What if everyone could have an empowering birth...?
How hard could it be?
It’s hard to imagine for anyone having a baby in today’s world, but there was a time when some of us had babies pre-internet. That was me 22 years ago. I had 4 books a friend had given me and I read them cover-to-cover more than once! I’ve always been an eager learner and I couldn’t get enough information about pregnancy, labour and birth. As my birth drew near I found myself excited with anticipation. In my gut I felt “people have been doing this for thousands of years” and “how hard could it be?” (which is my life motto).
I lived about 4 hours from my home town and my parents had arrived for a visit the night before I went into labour. We had gone out for dinner in Old Montreal and I remember gripping my belly while my dad’s truck hoped over the cobblestone road. I laugh now when I read how a bumpy car ride can put people into labour. The next morning around 5am I started feeling contractions. I gave it a few hours and headed to the hospital with contractions 4-5 minutes apart. I coped so well through that labour. I was lying in bed but comfortable, totally in lala labourland. But at one point a nurse came in and tried asking me some questions. I was so in the zone that I could only answer with a slight nod of my head.
“She must know better than me…”
She then told me “I know you wanted to avoid the epidural but if you can’t even speak with me now how on earth are you going to push a baby out?”. I felt like I was coping but thought to myself “she must know better than me, she does this every day”. Isn’t it amazing how one sentence can change someone’s life? That one comment changed everything. I agreed to the epidural despite not wanting or needing it. It came 2 hours later when I was almost fully dilated (but didn’t know that of course).
I remember in hindsight thinking the birth “sucked” but I was healthy and my baby was healthy and isn’t that the line we always say?
4 years later I was expecting my second baby. My mother raised me with the saying “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” (usually attributed to Einstein, but was actually Rita Mae Brown). I knew I needed to do things differently this time around. I did two things very differently: I chose a doctor who was in line with my philosophical views and I took Lamaze® prenatal classes.
Advocate for myself?
Sitting in prenatal classes saying “gosh I really hate needles” and the educator saying “you know research says IVs aren’t necessary in an uncomplicated labour, but the place you’re going to does them routinely, so you just need to advocate for yourself”. Advocate for myself? What did that even mean? Say no? Though I was in my mid 20s, it was the first time someone had suggested I advocate for myself in my health care. My parents were very much of the generation to ‘do what the doctor says’.
This time, I could climb every mountain
While that second birth was very similar to the first in terms of length, how long it lasted, how much pain I felt…the way I advocated for myself allowed me to come away feeling super empowered. At the moment I didn’t realize how much of an impact that would have on how I parented my children. Coming out of a disempowering first birth affected my level of confidence as a parent in taking care of my child, feeding my child etc. This time I felt like I could climb every mountain. I realized in one challenging parenting moment early on what a big difference this made to me. I was a new parent. My next thought was “what if everyone had an empowering birth? What would that do to families, communities, society, the WORLD”. Yeah, I went pretty big in that moment.
I decided I needed to become a Lamaze® educator and help people learn how about birth and advocacy. While I worked in the corporate world by day, I taught prenatal classes once a week in my basement. From my very first class a couple asked me to attend their birth and after a year of doing that for families I realized I was doing birth doula world. Over time the job took hold of my heart and eventually my life. I’ve now been working in the field for almost two decades. It is my passion to help families prepare for an empowered birth.
We know birth satisfaction isn’t about using medication or not, having a cesarean or a vaginal birth, or experiencing a lot of pain or a little. Birth satisfaction is about people feeling empowered and informed decision-makers in their care, as well as feeling well-supported by the people around them. We can do that.
Stefanie Antunes has been a Lamaze® Educator and doula since 2002, after the birth of her second son showed her just how valuable it is to be prepared for birth and to have good support around you.
Stefanie is a visionary in the childbirth field. She leads the Discover Birth organization providing a variety of services to expectant parents and training for those wishing to pursue work in the childbirth field.
Stefanie is a facilitator for the upcoming Empowered Birth Online Conference for Parents – join her, Debra and many others & let’s support each other and create societies of confident parents!