A Woman’s Experience of Childbirth Shapes Her Experience of Herself, Her Motherhood, Her Sexuality, & Her Body

Sat, 07/02/2011 - 08:17
Submitted by Anonymous

I am a birth doula, childbirth educator and homebirth midwife assistant. I have been involved in the world of women’s health care for 14 years and have been working in childbirth since 2000. I came to this work straight out of college with a longstanding belief that we as women are deeply impacted and shaped by the experiences we have in our bodies and the ways in which people speak with and relate to us about our bodies.

I had initially thought I wanted to become an ob/gyn but quickly realized that the work of obstetrics and gynecology these days focuses more on diagnostics through lab tests and technology than it does on getting to know one’s patients and finding out what they are experiencing. This realization led me to the discovery of the world of birth doulas.

As a doula, I have the opportunity to work closely with women and couples through a mother’s pregnancy and birth experience as I educate and support. As a homebirth midwife assistant I bear witness to birth in its most organic and intimate context. To me, the most important way I provide support is by making space for the mother and couple to ask questions, decide what she wants, feel supported, heard and like there is someone at their side protecting her experience while being in a more objective and neutral space.

Over the years of working in this field I have witnessed an astounding variety of experiences and continue to see births and experiences that surprise and inform me. With each new client I get to know and each birth I witness, I believe ever increasingly in the innate wisdom of a mother’s body, her baby and the connection between the two. I have come to see that if we truly get to know the mother, her body and her experience, we will gain amazing insights into her health and what will lead us to the most uncomplicated and positive experience.

An ideal birth experience can only be described by a mother herself and the descriptions of ideal are infinite. A mother recently described her birth as the most exceptional and transcendent experience of her life and this birth was, by no means, a quick, easy or expected labor. For her, it was the perfect birth.

I look forward to sharing and exploring with this online community some of what I encounter along the way as I witness the powerful ways in which a woman’s experience of childbirth shapes her experience of herself, her motherhood, her sexuality, her body and how her prior experiences of these shape her childbirth – for better and for worse. As well as exploring my thoughts on some of what we see presented in the media about pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding, and different understandings of the physiology of the whole event.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

So glad you're on board,

Sat, 07/02/2011 - 10:35
Heather J (not verified)

So glad you're on board, Jessica! Birth is sexual and a women's rights issue so you and your topics fit right in here. I've had 2 children myself and am expecting my third the end of August. I am a massage therapist and specialize in prenatal massage so I see and work with a lot of pregnant women in my day to day life. I used to be a doula as well, when I had time to be on-call 24/7 and I am enrolled in a distance midwifery education program. I plan to continue the program, but my state (NC) does not license Certified Professonal Midwives. It's in legislation right now and will likely pass sometime in the near future but I just don't feel the fight to do that work anymore. And really, women birthing at home aren't the ones who need my help anyway. I now have plans of going back to school and becoming an OB/GYN for the reasons you illustrated above... unfortunately and ironicly, it's not a woman/birth/baby friendly profession but I want to make it that way. Women in the hospital are the ones who need help to get what they want out of their births. Not only can I help those women as an OB, but I can provide medical backup to midwives and help them as well if/when the time for that comes. Again, so glad you're here :)

I hope my daughters have that kind of birth

Sat, 07/02/2011 - 21:15
Heylin

I'm happy my childbearing days are over (got fixed years ago) but I am happy that these choices are here for my daughters when and if they decide to have children.

hmmmm

Sun, 07/03/2011 - 20:21
Ravi

Thank you for this post Jessica,

My wife and I did a month long course, birthing from within. This course introduced us to doula's and midwifery and it was an incredible experience for me as a father.
Our first child was born in hospital with a doula present. Our second was born at home with a midwife and doula present. I am so thankful for this experience, and my partner had an extremely positive experience in both instances. I recommend all my friends who are having children to retain the services of a qualified doula, this is a completely under appreciated service and one which is paramount tot he birth of our children. Thank you for being one and being here and sharing.

In my view our society today is not entirely understanding of the process of childbirth from a spiritual point of view( i am not saying I am, I am merely stating that i feel we underestimate it's true significance). The introduction of a child into the sphere of life is an incredibly important event in my opinion and as you said it shapes much of what is to come in both of their lives forever.

And the process of birthing begins way before the child is pushed out. The actual birth itself must hold incredible energy, is is an incredibly powerful moment and i feel it must often be misunderstood, especially by father's who go through the very normal experience of community centre birthing classes (which I went to and which scared the shit out of me). I am sure I would have an entirely different experience today if it were not for our doula's coaching and welcome presence in the birthing process.

I am so happy to read your post.

Ravi!

I can't even begin to describe...

Marias Chaos's picture
Sat, 07/09/2011 - 21:34
Marias Chaos

I wish I had time right now, but I just don't. I have given birth to 5 babies in this lifetime. I have been fortunate enough to have never required a c-section.

My 3rd was the most incredible. No drugs or anything but my mind to work me through it. There was something amazing about embracing the pain and being fully aware with nothing to fog my mind. I focused and I felt her head, shoulders and body work its way out of the canal. It was exhilarating and I felt SOOO GOOD afterwards. Physically I was ready to do anythign and everything!

I spoke about this with another female friend who had 3 kids too at the time. She and I spoke about how lucky we were to be able to have natural births and what an empowering experience it is to be cognitive and attuned during the delivery. It's quite indescribable
for me.

I really wanted to be able to share that with as many women as I could back then. I wanted them to consider experiencing an all-natural birth. Most ladies I spoke to were bent on having an epidural. OH THE PAIN!

Also, I found most woman back then not taking too kindly to another woman who has had an all natural birth. Is it guilt or shame? I wasn't gloating. But to them I was.

I know what you mean

Sat, 07/09/2011 - 21:31
Heylin

While I didn't have any natural births, I didn't receive any pain medications for any of them (although admittedly, not by choice...I was refused an epidural for my first, the doctor arrived too late for the second, and the cath was placed for the third but there wasn't enough time to start the med) and seemed to do much better after my births then women who did have pain meds. Friends seemed to be amazed that I could get up and walk after giving birth. I will probably recommend that my daughters research whether or not they want a doula if they give birth (one doesn't tell my daughters what to do in matters involving their bodies, one offers suggestions, shares experiences, and gives advice when asked). I wish I had had a doula for my first birth, the second was pretty good as I was able to walk around a lot during labor, and I'm grateful that I didn't need the prepared OR for my last one.

You're right - the dark side

Tue, 08/23/2011 - 13:54
Octarin (not verified)

Hi Jessica. You're right. I'm 35, single, mother of a 3 and 1/2 year old boy, and I can safely say that the best day of my life was also the worst day of my life, and the period that should have been exceptional and divine and loving and caring was a hellish nightmare of insecurity, indifference and abandonment. Through 9 months it was only me and my baby, while for all intents and purposes my partner existed only to complain that we didn't have sex, and our private little bond developed to such extent that it kept me going through hell, and even after a 26 hours labour during which I almost died to inept hands, by losing almost a full 3 litres of blood in a matter of seconds. Because of this, I was unable to move for a couple of weeks and had hemmoraging for a couple of months, my partner and father to my child kicked us out and found a girlfriend after 4 months, and I had been battling with feelings of you-name-it-and-take-your-pick ever since, till earlier this year, more than 3 years. So, yes, a woman's pregnancy and labor does shape her life, as mine shaped me. Right now I still have enormous issues with my breasts that got wrecked and overall self-image and self-evaluation, but I'm making progress. I'll always feel deeply jealous of other women who had "proper" pregnancies and normal labor, and I'm finding my chances for another child very slim.

Why am I writing this, you'll ask. Just cause I read the comments, which were all positive, so I thought I'd also share how right you are in your evaluation, even on the dark side of the moon.

Take care,

Marg

Suggestion

Thu, 08/29/2013 - 05:25
Always (not verified)

I would love to see an article regarding the affect of child loss (in my case full-term neonatal death) on mothers' sexuality.