SELENA AND LARRY
Anticipating an Ohio based birth for their son, Selena and Larry sought out childbirth education resources. Feeling underprepared with the course her hospital offered, Selena contacted me for a consultation. After hearing her concerns, I offered one more prenatal planning session for her and Larry to cover details that were not well addressed by the hospital. Their decision to complete my session and include me on their birth team, remotely, proved to be a pivotal decision.
Learn more from Selena as she elaborates on the benefits she and Larry found in having doula support. Journey with her as she shares how doulas can help couples prepare for self-advocacy and teamwork in their birth experiences.
LISTEN TO SELENA AND LARRY'S STORY
Quotes | Selena, on prenatal planning support
"So, I think speaking with you opened my eyes more so than any other class or tool that the hospital offered. And, I remember me and Larry walking away, like, 'Wow, like, okay.' Like, we felt a little bit more empowered, like, we can do this, and a lot more empowered to believe that we could do it, and that we can rely on each other to work through the birth together."
READ SELENA AND LARRY'S STORY
Yay! Well, thank you so much. I really, really appreciate you wanting to join me, this morning for conversation just to reflect on your birth journey and your birth story. And I really felt like your story just was, for me, I think really impactful in terms of watching you and your husband, Larry, move through that experience together and how you worked together and relied on one another, and then also were willing to, I think, make some difficult decisions during your journey. So thank you for wanting to have some time to share that story. And so I think just the first question to get us started would be, what were some of the goals that you had for your pregnancy? And what were some of the goals and hopes you had for your birth experience?
Well, I came, haha, completely like not really knowing what to expect for a birth journey. But I think my goals were kind of unrealistic a little bit. I guess, I didn't really understand what to make of goals until like, we kind of sat down a little bit more, and you kind of explained like, 'Hey, this is maybe what a birth journey would look like.'
So...Well, initially, my goal was to have a water birth. And then I was like, Oh, I can have a pain free birth, haha. And that was what I mean, when I said unrealistic, to a degree.
But yeah, I really just wanted a water birth, and I wanted it to be unmedicated and to use different tools to be able to navigate transitioning through the pain of labor of the birth journey.
Yeah. And I think just as encouragement, I remember when you were sharing about wanting to have a pain free, or you know, a discomfort free birth experience. I didn't remember thinking that that was unrealistic because there are some women who do really experience pain free labor. And there are lots of different testimonies and stories about that. So I didn't think that that was unrealistic as far as a vision and for a goal. But I do think that when you did share about the childbirth education class you took, it sounded to me that that class, though, was not necessarily giving you all the tools that you needed to be thinking about what your birth journey might look like, and how to prepare for that. And so, I wonder if you could just share a little bit about, what that was like taking a childbirth class, and then when we touched base, what those reflections were as far as thinking like, 'Okay, well, maybe there's more that we can still do to get ready,'?
Yeah, and I apologize when I say 'unrealistic.' I think I meant like unrealistic based on what I wanted prior to, and then having to take the birthing classes, which didn't line up with what my goals were. Because the way that the childbirth classes were, it was more like, 'Okay, you're gonna be on his hospital bed, and, you're just gonna have to...
just pain it out,' kind of thing. It didn't really offer tools on how to navigate having a water birth, or tools and techniques to really alleviate the discomfort associated with going through birth and delivery.
So, I think when I was able to have a class [prenatal session] with you, it was more like, oh my gosh, like, okay, there's these different things that we can do. And, you know, this is the way that you can kind of set up the atmosphere so that you and your husband can navigate this in a way that is best suited for the goals that you have. So, I think speaking with you opened my eyes more so than any other class or tool that the hospital offered. And, I remember me and Larry walking away, like, 'Wow, like, okay.' Like, we felt a little bit more empowered, like, we can do this, and a lot more empowered to believe that we could do it, and that we can rely on each other to work through the birth together.
Because I think before it was kind of like a, okay, you know, the woman, she just goes in there and the guy, he's just kind of there, you know, in the background. But it's like, no, you guys are in this together. So, yeah.
Yeah, no, I really appreciate that. And I remember when we talked and when you had expressed to me an interest in having that prenatal session, I really loved how eager Larry was also to participate in that, and he really just jumped right in. And actually, the fact too that we were working long distance because you all are in Ohio, and then I'm here in Alabama. And so, I knew that I wasn't going to be able to be there in person with you all. But it was definitely just one of those experiences where I really felt that okay, well, if you all can find your rhythm together and know how to work together, then your chances for being able to avoid some of the complications that just come from not being prepared significantly increase. So I was really excited that he was as eager as you were, and I was thankful that you all wanted to have that session.
So when you did call and let me know that labor had started and things were progressing, I think even at that point, we weren't necessarily thinking of it being more like a virtual doula relationship and that I was going to kind of be there to keep supporting you all. But that, you know, did unfold. And so I just wonder, what was it like for you to labor, you and Larry, and then to have long distance doula support that was more virtual, but still someone there that you could just call and check in with as you needed to?
Oh, my gosh, it was such a blessing. Like, I'm so grateful that you were willing and able to be there to support me because, you know, as you mentioned earlier, I did have a lot of unexpected complications during my birth. And it was, it was scary. It really was. There were a lot of scary moments that were just like, 'Okay, what do we do here, and the hospital's saying that we have to do this.' And, you know, they, a lot of times, it made it seem as if there weren't another choice, or there weren't -- they didn't really offer many options. It's like, okay, this literally, in some cases, like this has to be done. And it was like, 'Okay, what do we do?' And so, to have you as -- I didn't even feel like a virtual support. It really felt like you were like, right there. Really, honestly, it did.
So it was the calm in the storm, you know. It really helped us to pause, and it helped me to calm down, because it was like, 'This is what they're saying,' and, you know, you don't want to be like freaked out in the middle of labor. So it was, it was really helpful. It was a sense of comfort, extreme comfort to both Larry and I. Because I remember saying, 'Okay, you know, what about this?' or 'Should we call Gabrielle?' And he's like, 'Yeah, what did she say?' And I'm like, 'Oh, she said this.' And I could tell that he...you know, a man is like strong and stuff like that. But I could tell that he felt a sense of relief over some of the advice and techniques that you gave us.
And I remember one specific tool that you offered, it was like I was having, like a lot of pain. And they were trying to like increase my doses of like, can we give me more Pitocin or something like that, and you're like, 'Well, at this stage, it might be a little bit too early for that. But maybe you can, you know, ask them if they need some Tylenol to kind of help alleviate the pain.' And they did. They did give me Tylenol. And oh my gosh, like I was able to sleep. [I was] asleep for like maybe two hours or something. And that was the first time I think I was in labor for like, two days or something, like a day and a half, or something. And that was the first time after something as simple as Tylenol was able to give me the rest...and my body just needed the rest, and the physical and the mental rest that I needed to be able to, I think, take on the second half of the labor process. So the hospital wasn't offering certain things and to have someone like you to be able to say, 'Hey, you know, this is another way that you can alleviate your pain, or this is another tool that you can use to kind of get to where you need to be,' was priceless.
I remember those experiences because I know, at some point -- because you, you had transferred over to the hospital when it seemed like there was a labor stall. And I just remember thinking about because I wasn't there to see all of the things they were doing, I think I remember thinking about, okay, you know, how informed are they about the different comfort measures but also position changes and things that could be helpful to help see about getting the labor started again, and seeing how you were going to progress. And so had -- were they doing different kinds of comfort measures, or were they doing movements before they offered pain interventions? Or what do you remember about that process?
Well, when I was still going through the water birth experience, they -- I don't remember many techniques. I think there was a nurse and there was a midwife, but the nurse was pretty much with me kind of like the whole time. In terms of pain relief measures, I don't really think they offered much even on, you know, the waterbirth side. And they were like, 'No, no; that's just the labor pains, it'll pass.' And I'm like, okay... But it wasn't really like, Okay, let's try this, or let's try this. And then on the hospital side, I remember, I think you had told me some techniques that I could do. And I'm like, well, you know, I offered it to them. And they were like, 'Oh, yeah, we can try that.' So yeah, there was no offering prior to; it was more like, 'Oh, you suggested it, so yeah, we can try that.'
Yeah, I do remember that, that sort of that lack of initiative on their part to really try as much as they could have. And, you know, I think it could be helpful for people who are here in Montgomery, to understand that you originally went from home to a birthing center that was attached to the hospital where you were at there in Ohio. And so you had the option to labor in the tub. And we're wanting to continue to use hydrotherapy, but then started to have some experiences and challenges at that stage, and then transferred over to the hospital. And so, you know, I do think that sometimes even when there are tools, it's just really helpful to actually have someone there, though, who's skilled in knowing how to optimize all the tools because it's not necessarily the tools themselves that will get the job done. It's also the knowledge of how to actually try to make the most of those resources.
And so yeah, I was really grateful, you know, for the way that I was seeing -- watching you and Larry advocate though, still, in that situation, like, even though things were happening quickly, and things were changing little by little and over time. You know, I feel like you all still were really good at advocating for yourself, and I just wondering if there's anything you would give advice to other families about as far as advocacy is concerned? And like, the role that self advocacy plays when you journey through birth and [are] needing to work with care providers and nursing teams in the hospital setting?
Yeah, absolutely. I think it's so important to know -- like, talking with you, like -- I don't.... If we hadn't met with you, and like, went through a class and like, were armed with tools prior to going in, I think it would have been significantly different. Like it.... I mean, there was... I...I was traumatized from my birthing experience, but I think it would have been significantly worse, you know. Like, seriously a lot more trauma if I hadn't went in armed with the tools that I needed and my husband, Larry, being there too, with you, you know, to kind of remember the tools when I'm going through labor and can't necessarily remember everything that I need to remember.
So in terms of advocating for yourself, and for your family, and for your baby, or babies coming, like it's so important to know what to advocate for and how to advocate for yourself. Because I witnessed firsthand that the hospital, they're there to deliver a baby. That's it. Well, in my experience. They were there to 'just get the job done' kind of thing. It was just this is another routine kind of, okay, a baby's coming; alright; let's get this baby out of here in whatever way we deem to be the best. Not necessarily what's best for the family, but you know, what's best for what they think, or something. So, knowing what to advocate for, and how to advocate for yourself, and especially having the husband to know how to advocate, you know, for the wife, when she is significantly preoccupied with other things. It's so important because it literally, it can make or break your pregnancy -- I mean, your birth experience. Like, it really can make things either more peaceful or more complicated than they need to be.
I just appreciate that. And there's so much wisdom, and what you're sharing about that. And I think for families, it's really helpful to understand the actual relationship we have with the healthcare system, where we come in as consumers and they are providing a service. But then that also means that there's, of course, the service provider responsibility, which we ideally hope is going to live up to what it's supposed to do. But at the same time, being -- like you were saying -- being armed with the readiness to make some of those key decisions when you need to, if it's not living up to your expectations is so important. So I really appreciate you sharing that.
I'm wondering if there were any particular memories you had of experiences that Larry had stepping into some of those places with you? Because I know you were really emphasizing the role that he played. So I wonder if there were any particular memories of his care for you during that time that you feel is valuable, as well, to share.
Yeah. In line with the advocating for your family and for like, in this case him advocating for his wife. I remember a couple of times where he was like, 'No, like, she can't do this.' And they were like, 'oh, but we need to --' and he's like, 'No. No, she can't do this right now. Like, do you see her right now? No, no. We're not doing this.' And they're like, 'Okay.' So knowing what does need to be done, and what doesn't need to be done, or understanding that you have choices on how something is done to you or to your baby is super important.
Because there were like, a couple of times, they were like, we need to do a cervical check. And, you know, his -- we need to break your water. And we do it... It's like talking to you, it's like, 'No, your water doesn't necessarily have to be broken right now.' Or, okay, now that they did break my water, just because my labor was so long, it's like, 'Okay, you don't have to keep getting cervical checks every, you know, 20 minutes or something, because that could introduce new bacteria,' and stuff like that. But they made it seem like -- like, if I hadn't been able to say like, 'Hey, Gabrielle, what do you think about' -- kind of like having a coach like, right there with you to kind of like, you know, to ask. Like that, that was really cool.
Awesome, that's awesome. Yeah, I really admired Larry, in that time period, because I knew that, you know, while you were also -- because I think we were all in touch. And so we were all communicating. But, you know, I think there were those few times where he called, and he's like, 'You know, we're trying to think through this,' and you know, and 'Selena's experiencing this, and, you know, I just want to make sure, is this where we need to go.' And yeah, I could just tell he was really, really in tune with wanting to be in tune with you. And then he was also being really thoughtful about the environment, as well. And I think sometimes, fathers can feel disempowered in those spaces because, you know, it tends to like, gear towards the mom and towards what's happening with the baby. And, you know, of course, both mom and baby are very important, but dads are equally vital and very important, as well. And so I'm really grateful that he, you know, was, was as engaged as he was, and that you all were able to work together that way.
And, yeah, I think too, just the, you know, the difference -- I feel like, even though I couldn't be there in person, and that was at times, that was hard on my heart, because I was like, oh my goodness, if I could be there. And if I could see, and you know, if I could have just more access, you know, physically. Those were -- there were some of those moments, but...but I also believed that, like you were saying, you know, some of the work of moving through these experiences comes down to, 'Okay. Do I have the right team that's working with me? And do we have the information that we need? And can we make those informed choices and make those calls when we need to?' So I was confident in both of you all in that way. And so I was really glad for that.
But I think unless there are any other memories you want to share, you know, I'd welcome you to just offer your your feedback to any families that may be considering doula support, whether in person or remote, or, you know, who are you know, questioning whether having a doula is right for their birth or right for their family? So I'd love to just hear any thoughts that you have on that, and what you would recommend if they were interested in my services, as well.
Do it. Just do it, haha.
Seriously, Gabrielle, you have been such a blessing to our family. And honestly, we would not have been able to get through our birthing experience without you. Like, I'm so serious when I say like, you were the calm in our storm, and it was a big storm. I mean, even for Larry, like, you just reminded me that there were a couple of times that he kind of called you to kind of talk through some things with you. And I could tell him -- like I can visually see that he was like visibly better after talking to you and felt more relieved.
You're not just like a, like a doula. It's like, you're not just, like, a service. You bring heart to the service. It's like, I didn't feel like I was talking to a doula. I felt like I was talking to a friend. Someone who was part of the family, who was really there to advocate for me, advocate for our family. And really, you had our best interest at heart. You offered your whole heart; like everything that you knew, you offered everything that you could to us. And we really appreciated it. It was like a heartfelt experience. And it was there, like, you were holding our hand through the whole thing. And that was so important, especially for something as major as labor. Like having a doula or someone there who is knowledgeable and has been through many birthing experiences, you need that in your tool belt, whether this is your first birth, or I think your tenth birth, because they can all be different. And you might have a different support staff or whatever, at the hospital for your birthing experience.
With Gabrielle... with...just you, your presence, you, you bring such peace. You bring such calm. You bring such love. Like, you operate in love. And that's important. You change the atmosphere, basically, when you bring your services. And that's important to feel loved during that experience, and to help bring the husband and wife closer together during that experience, too, is just as important. Like I think the biggest thing of you helping us to understand that the husband does play a significant role in the birthing experience was so empowering for us because in our case, the hospital made us feel like, you know, 'Who's this guy?,' basically, for the husband. It's like, 'You know, that is my husband, right? Like, he helped kind of make this possible.' Haha, just saying, you know? So, your presence being there to kind of say, like, 'Hey, you both matter, equally, in this birthing experience,' and helping the husband to understand that he also can help make the birthing experience much better. Having that sense of advocacy for unity in the husband and wife during the birthing experience was so -- was so vital. It was vital. It literally made a huge difference in us going in there saying like, Okay, we are a team. We're a team through this whole thing.
So just kind of wrapping back up. Yeah, please. You need Gabrielle as your doula because she really cares. Like, she really cares about you, your family, and even after we gave birth, and you know, everything was like, 'Okay, yay, baby's here!' She was still there, you know. And I felt, when you find someone who you are able to be -- in the sense that you don't have to feel like you need to present like your best self. Like your makeup free. Your hair is like, you know, every which way, and you're just kind of like, exhausted. But you have someone that you can kind of be vulnerable in front of and feel that sense of, 'You know what, I can be vulnerable,' and I know that she cherished my vulnerability. That's what Gabrielle offers in her doula services.
Wow. Wow. I think I'm just really humbled, honestly. And I'm really honored because I know that doula work requires trust. And I do believe that, you know, if there's going to be a good fit and a good relationship between doulas and families, they need to know that their doula is really for them. And that, you know, it's, it's something that they can feel -- yeah, [that they] can feel confident that they made a good decision in making that investment and then knowing that, that their doula is really for them, and for their family, and for their vision and for their outcomes, and will do all they can. So, I'm -- I'm so really, really both humbled and so honored that you felt that that was what I was able to offer you and offer Larry and your amazing son, who is literally amazing. Your son is amazing. So, I am so grateful.
Thank you, haha.
No, thank you, I enjoy him so much! And I am just so grateful that I got to be a part of that journey. And still, you know, I think even having the chance to to be in touch after and still seeing, you know, his progress over time. It's just been so precious to me. So thank you, and thank you for this time, too. And for the conversation.
And you know, I do hope families, you know, even families if they encounter difficulty in their birth journey, will still be inspired, that they -- that they still have agency and that they still have the options to make the judgment calls they need to make. And that their birth can still be an experience that they can say was their own, you know. It was their own. It wasn't taken from them, you know; it wasn't yielded to to other people to choose for them. And so I do hope that families are inspired by that, and I'm inspired by y'all. And I'm just grateful for ongoing friendship and relationship with you. So, thank you so much. I so appreciate it!
Hehe, thank you!