Thursday, March 14, 2013

My Doula's Favorite Breathing Strategy

For those of you who don't know, a doula is a labor coach/advocate/support person. I don't actually have a doula.  Although I know people who loved having a doula's support during labor and delivery, that's just not my style. A doula would annoy the crap out of me and make me feel unnecessarily self-conscious. (And I might get arrested if I punched her in the face.)

So technically, for sanity reasons, I myself do not have a doula. But for several months, I went to a prenatal yoga class that was taught by a doula, so I feel like I had a doula-by-association (or something like that - I'm sure my dad can think of a better phrase than my feeble pregnant brain).

I generally loved my doula-by-association and her yoga classes. At the beginning of every class, the doula led a mediation and taught breathing techniques that can be used during labor. I'm not really good at sitting and breathing, especially if a spandexed-and-hennaed yogi is telling me to quiet my thoughts. But it was very relaxing to practice the doula's breathing techniques, and her strategies for dealing with labor pain made sense.


One time, the doula spoke about her personal experience with labor. She gave birth to her daughter sans medication. Tangent/rant: the doula would say she gave birth to her daughter naturally, but I'm sorry, I refuse to perpetuate the misuse of the phrase "natural childbirth" because it implies that childbirth that involves medication is "unnatural" and that's just a big pile of bullshit. Do we call it "natural pneumonia" or "natural meningitis" if you decide to forego the antibiotics? Of course not, we just call that "stupid." Not to say that you are stupid if you decide to breathe your way through labor, but don't tell me I'm being "unnatural" if I get an epidural.

Anyway, the doula had an unmedicated childbirth, and she told my yoga class that she got through her labor by "observing her contractions." She regarded labor as a learning process whereby she could study and learn more about the contraction. Every time she had a contraction, she breathed quietly and thought, "Oh wow, this is a contraction... this is what it feels like to have a contraction... it is so amazing what the female body can do..."

This strategy worked for my doula - and wow, more power to her - but I highly doubt it will work for me. Nathan and I went to a labor and delivery class last month that was taught by another doula. Tangent/rant: we feel like we were conned, because the class was taught at our hospital, so we were expecting a non-doula instructor. But what do we know? Apparently half the population of Southern California are practicing doulas.

At one point during the labor and delivery class, the doula passed around wooden clothes pins, had us clip the pins to our ear lobes, and guided us through some breathing exercises. I spent the entire exercise thinking, "Holy crap, this clothes pin really, really hurts. Can I take it off? Shit, everyone else still has their clothes pin on. Even my husband is doing this lame ass exercise. Traitor. I can't believe we're inflicting pain on ourselves. I am learning nothing. Am I breathing right? Holy shit, this really, really, really hurts. I hate everything."

Since I could not handle the clothes pin exercise, I highly doubt I will be able to get through labor by simply "observing my contractions." I intend to go with a completely different approach. Rather than observe and study my contractions, I am going to do everything in my power to ignore them. I will breathe and pace and sit on the birth ball (yes, we have a birth ball!) and do whatever it takes to distract myself from the pain. And Nathan will rub my back and brush my hair and tell me I'm beautiful and do whatever he can to help me forget the contractions. Some people might be curious to experience a contraction, but I do not have that sort of interest in pain and suffering. I'm just interested in getting to the good part, when Baby Girl joins the world and draws her first breath. I don't need to experience a Middle Ages-style labor to revel in my daughter's birth.

And does anyone actually think that women of earlier times were delivering babies by so-called "natural methods"? Shit, no! They were probably drinking booze and laudanum until they passed out.