Birth Worker Journey
“A glimpse inside the life of a birth worker:
A past client reaches out and shares that she’s pregnant again and you’re the first one she tells! She’s so excited to have you be a part of her experience again. You share her excitement and exchange this happy emotion together, celebrating!
The phone rings, a client of yours is bleeding at 15 weeks. She’s worried and has a history of loss. You share her concern and worry. You go over to listen for a heartbeat to find only a functioning placenta, no fetal tone, no baby’s heartbeat. You look in her eyes and don’t need to say a word. You feel her sadness, defeat, and lack of hope. Without choice, you carry that home and it sits on your mind heavily for the next few days; that look on her face. You couldn’t stop thinking about her even if you tried.
It’s 2 a.m. and the phone is ringing. You fumble to pick it up, answer the call with a groggy half asleep and crackly voice. A woman is in labor and is ready for you to head over. The adrenaline flows, you get your clothes on and rush out the door with your things. You show up; it’s beautiful, everything is serene! The whole family is around her, as she wished. The baby is born, everything looks great. What a beautiful birth! You are just bathing in oxytocin and feeling on top of the world along with this woman and the rest of the family – but then the baby stops breathing.
The room gets cold, everyone’s eyes get wide; this is an emergency and it’s time for action. Oxytocin is suppressed by the outpouring of adrenaline. You act quickly and do what is necessary to get the baby stable. Pulse oxygen checks out over the next few hours, the room is calm, you can feel the peace in the room. Baby is nursing, mom is smiling, her partner is gazing at her like she’s the most incredible woman ever. You leave with a smile on your face, covered in vernix, blood, amniotic fluid, and a full and happy heart.
A text message comes through on the way home, a different client is having a miscarriage and is devastated. She asks if you are willing to order labs. You do whatever she needs while feeling her deep sadness like your own. This is the third time in a row, you know she was really excited and positive this time. It doesn’t make sense and it’s not fair. You couldn’t stop caring and feeling for her even if you wanted to.
A past client of yours calls to let you know that she had her consecutive baby at home 10 minutes ago with just her and her partner. She’s over the moon, you hear the euphoria in her voice. She is clearly empowered by her experience and proud that she did it all by herself. You feel so happy and proud for her that she felt confident to birth alone, since you told her the whole pregnancy she could and would! You can’t stop smiling, you’re so happy for her!
A colleague calls you after a hard birth she just attended. She needs to ‘unpack’ and talk about what she just witnessed and experienced. She’s crying hysterically at first until she calms down. You know what that’s like, BTDT. She shares the story with you – the baby was stuck and she had to help release dystocia. Baby is born with a poor APGAR, zero effort of coming around. The room fills with concern and the energy rises. She couldn’t see or hear anything at that moment aside from that baby. She didn’t have to think about what to do, her hands just did what she was taught to do and had done before; that muscle memory. The baby became stable and mom was fine. As the adrenaline stopped flowing she was filled with emotion and burst into tears.
You had a similar experience before and feel for her and what she’s feeling as she drives home from this experience. You talk with her, tell her she did a great job, and remind her that she has the heart and to keep going. You think about her the rest of the day and hope she’s doing okay with processing as the experience settles in her mind because you know how it is.
You go to a prenatal and meet a new client. You connect and share smiles, answer all of her questions, complete the prenatal evaluations, and everything checks out. Everyone is happy! You hug each other before leaving her home. She held you so tight, you stayed in that hug a little longer than you normally would. She didn’t know, but you really needed that genuine tight hug, because the night before you witnessed one of the scariest experiences of your career. You truly weren’t fully mentally present the whole day because that family is all you can think about and you’re sick to your stomach remembering what happened and how things played out. But her hug? That was the oxytocin and connection needed to help balance out the deep sadness and nauseated feeling you’ve been holding all day.
Dark Side Of Birth Work
It keeps going just like this; up and down on an emotional rollercoaster. A concoction and fluctuation of oxytocin and adrenaline that is experienced on a far more regular basis than most other humans or those in other careers. It’s a fact. The up and down of emotions can lead to overstimulation sometimes. This makes it challenging to respond to messages, texts, and emails for a day or two sometimes. You don’t always have the capacity to offer any more of yourself to anyone else. Some days you have to take for yourself and just sit somewhere alone. It doesn’t matter where; the grocery store parking lot works. It’s nice to just sit there and cry sometimes, rubbing your leg to remind yourself that you are here in the present and you’re okay. Other days you are so on top of the world at 4 a.m. after birth that you don’t even need to sleep because you’re so pumped up. So, you take your kids to the park for a bit and just smile uncontrollably like a weirdo. It’s a wild ride!
Birth work is beautiful, at least the parts that are most often shared about. Though, sometimes is not beautiful. Sometimes it’s dark, scary, emotional, and challenging. Sometimes you need a day or two to recover and reboot yourself. Keep these things in mind when you reach out to your doula, midwife, birth photographer, or friends that are in these professions. There is much more going on than meets the surface. Have understanding if they don’t reply right away. Know that it’s not you, it’s them. They are filling their cup back up and will reply when they can. If they forget, reach out again in a few days. You never know, maybe they aren’t doing okay, but maybe they just genuinely forgot to reply. Just have grace. It’s a heck of a career and journey to take on; one that I love so very much. I have no complaints – all of it is worth it.”
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