יום שישי, 3 בפברואר 2012

The Do(ulas) and Don'ts of my Labour of Love

We all know that pregnancy is supposed to last nine months. Before pregnancy, when I asked someone what month she was in the answer was simple, second, fourth, eighth…. When you're pregnant it somehow changes to weeks.  I'm not sure if this is some new method of counting which is more accurate, but we no longer count months, but instead, weeks.

Since I was pregnant with twins, I knew that it was quite possible I would give birth well before 40 weeks and that it was also entirely plausible that I would need a c-section.  I decided without much thought or consideration that I wanted to go to Tel Hashomer, which is arguably the largest and best hospital in the center, if not in the whole country, because it was where my doctor was affiliated. Although he told me he only did scheduled c-sections and only during "regular" hours (the price of success allows you to pawn off nights and weekends), I still wanted to go there. I didn’t think about the distance from my house, or to be honest, anything. 

While it is only a fifteen minute drive with no traffic, anyone who lives here will tell you that between the hours of 7-9.30 am and 3-7 pm you really want to avoid crossing the Geha or Aluf Sade Intersections because it could take upwards of an hour.  I also managed to ignore the fact that I don’t have a car so traversing said roads would be by bus or by cab, the former taking at least 45 minutes without traffic and the latter costing no less than 60 shekels and in traffic or off hours close to 100 shekels each way. As mentioned in previous posts, I didn’t think much about details, more about the big picture.  I guess ignorance has its virtues.

At the time, another friend of mine was pregnant.  Talk about complete opposites. By 25 weeks she had already been to La Leche, the international organization which promotes breast feeding, which of course, after hours of research, she knew was "better for the baby, for bonding experience, and for the mother". She also had been on a tour of the local hospitals and the birthing rooms; she had a birthing plan, and a doula. I was completely unnerved and felt like the worst soon to be mother ever, a feeling that has carried through to motherhood itself.

  I knew I was pregnant and in approximately 10 weeks I was going to give birth.  That was about it.  I didn’t read much.  I bought "What to Expect when you're Expecting" and the Hebrew equivalent.  Once a month (oops! Once every four WEEKS), I would read about the physical changes I would go through and my baby's development in the following few weeks. My brain was still trying to absorb motherhood and twins and finances, I had no room for breast feeding and doulas. 

However, a few days later, I thought about my friend and her plan.  Actually, I thought about my LACK of plan. Who was going to accompany me during the delivery? Instead of contemplating options, I spent a few days feeling completely sorry for myself because I didn’t have a husband or a boyfriend. Then I focused. Who did I want in that room with me? My mother was out of the question. I adore my mother. She is my best friend and the most supportive person I know. But she tends to stress out easily and is not the person I want with me in a stressful situation. My best friend offered, but she is a wife and mother of school age children, so I felt it would be an imposition if my time came at 3am or if the labor went on endlessly.  She volunteered her husband and provided a glowing recommendation but I politely declined. So, who? A doula seemed kind of new agey and out there... not my style at all. One thing I knew for sure was no natural child birth. No bouncing on balls, soaking in tubs and "enjoying" the primal experience. I don’t like pain, don’t want pain in my life and screaming at the top of my lungs with my legs spread is not something I envisioned.  I wanted drugs, lots of them, preferably before the labor pains started.  So I guess without realizing, I actually had a birthing plan.

Once I realized the doula was essentially my partner and wasn’t going to try and convince me to give birth at home or some other alternative method, I decided I wanted one.  So I called a few and bonded with one in particular.  At that time I was 29 weeks pregnant and on house (ar)rest.  We met and talked and I explained what I wanted and she explained what she did and she gave me a list of what to pack in my suitcase.

Being a diligent student I immediately went to the local drugstore and bought disposable underwear, almond oil and nursing pads. Took out a suitcase and stuck it by the door. Of course, if you go full term these are items you need, as well as baby clothes to bring your little one home in. I packed all the above. Things like underwear, slippers, sweats didn’t make the list…I had time, a lot of time, right?

My next meeting with Carrie the doula was supposed to be at 31 weeks so we could start working on breathing and pushing techniques. The girls, however, had different plans. Early on a Saturday morning at 30 weeks and 5 days they announced their imminent arrival with an enormous gush of water on the floor of my bedroom. I took my almost empty suitcase and threw in essentials, grabbed a coffee to go, a cell phone and went out to find a cab to the hospital.

My two biggest fears of motherhood had always been the lack of sleep and the pain of delivery.  While most people think I'm a strong person I see myself as something of a scaredy cat.  I am terrified of pain and I also hate to show my fears and insecurities… maybe this is why I am perceived as strong.

Carrie was amazing.  She held my hand, rubbed my back, explained that my babies were coming very soon, since I was in a state of shock and did not fully fathom that by nightfall I would really be a mother. She advised me to switch to a hospital closer to my house since I would have to commute for a minimum of six weeks; at 30 weeks they would be preemies and not allowed home.  At some point my best friend came as well although when it came time to the actual delivery, the hospital staff required her to leave the room.

While my dreams of sharing this moment with a life partner who was the father of my children crossed my mind and made me momentarily sad, what I had was a sorority of women and mothers.  It was truly one of the most beautiful, intimate, special experiences of my life.  Not just because I became a mother to my children but because I entered a special club. I really felt a connection to Mother Nature.  I was experiencing something unique to women, something that would change me forever.  As silly as it sounds, I felt like Chava (Eve) and all mothers since the beginning of time were there with me.

And then out came my girls and another link in the chain was added.

My labor lasted from 6.30 in the morning until 10 at night.  Carrie was there with me the whole time. She was supportive and helpful, especially since I had never learned how to breathe or push correctly (and no, it does NOT come naturally). She was the last person I saw that night and the first person to call in the morning. She came to the hospital and helped with my breast feeding and again to the house to meet the girls and address any concerns or difficulties I was having.

Whatever birthing plan you choose, be it completely natural or drug assisted, have someone by your side that will keep you calm and has your interests and wants at heart and knows how help you relax, as much as possible, during a very momentous and nerve racking time.