Devin and I met Sarah at a Succot dinner during the previous fall chagim (holy days). She was this cute curly brown-haired girl with big eyes and an even bigger heart. She had her two beautiful children and her English illustrator husband at dinner that night. I was still pretty sick at the time, and immediately felt at ease with her.
We chatted a little about being artists in Israel, birth, and pregnancy that night. I remember leaving thinking, "I'd really like her to be there." The big day was still about six months away, so I just laid the idea aside for awhile.
When a friend offered to pay for Doula services as a baby gift, I was ecstatic! We called Sarah that week and made an appointment to meet with her.
Sarah typically meets with her mothers three times before the birth as part of her Birth Doula Package, but because of some transportation difficulties, we planned for two longer meetings instead.
At the first meeting, besides getting an idea of what our hearts were for the birth of our baby, Sarah talked to us about the physiological process of labour, the "pyramid of intervention" and standard hospital procedures. She explained that each medical intervention increases the need for another intervention.
For example, Pitocin, which is a synthetic form of the naturally occuring hormone, Oxytocin often used to induce labor, can cause an increased heart rate in the baby. An increased heart rate will increase the likelihood of the use of suction to help remove the baby, or even cesarean.
She also explained that the use of Pitocin can interfere with the body's means of coping with pain during labor. During a natural birth, as the pain steps up a notch, the bodies ability to cope also steps up a notch, adjusting to the pain similar to how our eyes adjust to a dark room. In an induced labor, this process isn't naturally occurring, so it increases the likelihood for a laboring woman to request an epidural, which has rarely discussed side effects that may be undesirable, and increases the chance of a surgical birth by three times!
She covered the pros and cons, risks and benefits, of each procedure and she explained the other medical alternatives to an epidural if I felt as though I was not coping well (Stadol, Pethedine, Meptazimol or Mepid, Laughing Gas and walking epidural are a few). Although I had a tremendous desire to birth naturally, I also had a fear that I would not be able to handle the pain, especially if I was experiencing a particularly long labor. Knowing that there were alternatives to an epidural eased my nerves a bit.
All of this information was important for me since GDM pregnancies are often induced before the baby becomes too large. I felt very prepared to ask my doctor more detailed questions at my next visit, primarily if she would support allowing the pregnancy to continue along naturally as long as my baby's growth was healthy.
Sarah left us with a nice packet of information to read over as continued preparation and she gave us some homework: write out a birth plan, and pack the hospital bag. Most importantly, she left us in a position where we felt confident about our ability to make choices that were in the best health interest of me and the baby on the day of his delivery.
I had a renewed sense of energy to keep up with my sugar tests and to stick with the diet plan. And I got serious about praying for the timing of the baby's birth.
The Lord said he had "something special" and I had the faith to believe that meant a healthy, natural birth.
Several weeks later, we met with Sarah again. This time we covered natural comfort measures.
During our previous session, Sarah gave us an exercise to help understand our psychological response to pain. She asked Devin and I to each hold an ice cube. For one minute she timed us as we focused hard on what we were feeling. It was a struggle to make through the minute! After our hands recovered, she gave us both another ice cube. This time, she asked us to focus on something else. We both made it through the minute with ease.
As we discussed what to expect with contractions, she taught us comfort measures that helped relax my body, and she encouraged me to focus away from the contraction. My favorite mental distraction was the idea of having Devin share his version of our love story through my contractions. This sounded like a great way for us to connect on the big day.
We learned a few interesting facts about the progress of labor as well. For one, Sarah explained that there is a relationship between a laboring woman's mouth and throat, and cervical dilation. A relaxed or smiling mouth, and low sounds made with the throat will help everything open up for the baby. Screaming is ineffective for coping with pain, where as low and deep moans could actually help labor progress. She would also be able to tell if I was too tense in my body by the shape of my mouth.
To keep my body relaxed, she suggested various different swaying and hanging motions, most of which involved Devin for support. Some of the exercises brought comfort to the aches and pains of third trimester pregnancy, so it wasn't hard to believe that they would be effective during contractions.
After we covered comfort measures, we went over our homework from the last session: birth plan, and what to pack in our hospital bag. Then we covered procedure options for newborn care while in the hospital. Learning about the options available for the baby, and praying through what was best for him was a very sweet way to mentally and emotionally prepare for his arrival, and how we hoped he'd experience the world in his first few days outside of the womb.*
Sarah had recently received a donation of baby boy hand-me-downs, so we picked out some goodies, and she sent us home with a few books: Ina May's Guide to Childbirth (Ina May Gaskin) for continued birthing preparation, and The No-Cry Sleep Solution (Elizabeth Pantley) to help prepare us for the realities of how babies sleep and offer suggestions for night time parenting. On my own, I had also been reading The Christian Childbirth Handbook (Jennifer van der Laan).
She made us tuna sandwiches for the bus ride home, and we were off, with me feeling like I had just left a spa!
Meanwhile, on the medical side of things, we were in for an ultrasound and foetal heart monitor once a week by this point. My doctor was very pleased with how my pregnancy was progressing and how well we (and I say "we" because I couldn't have done it without Devin) were managing the diabetes. The baby was growing long, but his weight appeared to be in a healthy range. "You will have a tall and thin baby." She said. She also confirmed that he was still head down in the optimal back-to-front position.
Now all we needed was for the baby to come!
Besides good info, books, and support, Sarah also made us the cute mobile hanging above Aviel's head!
*For expecting moms: Each state/country has different laws about which procedures your baby is required to have before leaving the hospital. Do some research to know what these are. Don't forget that you can always ask to delay any procedures that you can't legally refuse if you feel they may impede on early birth bonding!
"Oh Big Baby!"