My Experience with Birth # 14: Back up Doula

I recently moved to Portland Oregon and since then have partnered up with a few Birth Doulas who could potentially use me as their back up Doula just in case they cant make the birth they have been preparing to support. Luckily I did this as soon as I moved here because just recently I was called to a birth to support a mama and her partner (whom I had never met) at OHSU. The mother had studied up on Hypnobirthing practices to incorporate during her labor. I was called early afternoon from a Portland Birth Doula to help support this family. The original Doula couldn't attend this birth because she was experiencing early pregnancy nausea and had recently found out she was pregnant herself!

I was very happy to step in and attend my first birth in Portland, Oregon. I was excited to attend a birth at one of the many Portland Hospitals. I’m always curious what each hospital protocol will be in regards to the service they provide for new mothers. Some hospitals are more strict on maintaining and sticking with their “hospital protocal”. Other hospitals are lenient and willing to be flexible in meeting the mother’s birth wishes. I’ve heard through the grape vine that Portland Hospitals are more “granola”/ “hippie”/ “natural”/ with a “hands off approach”. Providing an atmosphere aligned with the mothers desires around her birth. That tall tale was pretty much on point from what I experienced at this last birth.

While driving to the hospital, I needed to get my mind and my heart into the right space. I wanted to come from a place of definitely wanting to show up in this type of heart felt work as a Birth Doula. I was and still am hungry for births here in Portland and my desire to serve was strong. I hadn't been exhausted by previous births and felt like I was going to be able to show up in a powerful way. I wanted to show through my intention and with full body expression that I felt honored to be attending this birth and to walk this brief but powerful journey with this mama and her partner. As I stepped into the room, I was greeted by a warm and open father excited to meet me. I was excited too. I met briefly with the laboring mother’s mother. I immediately pulled up a chair next to this new mama to be and watched her labor through one contraction before chiming in. I let her know that I had attended several hospital births prior and that I was comfortable in this environment. 

Next, I let her know that this is her moment to really surrender to the birth. To completely let go, relax deeply, and allow all sensations to move through her. She seemed in very positive spirits and open to my suggestions. I reminded her that her body would continue to open as she rests between her surges if she chose to keep laying in her hospital bed. I guided her breathing the entire labor except during the pushing phase. We breathed together for 2.5 hours. I encouraged her to start and finish each surge with a big cleansing breath to allow her abdominal muscles to expand and relax around the baby so that oxytocin could continue to flow. This type of relaxation allows the body to feel safe so as to continue opening in a rhythmic manner. I learned technique through Hypnobirthing classes. We didn't want her body to react to the surge and close up from fear or tension. But rather open and expand while the surge would build and eventually ebb out of her body.

I would put my hand on her face to remind her to soften the muscles that were clenching to allow as much relaxation and letting go as she could handle. I encouraged her to use her voice louder and louder so her throat would stay open. Open throat equals open cervix, as many birth professionals would say. She took all of my suggestions. She incorporated them and allowed herself to surrender so much so that she was ready to push her baby out within 2.5 hours of me arriving to her room. I was amazed! Toward the time her body was opening from 7cm to 10cm, she gave her safe word to receive an epidural. Inside of myself I felt as though by the time they signed papers, got her sitting up comfortably during heavy surges, inserted the epidural needle, and allowed her body to fully receive the epidural effects, she would be ready to push. I lightly encouraged her to not receive it but that I honored her wishes. I knew she could last a couple more surges but it was not my place to be pushy. She had already done so well and I knew she had the fight within her. Most mothers ask for pain relief between the 7cm and 10cm time of cervical opening. Even if they were dead set on not receiving pain medication of any sort during labor. I don't blame them. It’s hard work and the sensations can feel really scary. 

So I left immediately. I was told to return in half an hour. I went down to the cafeteria and was called back almost immediately. I got a text from the father saying that she is pushing and baby is almost here! I scrambled back up to the labor and delivery floor and re-entered into the room. She was in the pushing position and I asked him what happened. He told me that as soon as I left and they had her sitting up, her water released all over him. Once that happened her surges came on stronger and her body opened to 10cm to push the baby out. No time for an epidural. Instead she took Nitrous gas during the pushing phase. I was happy to be back and happy to see the mama working hard and fast to birth her baby. She pushed her baby out in 15 mintutes. I couldn't believe how fast everything had taken place.

I commend that mama for fully trusting me and surrendering to her birth. To breath her baby down and out using Hypnobirthing techniques. OHSU hospital staff stayed out of the room most of the time during her labor so as to not get in her way and cause her more distraction. They only came in to check her briefly and to catch the baby. They honored the family’s wish of delayed cord clamping. Literally waiting 5 minutes or more to cut the cord! I was so grateful! I was relieved to work alongside staff who are mother and baby centered. This mama was even high risk with Lupus and would be encouraged to receive Pitocin if the labor patterns were sporadic. But her labor patterns were even and I was only at the hospital supporting her for fours hours total which included the extra hour I spent with her postpartum. I was so happy to help coach and facilitate a method of birthing that felt aligned with the mama and her partner. I am grateful for the experience and for being a part of something so primal and natural.