Amber is a doula near and dear to my heart. She came to the first DONA doula training we had in Chico, and we fast became friends. Her heart truly lies in serving women during the birthing year. It was a natural bridge to apply and be accepted into Chico State's Nursing Program. Here Amber likens the feelings and changes she has experienced during her first semester of nursing school to those pregnant and birthing moms pass through -- pregnancy and birth -- truly the metaphor for the transitions we face in life.
Doula work made me fall in love with birthing women. The sacredness and magic that surrounds them as they work so hard to bring their babies into the world is intoxicating to be around. After working as a doula for the past seven years, I made the leap to enroll in nursing school, with the goal of working as a labor and delivery nurse for a while, then becoming a midwife.
I had no idea what nursing school would be like, only that it was extremely hard to get in to. I am now in the last week of my first semester, with four more semesters to go, and honestly, I can't believe I made it through my first semester. Nursing school is hard, people told me. I had no idea just how hard it really was. But now I truly do.
As a doula, I have been right there when women who were so elated to be having a baby before labor began, suddenly expressed that they just couldn't go on. And I was there when, indeed, they did go on to birth their baby, despite all their doubts. They made it through the other side of labor and birth. It is this inner journey and challenge that I have witnessed so many times that has helped me get through this first semester.
I have often thought of the strength I witnessed as a doula, to get me through the tough days of nursing school. As I held on for dear life, going through the rollercoaster of emotions, joys, and challenges of becoming a student nurse, I drew some similarities between nursing school and becoming a mom.
Stage 1: Wow! I'm pregnant! (Or I can't believe I got into nursing school!)
When a mom finds out she pregnant, some great emotion is sure to overtake her, whether it be elation, surprise, sadness, or anxiety. At first she might not believe it's really happening, but eventually the reality settles in.
When I found out I got into nursing school, I cried. Getting into nursing school in California is no small feat. I was one of forty students to be accepted (out of 174 applicants!) and I was in total shock that I actually got in. I started dreaming and planning, and getting ready for the semester to start.
Stage 2: Wait, I didn't know I was signing up for this!
After the initial shock, joy, or acceptance settles in, the gravity of the life altering event which is motherhood is realized. Hopefully she won't get too overwhelmed by all of the choices, options, and decisions she needs to make as she prepares to go into labor.
My pride that I got accepted into nursing school was quickly forgotten as I settled in as a student. Beginning the first day, we had reading assignments and a presentation due. It became clear that yes, I had accomplished a huge hurdle by simply getting in, but the hardest part was yet to come.
Stage 3: I can not possibly go on any longer
This is the point at which moms who were planning a drug-free birth use all of their inner strength to just make it through the next breath. Thinking too far into the future leads to desperation and fear that it will never get better.
There were many a days this first semester when I just wanted to curl up into a ball and not deal with the stress, and the huge workload, and the pressure to not mess up during clinical. Some mornings I was in tears as I got ready for school, and I had to take a deep breath and not think too much about what was due the next week, and how I had to wake up at 4:30 in the morning the next day.
Stage 4: I did it!
Whatever her doubts, whatever her fears, she did it. Even if things didn't follow her carefully written birth plan, she accomplished what she set out to do: have a baby. The journey there was important, and she went through many travails to get there, but the fact that she herself grew a baby and birthed it is something no one can take away from her. She feels part of something bigger than herself -- a connection with all other mothers that have come before her and given birth.
Despite my tears, and my anxiety, and my mistakes, I have made it through my first semester. I have one more week left in my first semester of nursing school, and I have so much more respect now for nurses. My aunt who's a nurse recently told me "this will be the hardest two years of your life" and I don't doubt that she's right! But another nurse family friend told me "if you can make it through the first semester, you will make it the whole way."
Stage 5: Be gentle with yourself
New moms might feel lots of different emotions after the birth is all said and done. Maybe they are disappointed with how they acted, maybe they wish they could go back and do things differently. But then (hopefully) they look down at that sweet new baby, take a breath, and realize no matter how they did it, they accomplished a major feat. They deserve to be pampered, and they should know how strong and courageous they really are.
I've made mistakes this first semester that I desperately wish I could take back. But you know what? When I stopped hounding myself, and looked around at my classmates, I realized we're all making mistakes. That's the beauty of being a student. That's how we learn. I know I did my best.
Nursing school is indeed so much harder than I ever imagined it to be. I simply had no idea what to expect. I prepared for it, printed and read all my syllabi before class, had all my supplies in order, but there was simply no way to make this semester easier. There was no way to get around the stress and the emotions, I simply had to go through it.
Just as a mom must go through her labor, whatever twists and turns it takes her on, she will have that baby in her arms. And I will graduate with my Bachelor's of Science in Nursing and become an RN. I just know I will.
Amber is a Birth and Postpartum Doula, certified though DONA. She is also a Placenta Encapsulation Specialist. She has participated in a volunteer doula program, helped start a local doula group, and Was trained to assist midwives at the Farm with Ina May. Putting these skills to work, she has assisted a few different homebirth midwives. Nursing school was her next challenge, with the future hopes of working as a midwife. She is an asset to families with her caring, quiet, compassionate ways, and this will carry over to all she does in the birth world. She is on hiatus from births right now, but continues to offer placenta services.
Doulas love doulas. Moms and dads love doulas. But what intrigued me about this piece is, Crystal is an aunt who now loves doulas. She shares her experience witnessing a doula-supported birth -- after just learning what a doula even does. I can think of no other powerful witness of the care doulas offer than this -- one that comes from a family member who not only saw the affects of a doula offered to Mom, but also to Dad and the extended family.
My brother and his wife were expecting their second daughter any day and I desperately wanted to be there for her arrival. Now, it should be known that we are a family of “moderate hippies." Grow-ing up in the Pacific Northwest, you are subject to crunchy granola-ism by proxy. Like it or not, you will be more “green” than people from, say, Detroit, just by default. So I was confused, but not surprised when my sister-in-law announced that she would be using a doula for her second child’s delivery. “A what?” I asked…”a doula.” was the reply. “What is that? Is that like a midwife?” “No, it’s like a birthing coach or a mother’s helper.” “Huh.” I was picturing a stern matronly woman that smelled of patchouli and wore Birkenstocks. Someone that espoused the virtues of going drug-free while standing on your head and breathing like an Iditarod racer through contractions…no thank you. With three children to my credit, I have always been happily pro-drug, pro-hospital, pro-doctor.
Despite the fact that I have given birth more than once, I still became quite excitable as we timed the contractions. My sister-in-law braved the pains from the comfort of her upstairs bedroom as we waited for her doula to arrive at the house. I was timing them at three minutes apart and was wondering why we weren’t just meeting this delivery person at the hospital. I harbored secret fears that my niece would be accidentally born at home and I don’t know if I could’ve kept from passing out if she had tried that business…
The doorbell rang and I was quite surprised to meet the woman that (I still thought) was coming to deliver this baby. She looked fresh from a yoga workout and she drove a Volvo. What happened to the flowing mu-mu and the hippie mobile, I wondered silently. Brief introductions ensued and Ashley the doula was ushered upstairs. Right away, I was impressed at how she commandeered the situation. She went directly to Carla, asked a whole series of questions in a very calming way, and the whole mood in the room changed. I fear that between my hushed anxiety, and grandmas verbal duress, you could have cut the tension running through that house with a knife. In came the doula and palpable anxiousness lifted from the room like a fog. In its place, there was a quiet calm punctuated by breathing and gentle coaxing. I think I could actually see the colors of her aura, that’s how calming her demeanor was.
It was also interesting to watch her “work the crowd." You could tell she had assessed the situation (slightly hysterical grandmother, worried sister-in-law, sick husband – did I mention at that very moment, my brother, the father-to-be, had been struck by a gastrointestinal bug?) Ashley diffused all that was ramping up. Focusing on mom, but speaking to all present, she assured everyone that the baby would not be there in the next hour and that we would calmly work our way to the hospital. I’m certain that my sigh of relief was audible when she made it clear that this baby would not be born in the upstairs bedroom of their family home.
I stopped perspiring when it became more-and-more clear that this gal knew what she was talking about. So far the baby had not fallen out en route, despite my misgivings about contractions that were three minutes apart and our not being hauled by screaming ambulance to the emergency department. Remain calm faithful reader.
Our doula (yes, at this point she has become “our doula”) was as steadfast in her calm and patient demeanor as I was borderline hysterical. I watched this magical gift of a woman do her thing. Yes, at the risk of sounding like a crazy, hippie-dippy, magical loving, fruit loop of a nut job, I will put it out there. I will say it: This magical gift of a woman, this doula, was wonderful.
In what was, for me, the comfort zone of beeping machines, copious hand sanitizer and droves of personnel equipped with advanced degrees and special badges, I watched the most basic of all things natural unfold: A woman, comforted, coached and calmed a laboring mother while the laboring mother brought her baby into the world. It was a revelation for this mother, how a delivery could go so smoothly…
Because we are led to believe that laboring women need monitoring, constant checking, IV’s, medications, interventions and whole carts of instruments to bring a human being into the world. When maybe the most effective, and dare I say, most important vehicle to assist in delivery is a calm companion -- someone who knows, with unshakable conviction that women were designed to have babies. That birth is not an instantaneous process. A person comfortable with the fact that labor and delivery take as long as they take, a person adept at soothing a laboring mother through the pain and anxiety of childbirth.
Having seen it for myself, watching a team work with a laboring mother in that hospital room, it dawned on me what a genius arrangement this was. Dad was watching the progress, eagerly engaged, free to ask questions and procure ice chips while mom was fully tended by a constant, unwavering support person.
During my own delivery, six years ago, the assigned labor nurse whom I had grown to love, had her shift end smack dab in the middle of my laboring! And she left! She went home because her work day was done. The second shift came on as I was transitioning into hard labor and I hated that second delivery nurse. She was loud and obnoxious, interjecting her belligerent opinions with every breath. And I was too wrapped up in birthing a baby to tell her where I really wished she’d go. What a different experience that could’ve been. If I’d had a doula, as a personal support person at my side, “Nurse Ratchet”, as she’s become infamously known in my birthing story, could have gone away. Or at least shut up. But I had not known there was this option. I only knew what the hospital staff told me…
And let me tell you another story where a doula could have quite possibly changed the course of history. A couple of years back, I was invited to photograph at a delivery. Not a National Geographic-type assignment, but a tasteful, photo-journalistic capture of the first moments of life. Mother laboring, father cord cutting, baby weighing in, all of those moments. At three centimeters, this laboring mom was beside herself with pain and she became petrified at the prospect of having to birth a baby. She screamed frantically until an anesthesiologist came in and gave her an epidural. She was dilated to four centimeters. As her contractions continued, the epidural was not enough and she became terrified. Her mother could not talk her down, the daddy had to leave the room – everyone was asked to leave the room. The epidural was turned up and medication was administered intravenously. The shrieking subsided as we all waited in the hall. She was dilated to seven centimeters. Her labor progressed. Before she was ready, she was at ten centimeters and there was no more medication to be given. This birthing woman screamed and cried and swore and shrieked and there was nothing more to be done (pharmaceutically) as she endured that transition into second stage.
The doctor arrived amidst chaos and hysteria while a crowd stood, wide-eyed, in the hallway. Suddenly and abruptly, all of the ruckus stopped. Dead silence. Minutes later, a nurse emerged with a silent, swaddled infant. I will never know what actually happened in that delivery room in the wee, wee hours of the morning, but I do know there was no audible first squeal from that baby, there was no “war cry” as that laboring mom delivered her infant with her own body. I can speculate that when her practitioner walked in, he evaluated the hysterical situation and whacked that mom up with something akin to the old twilight sedation that women in the 1950’s delivered with, and he pulled that baby out before things got any crazier. That is what I honestly believe happened, but I will never really know for sure. What if she had a doula?
The two experiences I’ve been witness to, (outside of my own personal deliveries) were so vastly contrasting that I’m not even sure they were the same situation. Granted, the outcome was akin – a baby was born – but one was a controlled, comforting example of what every expectant mother hopes for, and the other was an uncontrolled barbaric exper-iment in hysteria. Seriously. I would go that far. And I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that they both could have been calm, satisfying moments. I will tell you that I am now the spokesperson for doulas. I will shout it from the rooftops. If you could have a personal, private labor coach that helped you to implement your birth plan, kept the hospital personnel on track (or at bay, if that’s what you needed), kept your pain levels down, utilizing natural methods – visualization, massage, quiet coaching, positioning, breathing instruction, even aromatherapy – and acted as a liaison between you and the delivery personnel, why would you do it any other way?
“Our doula” as I like to think of her (she was, after all, a huge part of a tremendous family event) met with my sister-in-law for weeks prior to her delivery; she got to know mom and dad. She knew their wishes, their preferences, and mom’s plan B if things were to change. Ashley the doula made sure a birth plan was on file and that the hospital stuck to mom’s wishes. She was invaluable in getting Carla through the tough transitions, sans epidural since she knew Carla’s previous back fracture would be an impediment to epidural placement (as it had after three attempts during the delivery of her first child). My sister-in-law knew what she wanted, and she knew from previous experience how hospital staff struggled to keep up with the wishes of patients from room-to-room. She knew how tough it would be to go without that epidural and I believe Ashley got her through it with confidence and an empowering sense of control regarding her own body. From the time she arrived on the scene, Ashley did not leave Carla’s side. She massaged, coached, offered sips of drinks and held the emesis basin. She kept the nursing staff informed when things changed regarding contractions and transitions. She was a relief for every person involved. I haven’t had a chance to talk to my SIL in-depth about her version of the doula experience since the arrival of their new bundle, but from what I witnessed, a doula is a real birth-saver
Crystal is not what you would call a "doula." In fact, she's not a doula at all. This makes her judgement of doulas all that more credible. She has a zany, crazy, outrageous family she resides with in North Carolina. A passionate blogger, she began writing as a creative outlet and a way to share tales and projects with her extended family who live thousands of miles to the west. Crystal is also a photograper. A Pacific Northwest native, she is currently trying to deny the small twang that may or may not be appearing in her speech. Ashley Greenwald is the one affectionately referred to as "our doula," and she serves the Reno, NV area.
Today, a dad and former client shares his feelings on hiring a doula. Enjoy!
My wide (oops! wife!) is the one suggesting doula in our house. I am the one who scoffs at this idea. Women and men have been having babies forever and I am obviously capable to be there to support her (like all the dads before me right?). When we have disagreements we have a system where we each right down 5 reasons for our point of view and we share these with each other. . . sometimes it ends up fixing our issue and sometimes it ends up a way for me to sleep on the couch. We tried it. I had some good ones.
1. Money factor when we would have lots of bills and expenses
2. Stranger at the most (almost most) intimate time of our life
3. Doctor P. said he wouldn't recommend it
4. Hurt our moms' feelings since they both want to come and we told them no
5. I really think I will feel bad if you have someone else taking care of you. I am sure I don't need a doula to help me take care of you.
Well my wife decided to hit each of my points with her own points (she even used a red pen and underlined things twice. Did I mention she is a teacher?):
1. Money factor when we would have lots of bills and expenses
YOU AREN'T HAVING THE BABY. SO WE CUT BACK ON EATING OUT.
2. Stranger at the most (almost most) intimate time of our life
WE WILL MET HER AND HIRE HER, WE GET TO CHOOSE HER. YOU AREN'T HAVING THE BABY.
3. Doctor P. said he wouldn't recommend it
DR P. ALSO SAID HE DID HIS OWN VASECTOMY. HE IS NOT HAVING THE BABY EITHER.
4. Hurt our moms' feelings since they both want to come and we told them no
REMEMBER HOW MY MOM ACTED AT OUR WEDDING? AND HOW YOUR MOM ACTED AT YOUR NEPHEW'S CHRISTENING? WE DON'T WANT THAT CRAZY IN OUR HOSPITAL ROOM. AND THEY AREN'T HAVING THE BABY EITHER.
5. I really think I will feel bad if you have someone else taking care of you. I am sure I don't need a doula to help me take care of you.
I AM SCARED TO HAVE A BABY. I HAVE NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE. I WANT A DOULA. I AGREE YOU DON'T NEED A DOULA. YOU ARE NOT HAVING THE BABY.
So in the interest of sleeping in my bed I agreed to meet some doulas. And guess what? I was right that I didn't need a doula. But my wife did. And I admit she knew what she as doing.
I met Falen through Tongue Tie Babies Support Group. When she suggested this post for Mother's Day I was thrilled, and I cried through the whole thing! Have your tissues handy! And all I can say to Falen and Dona is, thank you! Thank you! Thank you! For sharing this gift with us.
Falen: My Mother, My Doula
I knew I wanted a doula even before I became pregnant. The support that comes from being surrounded by a community of supportive women is unparalleled. But just who would that person be? Could that person be the one woman who has been there my entire life?
I knew my mother has long aspired to become a doula, to support mothers in birth. Not long after I told her we were expecting I asked the big question, will you be my doula? I was nervous and excited. She was too. She signed up for training right away.
The day of my son’s arrival finally came. I called her in the wee hours of the morning to let her know that this was the day. She drove three hours from her home to mine to be there for me. She came prepared, ready to put her newfound knowledge to work. I had been laboring for hours through the night by myself, pacing back and forth. It was so nice to have a familiar hand to hold to keep me grounded.
When I was ready to go to my birthing suite, to get the relief of the big Jacuzzi tub, she helped me call my midwife and made sure all of my bags were ready. She packed up the cars along with my husband and followed behind us as he drove us to the hospital.
When we arrive in our room, she carefully and quietly surveys the room to make sure my birth plan wishes are being honored. She assists me in communicating with the nurses as the contractions already a couple minutes apart come and go. We begin to move around the room with a rhythm. She follows me wherever I go. Holds my hand, offers her body for support. She runs her fingers through my hair or just sits quietly as I rest when my body allows.
As the day wears on I know she must be exhausted, her body must be tiring. But she never shows it. She just keeps offering herself to me. She supports me as only a mother can.
The following are the words I wrote about our experience just days after my son’s birth:
“How can someone perform so many roles and perform them so well, so seamlessly? Every touch radiated love and care. Every look raised my confidence. When I thought I couldn't possibly go any further, her presence told me I could. She did it. I can do it. She is here to support me in every moment. She is here through every contraction. She is here through every second of pure exhaustion. She is nervous and anxious but she never shows it. She is strong. She is strong for me. She labors with me. She pushes me through. She shares in my joy. She shares in my love. Our bond only grows stronger. I now know how she feels, what being a mother really means. It can't be described, only felt, only lived.”
I can’t imagine my son’s birth without her. I can’t imagine becoming a mother without my own by my side. It didn’t stop there, though. She stayed with me through the toughest time of my life. She had planned to stay a few days while we settled in to our new routine. But something wasn’t right. My son wasn’t nursing and he was losing weight rapidly.
She urged me to see a lactation consultant and went with me. At the consult he was weighed and I was told I should see his doctor immediately. The lactation consultant made an appointment for us and we went straight there. After the visit with a doctor we ended up in the NICU. They had to transport him to another hospital when he became unstable. My mother, my doula, held me up as I walked down the hallway and out the doors of the hospital without my son.
This was the hardest moment of my life. I felt like my everything had been ripped from me. She drove me to the NICU hospital and held me as we waited to see my son again. She held me in the NICU room as I stood there staring at my son hooked up to machines. She held me and her grandson while I struggled to nurse him. She was there through it all.
They made her leave after hours. But as soon as those visiting hours started she was there. Even waiting outside the door for the clock to strike so she could come give me the support I so desperately waited for through the long nights.
After we returned home so did she. I was so sad to see her go. But I knew with her encouragement and love that she had given me over the last few days that I could do it. I could be the mother I needed to be. And of course I could call on her during those quiet moments of doubt when only she would understand what I was going through. For only she was there to feel it all with me.
Dona: Mother, Nana, Doula
When my daughter asked me to be her Doula, I was so honored and excited. Not only was I going to be able to finally be a doula, something I had only dreamt of, I was going to be there to assist my daughter. I better get to work, I thought. I had to learn all I could. I wanted to be at my best, after all, this was MY daughter and MY grandson. To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. I did my best to listen to my trainers. I also read every book I could get my hands on. One of the most important things I think I did was to talk to other Doulas and Midwives about their experience.
The day finally came. The three-hour drive in the wee hours of the morning was the longest ride of my life. I was on the hands-free phone with her most of the time, checking contractions, praying that it was God’s will for me to be there when she needed me. As I arrived, we went over her home plans and realized she was in active stage and could get some relief from the big Jacuzzi in the birthing suite, so off we all went. On the way to the hospital I thought, am I doing this right, am I saying the right things? As we arrived I went over her birth plan. Was the room dark enough, was it quiet enough? Making sure every support staff had copy of her plan.
Her labor was long and at sometimes it seemed that way. In other ways it seemed to go by so quickly. She received relief from the Jacuzzi. Finally I was able to see my daughter (yes, she is my daughter and client all at once, but my heart said daughter at this moment) calm and relaxed. I remember running my fingers through her hair as I did when she was young, thinking my baby is having her own baby. Holding her hand as we had millions of times before, but this time was different.
The hours went by and I assisted her in about every laboring/pushing position you could think of (if you’re a doula you know what I mean). She was exhausted, I was exhausted, but she pushed through. And then finally her baby crowned, and she pushed through the head. Part of her birth plan was that she had wanted to be able to touch the head and that she wanted her baby to hear her voice first. Her midwife placed her hand on the baby’s head and with a finger to my lips I reminded everyone to be silent (what my daughter didn’t know is, that she had pushed the baby's head all the way out and the baby was looking at us with great wonderment). It seemed like hours as we all waited patiently in silence. Then when she was ready, the last push, and he was here!
I can’t explain the emotions I was going through. The love that I had for my daughter at that moment was like no other time before, the bond that I already felt for my grandson, and the pure physical exhaustion. I was a Mother, a Nana, and a Doula.
Falen currently teaches full time. She aspires to become a lactation consultant after her challenges breastfeeding her son. "Like" her blog to follow her and read her musings and experiences.
Dona currently teaches full time while working toward becoming a certified birth and postpartum doula through DONA. She plans to help teen moms who would otherwise be unable to afford a doula. She serves the greater Detroit area. Contact her via email.
When I read this piece by Sejal, I was surprised by things I had never thought about before -- she makes some excellent points about how we care (or lack thereof) for our new moms in this culture. While reading, I longed to have the kind of nurturing of new moms she says is common in her culture. This loss is what inspired Sejal to work as a postpartum doula. Sejal saw a need, and she worked to fix it. I can't say how that touches me -- it is a reminder that we can all work for change, one at a time, and even though there seems to be so much to do, the moms, babies, and families we help will benefit from our heart and hands.
Mother-friendly Care Initiative
Postpartum period, the fourth trimester, maternity leave time, call it what you may but this is the most underestimated time for new mothers in America. We have made gender equality, marriage equality and other things a priority, but until we make the postpartum period a valuable commodity to be invested in we are not building a stronger future generation. I am a postpartum doula and I came to America and fell in love with this country.
My home country India, is where I learnt the basics of postpartum care growing up in a family of women taking care of each other during the time after the baby arrives. After years of helping my friends during their postpartum time I decided to make this passion of mine into something that could be used for helping moms who are not my friends and family. The amount of time needed to rest after giving birth cannot be generalized as each and every mother who has given birth recovers differently.
We have all the information on speeding up the postpartum recovery, but we fail to realize that it is a rebirth of the mother too. Baby steps are not just for baby but they should also be for the mom. The uterus, the vagina, the abdominal muscles, the breasts and the entire endocrine system go through a reorganization in the time following birth. All of these systems need time to heal and some more than others. Let us all unite to value the postpartum body and its recovery and help the new family have a wonderful time together. How do you get the rest when there are dishes to be done, laundry to be folded, house to be cleaned and baby to be fed? The postpartum doula will be there to help you with all of those and other things so you can have more time bonding with your baby and creating beautiful memories for your new family.
Sleep deprivation, stress from delivery, blood loss, pain associated with cesarean recovery, hormonal changes affecting the mood, and household chores are just a few challenges faced by a new mother. Add to that the worry that comes with taking care of this precious being who is solely dependant on the new mom is not a small challenge. The incidence of baby blues or postpartum depression in other cultures, including mine from India, are so less that it is sure in my mind that if women get the help at such an important transitional time as a new mother we could change the statistics in America too.
The dads need help too, and why not? There is enough research supporting that. ASKING FOR HELP does not make anyone weak, but on the contrary, it makes you see the REALITY and prove to yourself that you are HUMAN and we are a social being who needs people around us to help us.
I hope to work with families in empowering them to be stronger together by getting help at the right time. I strongly believe that it takes a village to raise a family and I would love to be a part of your village.
My postpartum doula career was inspired by a lactation consultant and the birth of my niece. My need to care for people has been fulfilled in this career. I come from a family of healthcare professionals like General Surgeons, Ob-Gyns, Pediatricians, Plastic surgeons and I grew up with babies being born around me. I am also very proud to be from India, a culture that is known worldwide for its heritage and hospitality. I feel that when you help a mom you are helping the entire family to grow and be empowered. With my education and interest I believe that I can be a part of the village that is needed to raise a child for a better future. I love to cook for my family, friends and even my clients. I love that food connects us all in one way or another. My primary goal as a postpartum doula is to empower new parents with all the skills that are needed to raise their child. I have also helped many of my friends during their postpartum recovery. To promote healing through evidence-based information and getting the family to be confident as caregivers is very important to me.
I am currently 37 weeks, 6 days pregnant. This means, like Arnie Grape says, "I could go at any time." In the past have I ever gone this early? No. But two nights this last week I started having irregular contractions in the evening -- more than those warm-up Braxton Hicks, but less than what I deem to be "true" labor. And it has given me a little bit of anxiety as to the realization that yes, someday soon, this baby will have to come out.
I have taught families about birth for years! I have touted the benefits of minimal-intervention during birth as long as mom and baby are okay. I have been excited for birth, pledged my allegience to birth, shared my mammalian theories about birth, and basically been on fire for the wonders birth can bring -- simply from a new, sweet baby, all the way to that complicated glimpse into what we are capable of as women. Birth has been my world -- it has been something I believe in, something I put my faith in, and something I have experienced as an incredible part of being a woman.
Yet here I sit, getting heart flutters and panic, as I experience a contraction that feels a little stronger than normal. When I get those nagging self-doubts or scary flashes of fear, I push them right out of my mind -- I can't even entertain them. If I had business with them, if there were something fruitful to come from their company, then there would be a purpose in having them hang around. But I know this much about myself: Negative thoughts are part and parcel to my brain and its chemistry, and they mostly have no function to fulfill.
To counter my own inclination of dwelling on the negative, I have found some solace: When I think about the women I have supported during their own experiences of birth, I find my confidence in birth being rebuilt.
There was Karen, who birthed her second son at home in a horse-trough-looking tub, all 12 pounds, 2 ounces of him, like nobody's business.
Amanda, who exercised her right to attempt a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) in a local hospital; she walked into the hospital (no wheel chair for her!) at 7 centimeters open and soon after birthed her baby in a squat, close to the floor (I don't know if she even sat in the bed at all before the baby was born!).
Kim, who had her baby in the car on the way to the hospital with just the support of her husband.
Tara, who labored at home with a walk to Jamba Juice while she and her husband shared the story of how they met years before, as co-workers, at that same Jamba Juice (he snuck a kiss in the walk-in fridge!). Their baby was born a few hours later, peacefully and in the water.
Another Tara, who labored hard for almost two days to bring Brian Patrick into the world, on St. Patrick's day, no doubt, after being thisclose to having a cesarean birth.
Leah, who didn't let her fears get in the way of the hard work that birth is.
Kim, who was on bed-rest -- she ate breakfast, had a conference call for work, realized her water broke, went to the hospital and had a baby within an hour, had a follow-up call from someone at work regarding the conference call, and then had Thai food for lunch!
Laura, who experienced the worst kind of tragedy during pregnancy which she used for strength to have a home-water-VBAC -- I will never forget the words she kept chanting during transition, "The only way out is through. The only way out is through."
There are so many more. I remember them all. One thing I will say about birth -- no matter how you have a baby, no matter where you are or what your personal experience will be made up of, birth is a day of hard work. Regardless of whether a woman has a spontaneous, normal birth, an epidural, a cesarean birth (or whatever combination), it is generally not a day at the spa. But one thing I have always said, it is mostly a mind-game: You can psyche yourself up or you can psyche yourself out. I, for one, am working on the former, and I am so grateful for all those families who have allowed me to witness their power and strength, because right now, that's exactly what I need.
The excitement that surrounds an expectant mother starts building as soon as the good news is shared. As her burgeoning belly grows so does attention from others. Baby’s arrival brings relatives, friends, and neighbors…at first. But as the much-awaited birth comes and goes, so do the people. Often this can leave a new mother feeling isolated, tired, and depressed.
With three little boys, a husband, running out at wild hours to help women have babies, teaching childbirth classes once or twice weekly, leading a breastfeeding support group, and then doing all the normal stuff one needs to do at home, I sometimes feel like a spoke on the wheel of the bicycle of my family’s life. I see myself, spinning around and around and around, the playing card taped to the rim making an annoying ‘clack, clack, clack,’ sound like the Big Wheel on The Price is Right.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)