I have spent the last 47 hours supporting a woman through labor and birth. I am exhausted. I am elated.
Midwives and OBs generally don’t want to see a woman until she is in active labor. As a doula, I show up for the early stages if a woman wants me there. Especially with a first birth, when a woman isn’t as sure of herself and how her labor is progressing, I can be very useful.
The babe was posterior—the baby’s back was against mama’s back. It’s easier if the babe is anterior (baby’s back against mama’s front). That was one reason the labor took so long—her body knew that the positioning wasn’t right, and it tried to correct it as best it could. She had intense back labor. I spent hours applying counter-pressure to her back with my fists and spraying her with warm water in the shower. I made sure she didn’t go to the hospital too early, because having to lie on her back with a fetal monitor strapped to her belly was only going to make the contractions more painful. I encouraged her to try to sleep between contractions, and made it possible for her husband to get six hours of sleep so that he could be fresher for when she really needed him during pushing.
She was amazing. Oh, she was determined. Forty-seven hours is a long time to labor. And yet, when we were on our way to the hospital (after forty-one hours, when the babe shifted and her water broke and we were obviously off to the races), she told me not to let them give her any drugs, not to let them even mention c-section, she wasn’t tired, she knew she could do it without interventions. And she did.
“We have a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.” –Laura Stavoe Harm