A Lesson Learned

11 May

It’s eight AM.  I’m on my way to my first prenatal appointment of the day.  I’m already lost.  Holding my google map in one hand, steering with the other, I squint and brake as I pass street signs.  I know I’m annoying the driver behind me, most likely on their way to work.

I arrive barely on time, all nerves and paperwork.  With my manila folder in hand, and a decanter of coffee (I promised I would bring coffee),  I sit down at her kitchen island.  I pull out forms and articles to discuss, her medical history, her expectations regarding labor.

It was all going just fine.  Lots of nods and polite smiles.  My index finger traces the top oval of my coffee mug – my nervous twitch. I’m thinking about how I don’t even know her, I mean I know what’s she’s told me through client forms.

Being privy to medical history means that I get to know some things that perhaps her best friend won’t even know.  But, she wrote that down, filled out a chart, and that’s different from the way you would share something with a friend because you trust her.

So, what I mean is I don’t really have her trust.  I struggle feeling awkward. I’m about to help her journey through one of the most significant moments of her life, this is not the time to feel like a stranger.

I think of this as I make mention of a  good book to read. I slide the book across the counter and point to the chapter that I think will be most helpful and wonder what I can do.

Then it hit me, and with ardent conviction, I say to her, “I want you to know, I believe in you 100%.  You can do this. I absolutely believe in your ability to give birth to your baby.” I pause and look down for a tiny second and then look up at her and say, “I know that you are going to do this.”

She looks across at me, breaks into the biggest smile I’ve seen her give me yet, and with heartfelt gratitude – like the kind of gratitude that grabs you by the shoulders and gives you a shake, she says, very simply, “Thank you.”

It’s true.  I do believe in her.  In fact, the day before our meeting as I was reviewing material and going over notes, I was struck with how none of this book knowledge really mattered.  What she needed from me was my absolute confidence in her abilities, and then, as if on cue – a ton of belief-bricks hit my heart; I was gifted with a deep inner knowing that she is able and strong.

The reality is, though, that me saying how I believe in her doesn’t change what she already knows about herself.  However, she needs to know that I know it, too.

Everything was different once I told her this.  I crossed a border. I was no longer an immigrant to her trust.  My complete belief in her abilities unlocked her heart.  From that point on the prenatal visit went from just fine to – we’re in this together, heart and hands.

I will never forget this lesson: my belief in a woman’s innate ability to birth her child must be alive inside me if I’m to gain her trust and respect and serve her with dignity and compassion.

4 Responses to “A Lesson Learned”

  1. Lena May 12, 2010 at 12:17 am #

    You are an amazingly insightful writer, and you have NO idea how much I look up to and respect you in all that you do, and how reading about your journey affects the type of nurse I am becoming- love you!

  2. Kelli May 12, 2010 at 11:28 am #

    This is my first glimpse at the joy of this. I feel like I did that night we all watched the old video of what’s his name and then got hit with such a blast of creative inspiration we scurried off to our private corners and MADE things. Songs and poems and pictures. I’m sure someone even tried to throw a pot or two. You know that guy we all liked that had the backup singer that died in depression. Anyway – thanks. I am excited about reading your archives now.

  3. sara March 2, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

    I love this post. It’s something I struggle with as a doula: I truly, truly do believe my clients CAN do it (by “it”, I’m referring to a largely intervention-free birth.) I believe in their bodies. However, i don’t always think they WILL do it; I don’t always believe in their doctors, hospitals, partners, etc. The truth is that 95% of my clients say they want an unmedicated birth and I’d say about 60% achieve it. I also don’t want to put the pressure of my expectations and beliefs on them. When I consider saying, “I have total confidence that you can do this,” I imagine the conversation we have at a week postpartum when she hasn’t done it- she got too tired or or her ob pressured her to induce. Modern birth is about so much more than a woman’s body, capability and will. Clearly I believe in birth; I couldn’t do this work if I didn’t. But is it ok to say to a woman, “I believe in YOU, but not in your doc with the 37% c-section rate.”

    • Joy March 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

      Very good point, Sara!

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