Here in the Comox Valley, I am fortunate enough to be part of the Comox Valley Doulas– a collection of empowering birth advocates who get together once a month that have worked as Doulas amongst other titles within our community. Every time I walk away from a meeting, my mind races with many ideas of how I can integrate my training to be a better doula, how can I help families recognize their strengths, how can I open up their ability to make informed decisions during their birth?
And then the answers started to hit me: It starts with the power we have as individuals to make informed decisions outside of the critical moment. If I can help women understand many avenues of birth that they are not focusing on, will they feel the power of consent when it comes to procedures? Will they feel like they are making the best choice for themselves and their baby when they say “Yes” or “no” to something because they know what their medical care is talking about before hand? Can I help them take away the fears surrounding interventions before they may or may not be approached with them so they can keep their confidence as a birth warrior?
The answer: I know I can.As doulas, we cannot speak for you. We cannot replace your consent with our own and we cannot speak on your behalf. No matter how close we become during your prenatal care, it is a line we do not cross. We can ask you questions, we can help you look for answers, but in no way, shape or form can we put our voice where yours belongs. So what can we do? We can help you search for the answers to questions about interventions, inductions, tests and monitoring during your pregnancy so you are confident in your words if these situations come up. We do not doubt your abilities to create your birth wishes (we love those wishes) but in a world where birth is unpredictable– may that be because of hospital staff, stress levels, positioning of baby or even lack of sleep, it is so incredibly important to be able to speak confidently for your body and your baby.
So where does this all begin? The minute you find out your pregnant! Our minds swirl through ideas of morning sickness, when to tell people, when to have a baby shower, who is going to be at the birth, who is going to watch previous children, what will you eat and most importantly what kind of caregiver are you looking for.
The first step in your pregnancy is not only finding a medical caregiver (may that be a doctor or midwife) but finding a medical caregiver that has views similar to your own.
This basic relationship and understanding of your body in connection with their level of care is vital for your confidence and keeping the birth power flowing during labour. You can look through your community for different practitioners and ask them questions about their intervention rates, how they feel about everything from episiotomies to c-births and what kind of medications they feel comfortable working with. If there are views or statistics they bring up that make you cringe or feel uncomfortable, you CAN keep searching for the level of care you and your baby deserve. Just like interviewing a doula, it is important to find that your birth support is on the same page as you. You want that emotional connection and understanding of the birthing body, the changes that might happen to you before you sway into transition and the choices you need to make immediately after the birth of your child. You want to understand, you want to be judgement free and most of all, you want to be empowered.
So how do you do this? It may sound like you’re going to university, but research.. And lots of it. You might groan or drift off through parts of it, but this birth will only happen once and feeling like you are prepared will keep you calm and proactive in the deep waves of labourland. It doesn’t have to be all textbooks and articles– you can ask your healthcare provider for answer, you can ask your friends for their birth stories, and your doula can guide you through materials as well(We’re really good at finding information in your study language). The goal is to remove fear associated with some of the unknowns of pregnancy and birth. If you can understand even a little bit of what doctors are talking about before you make your way to your birth location, you are removing the negative reactions within your body and keeping your labour hormones flowing (removing the fight or flight response). There are lots of resources available and I really mean lots.. So let’s work together to make your choices during birth yours!
Here are a few questions you and your birth partner can ask prenatally about tests and procedures:
– What is the reason for this test and how will the answers effect my pregnancy and baby?
– Will this procedure be repeated through my pregnancy/birth and what are the risks associated?
– What does that “insert big word here” mean? Can you walk me through what it means for my baby and my body?
– How urgent is this treatment? What are the risks associated with waiting?
– If I consent to this treatment, how long after am I able to walk/leave the hospital?
– If I consent to this monitoring, will I be able to continue with movement?
– If I consent to this intervention, how long does it last and flow through my body? How does it effect my baby in the womb/after birth?
– This is a procedure I was strongly against, can you provide a less invasive alternative?
– How/when do you suggest episiotemies/epidurals for your patients?
– What interventions do you seem to use the most? What interventions does your back-up colleague seem to use the most?
-Can we please have some alone time to discuss this option? I need a minute to make an informed choice.
Best wishes exploring your options, and remember, this is your birth, your body and your baby!
With Love, from Ficus.
Ficus Holistic Doula Services