Because my last post was all about the “Babymoon”, that sticky sweet time of bonding, breastfeeding and beaming at your newborn…this post is about the oft overlooked flip side of birth (and pregnancy); those darker more complex feelings many birth parents experience, but may feel unable to openly discuss. We have a general acceptance of the “baby blues” in our society, but Postnatal (and Perinatal) Depression, PTSD, Anxiety, and OCD are very real and can affect anyone, even when all seemingly goes to plan. Check out this article and excellent infographic by kidspot.com.au and the following piece on Birth Trauma.
Women don’t understand their fertility.
“At the clinic I rarely met women, young or old, who understand their fertility and what happens during the menstrual cycle. They all know about the blood, although not always why they bleed. But few know anything about what happens between periods. No one has told them.”
Fascinating article on Breastfeeding from TheStranger.com
“According to Hinde, when a baby suckles at its mother’s breast, a vacuum is created. Within that vacuum, the infant’s saliva is sucked back into the mother’s nipple, where receptors in her mammary gland read its signals. This “baby spit backwash,” as she delightfully describes it, contains information about the baby’s immune status. If the mammary gland receptors detect the presence of pathogens, they compel the mother’s body to produce antibodies to fight it, and those antibodies travel through breast milk back into the baby’s body, where they target the infection.”
One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.
It has been a bumpy road thus far. Being back at the clinic, trying to connect with a new group of fellow students (who all had bonded months before I arrived) and then getting back into the flow of the clinic and birth has been a challenge.
I have had a mixed bag of experiences with labor and birth since my return. First quarter, from what I recall, was all lovely smooth births and only one transfer for stalled-out labor / maternal request.
Since being back I have had an onslaught of complications and transfers to Hospital, with a few smooth labors and births mixed in. Here is a recap:
- I had a mom with Pre Labor Rupture of Membranes (PROM) whose labor set in almost at deadline and progressed extremely rapidly. A beautiful, if not somewhat chaotic, fast birth followed by a transfer of baby 5 hours later for unresolving tachypnea (fast respirations).
- I had another PROMer whose contraction pattern set in nicely after herbal stimulation, then transferred for long decelerations of fetal heart rate while baby was still high and mom not yet in active labor. It turned out she was active by the time she got to the hospital, but it was a face presentation which can be tricky to deliver vaginally.
- Another PROMer, whose labor set in after herbal stimulation and birthed beautifully but with some moderate meconium in the water when the bag ruptured. We were prepared to suction baby at birth but as the head presented all the stained liquor sprayed from the baby’s nose like an ornamental fountain, thus clearing itself without the need for suction. Pretty impressive!
- A lovely birth with no issues.
- Then a PROMer again with failure to progress (per our protocol) after many hours laboring and fetal tachycardia not resolving with interventions, who transferred.
- Then a labor (not PROM, finally) who developed late and variable fetal heart rate decelerations not resolving with O2 and left side lie who, upon rupture of membranes, had very particulate meconium and transferred to hospital. We later learned baby was being kept in NICU for serious health issues unrelated to the birth.
Phew! A very long list of not the most lovely experiences. Luckily at the end of all this, I have had two gorgeous births since, no tears, no issues, very peaceful and very pleased clients and babies at discharge.
I was starting to feel like I was the cause of all these complications, though realistically I know I can’t CAUSE people to PROM or babies to present in certain manners, or have non-reassuring fetal heart rates…but that is how I felt. My fellow students were having a bunch of lovely births to report on and I had a slew of transfers. It made me feel crummy and has been a big test to my self-esteem. As the “new girl” in the group, I feel I am judged more on my outcomes than the others, though this is likely just a perception. I definitely burnt a lot of sage through all this, trying to cleanse any negative energy I may have been contributing.
Of course, all of these experiences are overseen by the Licensed Midwives (LM) on shift with us, so no course of action is ever undertaken without their assessment of the situation and final decision. But the students here LOVE to make assertions about the decisions made and what constitutes a necessary vs unnecessary transfer. For some here, I feel like transferring to the hospital is equivalent to making a pact with the devil, something to be avoided at all costs! But recognizing what falls within our scope of practice and what does not is an important part of being a safe practitioner.
Last shift, I had the chance to talk over one of the more recent transfers with the Supervising Midwife in that case, someone with decades of experience whose opinion really matters to me. She reassured me that the transfer was definitely necessary and that I was not just overreacting to the situation or creating a problem where one did not exist. She went on to say that she was relieved the situation occurred with me as the student midwife because she felt she could trust me to deal with a difficult scenario. That made me feel better.
I have been trying to put everything into perspective and am realizing that THIS is my time to LEARN, so having a bunch of perfect scenarios, while nice, is not exactly a learning experience for real life. Having complications arise and being able to recognize and react to them IS teaching me valuable lessons for later when I am practicing on my own. I need to know how to react in these more complex situations in order to provide good, safe care in the future.
SO while the experience has been less than rosy at times, it has been valuable. I hope to continue learning and improving, and to remain humble and appreciative of the lessons no matter what form they may take.
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.
The new moon energy is upon me. Testing, begging, to release the past and embrace what is to come. It is a time to be introspective and I am feeling that deeply as of late. Finding my shadow side, exploring it, accepting the darkness while still recognizing the abundance of LIGHT required to cast such deep shadows. Finding those aspects of myself that no longer serve me and flushing them out. It has been a time of creativity, playing with watercolors, drawings, collages etc. Lots of MUSIC. Lots of sage burning. Some tarot cards. Pulling cards that are so clear: all about growth, personal strength, undoing self-doubt, letting the LIGHT shine BRIGHT .
Growth is hard work. Learning to face my weaknesses, to see OPPORTUNITIES rather than defeat – ooph, it can be exhausting! But I think worth it ultimately. I have faith that I can do it, out here in strange lands, floating on my own…I can do it.
Loving all the images going through my Instagram feed for World Breastfeeding Week!
Can we celebrate this kind of beauty and bond everyday please?!
I am just coming off the high of a beautiful and empowered hospital birth I was invited to do labor support for. Feeling all kinds of inspired at the strength of my sisters. So blessed to do this work.
Live. Love. Latch.
Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but … life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.
GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ, Love in the Time of Cholera
I have now been back at the birth clinic on the border for over a month and a half. It was rough settling back in to such a busy atmosphere, but I am now feeling more at ease. Three days a week I am in the clinic, either doing pre-natal and post-partum appointments or on the birth rotation. I have personally caught 3 babies since I have been back bringing my total to 12, and had one woman in labor transfer to the hospital for an early labor complication, where she birthed safely and vaginally.
We have been so lucky to have a special preceptor at the birth center these last few weeks named Ruth Kauffman. She graduated from this program and is a RN and CPM. She has spent many years now as a career midwife with MSF (Doctors Without Borders) and was on the frontlines treating pregnant women in Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak. Her enthusiasm for birth is infectious, as is her drive to understand the science behind what she sees in each encounter with our clients. It has been really special to have someone around who pushes us to think critically in a way that is both challenging and validating.
Here is an article about her work with MSF (Swoon!).
The pace at the clinic is high speed, and I am learning so much I sometimes feel I don’t have time to process it all. I am forcing myself to carve out time each day to complete my homework assignments and research topics of interest. Currently I am working on an assignment researching Group Beta Strep (GBS) infections, Early Onset Sepsis, and Respiratory Distress in the newborn. It is pretty heavy material, but certainly important to understand.
If you are interested in a well researched, easy to understand review of the literature on GBS during pregnancy check out this great site by Rebecca Dekker, PhD, RN, APRN at www.evidencebasedbirth.com
I have been accessing a wealth of great websites and guidelines and will be sharing more of the articles in a later post. For now, I am going to try to get some exercise before heading back to the books. Thanks for reading!
Without darkness, nothing comes to birth, As without light, nothing flowers.
MAY SARTON, Journal of a Solitude
Here I am on the cusp of heading back to midwifery school in Texas. I have been through so many changes over this last year since leaving the program, all in an attempt to make it back and finish this dream of mine, to become a midwife. If the sacrifices we make to attain something are any measure of their worth, this may be the most important step I have taken in my life. Thankfully, I am too busy to dwell on all the destruction I have left in my wake, or the giant hole in my heart. Being around birth is healing though. Slowly, one birth at a time, the losses become gains.
My dream is to provide luscious birth experiences for people all over the globe. This site is dedicated to becoming a destination home birth provider. I will travel to you, wherever you are, to facilitate the birth you dream of: in peace, love, and harmony, surrounded by the people you trust, in the home and location of your choosing.
As things progress this will be the blog portion of my site where I will post updates on my experiences as a student of Midwifery at a high volume birth center on the border of the U.S. and Mexico. I will also try to post interesting and informative articles, links to new useful websites, and possibly upload some photos from time to time, all relating to the field of midwifery.
If you want to know more about me and the services I plan to provide upon graduation and certification, check out the About Me page where my list of qualifications and certifications continues to grow.
Thank you for following along on this journey.