7.13.2009

once a doula...

The story I am about to tell is both comical and sad, depending on which way you look at it. I suppose at this point, I see it as both, among other things. Any of you who have known me in the past eight or nine months will know that I have been very interested in birth education, birth options, mother's rights, etc.... I have read probably 20 books about birth and breastfeeding, I created a twice a week, semester course with a friend to discuss these issues, I went to a three-day doula training, with a friend, I started a Utah Valley birth blog, I even lead some discussions to groups of women about birth education. This morning however came the long anticipated day in which I would actually help with a real live birth. When I moved to Portland a few months ago, I went to great lengths to find pregnant women that I could help in this department, (it's a lot harder to get into than I had anticipated), but I finally got the call from a social worker for a spanish-speaking woman who could use a volunteer doula at her birth.

I felt up for the challenge, I met with her a few times, training binder in hand and tried my best to instill in her confidence and joy about birth. I did my best to seem as if I knew precisely what I was doing, as if I had been doing this for years. I did this based upon a theory that I once heard; if you act as if you know what you are doing, people will believe you. I think she did believe me, I believed myself. The more I talked about birth with her, the more passionate I felt about women's rights and the need to question and educate.

The pregnant woman was scheduled for a c-section on July 13th, at 6:00 a.m.. I was so nervous the week before, I had dreams, I prayed, I meditated, I read. The morning finally arrived and I drove to pick her, her husband and son up about an hour away and then we went to the hospital. I've never been one to be fond of hospitals, needles, blood, etc... In fact, I would better be remembered for passing out when I saw my own bloody nose in the mirror, or the time my brother had to call a neighbor to bring him to the hospital for stitches because his older sister was passed out on the kitchen floor.

I don't know exactly why then, I felt as if this experience would change things. All I can say is that I was sincere in my want to help, my need to be a part. I felt like I could get over things, a little mind over matter.

So, me, the nurse, son, husband, unborn baby and pregnant mom were all in the hospital room together. Mom was calm, husband was not saying a thing, and I was interpreting for the nurse. Pregnant mom needed to get an I.v. put in to start the fluids before the c-section. She seemed nervous, and the husband was not getting up as the nurse started on the other side of the bed, so naturally, assuming my doula role, I stood by to let her squeeze my hand. The bed was raised and I was eye level with mom. I told her in a reassuring voice when she said it hurt, "don't worry, I don't like I.V.'s very much either, but they're not so bad." I was careful to keep the needles and procedure out of my view and I began some nice, yoga breathing. I tried to keep my mind on other things, but as that old familiar feeling began creeping through my body, I said quietly, "I think I'm going to faint."

Next thing I knew I was surrounded by two nurses, the husband who had finally gotten up and a lot of smelling salts. I was mortified at what I'd done and immediately called out my apologies in spanish before I went for another round of blacking out. I finally came to and nice and calm pregnant mom, just half hour away from surgery looked down from her place in the bed and said, "Ashley, are you okay?" I answered a weak yes, and we all chuckled a little. The nurses kept saying loudly, "honey, your lips are so white." and "she looks like she saw a ghost, get her some protein." The hired interpreter then came into the room and seemed a little confused as to what was going on. She was from argentina and spoke much better spanish than I did. When the nurse asked if she was okay to go into the c-section she answered, "of course, no problem.".
Needless to say, there was little question as to whether I would be attending the surgery. I suppose it did turn out okay, the husband, who wasn't planning on being at the c-section decided to go, and so I watched cartoons and felt light-headed with their son out in the lobby while she had the baby.

I felt pretty defeated, but in a strange way proud. Looking back on it even a few hours later, I am seeing with a clearer mind, a mind that tells me, "what on earth were you thinking, you know that needles and blood and cutting are your least favorite things in the world." but also a deeper part of me that tells me it's proud of me for doing the most difficult thing, and failing at it because I loved someone else.


12 comments:

Heather said...

I love you, Ash! You're one strong girl. Miss ya.

ginni said...

This is a great story. Good job for trying!!

e said...

i love you. and i love this story.

MaryAnne said...

I laughed and laughed and laughed! I love this story!

On a happier note, Elizabeth once fainted at a hospital in Bolivia and now she's nurse. Maybe the doula dream can still be realized . . .

shelly said...

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA! Oh, my GOSH!!! I'm laughing so hard right now I'm crying! I'm so sorry I'm being insensitive, but that is the funniest story I think I've ever heard! The minute I read this I immediately thought this would be Grandma's favorite story, that we would have laughed together so hard we'd cry -- and that Grandpa would be feeling so sympathetic and defensive for you. BWAHAHAHA! By the way, I'm also proud of you........................ BWAHAHAHA! I can't help myself!

Sofia Deyanira said...

I agree with e.

Lizzy Lambson said...

Beautiful story! I love it. Thank you.

shelly said...

I had to come back and read it again, Ash...sorry. I just wanted to add that my hilarity at your sad/humorous story was mostly made so because I, too, am a fainter. My FIRST experience of fainting was in a hot 7th grade science class during sex education....Grandma laughed -- chortled -- giggled over that one once she helped dry my tears of mortification...

darcie said...

the most difficult part for me is the argentine translator making you look the fool.

Caitlin said...

Before my first c-section viewing, they prepped me for a whole hour, brought me a chair, the nurses even said they felt queasy the first time. I, however, am one of those weird people that LOVE blood, needles, bodies, and cutting (as noted by the fact I took a phlebotomy class and can actually draw my own blood now, my two years as an anatomy TA, etc.) I was nervous that I would actually feel light-headed and need to sit but I felt awesome. But I'm a freak and loved every minute of it. Good for you for facing your fear for someone else's sake. If there was a pregnant lady needing assistance on the roof of a building or in an elevator, I would not be able to help her out.

You can come to my home birth. There won't be any needles, hopefully.

Brooke Stoneman said...

You dear sweet Ashley

Dani said...

Ash, I loved this story. Hilarious. And yeah...it is a bit sad, but now you know. You are so amazing. "A heart full of love, no fear, no regret..."