(Editor Note: Jessica C. of Indiana submitted the following response to one of our first unit assignments.)
I appreciate when my midwife and nurses don’t assume the worst because I am overweight. All of my pregnancies have been healthy and natural births. No high blood pressure or gestational diabetes. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Listening to Mothers II, Childbirth Connection, October 2006, p. 29
I am an overweight (obese, but I hate that word because I feel healthy) mom. Both of my pregnancies were perfectly healthy aside from hyperemesis into mid-2nd trimester and gall bladder attacks with my first. I cringed every time I stepped on the scale and waited for someone to tell me I was just too big to try to give birth naturally.
I met my midwife in a centering appointment, she volunteered to run discussions but wasn’t the practitioner. When I expressed my concerns she placed her hands on my shoulders and looked directly into my eyes and said “I DO NOT want you to worry about that. There is NO REASON you cannot have this baby naturally.” That was a really significant moment for me.
For the longest time I had been convinced my birthing experience would end in a caesarean delivery, but my midwife (who I later transferred to at 32 weeks) flipped the script. I did not have a doula, but my midwife was the next best thing! As my pregnancy wore on my midwife helped me to maintain a healthy lifestyle: she gave me meal ideas with good fats, encouraged my exercise, and overall was non-judgmental about my weight, which was something I had never experienced from a practitioner.
During the births of both of my girls I never once felt obese or overweight. It was something that was so rarely discussed prenatally that I did not have that fear weighing (pun not intended) me down during labor and delivery. With my first daughter I had an 8 hour labor and delivery, I walked, showered, labored in the tub, and ultimately delivered on my knees in the bed. My second daughter’s delivery was 4.5 hours exactly from when the first contraction woke me at 3:54 AM to when she was delivered at 8:24 AM and it was similar: walking, shower, delivery on my side in bed. In both cases I wore nothing but a stretchy cami during the process: my lady parts out for all the world to see.
I am an extremely modest person under normal circumstances, especially in regards to my belly, and the comfort that my midwives cultivated in the delivery room allowed me to let go of that and just focus on the birth of my daughters. Ultimately, that is a doula’s job to banish fear and cultivate comfort and joy.
Additional resources you might find useful:
Handout; Childbirth models of care
Blog post: Five ways to cope with labor pain
Blog post: Why I want to be a doula
Thank you for the reminder of how important the birthing mothers feelings are during labor. The months of pregnancy also effect this.