World Doula Week starts tomorrow, so I thought I would write about my journey to becoming a doula. I'm not sure I will finish it this week, but we'll see how it goes!
I absolutely adore doulas. And, this is not just because I’m a doula! I had a doula for all three of my births and it was one of the best decisions of my life. Like most first time parents, my husband and I had no idea what we were doing. We took the childbirth education classes, the baby care class, the infant and child CPR class, registered for the baby shower, set up the baby room, etc., but even with all that “knowledge”, we still had no idea. How could we? Giving birth to your first child and becoming a family of three is the most transformational experience of your life! Your baby is born and all of a sudden, the whole world looks different. Your perspective on everything has changed. YOU have changed!
I had no idea what a doula even was until it was randomly mentioned by a co-worker. His wife had just had a baby and he was still on a high, talking to everyone who would listen. He told me they had this woman at their birth called a “doula” and she helped his wife immensely during the labor and birth of their child. He gave me her card and I started thinking hmmm, maybe we should get a doula...
My husband and I were pretty much open to anything that would help make this process easier for the both of us. So, we called the doula. When we arrived at her house, she greeted us barefoot in a long flowing skirt, which pretty much matched our perceptions of what a doula was (based off our online “research”). We talked for a bit and then she had us watch a short movie about what a doula is. Obviously, there was quite a bit about the birth process featured in the movie, which was another reminder for us that we had no idea what we were getting into. When the movie was over, she asked us what we thought. I remember telling her that we recently went to Babies R Us and had to leave because it was so overwhelming, so after watching the movie, we were very confident that we wanted to hire her as our doula. Basically, please help us!
To be continued… :)
So, obviously, we hired the doula! She asked me to call her after every appointment with my midwife to give her an update on my health and the baby’s health. As my due date drew closer, we scheduled a pre-natal visit for her to come over to our house and talk about my thoughts on the upcoming labor and birth, my concerns, my birth plan, etc. Putting together a birth plan was very helpful for me because it made me step back and take a little bit of time to research what my options actually were. I probably would not have put much thought into a birth plan if I didn’t have a doula. I think it’s pretty common for a mom to not feel in control of her birth and to think she doesn’t have too many options on how her labor and birth is going to go. There are so many new terms and procedures; it can feel like everyone else knows a secret language that you can’t understand! It was SO wonderful to have a doula to help us navigate what my options were for different things. Did I want an IV? Did I want to be able to eat during labor? Did I want an epidural? Did I want to wait to cut the cord?
Okay, so a couple weeks before my due date, I remember sitting in a comfy chair in my living room, talking with my husband, when the baby starts to REALLY move around. Like move around so much you can see body parts pushing against your stomach and you think, what the heck is he doing? Is he getting ready to come out?! It probably didn’t last more than a couple of minutes and then my thoughts just moved on. I remember thinking, well, this must be normal. It doesn’t hurt or anything. Well, fast forward a couple of weeks and we find out he was doing somersaults and went breech on us! Ahhh! What the heck? This is NOT in my birth plan!
My water had already broke and we were at least 15 hours in with minimal to no contractions happening (because he was floating!), so when we finally went in to the hospital and they found out he was breech, my only option was a C-Section. Boo! Again, NOT on my birth plan! I didn’t even watch the C-Section video in childbirth ed class because I was for sure NOT going to have a C-Section! It terrified me. I was so scared.
I remember calling my doula right after the doctor left the room and told her I had to have a C-Section. She said, “I’ll be right there.” And she was. We talked about what my new birth plan was going to be now and what to expect. She reassured me that I was going to be alright and my baby was going to be alright. I had never seen anyone give birth before, let alone give birth by C-Section, but she had. She had seen hundreds of women give birth and told me it would be okay. I would be okay and I would have my baby in my arms that afternoon.
I am SO THANKFUL I had a doula!
Everything about the hospital seemed foreign to me. All the nurses and doctors were strangers to me. Since I was having a C-Section, I couldn’t even have my midwife with me. My doula was my calm. She was my familiar. She was my grounding presence.
More tomorrow, on Noah’s birth and how my doula never left my side.
Have I told you that I LOVE DOULAS?!
Okay, so obviously I won’t be finishing this during World Doula Week, but that’s life, right? :)
Today is the last day of World Doula Week, so I guess I’ll go ahead and finish up Noah’s birth story.
C-Section prep. Not the most fun. James wasn’t allowed to be with me while they placed the spinal tap, but my doula was. She sat right in front of me, talking quietly and stroking my arms over and over again as I remained calm and still for the anesthesiologist to do his job. As they began the surgery, she remained by one side of my head and James was at the other. She would quietly tell me what was going on and answer any questions I had. I remember I was so calm and quiet, that the doctor asked the anesthesiologist if I was okay. She said I felt like I was getting warmer, so I guess that and me being so relaxed threw them off a bit? I WAS very relaxed! I was very scared, but I had confidence in the doctor and my doula, so I was able to relax my body and focus on meeting my baby. I remember my doula took a picture of my husband and I with Noah right after his birth. Then, James went with Noah and my doula stayed with me while the doctor finished up.
In the recovery room, my doula was right by my side, feeding me ice chips, giving my chapstick, telling me what the balloon looking things massaging my legs were. ;) After a bit, I asked where my baby was and she was able to have James and Noah join me in the recovery room. Pretty soon after, she helped me with his first latch and breastfeeding session. I had no idea what I was doing, but felt very comfortable asking my doula for help. She never made me feel less than. She gave me the confidence I needed to be Noah’s mom in that moment. And, I believe, those first moments shape all the rest.
Noah’s birth was not like I had imagined in so many ways. But, my doula was there every step of the way, just like I had imagined. I believe her presence made all the difference as my birth plans were thrown out the window. Doulas care for the laboring and birthing mother like no other person can. Their responsibility is solely to the mother and I felt that support every step of the way.
(Now, I need to find some pictures for you!)