse
The last half year has been a whirlwind, and I’m so thankful to be reflecting on such a wonderful birthing day. To top it off, our baby girl arrived on my birthday! It’s the sweetest thing. In this post I will be sharing a few glimpses into my birthing day. Not a full story- that would be a novel. Mostly, to give a little insight into why you may want to consider hiring a doula.
Looking back, I know that as a first time mom and pediatric nurse practitioner, I had several important values that I brought to the table during the planning process for our daughter’s birth day. I knew that the decisions my husband and I made leading up to childbirth and during the birthing process were very significant for my own health and for the health of our baby.
A natural birth was important to me, but I remained flexible as I knew even those with the best preparation are often thrown curve balls during the labor process. The best choice that my husband and I made during my pregnancy was to hire Cynthya Dzialo as our doula. We could sense that no matter what type of delivery would take course, natural, epidural, cesarean, etc., that Cynthya would offer the same loving support regardless! From day one she answered all of our questions, helped me create my water birth plan, and most importantly offered us endless encouragement for the vision we had of our birthing day, and the goals I had for my labor.
I was able to stay home for a good portion of my labor using comfort measures we had learned in our birthing class, and Cynthya was on standby the entire time. She knew exactly when to send us on our way to the hospital. Sometime soon after the sun had risen, we arrived to the labor and delivery unit, and I was able to be admitted instead of having to head back home.
I labored a full night before at home, and eventually became so exhausted and unable to tolerate the labor pains. Cynthya’s knowledge of comfort measures during this time was priceless. I was in the zone of focus and needed quiet and calm around me. There wasn’t much I could do except turn inward to draw strength, reminding myself that God equipped my body with the wisdom to get my baby out! I was not able to recall all of the tools I had available to me - hypnobabies, prayer, my music playlist, positioning, breathing techniques, medical options to consider, etc. This was the time that having our doula really paid off.
Each time I felt I could not move forward and through the contractions, she helped me to remain centered so that I could focus. While in the birthing tub, I was encouraged to go within and find the rituals that kept me in my place of calm and strength. Throughout the process, I was able to feel connected with my baby which was incredible, and still felt the emotion of anticipation and excitement for her debut. What an amazing test of my patience!
With our doula present, my husband was able to enjoy the process, get a break when needed, and understand fully what was taking place medically. This helped to alleviate any concerns or additional stress for him and he was right by my side helping with comfort measures. It was wonderful to have her there supporting him, so he could be more present with me and our baby. I was thankful and more at peace knowing he had someone present who was reliable and knowledgeable about medical options and the birthing process. The key here is that she was immediately accessible! This brought both of us a lot of confidence going into the situation.
About an hour before our daughter was born, my body was completely exhausted from the marathon of pushing. I had an extended pushing phase, way longer than average, and I was ready for an epidural. In fact, I was convinced I could not move forward without it. The pain was unbearable at the time because of the sheer exhaustion. At one point, one of the nursing techs was helping with positioning. I could barely ask again, “how much longer?” The look of pity and compassion toward me is something I still remember. Later in recovery, she kindly shared with me how she too had been there and commented on how great I did. When I thought all my energy was spent, Cynthya reassured us and I trusted she knew that I was progressing safely. I ended up getting fluids in preparation for an epidural, so I thought.
What I didn’t know at the time, was that this extreme exhaustion sent the signal to my brain that there was no other option but to rest. I didn’t need an epidural, and it would have been ok if I did, but the fluids helped with my energy. I had already worked through the most difficult part. It was time let go.
That’s when I shut everything out. I heard everyone around me become so excited as the baby was crowning. I could feel the energy and excitement within myself start to cast the exhaustion and pain to the curb. I was soon to be holding my baby! My body did the work for me as I succumbed to what it knew how to do. If I ever understood the phrase “Let go and let God”, that time was one of them. I will never forget the look on my husband’s face, the joy in his voice, his encouragement, the smile of everyone around me as our little girl entered the world. The feelings of overwhelming joy and amazement when my baby’s eyes met mine for the first time, are never to be forgotten. It was like we had known each other much longer than all of the months in my womb. Looking back, I truly understand what my mother meant the times she expressed to me I would fall in love with my baby and love being a mother.
In the end, I was able to have the natural, unmedicated childbirth I desired for our baby, and I know that without our doula, this would not have been the case. She kept both of us encouraged for nearly 25 hours, and safely paced our decision making processes. We made the best decisions we could - informed decisions - every step of the way. She also supported the desire we had for privacy throughout the process and gave us alone time as needed. All of these measures helped me to face my fears during childbirth in a positive way and remain confident in the ability of my body to birth our daughter. And so importantly - all of this supported the health of our baby! If anyone has any doubts about hiring a doula for your upcoming birthing day, may I encourage you to move forward with saying yes!
Stephanie Finn is a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and Registered Nurse at the CentreSpringMD.