By Cara Terreri, BA, Community Manager for Lamaze International’s Giving Birth With Confidence blog
Today is the second post in an occasional series on Science & Sensibility, “Journey to LCCE Certification.” We are following Cara Terreri as she progresses on the path to become a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator. Her journey started with her Childbirth Education Seminar and in this post we learn about her experience as an observer at a birth. In the future, we will continue as she develops her own curriculum, teaches her first classes and sits for the exam. I invite you to cheer her on and offer your support, suggestions and encouragement based on your own experiences on a similar journey. – Sharon Muza, Community Manager
Since my last post that talked about beginning my path toward LCCE certification and attending a Lamaze Childbirth Educator Seminar, I have not progressed very far. My day job and family life have taken precedence. That being said, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to attend a birth! A friend of a friend was due with her second baby and was open to the idea of an almost-complete stranger (me!) attending her birth. I treated the experience as if I were a doula-in-very-early-training and talked at length with the mom about her first birth, her expectations and feelings about her upcoming birth, and my proposed role during her labor and birth. I was upfront in letting her know that while I knew quite a bit about birth, I was not certified as either an educator or doula, and that I was very early in my stages of training for both.
While I was so excited about the upcoming experience, I was also very anxious. Would I know what to do? Would I be able to step up and help mom when she needed it and how she needed it? By nature, I tend to be more of an introvert – initiating conversation with someone new or speaking up in an unfamiliar situation can sometimes take me out of my comfort zone. I did my best to ready myself for the situation by talking often with mom and taking a crash self-study course in labor support. I re-read specific sections of all of my favorite birth books and rehearsed possible scenarios in my head.
When it came time for birth, I was able to arrive within minutes of mom and dad at the hospital. I helped support mom – who had asked immediately for an epidural – while waiting for the epidural by massage, touch, verbal encouragement, and having water ready after she vomited. In our conversations prior to birth, mom talked fondly about the epidural during her first birth, which she said rescued her from the pain of laboring with Pitocin. But she also talked about leaving it “up in the air” for her second birth.
The experience and environment came very naturally to me. I felt comfortable jumping in and doing what I could, suggesting positions, using touch, etc. Of course, there were moments when I wished I knew more – how to respond more with verbal encouragement, how to encourage more movement while keeping fetal monitors in place for the requisite 20 minutes, and how best to calm a very panicked mom, who was still waiting for an epidural when she entered transition and pushing (note: the epidural never came).
Attending a birth was an amazing teaching tool for me, both in preparation for a future career as a doula as well as a childbirth educator. Having never attended any births but my own, it was so enlightening to attend a birth as an observer/support person. One unexpected part of my role was the support I provided in helping to encourage communication/conversation between staff and the parents. I also learned the importance of not projecting my own feelings about birth onto others, as it doesn’t always apply. As baby was kept in the warmer for an extended period of time for suctioning (there was meconium and baby had significant amounts of fluid), I ached for mom to be able to have skin-to-skin with her baby. But, when we had a quiet moment, mom told me, “I wasn’t ready to hold him; I was still recovering from the shock of the fast birth – it was overwhelming.” It just goes to show that everyone deals with and feels differently about their birth experience.
In my unfamiliar role as birth observer, I also earned new respect for the experience of a loved one in the labor room. As mom panicked at the onset of transition, she cried out in fear and pain, “Help me, help me!” I of course, recognized what was happening and knew she would be ok and that this was just the next natural phase. Dad, however, did not necessarily share the same knowledge! I could only have imagined what it was like for him to witness his wife panicked, in pain, and very scared.
Preparing dad/partner is just one way that childbirth education can have a real impact on a birth experience. Another is preparing and knowing about pain relief options. Even if a mom knows she will get an epidural, there are MANY cases where it doesn’t come in time or does not “work.” Knowing about and preparing for natural pain relief can go a long way, especially for parents who do not have a doula.
Next steps in my journey include preparing to teach for observation early next year, attending more births, attending a local childbirth class for observation, and burning the midnight oil with the Study Guide to prep for the exam in April.
I would love to hear input from other educators and doulas – what kinds of things did you discover in the first few births you attended? How does attending births help you as an educator? When you were starting out, did attending births change how how you had considered teaching certain topics or clarify information that you absolutely want to stress in your own childbirth classes? Please share those first birth on your own personal journey to becoming a birth professional.
About Cara Terreri
Cara began working with Lamaze two years before she became a mother. Somewhere in the process of poring over marketing copy in a Lamaze brochure and birthing her first child, she became an advocate for childbirth education. Three kids later (and a whole lot more work for Lamaze), Cara is the Site Administrator for Giving Birth with Confidence, the Lamaze blog for and by women and expectant families. Cara continues to have a strong passion for the awesome power and beauty in pregnancy and birth, and for helping women to discover their own power and ability through birth. It is her hope that through the GBWC site, women will have a place to find and offer positive support to other women who are going through the amazing journey to motherhood.