Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Power of a Mother

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In the past weeks, I've had the opportunity to see a beautiful display of the strength the we, as mothers, hold within ourselves. I have seen two first-time mothers carry twins to term and birth them vaginally (a rarity in today's obstetric world), and I've been blessed to be a part of several beautiful water births. I've supported women as they shed the pain and negativity of their prior births - whether vacuum-assisted, episiotomied, or cesarean - and worked their way to fulfilling, heartwarming experiences this time around. I've coached women through difficult labors, instructing them to push - or not push - at the hardest times, when it was the thing they most didn't want to do (but needed to, for the sake of their baby - whether due to a stuck shoulder, nuchal cord, or other concerning issue). I have seen mothers labor and push for hours, with no analgesia; I've seen mothers who plan to get "everything [they] can get" - but still have intense discomfort... regardless, the strength, and the determination to make it through, is amazing. I've visited women in the hours and days after their births and been awed at the love that's obvious as they snuggle their newborns; the way they hold their nurslings to their chest, cooing and adoring, proudly showing off their babes to older siblings, grandmas and nurses.


Strong thunderstorms and tornados moved through this region - and much of the country - last weekend. The similarity between Mother Nature's power and that of a laboring mother is not lost on me. Surveying the damage of what has officially been deemed a tornado - which moved right alongside of the
hospital - brings to mind the rapid internal changes that occur with labor... Mama feels as though her insides are being ripped apart, ravished by the incredibly intense waves of contractions moving through her. Until labor began, she may not have even realized the strength within herself; and yet, like the buildings and trees damaged from this storm, her body will begin working its way back to normal within hours after baby's birth. (And, in fact, just as a beautiful, brilliant, calm sunset emerged from the storm - mama will almost always emerge from birth with a tired but peaceful sense of wonder as well, with the most beautiful prize to be had.)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Things I've Learned This Week...

* Suturing actual, living tissue is much more difficult than practicing on, say, cow-tongue or a chicken breast. (Or, for that matter, a foam dummy) You've got a mom who can often feel at least some of what you're doing, there's labia and tissue to hold back, and blood seeps into the viewing field (dab... dab... dab...). On top of this, you're wearing sterile gloves which are almost always tacky with blood by this point. And - I'll be honest here, even though I know how 'forgiving' the perineal tissues are and how well they heal - you want it to look nice. (For anyone who hasn't seen the vaginal/labial/perineal tissues of a woman right after delivery - picture a gooshy, glistening mass of ... I don't even know what. I'm only now, finally, I think getting the hang of what goes where. On that note --- any volunteers so I can practice?!)

* There is a huge range of philosophies/practice among midwives - and that's okay. The things I learned with the Midwife and want to remember/use, I can. The ones that I didn't feel comfortable with at all, I can drop in favor of something that reaches the same goal but feels "right" to me. For example, the amount of traction needed to help the placenta separate and deliver, or the choice to leave a mom's perineum and labia alone as the baby crowns (while still reserving the right to support both, and maybe help stretch on occasion, if needed, rather than for every birth).

* You gotta use a heck of a lot of traction to help resolve a shoulder dystocia.... I always fear that I am going to injure the baby when using excessive traction, but when looked at it from a different, more sombering perspective --- a baby with a broken clavicle or even nerve injury, is better than a baby that never is.

* I got this.