Pregnancy is a series of decisions to give birth, or not, and to end the pregnancy (or grieve a too-soon end of pregnancy) or to “be delivered” and give that powerful transformation sometimes called giving birth to ones self.
One of the most treasured experiences of my doula or midwife life has been to serve women seeking again their power within to birth after a previous surgical birth. There is very often grief when birth is finished through major surgery.
Whether the cesarean was expected and accepted, or sudden after a long labor or discovery of a breech position or other issue, the message may linger than one’s ability to give birth may not be unrefutable. The grief of losing the experience of birth continues even with the welcoming of a live, and hopefully healthy child. Especially when the baby is healthy. Especially when the reason for the cesarean is less than certain. Parent may then ask, who am I now? Who am I really in view of this event? Who are we? Who is he? Who is she? I thought I was (they were) the birth giver and that moment was taken, shaken or forsaken.
For many there remains a question, if I have a chance to give birth again, can I finish under my own body’s power? Here the unknown is met with determination.
Life brings cycles of stability and instability, coasting and accelerating, learning and sharing. Opposite forces rotate around our lives bringing us opportunities that balance through opposing experiences.
Being pregnant and preparing for birth is a time of change. The unknown beckons while a need for comfort can bring about a want for comfort and surety. We are open in pregnancy to recreate ourselves even as we offer ourselves in empathy and hope to grow a child. In the depth of creative self, in creating self, we are in a sensitive period (as defined by Dr. Maria Montessori as a developmental period of absorbing information) where the behavior of the people we value becomes a model of social behavior.
The seeming dichotomy to achieve a powerful, strong birth may be through vulnerability. What I mean by vulnerability is the taking a risk to express the desire of what one wants to experience. Another vulnerability is trying when the result isn’t certain. Giving your heart 100% to the cause and risking disappointment. But this is also giving 100% and experiencing 100% the portion of the process you are currently in. The process is the reward.
Sometimes women have told me that they choose not to tell their doctor what they want or don’t want at birth because they don’t want to make the doctor angry. The fundamental need is to protect access to the expert who will save your baby. Compromise is a coping skill to sustain a relationship with the person in power (the power to save the baby presumably), as well as to grow a collaborative relationship. But collaboration can only occur if communication comes first.
Vulnerable strength in communication
It’s ok to say what you want to your birth professional.
Speak in a way that is mutually meaningful so that you can be heard. It’s ok to agree to be rescued if something goes amiss while maintaining autonomy when the birth process is proceeding normally or near normal.
If your doctor or midwife disagrees with your request or birth plan its ok to ask them more about their thoughts. Ask them if it’s their personal opinion, medical finding or a recommendation from statistics rather than a medical finding of your specific situation.
Common questions to help you make an informed decision are:
- What are the benefits?
- What are the risks?
- What are the alternatives, including waiting.
- What if nothing is done for a while, or nothing different?
- Is there any medical reason not to try something physiological first in a limited time frame
Of course, in my perspective, I’d like to try a physiological approach using techniques for balancing birth anatomy and positions for opening the pelvis if the issues are related to starting labor, strengthening labor or helping a long or painful labor progress.
When we pick a physiological approach we need to know safety limits (we need to rely on medical assessment and agree upon signs of infection, range of normal blood pressure or normal fetal heart rate, etc). We are often able to resolve a labor stall, for instance, without surgery, but would not attempt to do so if risk factors for mother or baby were severe.
And even as you agree to medical intervention, it’s also ok to ask for the opportunity to try something you would like to include. Just as it’s ok to sample the flavor of your labor and then accept a second surgery. It’s just important to be ok with the process.
Finding determination within unknown elemental forces is the role of a ship’s captain and a birthing person. Know what you are about. Set your course. Communicate it with your crew. Keep afloat. Keep fresh water and food available. The mast must be both strong and responsive and so must we. Test the winds and don’t hesitate to reset your sails. And let the stars guide you.
Spinning Babies member Alisa Blackwood offers these dynamic questions to assist your self reflection:
“What are the opposing forces in your life?”
“What would you list as your uncertainties and your desires?”
Alisa guides us to Give voice to our vulnerabilities, rather than pushing them aside. By embracing our vulnerability we propose to find our inner strength as well as help us ask for the support of others to help us birth from our best selves.