A Healthy Mother is Also Important
"A healthy baby is all that matters!"
Am I the only one who cringes when they hear that? But Mary, isn't it true? Don't you care about the babies?? Anybody who has known me longer than 5 minutes know I do, in fact, care greatly about the babies! But birth isn't just about the babies. It's also about mothers and fathers; It's about the whole family!
I recently connected with a sweet lady. We were having just a lovely time chatting. As she told me about her now-grown children, she asked me what it was that I did. "I'm a doula," I told her. "Oh! Is that the same as a midwife?" (Now, if I had a dollar every time I got asked that... I'd have several dollars...) But I gave a gracious and quick rundown of what it is I do.
"I assist expectant mothers as they prepare for and give birth as their support person - emotionally and educationally and I help with comfort measures during labor."
"Oh that sounds wonderful! I could've used you when my children were born!"
Immediately she started telling me about her birth experience. She didn't go into great detail, because (as she confessed to me) she had had no idea what was going on while she was in the throes of labor and birth. Like many others of her generation, she had never read a book or been told what to expect. She had been "put out" with "something" (she had no idea what it was the doctor used) at the first sign of pain and had no recollection of her daughter's birth. I felt so very sad for her, and then she said something poignant and made my heart ache even more deeply for her - and for the many mothers who had similar experiences.
"To be perfectly honest with you... I feel cheated. But my baby was okay... So it's okay."
This made me think... Is it really okay?
We hear so often new mothers say "But at least my baby is healthy!" after retelling their birth story. Maybe the birth was traumatic for her, maybe an unforeseen problem arose and there was no time for her to process what was happening, maybe there was no time for her to get the epidural she was counting on and she had a very fast and very painful natural birth that was not prepared for. What then? How do we speak to these mothers? How do we validate what they're feeling?
Yes, it's wonderful when a baby enters this world and is healthy and unharmed by what would have seemed like a traumatic birth. Don't think for a second that I'm saying the baby does not matter - of course the baby matters! But what about the mother? Does the emotional well-being of the mother matter?
If we think that the one who is the key caregiver to that baby, the one who holds the home together, the nurturer of life, if we think for a moment that how she feels is irrelevant as long as her baby is okay - it is my true belief that we will have some hurting families.
Mothers deserve to feel safe and supported in their birth experiences and postpartum!
A mother whose feelings and intuition are supported in birth, is a mother who can start off her journey into motherhood without being clouded by doubt in her abilities.
This lady I was speaking to didn't seem traumatized by her daughter's birth - it was so long ago. Our conversation ended and we each went our ways. But she asked for my card "just in case I come across someone else who may need you".
If I can extend hope to another mom and make her birth experience a memory that empowers her or brings her joy, then my job as a doula is complete.