Amy Haderer, a doula in Denver, CO, expresses the astronomical joy of birth in her mandala style painting “This is Why.”
Imagine this scenario: you’re a tax accountant, and your boss gives you a call one day. He gravely tells you that he has bad news. “Oh no,” you reply. You really like your company, and know they have valued you and your work. You wonder what could be wrong. “First of all, I’m retiring.” That’s not bad news. You enthusiastically wish him a happy congratulations! “And the company that I’m selling the firm to has decided to discontinue the tax accounting service, so unfortunately, you won’t have a job anymore.”
What is your reaction? Are you shocked? Devastated? Worried? Angry?
No. Because you have consistently chosen a frugal lifestyle since you graduated from college, you have had a very high savings rate. Your dividends have been reinvested all the meanwhile, resulting in compounding interest. After 15 years of wise stewardship of your resources, you and your spouse have actually hit you financial independence target, such that you actually don’t require a job to make your ends meet. In fact, you’ve only been working now out of a sense of duty and obligation; this was the last tax season you were planning to work through. Now that you are relieved of the pressure to have to deliver the news that you’re planning to leave the company, you start laughing! You exclaim, “that’s wonderful!” Your boss, although bewildered, is definitely breathing a bit more easily now.
That is the true story of an early midlife aged woman named Laura, shared by her husband Brad on the financial independence podcast Choose FI, which he co-hosts. Because they diligently accrued financial power and freedom during the years when it seemed unnecessary for them to do so, she was not standing next to a financial cliff that could have ruined them. They chose a different lifestyle than most Americans, but could sleep soundly even when “bad news” was delivered to them.
I love Laura’s story, because it actually translates very well to the story of our health — including our childbearing. A “Laura” client of mine, for example, chose to optimize her well being prior to conception, and then, through disciplined living, maintain it through pregnancy. As her pregnancy neared labor, she was given news by her obstetrician that led to an uncommon but deeply satisfying turn of events. Here’s her story (and from this point on I am calling this “Laura” Rae):
Rae and her husband Gil knew the metabolism and life-long well being of their future children would be affected by Rae’s own physical well being, so they routinely conditioned through strength training, cardiovascular workouts, and stretching, and opted for a well-rounded diet of nutrient dense, unprocessed foods. Rae also believes that joy and sorrow are infectious, and so she and Gil attended to the well being of their souls. Observing a weekly sabbath, scheduling time in nature, and counting their blessings through a gratitude practice were some of their tools for maintaining spiritual wealth. At any time that Rae felt spiritually poor, she also either sought a rebalance through an energy kinesiology session or visited a counselor. They felt ready to embark on the journey to parenthood, and in time, the couple happily conceived a child.
Rae and Gil attended regular check-ups at their obstetrician’s office, and continued their already healthy lifestyle, but they also devoted time to something else: childbirth preparation and breastfeeding/newborn education. They had checked out some highly recommended titles from the library — Mindful Birthing, Ancient Map for Modern Birth, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, and Sleeping With Your Baby. They also perused a copy of Dr. Sears’s The Baby Book given to them at their baby shower. All the wisdom Rae accrued from these resources helped her to connect with her baby and tune into her intuition. This was reinforced by all that was shared and experienced in their childbirth education class.
If it is possible to feel both fear and trust — that is exactly where Rae was. She knew that some potentially lifesaving technologies, medications, and procedures were available to her through her obstetrician and the hospital, but also was fully aware of the dangers of their overuse. She felt in her body and soul that she and her baby were well, and that the God who had seen them through this pregnancy would hold them through labor and birth. Gil, straddling between his sense of trust in the OB and his sense of trust in Rae’s wisdom, competence, and faith, decided to relieve some of his personal anxiety by hiring an ally — their doula. They weren’t positive what the future would hold, but they felt prepared and supported, and were excited about meeting their baby in the coming weeks!
Then came the 39 week appointment. The doctor came in and delivered stunning news. “Well, congratulations on staying healthy, keeping baby healthy, and making it all the way to 39 weeks! This is a good accomplishment!” Rae and Gil smile, and are indeed grateful that they’ve had a full term pregnancy. “However, new studies have shown that inducing labor at 39 weeks — even in low-risk pregnancies — can prevent some problems later on. Since you haven’t gone into labor yet — if it’s alright — we’ll get you started this afternoon.”
This is not alright with Rae and Gil. Their goals include having a natural labor and breastfeeding their baby, and they are informed enough to know that allowing labor to begin on its own is normally the best choice for beginning a natural labor, getting breastfeeding off to a good start, and promoting longterm healthy outcomes. Rae’s intuition kicked in and let her know that there were no problems in her body or her baby’s, and they could wait until a more appropriate time. She developed inner strength and knowledge over the past year, and knew that no matter what she told her doctor and what he told them, she had more options. She declined the OB’s offer to induce labor that afternoon, and told him they would wait.
After the appointment, Rae’s intuition told her that the OB’s suggestion was a red flag. “If he’s wanting to intervene for ‘problems’ that don’t currently exist, what will happen at the next appointment, or in birth? I just don’t sense he trusts me or my body to do this the way nature has designed it to happen,” she confided in Gil. They ran the conversation by their doula, who shared the names of some other providers they could consider as an alternative.
Rae didn’t dump her doctor right away, but she did decide to come up with a backup plan. She spent a little time researching the providers her doula named, and gave them calls to ask which ones would accept a new patient/client at this stage of the pregnancy. She felt a wave of relief and peace speaking to one particular midwife, and opted to set up a consult the next day. Gil and Rae drilled the midwife with their questions — especially because she is an out-of-hospital provider — and were impressed with not only her bedside manner and apparent wisdom, but also her history, skills, experience, and practice. They brought home the packet of paperwork and agreed to stay in touch.
At the follow-up appointment with their OB, Rae and Gil were spiked with fear. Their doctor informed them that even though Rae’s non-stress test was normal, the fluid around the baby was apparently dwindling to levels he claimed would be unhealthy soon, and he said the placenta “doesn’t look good” (whatever that means). He suggested breaking her water in the office right then to get labor started. Gil worried, but Rae’s intuition, which conflicted with the OB’s recommendations, left her unconvinced. She told her doctor that they needed some time to think and pray over this judgment, and possibly to get more information.
The couple called the midwife and asked her for a referral to an independent, unbiased ultrasound technician, who could provide another view for a second opinion. They left the doctor’s office and headed straight for their second sonogram. This ultrasound experience was much different. The images appeared about the same as they were at the doctor’s, as far as Gil and Rae could tell, but the reaction from their sonographer was delightful. “Your baby looks perfect, and so do you! I can’t find any serious flaws.” She shared her findings with the midwife, who Rae and Gil hired immediately.
They finished out the final couple weeks of their pregnancy with their midwife, who met them at their home after Rae’s labor began and advanced. Their doula, already on the scene, was reminding Rae and Gil of all that they knew deep inside — that the changes happening were normal and good, and that Rae had all the strength and wisdom she needed to make it through each contraction. Having watchful yet trusting eyes on Rae enabled Gil to relax and be more supportive, and enabled Rae to feel free to labor how her instincts told her to. At last, she reached the climax, and gave her baby a final push. Rae released a cry of elation as their newborn child landed safely into the hands of their midwife, and admiring tears began streaming down Gil’s cheeks.
Immediately afteward, their baby was handed to Rae, who was filled with gratitude and adoration. She was nursing her baby within minutes, just as she had dreamed of doing. THIS was why they made the choices they did — from their lifestyle, to their education, to their firing and hiring of supporters.
Rae had what felt like a perfect birth experience, but she did not have a perfect prenatal care experience. As with Laura, her story incurred unanticipated “bad news,” but because of all the good seeds they sowed and tended in the many months prior, they reaped a healthy and satisfying outcome.
If you are reading this story and are starting later than Rae did with accruing power for your upcoming birth, take heart. We learned from Laura that 10 years ago was the best time to start investing for your financial independence, but today is the second best time. Likewise, pre-conception would have been an ideal time to begin preparing for your childbearing experience, but today remains a next best time to start learning and taking good care of your well-being.
If you’d like to do that and are in the Palm Beach County area, have you considered a birth doula, and/or are you interested in a rebalance through energy kinesiology? I am offering complimentary in-person consultations with parents-to-be in West Palm Beach, so you can learn more about my services and get a taste of what our relationship will be like. Reach out to me at email@example.com or 561-827-3263. I look forward to meeting you!