Saturday, August 07, 2004

Taking Her Contractions

I was a doula in Frankfurt and had many clients in the hospital there. One of the cool things of the time there (1985-1988) was that epidurals were not an option unless the woman was having a cesarean. Women did just fine in labor without them; it reminds me that women can still do perfectly fine without one now.

Oh, and the word "doula" did not exist in birth at that time. I called myself a "Labor Coach" or a "Labor Companion." I only met one other doula during those years at a La Leche League Conference... I wonder where she is now!

Women were triaged in one room, labored in another, birthed in the Delivery Room (DR), recovered in the Recovery Room (RR), and then were moved to the Postpartum Floor. The Labor Rooms were at least 2 women together, sometimes 4, but they tried not to do that too much. Rarely, women got their own room until the hospital was being renovated and the renovation complete. Even if they had their own rooms, they were separated by a thin wall and there were no doors on the rooms, merely curtains... opening into a hallway where the nurses station was and the nurses and docs sat and yickety yacked and laughed loudly while women labored feet from their seats.

The Delivery Room was an Operating Room (OR) and women were moved from the bed in the Labor Room to a gurney then to the OR table in the middle of the DR for the delivery then to a gurney after delivery and then to another bed for recovery and yet another for postpartum. Lots of butt lifting and sliding; epidurals wouldn't have been helpful!

After the birth, moms got a cursory "bonding time" of about 30 minutes, but that was more theory than practice. More usual was the baby in the Nursery for at least 2 hours postpartum; the time mom was also in Recovery.

So, I have this woman in labor... she is progressing beautifully. Most women were confined to bed, but after time, they got to know me and I was able to get my ladies sitting, standing, etc. as long as the monitors were functioning. I have held more fetal heart monitor electrodes in place for HOURS than any woman should have a history doing. This one particular woman was moaning so nicely... and she was sharing a room with another mom who was not doing so well. After a few hours, the other woman was being prepped for surgery, but I stayed focused on my client and her needs. Her husband was there, too, but scared (I can see his eyes now!). One of the things I love about being around so much birth is offering normalcy to a strange situation for others. He was scared, I smiled, and he relaxed... we did that dance a hundred times that night.

When my lady got to about 8 centimeters, she said she couldn't do it anymore... was just too exhausted. For those of us in birth, we know that she is in the home stretch when she says that, but saying that to a woman who is in that scared place isn't so easy sometimes. I sat with her... face to face... and told her she was strong, that she could do this, that she was doing this... and she began crying. Next to us, separated by a mere curtain, the nurse was reading the waivers for surgery to the other crying woman who was getting ready for a cesarean. Monotone and precise, her questions about allergies, dentures, spinal difficulties, etc. were read and somehow checked in the appropriate box.

My client looked at me desperately. I looked her in the eye and something said, "help her!" and I said to her, "Look me in the eye... let me take this next contraction for you so you can rest" and she looked at me funny, but stared deep into my eyes. As her contraction built, I felt a buzzing of Energy that started in my cunt and radiated outward, through my abdomen (uterus?), through my back, up my spine, into my heart, and pushed tears out my eyeballs. She relaxed more and more with every passing second of the contraction as I let the Energy flow through me... "taking" her contraction.

She was pretty non-verbal during this phase of labor and after the contraction, I said, "That was great... your turn" and she was visibly frightened. She begged me to take one more... just one more... that the rest had been perfect. I told her "Only one more because this is your labor and you need to birth, not me" and she readily agreed and then the next contraction began.

We repeated the same scenario... staring deep into each other's eyes... hands touching... knees to knees... her man behind her touching her shoulders... and the contraction building as she released the Energy into me and I embraced it and loved it for her. The contraction peaked, then subsided and she thanked me quickly and dropped her head and closed her eyes for a moment and then lifted her spirit for her own next contraction. Within 10 minutes, she was pushing her baby out.

In Recovery, she went wild with her astonishment at what we had done. While I was mildly fascinated with the transfer of energy, it wasn't totally foreign; but, new in birth. She went on and on about how she had felt no pain during those contractions, but she knew she was having them... or rather, that I was having them... and she was just so excited!

The monotone nurse from the next curtain came in and took me aside. I thought, "oh, crap... I'm in for it now." The nurse tells me that she used to be a homebirth midwife and she had done Energy Transference many times in labors at home, but she had never seen anyone do it in a hospital. She thought I was the greatest thing since sliced bread. I was embarrassed!

The client heard the midwife/nurse and they began chattering away like birds in the morning on a telephone wire (which are almost obsolete, aren't they) and I had to ask them to please stop talking about it.

I didn't ever do that kind of overt Energy exchange again... in all these years. I'm not sure it was right to do it. I have often sat the woman's SO down in front of her (or her mother if she didn't have an SO there or if he was not a part of the birth experience) and had them do this Energy exchange without saying what I was asking for... I think that the intensity of love can just infuse the laboring woman with belief and power and energy... and unless I am the only choice, I don't really think that is my place. The way she fawned over me was not right; her birth had been hers and I tugged a big piece out of it from her.

Now, can I sit in a room and push Energy towards a mom who is struggling? You bet. Do I? You bet. Do I save some for me? Absolutely. Unlimited giving is as dangerous as not giving at all. Do I know how to replenish Energy from the earth? Ayup. Is it a skill midwives/birth workers/mothers/everyone should know? Absolutely!

While I am glad I was able to help her through her intense exhaustion, I did things differently from then on. What an amazing experience it was, though!


Lili said...

That was absolutely beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I understand why you think it was wrong to help her like this. Of course you can't ever take someone's entire burden, just the bit that they can't carry. She needed your help, she consented to it and requested it, and you gave to her freely. Midwife - with woman.