Posted by doularama | Filed under Birth Stories
Charlotte was in my prenatal class at one of the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital clinics. Charlotte is not her real name. She is fifteen. Being her doula was not the plan for me, but it did end up being a privilege.
In the beginning of our prenatal classes, I ask the women to introduce themselves and to share how they are feeling about their pregnancies and/or labors & deliveries. Charlotte would reluctantly say that she didn’t really care or otherwise convey her indifference.
One day, she arrived very early for class. We got the chance to talk and Charlotte told me that she was unhappy. She said she was being criticized for being pregnant and that she had just moved to a new foster home. By the end of that conversation, Charlotte decided to get a doula (a free doula I would match her with,) and I saw her smile for the first time.
A couple of doulas had agreed to meet her and Charlotte never kept her appointments with them or returned their calls. One woman travelled for two hours to find that Charlotte was out, no one knew where. It was getting to be a challenge getting her the help I knew she needed. A few weeks before she was due, it looked like I wasn’t going to be able to get her a doula. At that point, I told her doctor to call me when she went into labor. I wasn’t free to commit to being on call, but I was feeling responsible for this young lady.
On Friday when Charlotte called I recognized her voice immediately. She told me that she was in labor and that she had already been to the hospital a few hours earlier. They had found her cervix to be half a centimeter dilated and had sent her home to walk. Now, the most important lesson in the first class of my prenatal series is to stay home as long as possible. I guess Charlotte had to learn that one the hard way.
I spoke to her foster mother who asked me to get there as soon as possible. I arrived shortly after to find Charlotte talking and laughing through seemingly mild contractions that were sporadic. Within forty minutes of my arrival, Charlotte became much more relaxed and focused. Suddenly her contractions were coming every three minutes. She was willing to go out for a walk with me. Perhaps because she remembered the benefits of walking as learned in my class, or maybe it was because she knew that she had spent much of the day laboring in an unsupportive environment, and this was her chance to change scenery.
Either way, out we went to walk the streets of Harlem at a time of night when I would normally be sleeping. Charlotte felt very free out there to moan and move instinctually. She was doing an amazing job. Hours earlier she had been begging for a cesarean and now she couldn’t deny the power that enabled her to cope so well. I was so proud of her.
Eventually, we all agreed that it was time to go to the hospital. Frankly, by the time we got on the road, I thought we might not make it there before the baby was born, but he did wait about half an hour and that was enough. Charlotte pushed through half a dozen contractions before we were able to meet her son. Once she saw him, she started to smile and I don’t think I noticed a time when she wasn’t smiling after that. It was truly glorious for me to witness the transformation in Charlotte. She had done such a marvelous job and I told her just that. To that she replied that I was the one who had done it, that it wouldn’t have been possible without me. Before I left her that morning, I made sure she understood that all I had done was shown her what was possible, that she had done the job all herself.
And what an amazing job it was!
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