I first noticed them in our Tuesday night Birthing From Within class. They had a quiet presence, a look about them that made me want to know them. Later that evening she introduced herself to the class. 40 years old and a first time mother. She’s a writer and an artist, he’s Italian and a professor. They are equally attractive as they are intelligent and artistic. I secretly want to be their doula. Please ask me, I think to myself.
As the weeks pass, J shares with the class that her baby is breech. I know what this means. If her daughter does not turn, she cannot birth at the birth center in Denton (The OB presiding over the birth center doesn’t permit the CNMs to perform breech births, though they are well experienced with them). The perfect non-hospital birth that she so hoped for, needed and planned on, is in jeopardy.
Two more weeks pass, and F (J’s husband) calls me over to them. He shares that Dr. Cummings is going to perform a version in an attempt to turn their daughter. There is a five percent chance that the procedure could lead to a cesarean, so they must check in to the hospital as if the worst might happen. They ask me to attend the version, should the unexpected occur, they want a doula to be present.
Dr. Cummings comes in to the hospital room. He begins to turn the baby, his dark hands are working madly across J’s belly. After several failed attempts to dislodge the baby’s bottom from her pelvis, Dr. Cummings pauses for a moment and leans his head in close to her belly. He shuts his eyes, and asks J what they’re naming their daughter. Sofia, she tells him. He nods, breathes in gently and shuts his eyes again. All the while keeping his head close to J’s ripe stomach. He asks, “What does Sofia mean?” “Wisdom,” J says.
The version was not successful. Dr. Cummings presents options to my clients. A vaginal breech birth, or a c-section. Their choice, their birth.
J and F set their sights on a vaginal breech birth. At 38.5 weeks. The waiting games begin. Meanwhile, I immerse myself in study and research regarding vaginal breech birth. I ask my doula friend, Marissa, what she’s seen of breech births. “I haven’t,” she says. I’m surprised. I log on to a Dallas Doula Network and ask for help on breech labor and birth. Only a single response.
I contact the woman who taught my Doula certification course. Surely after 20 years of being a doula and attending thousands of births she’s seen a breech birth. She’ll know what to tell me. She writes me that she has never witnessed a breech birth, and says, “they’re quite rare.”
I begin to realize what an incredible opportunity this is, experientially. Especially because it’s being done in a hospital with an OB. Most days OBs won’t even touch VBACs let alone breech births. Dr. Cummings is not your average OB, though. So, I get excited. I’m going to see a breech birth in the hospital! In the birth world, this is a very rare bird, and I get to help catch it – and only on my fourth birth. I feel like I won the doula lottery.
Later that day, I realize I’ve lost touch. I forgotten about the mother and become immersed in calling it “the breech birth” rather than “J’s birth.” I know it’s time to rearrange my focus and remember my job as a doula is holding the heart and hands of the mother, not checking off a list of what my experiences as a doula are.
A few days later, J shares her thoughts with me. She goes deep, and what she shares concerns me. I hope she’s ready in her heart for the birth process. I know that birth is 90% connected to our thoughts, our fears, our beliefs about ourselves and our bodies, our hopes and our anxieties about becoming a mother. Paper tigers, so to speak. Sometimes our fears about labor and birth can actually make our labor longer and more difficult. I encourage J to find ways in which she will best process, acknowledge and sort through her struggles, but I also let her know that we’ve all experienced those apprehensions. I share with her that I understand. I also had that fear of losing my independence when I became a mother. The truth is, we all lose a form of ourself as a woman when approaching motherhood, but sometimes we trade it for a broader expression of who we really are. And maybe, for some of us (not everyone, just some), it takes becoming a mother to really learn and discover our full potential as a woman.