Key memories from supporting my friends through the birth of their first child, Felicity Sophia...
Sitting on the bed, rubbing my friend's (mom-to-be's) legs at godawful o'clock in the morning, watching him (dad-to-be) sleep in the recliner between hocking loogies (post-radiation mucous still running). Or maybe that's HAAAWKKKKKKING loogies.
Watching her sitting in bed peacefully munching ice chips while the contractions rolled through (early in the induction, way before pitocin and epidural), glad that the hypnotherapy was working, being amused by how much the nurses were bemused by the fact that these didn't hurt, they just felt like muscle movement.
Seeing how instantaneously he went from snoozing to holding her as she cried her disappointment over the labor - and in fact the entire pregnancy - not being anything like she wanted it to be - the only mostly 'normal' part of the pregnancy was the second trimester, and all the things she wanted to do and experience were stolen by the cancer diagnosis and then the induction... feeling her grief surge out, and seeing how immediate his response was, and how easily he helped her go from being drenched in her feelings to moving through and laughing. That showed me more about their relationship in one moment than any other moment before that point, and I've known them a long time (him since I was 14).
The point where she found the rhythm of the contractions (augmented with pitocin at this point and needing serious effort from her), when she found her voice in the contraction - the kind of slipping into synchrony with herself, vocalizing on a steady note, while I stroked her leg in timing with her breathing, and he stroked her hair. Watching her find her rhythm and mesh with it was just lovely.
Talking her through the contractions that got beyond her ability as the pitocin was turned up and up and up again, watching her struggle to catch up with each contraction, carry herself over the top of it, and slide back down when they were just more than she could handle. Seeing an echo of my own first labor as she was falling asleep between the contractions, and knowing that she was reaching her body's maximum, as well as her emotional maximum. Feeling so proud of her at the point where she said she really couldn't do more of these, and knowing that it was totally okay to move to an epidural at that point (both medically and personally). Being glad that she'd had the chance to really know for sure, to find her way there, so she wouldn't doubt the choice, and glad that her body was already past the progressing point where epidurals slow things down.
Watching him move from backup support to primary support whenever things became particularly challenging for her, just slipping into that space without me even seeing him move - I will have forever etched in my mind looking up at one point during a particularly overwhelming pitocin contraction and seeing his hands cupped around her face, his face just the right distance away, holding her eyes and seeing her reach into that support and hold on. He was still running on empty, still post-chemo/post-radiation, still tired and easily drained, but that only meant that he let me hold the weight on the midground support - over and over, he just appeared right there for the greater efforts, at the right time, in the right way.
So many times feeling grateful to the way they run things at that hospital, where they gave her body plenty of room to work, gave her body time to align itself, and move along, with trust and kindness. So many places where they could have jumped in and tried to force matters, but just were patient and patient and patient, and allowed labor to try to find its own way. Even the interventions that were really not 'wanted' at the outset but that happened anyway, happened in appropriate ways after giving the alternate a gracious and generous chance, with support and encouragement. The entire atmosphere and approach was as perfect as it could have been, for which I was glad over and over.
Finding the pattern of support myself, of spotting where she was worried or fretting or unsure, and coming in with an answer, encouragement, reassurance, or an example from my own experience to help her find her way emotionally. Gradually going to where I could see and then move fears or confusion or doubt that would have been stumbling blocks, so that she could follow her natural path through dismay, anger and frustration, disappointment and doubt, on towards acceptance and loving forgiveness of her body for not being 'able' to handle the things that were truly beyond asking her body to handle (they were quite reasonably beyond normal scope). There was a point where I moved emotionally from being friend to being truly doula, in the mothering role - I found myself speaking to her and stroking her the way I do with Miss M and Miss R. There's a reason I will only do this job for friends, because the emotional process of supporting a mom through labor runs very deep.
Finding that the most important thing for me was that she could come out of the birthing process emotionally whole - if emotionally exhausted - instead of still being in the middle of the processing during the first days of motherhood. There will still be echos and layers and a lot to handle and deal with, but at least the many questions of what-if, and should-I-have, and if-only, the common feelings of frustration, anger, guilt, confusion, self-doubt, and fear all were met and processed in the near-term. If there was any one gift beyond having a healthy baby and an easy recovery that I could have wished for her, that would have been my first choice - and she got it.
Also, on the doula side, I'm amused at myself for how many times I found tears running down my face, mostly with that responsive pride-and-humility watching her work, seeing her strength, finding her authentic process.
And oh, the chats... talking through so much, mostly story-telling about kids, and other moms, and experiences, and stuff. Going through so much that there were times that there was nothing left to say for long spans of time, which (knowing me) means there was a LOT of talking done! Heh.
Finally, seeing that first tentative, tender reaching out from a father to his astonishing new daughter as he petted her gently through her complaints in the warmer, hearing her stop crying as she felt his touch. He's still in transition as a dad, and I know that takes a longer path than it does with the moms (being way less physically dramatic probably is part of that), but seeing it reach out those first roots was wonderful.
Congratulations, guys. I'm so very glad I could help you with this, and more that I just got to see you do it, every step reaching down and finding a way to do the next step. You all did a lot of very hard work, and did it really, really well.
Welcome to the world, bright-eyed baby girl. Welcome to parenthood T and J.
9:17 PM, 4/3/2009
9 lbs 1 oz
No idea on the rest of the stats, they don't do those right away (they let baby get to know mom and dad for a while first)