Guest Contributor Ashley Barksdale, MBRN Member

A note from the Military Birth Resource Network.

 Birth comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes we have plans that change as we progress through pregnancy and labor. Here we see Ashley’s stories of her three separate cesareans, how they each lead her to become a birth doula.

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I became a birth and postpartum doula after being a part of my friends’ birth.  She was pregnant with her fourth child and her husband was deployed. She asked me to attend her birth and I couldn’t resist!  After having three cesareans, I was excited to experience a natural birth!

With each pregnancy and birth, I am able to stand next to the new mother and offer non-judgmental and unbiased support while assisting the family with the physical support of keeping the mother comfortable during labor, informational support anytime the family has questions throughout the pregnancy and delivery, and emotional support...
— Ashley Barksdale

My first labor was induced.  I was due the week of Thanksgiving and lived an hour away from the closest hospital.  I was 18 years old and was not familiar with natural birth.  My labor support system was non-existent.  Due to high stress situations during pregnancy, I went into pre-term labor three times, beginning at 7 months. The nurses gave me shots to stop contractions and sent me home each time. At 37 weeks, my doctor scheduled an induction for 39 weeks.  November 21, 2003, I was admitted to the hospital at 7am.  The nurse told me to change into the hospital gown and they immediately hooked me up to the fetal monitors and Pitocin.  During labor, a nurse sat about a foot from my bedside, filling out charts and doing paperwork while I laid in bed, occasionally adjusting to one side or the other throughout the entire day. Around 12pm, I began feeling slight contractions so the nurse suggested I get an epidural.  I did not want any shots so I refused.  By 12:30pm, the nurse had scared me so badly that I finally agreed to Demerol through the IV.  I slept throughout the entire day. I vaguely remember my family members coming in and out of the room occasionally to see if I had progressed.  By 4pm, I was at 7cm and Demerol was no longer working. The anesthesiologist had been in the room several times and the doctors and nurses kept telling me It was almost too late to get an epidural and that it was “now or never”, so I agreed.  Again, pushed into it making the decision to have pain medication injected into my spine.  The doctor came in once more at 9pm that night and told me the baby was not moving and I was no longer dilating so either he could send me home with a failed induction or I could have a cesarean.  I only had a few minutes to decide and within those few minutes, my blood pressure shot up, as did my baby’s heart rate so they had to do an emergency cesarean.  Or so I was told.  My little, 7-pound boy was born at 11:21pm.  Two weeks later my incision busted open then eventually healed with only a few butterfly strips.

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My second child was born via cesarean because the first caused a lot of scar tissue.  I didn’t have a huge labor support team during that time either.  No one encouraged me to try a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) and the one time I mentioned it to my doctor, she said it may not be a good idea due to the amount of scar tissue. After that, a VBAC was never mentioned again.  I had a scheduled cesarean for January 12, 2010 but my body went into some sort of shock on December 31st.  My 8-pound, 13-ounce, beautiful baby girl was born via cesarean at 9:28pm. That cesarean wasn’t nearly as traumatizing as the first because I knew what to expect.  The incision didn’t heal correctly so I had to pack it for nearly 6 weeks before it finally closed.

On April 12, 2015, I delivered my third child via cesarean due to pre-eclampsia.  He was born with jaundice and was hospitalized for a week after being sent home for only one day.  That cesarean was a breeze.  I felt like a pro at that point – laughed and joked through the entire procedure. VBAC was briefly discussed but due to several issues I had throughout the pregnancy, and then pre-eclampsia, we decided it would be best for me to have a cesarean.

Although each of my deliveries were very similar, they were better each time.  Each pregnancy, I learned a little more about childbirth and the “rules” of doctors and hospitals.  By the time my friend had her 4th baby in August of 2016, I felt pulled to birth work.  Watching her experience a completely natural labor and delivery, with no fear and only a little discomfort, I realized there was something more to labor and delivery.

Since August of 2016, I have now obtained my certifications for Birth Doula, Postpartum Doula, Childbirth Education, Lactation Education, and currently working on a Bachelor’s degree for Family Studies.  There are so many aspects that go into bringing a new baby into the world.  Seeing each new mother experience pregnancy and delivery the way she feels comfortable, is an amazing adventure for me, as her Doula.  With each pregnancy and birth, I am able to stand next to the new mother and offer non-judgmental and unbiased support while assisting the family with the physical support of keeping the mother comfortable during labor, informational support anytime the family has questions throughout the pregnancy and delivery, and emotional support if the mother feels overwhelmed.  The most important thing I’ve learned since having my first child is that NO ONE should be forced or pressured to do something they do not want to do.  It is truly an honor to empower a woman with the information and support she needs so she is able to have the most satisfying birth experience possible.

Originally posted on ashleybarksdale.com. Posted with permission