I have been so blessed to work with many amazing practitioners. I have also seen laboring mothers treated as though they were 2nd class citizens – stupid, and unable to think clearly or logically. When I’ve seen the entire birth team working together, the outcomes are beautiful. They might not always be ideal, and they might leave the mother with feelings of sadness or disappointment, but they don’t leave anyone feeling as though they were taken advantage of. They don’t leave questions behind. When the whole team works together – mother, father, doula, nurse, midwife and/or OB – the world the baby is born into is one of harmony and respect.
I consider myself a mother advocate, and perhaps even a birth activist *gasp*. I believe ALL women deserve to have supported, informed births – in whatever shape that takes for them. Women are strong, and in almost all cases can speak for themselves and advocate for themselves. However, in our culture, many people feel powerless as soon as they enter the hospital or doctors office, so while you may be a wonderful advocate for yourself, adding labor and white-coat syndrome to the decision making process should be taken into account. I also know, that in any setting, especially a hospital, many women will labor better when left alone in quiet darkness. I know the difference between reminding care providers about the mother’s wishes, and making decisions for the laboring family. It is NOT my place to make decisions, but I am perfectly qualified to refer to the Birth Plan to remind a nurse or OB what the wishes of the client are.
Respect is so important.
Respect for the medical team, who have spent their entire adult lives learning and perfecting the science surrounding birth. Respect for the mother, who’s innate knowledge of her body, baby, and boundaries is sacred and worthy. Respect of the supporting birth team. The partner, who loves and supports, yet is also nervous and only wants everyone to be safe. The Doula, who is present to make sure that the team can all work seamlessly together. Is the mother being heard, and does the partner feel safe? Has the doctor, who has seen a lot of trauma, (which can alter the way information is taken in and presented) spoken clearly and respectfully to the clients. Has ALL of the information been shared, so an informed decision can be made?
When a birth team works together to provide safety and knowledge to a birthing family, the results are profoundly empowering, while the opposite can be devastating to the mother’s self-esteem and trust in her instincts. A mother’s instinct, when allowed to have a voice, and when listened to, can set the stage for a closer mother-baby bond, a healthier relationship as the infant becomes baby, baby a toddler, and toddler a child. When a mother can trust her instincts, when she is taught that her instincts are valid, her relationships – especially with her children – can flourish in a real and meaningful way. Breastfeeding is better when babies and mothers are bonded. When a mother’s instinct to be constantly near her newborn is trusted, outcomes are better; less jaundice, better heart rate and breathing rate, better temperature regulation, better sleep, and better weight gain.
Having a less than ideal birth team does not mean you are guaranteed to have a less than ideal birth experience. Have a clear idea of what you would like, understand WHY you want what you want and then write a birth plan. Being able to advocate for yourself, and having open and clear communication goes a very long way!