When I got pregnant with my third baby, I had a lot of comments about being an expert now so it should be easy. I mean yes, I guess I was an expert. At that point I not only had . my two personal births behind me, but had also been a birth worker for 4 years and had attended about 70 births by then.
But what if I told you that it wasn't until my third pregnancy that I learned my biggest lesson - which then had a giant effect on my birth and postpartum and completely changed the work I have done with my doula clients over these last 2 years?
During my first pregnancy, I went the route that MANY first time parents go - the "go with the flow" route. While the idea of going with the flow and taking things as they come totally makes sense, what it did for me was release any responsibility to prepare myself for birth. I just thought "well, my doctor is the expert. They will tell me what to do and take care of me." I often joke that I researched more about what vacuum to buy for my house then I did research for my birth!
After my birth, I knew that there was a big piece missing through out my whole pregnancy and birth, and definitely during my postpartum period! At first, I thought it was simply not getting educated enough about birth and the many options and interventions that may come up. Because of this, when I got pregnant with my second, I focused all my energy into learning everything I could about birth. I even did my original doula training during this pregnancy! I had a doula and a midwife and felt ready to go!
When my second birth was finished, while I felt it was a much more positive experience than my first, there was still something more that I knew I was missing, but I just couldn't put my finger on it. My decisions surrounding my second pregnancy, birth and postpartum were all super measured. Everything was very much focused on what the "evidence" reflects and made choices solely based on that, even when it maybe didn't feel totally right to me. I went on to begin birth work and spent the next 4 years focused on educating my doula clients on E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G! I tried to fit in 6 weeks worth of a childbirth education series into two prenatals! In hindsight, I think it may have left some clients overwhelmed! I can't blame them.
When pregnancy number 3 happened, after years of going to births and witnessing all kinds of pregnancies, families and births - I knew I needed to figure out for myself what that missing thing was. I didn't need the education anymore - I am more informed than most birthers ever need to be! But I needed something - I just needed to figure that out.
I took time to reflect on the births that I had attended and the lessons that I had learned and the moments that were the most impactful for me. Time and again similar things kept popping up - moments when I could clearly witness that my clients were digging deep and listening to what their wisdom and intuition was telling them. This wasn't something I saw all that often to be honest. I think most people, myself included, spent too much of their birth IN THEIR HEADS - and didn't allow themselves to surrender and be IN THEIR HEARTS.
Okay - so I needed to be able to surrender and be in my heart. But HOW?! When my head was filled with the stories I grew up hearing, of family and friends, and also that of my clients. How? When my head was filled with facts and figures? How? Why my head was filled with worry and pressure about doing everything "perfect" because I was a doula. How? When the trauma of births I had attended where clients were mistreated took up such a large space of that heart I was supposed to be in?
Here's what I did:
1. I BUILT A BIRTH TEAM I TRUSTED IMMENSELY
While I certainly have an advantage because I know A LOT of midwives and doulas, I think this step is the biggest thing that every birther needs to take seriously. THIS WILL HAVE THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOUR BIRTH EXPERIENCE. If there is no trust that the people surrounding you are there to love and protect you, how can you SURRENDER and be in your heart? Book adiscovery meeting with me if you would like to see if we are a fit.
2. SPEND TIME TO UNDERSTAND YOUR STORY
Your story is actually the weaving of all those stories that have shaped your view of birth. I had certain stories that stuck out the most to me and I realized I had never really looked deeper into any of them. So I spent time to discover more. I asked questions and I built a clearer picture of the truth. It totally changed my perspective on what actually happened and why it actually has nothing to do with me and my birth. It allowed me to release those hindering beliefs and just immerse myself in the stories that filled my heart instead.
3. LET GO OF BEING PERFECT
While I perhaps had bigger pressure on myself because of my job title, I know the pressure of feeling like you have the be PERFECT and make all the "correct" choices is something that so many birthers experience. The truth is, there is no such thing as a PERFECT BIRTH or only certain choices being correct. It is a lie we tell ourselves. What there is though is choices that feel correct to US as individuals. No two people share the same history, so we do we expect people to all react the same in the present.
4. TAP INTO YOUR INNER WISDOM
Okay so - THIS IS THE BIGGEST LESSON I LEARNED IN MY THIRD PREGNANCY and I WISH I knew about it in my first pregnancy too! Really, it all comes back to this. When we can tap into our inner wisdom and trust our intuition, all the above steps just comes easily. I spent time in my third pregnancy really getting to know myself better.
Once I was able to tap into that space and be in my heart, every pregnancy, birth and postpartum choice I made just felt RIGHT. It wasn't "perfect". It wasn't all "evidence based." No. But they were the right choices for me. This is why I can look back at my birth and feel complete because I truly did surrender and allow myself to be in my heart, make choices that came from my inner wisdom and intuition and be fully in my heart because I could quiet down my mind. Since that birth, the work that I do with my clients is less about the textbook information (it is still there and we still discuss the essentials), but it is more about discovering what each client truly needs, honouring their journeys as parents and celebrating their love.
Samantha Garcia Gagnon is a birth worker in Pitt Meadows, British Columbia. She has a special focus on supporting physiologic home births and shares her years of experience and knowledge in this blog.
Proudly supporting home birthing families in Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam. Port Moody, Langley,
Surrey and New Westminster.
Filled with gratitude to be living and working in the unceded and ancestral home of the Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Matsqui, Kwantlen, and
Semiahmoo First Nations.