Posts Tagged ‘Birth plan’

A Doula For The Dying: 5 Things I Learned at My Father’s Deathbed

Monday, May 18th, 2015

5 ThingsI LearnedAlmost three years ago, I packed up my four children and drove to Oregon to help care for my father. His melanoma had metastasized to his spinal fluid, and everything that could be thrown at it to kill it, had been. There was nothing left, but to wait. Probably only weeks were left.

His decline was gradual, over the course of about three and a half months. During that time, I discovered another purpose to my doula training and work.

The end of life is much like the beginning. It is mainly about waiting, comfort and support. There isn’t anyone who can do the dying work, except the dying. Those in attendance find themselves with not much to do but wait. At the most, we bring comfort through physical touch, slow conversations, and just quietly being present. It is so much like waiting while a woman labors. The main difference being that we are on the wrong side of the veil. We do not get to see our loved one birthed into the next life. It is all darkness on this side.

I have never been so grateful for my training as a doula. Everything I learned is very nearly directly applicable to the dying process. Here are 5 things I learned while doulaing my dying father.

1. Pain can be a normal part of the process.
Granted, the pain of death was not something I believe that we were ever designed for. It is often pathological, but it is also a natural part of dying. As in labor, it is a signal that something needs to change. Perhaps a massage will alleviate it. Perhaps a dose of morphine will help the man laboring to die to rest a little easier. Pain also allows and invites loved ones to minister to the dying simply by being present, holding a hand, or stroking the hair.

2. The same comfort measures used in labor often work well for the dying.
Massage. Gate control. Supporting the five senses. Medication. Acupressure. Essential oils. Music. Bathing. Hydration. Light snacking to their level of hunger if it exists at all. The dying, much like the laboring woman, do not need much food if any. It’s important to follow their lead. All these techniques we learn in our doula training are applicable to the dying one. Of course, some causes of death render certain massage strokes unbearable, much like transition may do in a laboring woman. It’s all about trying different things, and allowing the dying to accept or refuse it without taking it personally.

3. Holding space is the foundation for dignity.
We know as doulas that a mother’s pain level, or even the kind of birth she has will have little bearing on how satisfied she is with her experience. What matters most to her is that she is the decision maker and that she feels supported throughout the process. We as doulas hold the space for that to happen. We are constantly directing attention back to the laboring mother: “How do you feel about adding Pitocin to the plan? Would you like time to talk about it?” It’s the same with the dying. They often struggle to decide, and just need the space to settle in with what they want. This gives them the dignity they deserve as a human being while they go through an undignified, and often painful process.

4. Writing an end-of-life plan is much like writing a birth plan.
It’s written before the active dying really begins, much like a birth plan is written prenatally. It outlines the dying person’s desires, wishes, and medical decisions ahead of time, so that if and when they become incapable of decision-making, those who are caring for him can use it as a guide to know what he would most likely want to do. Unlike a birth plan, it is a legal document, and only power-of-attorney can override it. The principle is the same, though. And as a doula, upholding these desires came naturally to me.

5. Dying doesn’t look at all like what is portrayed in the media.
Birth in the media is always an emergency, there is a lot of screaming and hating of husbands, and demanding of drugs. It’s almost never clinically accurate or true to life. It is the same with death in the media. Death in the movies is always grand or gory or like watching someone fall asleep. Watching my father die was none of those things. There is no way to portray the sights, smells, sounds, or the heaviness of the room where the dying man lies. There are as many ways to die as there are to give birth. As beautiful as Dad’s final moments were, as dignified and peaceful as it was, I found death itself to be ugly. Just as I find birth to be beautiful, in spite of the “mess” and the pain and the noise and the smells. Death and birth are studies in contradiction. They are each a paradox. And both are sacred.

I loved being with my dad while he lay dying. I felt honored, privileged, and blessed to witness a man’s leaving of this world to enter the next. For Dad, to live was Christ, and his death was gain. Every time I enter the sacred birthing space of another woman, I am reminded of the gravity of life, and how important it is to have dignity at both birth and death. As a doula, I now know that I have the skill and compassion I need for either. If I weren’t a doula, or pursuing midwifery, I think I would want to be a hospice nurse. But that is an entirely different post for a different day.

Thanks for sticking with me. I know this is a tough subject, but it’s close to my heart, and it was time to write about it. How have you experienced death or birth in your life? Have you seen both? Are there other parallels you noticed?

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

Do’s and Don’ts in Labor & Delivery (a.k.a. Getting What You Want, Kindly)

Monday, April 20th, 2015
Created using canva.com

Created using canva.com

Birth plans. Epidurals. Natural Childbirth. Doulas. Induction. Cesareans. And more…

The list of decisions about birth goes on and on…

More women are becoming dissatisfied with the status quo in American maternity care, and are asking for something outside the norm for the hospital where they plan give birth. Naturally, this might make for some conflict between a birthing mother and her care provider and nursing staff.

Conflict.

There. I said it. Right out loud.

There might be conflict in the labor and delivery room when a mother is giving birth. I am not writing this post to tell anyone how to avoid conflict, but how to manage it in a healthy way, so that the birth experience is not characterized by the conflicts that arise, but by the solutions everyone involved is able to come to.

Here are some do’s and don’ts that may help you in the labor and delivery room to self-advocate effectively, while creating a human connection with the nurses and provider caring for you and your baby.

DON’T: Expect care providers or nurses to offer much in the way of comfort during labor.
It is not the responsibility of a care provider or nurse to make a birthing mother comfortable. Their first priority, and indeed, their entire job, is the safety of mother and baby. Period. Your comfort is a distant second to safety, and that’s exactly the way it should be.

DO: Hire a doula to offer you comfort and support.
Your comfort is the entire responsibility of your doula. Period. That is all that she is there for. Emotional, physical, and informational comfort and support are her expertise. You will not be disappointed if you lean on a doula for this need.

DON’T: Make demands.
This only causes a heightening of conflict. If you want something different than protocol, shaking your fist and demanding it is not the right tack. You might get your way, but you may not end up getting the best care if you treat the nurses as if they were there to grant your every wish.

DO: Ask for exceptions.
Think about it. How would you feel if a stranger came to your house, and began to dictate to you how to load your dishwasher, feed your kids, or fold your towels? You would be offended. This is what we do when we demand our way in labor. When you want something outside protocols, try this: “I understand that this is your normal protocol, but I need you to make an exception for me this time. Thank you.” This invites conversation and cooperation, and is less likely to put a nurse (who is technically your advocate) on the defensive.

DON’T: Be rigid.
Refusing to budge on the smallest things is unfair, especially when you are asking for things outside the box. Remember, you are a rare breed to these nurses. Asking them to step outside their norm is a big deal. Respect that.

DO: Be flexible.
Compromise is the name of the game. For example, here in Colorado Springs, a Hep lock buys you pretty much anything you want in most of the hospitals. It helps them to see that you are reasonable, and that you understand why they do what they do. It makes them far more open to your requests and out-of-the-box needs.

DON’T: Wait until you are in labor to make your birth plan known.
It is completely unreasonable to spring a birth plan on unsuspecting staff and providers. You can’t count on appointment conversations to be remembered, simply because of the sheer volume of patients a hospital-based provider might see in any given month. Not to mention the fact that you are likely to have a care provider you’ve never met catching your baby!

DO: Discuss everything on your birth plan prentally.
Write your birth plan early, in second trimester, and tackle one issue at a time in those 7-10 minute appointments. Discuss the benefits, risks, and alternatives ahead of time, and really make sure you and your provider are on the same page. If they are willing, have them sign it–this doesn’t make it a legal document, but it proves to the staff and on-call doc that your care provider is on board with all your requests.

In short, it pays to be kind. Always be kind. You never know what kind of day your nurse or care provider has had. You have no idea what is going on in the room next to you. I am not making excuses for bad or disrespectful or hurried care. I want to remind you that everyone in scrubs is a human being, just like you. There is rarely a reason to walk into a labor and delivery ward with guns blazing. Even if you had no other choice in your care. The ones providing it are just as human as you are, and if you can leave them feeling respected and understood, you are helping to pave the way for the next woman who wants out-of-the-box care.

It may be your birth, but it has ripple effects. Whether it’s for the positive or negative is, at least in part, up to you.

How do you handle differences of opinion in your care? What are the most diplomatic ways you have used to self-advocate without a situation erupting into WWIII?

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

F.E.A.R.

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

I have been thinking on the F.E.A.R. (False Evidence Appearing Real) acronym.  What else can it mean? Fear itself can be a positive or a negative. Fear can be a stumbling block or a motivator.

I enjoy coming up with affirmations and words that alter the view especially as it relates to pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. I have been and know so many who have fear thrust upon them by friends, provider, family, strangers or have deep fear from previous experiences or from the unknown lurking ahead.

Take my words, come up with others and make your own acronyms to work with the FEAR surrounding you, inside you and take away its power.

 

F                      E                     A                     R

Feeling, Freedom, Fix, Fire, Fierce, Forge, Find, Fortitude, Frame, Fight, Force, Free, Forever, Forgive, Feel, Fearless

Everything, Exist, Eradicate, Excite, Envelop, Empowered, Encourage, Enhance, Expectation, Effort, Exquisite, Endearing, Encourage, Enhance, Effort, Expectation, Exquisite, Equal, Excel, Expert, Ease, Engage

Admit, And, Am, Advocate, Amplify, Armed, Above, Answer, Awareness, Act, Assist, Attitude, Ally, Appear, Admire, Ask, Alter, Apprehension, Action, Alive

Rest, Respect, Rise, Release, Rage, Rights, Ready, Resonate, Relief, Repair, Rely, Resist, Rejoice, Roar, Risk, Release, Re-frame, Rephrase, Remain

 

Please share additional words you come up with!

Writing Your Own Birth “Plan”

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

A birth plan has more than one purpose. It begins as a value clarification exercise, then becomes a communication tool with your care provider and ultimately a guide of needs and desires during labor, delivery and postpartum. Even if your birth location does not ask for birth plans, it is a good idea to write one for your own benefit.

Step 1

Clarifying your needs, wants and desires. Here are the  Birth Menu of Options and Assessing Your Feelings we use in class  to begin the value clarification process.  The birth menu is most helpful when you begin by crossing out what you are not interested in, highlighting the items you know you want and circling what you need to research. The AYF worksheet is for you and your husband/partner/non-doula labor support person to go over together to ensure you are on the same page and open up conversation. Doing this prior to 35 weeks of pregnancy gives you more time to coordinate with your care provider or birth location. If you have a doula or are taking a childbirth class, she/he can help you in this part of the process as well.

Step 2

Write down in order of labor, delivery, immediate postpartum and in case of cesarean needs and desires. Your plan really needs to be within one typed page for easy reading and digesting by care provider and staff. The only items that must be listed are care options that are outside of usual practices, protocols or standing orders. Here is the Sample Low Intervention Birth Plan we use to help you see a finished format and types of pertinent information that may be necessary to list.

Step 3

Take your written plan into your care provider. This is a conversation starter, a beginning, a partnering tool. As I encouraged above, early to mid 3rd trimester gives you more flexibility in communicating with your provider and setting your plan in motion. It also gives you opportunity to change providers or birth location if you cannot reach a comfortable agreement.

Step 4

Make any changes.Finalize.  Print out final copy.  Give one to care provider, have one in your bag for labor and birth, give one to doula (if you hired one). Though this is not a binding or legal agreement it can go a long way toward the type of care and birth you want.

Step 5

Gestate peacefully until labor begins!

Birth Plan Sample

Monday, February 28th, 2011

A birth plan is designed to facilitate communication between you and your provider, especially necessary if you are  birthing outside the home environment.  Secondly, it is to offer information on the individualized care you as the mother would like during labor, birth and immediately postpartum for you and your baby.

It should be brief (no more than one page) and only have the bullet point information that is specific to individualized care and desires not usually within your care provider’s standing orders or usual protocols of the birth location.

It is important to take a written birth plan to a prenatal visit at least a month prior to your given estimated due date in order to have a clear understanding of expectation and agreement. If it becomes apparent that you and your provider are not on the same page, this gives can give time to seek out another provider that fits you and you fit with. Remember it is not a legal document that your location of delivery or care provider must adhere to.

 =======================================================

Birth Needs and Desires for: _______________________. 

Care Provider:_________________.

Estimated Due Date: _________________.

 

Labor

I am planning on a no to low-intervention natural birth.  I plan on being mobile, lightly snacking, drinking orally, and having ___________ present.   I understand that intermittent monitoring of me and my baby will be necessary.  I want to be fully consented for any procedure that may come up and fully participate in the medical care for myself and my baby.  I understand that there is pain management available to me, I will ask for it if I so desire.

  • I plan on wearing my own clothing. I will ask for a gown if I change my mind.
  • I would like a saline lock in lieu of a running IV.
  • Limited vaginal exams after initial assessment.
  • In the event an induction and/or augmentation is medically necessitated-
    • Ripening – Foley Catheter instead of Cytotec (misoprostol), Cervadil or Prepadil
    • Pitocin – A very gentle and slowly administered dosage increase.
    • AROM – will only consent to if an internal fetal monitor is a must.
  • Spontaneous pushing and delivery in any position I am most comfortable with.
  • No cord traction or aggressive placental detachment, including deep uterine massage.
  • Delayed cord clamping for at least 10 minutes or until my placenta spontaneously detaches (baby can receive oxygen or other assistance while still attached to me).

Postpartum and Baby Care

  • Request that my baby is on my belly or chest for assessments and warmth (even oxygen can be given on me)
  • Delayed bathing
  • Delaying vaccinations including eye ointment and vitamin k.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding, no pacifiers, sugar water, or formula. I will hand express if necessary.
  • No separation from me unless absolutely medically necessary not just protocol.

Cesarean: In the event a cesarean becomes necessary and is not a true emergency requiring general anesthesia.  I would like to keep the spirit of my plan A to plan C so the delivery can be as family centered and intimate as possible.

  • Only essential conversation related to the surgery and delivery
  • Lower sterile drape or have a mirror present so I may see my baby emerge
  • Only one arm strapped down so I may touch my baby
  • Pictures
  • Aromatherapy as I desire for comfort, abate nausea and to mask surgical odors
  • Baby to stay with me continuously in OR and recovery
  • If baby must leave OR for treatment, my partner/spouse goes with baby and I would like my ____________ to stay with me so I am never alone.
  • Breastfeed in OR and/or recovery
  • Delayed immunizations
  • Delayed washing and dressing of baby
  • No separation from me except what is absolutely medically necessary

This “plan” may be copied, pasted and edited  for use by others.