Monday, February 1, 2010

In which I manage to miss two births in a day

... and am now embracing my new role as a postpartum doula.

Yes, you read that right. TWO births in ONE day. Quel Loser!

Here's how it went down: I was watching Food, Inc with my mom and Leigh, while our children were upstairs watching Lion King.
(By the way, if you haven't seen Food, Inc, I'd highly suggest it. What a movie! I will never look at food the same way. Specifically, I will never look at processed beef the same way. The way that ground beef ends up wrapped in plastic and at your local supermarket is really astounding. Also, what's put into the meat to keep it from getting contaminated with E. Coli will shock you -- AMMONIA. Yeah, the stuff to wash glass. That's in 70% of hamburgers, as of 2008. Forget never eating conventional meat again -- I'm not sure I can ever eat a hamburger in a restaurant again.)

So during the movie I got a call from one client -- and then a call from another. One was pretty close to her due date, but the other was pretty far. One client's water had broken but she wasn't having contractions; the other was having contractions but her water hadn't broken.

And also, a "winter storm" was brewing in Charlotte, which makes everyone here go insane. Granted, I'm from the Midwest, where I can only remember school closing due to a windchill of -40, but the infrastructure here is not prepared for more than a few flurries; scare-mongering runs rampant and people generally lose their minds.

Maybe it was the change in barometric pressure that caused them to go into labor, I don't know. But something happened. Both went to the hospital somewhat earlier than they'd planned because of the weather; both said they would call and update me when they got there and we'd make a plan for when I would go to the hospital for them. (Incidentally, neither knew the other was in labor. I'm not sure they even knew I had other clients. I was just so surprised that they were both in labor -- to contrast, in December I had clients due for four straight days and nobody had babies near each other!) 

One called at 5am and said she was 5cm dilated. I started to get up to get ready to go in. Her husband called back 20 minutes later to say the baby was here! 

The next one called several hours later and was getting augmented. At this point I have to say that I made a huge error in judgment. I did not immediately go to her. I could blame the awful weather, because I'm not sure that even if I'd left right away I would have made it. But really, it was my own stereotypes and judgments and my own comfort that kept me from rushing off to her. I thought I had plenty of time.

Dustin says it was incredibly unprofessional and I'm burned out. Leigh says I was in midwife mode and burned out. Either way, by the time the client called and said Yes, I really need you now, the baby was born an hour later and I wasn't there.

The first baby, I probably could not have made it. But the second, I definitely should have been there. There wasn't an excuse.

Note: I do have in my contract that I don't refund for a precipitous labor and birth which I miss.

I apologized to the first client, and told her that since I missed her second meeting -- because she had this baby so long before due date -- and her birth, I'd like to provide her with 12 hours of postpartum support. She said she would appreciate that.

I apologized to the second client, and told her that I would refund her half my fee since missing her birth was completely my fault -- and preventable. Alternatively, I told her, I'd provide her with 15 hours of postpartum support. She could choose, and either option was fine with me. She chose the postpartum support, which I'm starting on Tuesday.

I'm looking forward to being a postpartum doula. We all know I love to cook. I'm bringing food on Tuesday, Garlic Cheese Chicken Rollups to eat for dinner that night (along with herb rice and vegetables), and Chuck's Macaroni and Cheese with beef hotdogs and peas to freeze. And yes, I am probably burned out on labor and birth for a while. But I'm thrilled to go to a family's home and help them acclimate to being a new family. I'm excited to hold a newborn and give breastfeeding support.

I'm glad that my next doula client isn't until late April and she's a homebirth. 


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