We can all learn quite a few helpful things from “Cut, Stapled, and Mended: When One Woman Reclaimed Her Body and Gave Birth on Her Own Terms After Cesarean” — the memoir of a woman fighting for a vaginal birth after cesarean, and finding her authentic self in the process.
First, it reminds of the importance of investing in deep, relevant emotional work before the work of labor. It also proves how the amount a woman “knows” before birth doesn’t matter (though intellectual preparation does help support goals), because at the end of the day, birth is unpredictable.
The difference in personal treatment of Roanna between her care providers greatly affected how she viewed her birth outcomes. Unempathetic care led to traumatized, negative feelings with her cesarean births; trusting relationships with those attending her natural birth led to positive feelings despite experiencing more intensity and pain than she expected.
Roanna’s midwife and OB for her third birth were wonderful examples of how to provide patient yet non-indulgent support in a safe, trusting space, challenging her to confront unresolved issues without putting her on the defense.
Roanna spoke honestly about feeling disconnected from other women. This stemmed from her self-judgment, high value on “strength” by masking emotions, and a deeply entrenched discomfort with her own femininity. It took three pregnancies to finally accept that she is wholly feminine just by being her; neither natural birth / “perfect” birth nor the labels she wore (mother, business owner, foodie) would be the standard by which she should measure her worth.
As a doula, I find these insights particularly poignant as I aim to view my clients as whole women, not just women in a snapshot of the era in which they are pregnant and ready to birth. Much more is brought into the birth experience than what has occurred in the previous nine months. A woman is present in birth with the entirety of her physical being, the whole of her emotional nature, to the shallows of her consciousness and the depths of her subconsciousness. Ignoring any part of this fully-dimensional woman as she prepares for birth makes it easier for the neglected aspect to erupt in labor, seeking attention in possibly the most vulnerable moments of her life.
If something isn’t working on the surface, there lies an answer farther below, one only she can retrieve. As a supporter in her journey, a doula encourages her, motivates her, openly listens to her. A doula can empower her to take responsibility for her experience, and reminds her of the great reward she will receive when all the work is said and done. And the credit for this gift goes entirely to the woman. Her doula simply acts as a shadow, showing her where she is when she forgets — and she, the one making life to bring to the world, is the light.