Dear all nurses, doctors, doulas and midwives (and, anyone else involved with labor and delivery!),
You are amazing. No seriously. You may not realize it, but every day you go to work you are giving love, support and changing (if not saving!) lives.
I know that, especially in the childbirth realm, there are a lot of different approaches — medical, natural, etc. And there are a lot of opinions around it. I’ll be the first to admit that before I had my own birth, I had pretty strong opinions of what I did and didn’t want. I’d never go so far as to question another woman’s decisions, but I knew exactly what kind of care I wanted and where I wanted it to be. I didn’t want a hospital. I didn’t want any drugs. And, then, you know, this happened and my birth-center plan went straight out the window. Although I didn’t get any pain killers, I did get Cervadil and I did deliver in a hospital.
And it was pretty much the best experience of my life. And in such unexpected ways.
Once I knew I had to be induced, I mourned the loss of my ideal natural birth at the birth center with midwives and dimmed lights and laboring in the tub and going home with baby within 24 hours. I had received such amazing and loving care at New Birth Company that I was afraid to leave it. The midwives, nurses and front desk staff all knew me and my husband, and were so open and supportive of whatever we wanted to do. Going to a big ol’ hospital that we hadn’t even visited felt odd, distant and, quite frankly, scary. New Birth had cushy rooms and hugs. The hospital, I expected, had nothing but mechanical beds, IVs and beeping machines.
This is not what I envisioned, I thought.
And St. Joseph Medical Center did have hospital beds, IVs and beeping machines. But they also had amazing people. As amazing as those at New Birth. The nurses and doctors we met with honored our birth plan pretty much to a T (dim lights, quiet, music, birthing ball, skin-to-skin contact, no epidural, delayed cord clamping and keeping my placenta, among other requests). We were in control and together made decisions as to how long to leave the Cervadil in, when to have my cervix checked (or not), and even where was best to labor (walking the halls, the bathroom, on the ball). Despite having to have an IV, I still had few restrictions on how I could move. They let me do my thing with my doula and my husband.
And then, after birth — when I had been so looking forward to going straight home with baby — we had to stick around in the hospital for a bit longer because Gwen had elevated bilirubin levels. But it wasn’t the worst thing in the world like I, again, thought it would be. Although it was hard to have Gwen away from us and in the nursery under the bili light, it meant that we spent a lot of time with a few of nurses who were simply incredible. Two of them had been working at the hospital since before I was born (side note: I was born at the same hospital with elevated bilirubin levels, too, and they, quite likely, looked after me as a baby!) and were pretty much baby whisperers. One made Gwen a special hat. Another showed us the ropes on how to do a sponge bath.
And another, Jane, really left her mark. I pretty much credit her to being able to breastfeed relatively easily and without a nipple shield (which they initially thought I’d have to use). Jane didn’t just show us what to do — she actually made sure we knew how to do it ourselves, giving us skills and then giving us time to practice on our own. A number of times I’d call her in to come “check my work,” like she was my teacher — and she really was. After we returned home, Jane even called us to see how things were going and let us know that we left a pillow there. Now there’s a woman who takes her job to the next level!
These health professionals answered our endless questions, helped us learn how to swaddle properly and made our time at the hospital easier and more like home.
Now, why am I giving you all the details of my story? It’s because I learned something extremely important and humbling through all of it: there’s no “right way” to give birth. Midwives AND doctors are amazing. Nurses AND doulas can make all the difference. It’s not an either/or situation. It’s doing what’s best for you and your baby — and being open and flowing with whatever happens.
I didn’t have the birth story that I planned or originally wanted. But that didn’t make it one iota of a bit less magical. It ended up being everything I wanted and more. And that has everything to do with the amazing people I was surrounded by. It wasn’t about where I got my pregnancy care or where I gave birth, but rather the energy and people I was around. And those people helped me in ways that I have trouble even articulating besides calling it love. It’s corny but it’s true.
So to all of the nurses, doctors, doulas and midwives out there, you are life-changers and life-savers. Don’t ever forget that.
—Jenn, one grateful new mom