As a doula in Edmonton I witness the impacts that fear and insecurity have on someone’s birth process. It’s crazy because the smallest things you wouldn’t even think make a difference can literally wreak havoc on your plans for a peaceful and safe birth (I get more into this in my Fear-Tension-Pain post). Some of these things, like harsh lighting, bad smells or distracting or fearful sounds, are easily adjusted (us Edmonton doulas have a knack for making a room feel more ambient!), but there are others that are more difficult and tougher to navigate when things go wrong. One of these things is those who are providing care to you during your birth – midwives, doctors, nurses and other healthcare practitioners.
While it would be amazing if all of us were matched up with the care providers that best suited our personalities, beliefs and things we value, this is not always the case. In the most common negative circumstances, you’ve got a doctor or midwife that you just don’t vibe well with. Perhaps he/she isn’t supportive of how you want to birth, or they don’t go into enough detail during your appointments, or they just don’t share the same views on birth as you do. Whatever the case, as a doula in Edmonton I hear this the most when expecting parents express concerns about their care. Then EVEN if your care provider is an excellent match, if you’re with a doctor then there comes the nurses that will care for you for the majority of your time in the hospital. Some hospitals are good with matching nurses to your personality type – for example, here in Edmonton if a midwifery transfer is happening we often get assigned nurses who’s views align with the midwifery standard of care. However, usually you get whoever is on rotation. With midwifery care, perhaps you only like one of the two midwife partners, or the secondary midwife that comes for the delivery is not your cup of tea. Finally, I have had hospital clients who love their doctor, love the nurses they are assigned, but then when delivery time comes their doctor is not on call so they wind up with a new one that they don’t match well with. So as you can see, so many opportunities for a mismatch… at a time when dealing with conflict and confrontation is not really conducive to your progress!
The relationship between a care provider and their patients is a sensitive one. Everyone has their own ideals of how a birth should go that stretch beyond the “healthy baby and mother” common goal. Some parents would rather be compliant and do what their care provider says throughout their birth, while others want as little guidance as possible. Some care providers view birth as a medical process that requires some level of intervention, while others view it as a completely natural process where it should never be touched. The problem when there is a mismatch is that level of trust and safety. If you don’t share the same ideals as your care provider and that starts to unfold during the birth, your natural response as a human is to enter fight or flight mode and stop the birth process until you feel safe again. I have seen this happen as an Edmonton doula with my very two eyes and it’s a fascinating, yet awful thing to witness. A parent should never feel disrespected or that they cannot trust everyone who’s in that room with them.
So what’s the solution? How do you navigate the system so that you are equipped with a birth team that works with you and not against you? One easy solution is to hire a doula! As a birth doula, we are your #1 supporter and our job is to advocate for what YOU want. We don’t work for hospitals or doctors or midwives, we work for you. In the event that you do not have a well-versed birth professional working for you, then the one piece of advice I can give is to stand up for what you want. And when I say you, I mean you the birth person AND you the partner! Both of you can make each and every last decision at your birth, and no one else can legally or ethically do the same. So if you’re in a situation where you feel unsafe with your care providers – speak up! Tell someone you’d like to be assigned different nurses or the other doctor on call at the hospital. You can even go to a different hospital to find someone else (though that’s probably the last thing you’d want to do while you are in labour). If you are with a midwife you’re butting heads with and at a hospital, ask for a transfer of care to a doctor. If you are at home, go into the hospital and transfer your care. These are all things that you have the right to do, and while they seem scary you have one clear advantage – you and your birth partner are a team. And no one is going to mess with your united front! Advocating for yourself or your partner and having a voice could be a little messy at first, but that feeling of empowerment and taking back your birth is an incredible feeling that you can look back on with pride.
Have you ever navigated yourself out of an unsafe situation while birthing? Share your stories in the comment field!