The Range of Normal

Recently, I attended an exquisitely beautiful birth. It’s not the first beautiful birth I’ve been to – I manage to find intense beauty even in some of the most complicated births. But this one felt different to me.

We are smack in the middle of our Labor and Birth Complications class and are learning about all sorts of things we hope never to see – some of these complications are fairly common and others, fortunately, are extremely rare. In this class, I definitely feel the pull to maintain my view of labor and birth as inherently normal within a broad spectrum of what is acceptable for a homebirth. Which doesn’t always mean this is an easy thing as I learned at my most recent birth.

Throughout this mama’s labor, I found myself much more vigilant and aware than I have been in the past about possible complications. Some of this resulted me providing better care than I have in the past. For example, now that we have studied fetal heart tone abnormalities in detail, I found myself being much more diligent at listening to with the doppler immediately after the end of the contraction and knowing exactly what I was listening for. It’s not that I didn’t know these things before, but learning about possible complications have cemented home for me the importance of this aspect of our care.

I also found that thoughts would flash through my mind. I found myself constantly double-checking to make sure that everything was ok. Is this bleeding normal or a sign of something else? How would you tell if this pain she is feeling is out of proportion to what you would expect – it certainly seems suddenly much more painful than it was during the last contraction. Ok, now the head is out. I wonder how long I would wait before I began to worry about whether this was a shoulder dystocia. On and on and on my mind chattered.

You know what though? It was comforting. I attended this birth with an absolutely clear head and felt like I finally understood everything that was happening. I had a context to place it in. It was like someone finally gave me the magic decoder ring and now instead of understanding every 4th or 5th word and just getting the general gist of paragraphs, I can now understand nearly every word and the meaning of every sentence. I figure that with time and experience, my hyper-vigilance will mellow out. For now, I’m just thrilled that the puzzle pieces are coming together for me. And I’m also pleased that I’m walking out of this experience still feeling very grounded in the knowledge that homebirth is safe and that there is a broad, broad range of normal.

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