Note: There is often the need for back-up posts for 31 Days of Doulas -- if you would like to share something you have written, contact me and we can see where you might fit.
I loved Jessica's piece immediately. Not all doula days are this packed with life, but it absolutely does happen! Many doulas are cautious about taking multiple clients with close due dates -- I know for me, the only times I have had two births in one day is when I had clients who were due weeks or even a month apart -- then inevitably one client goes early and one client goes late. That's the doula life -- unpredictability at its finest! With confidence, reliable back-up, and maybe a coffee or a sweet treat, we manage to balance the best we can.
4 am One of my clients texts that she’s been having contractions on and off for a couple of hours that keep waking her up. I ask a few questions to get more details. I try to go back to sleep.
5:00 Different client texts that she’s been having regular contractions since about 1. They’re about 10 minutes apart. We converse for a few minutes.
5:10 Toddler wakes up for her morning nurse.
5:25 I slide out from under my baby and head downstairs to check my doula bag. All I really take with me are personal care items like toothbrush and toothpaste in case of a long birth, and snacks. I top off my snacks and mill around a bit. I start texting my back-ups because obviously I can’t be two places at once. I freak out a little when I don’t hear back right away.
6:30 My daughter B wakes up and asks right away if I have a birth. She’s so astute. I text my fellow Essentials tutor and our Classical Conversations director and let them know I might need a sub for my class.
6:40 Water broke for second client! She reports contractions are little closer. I stay in regular contact with my client and her husband as I get ready and get the children ready. I tell my husband all of the things that need to happen. It seems this client’s moving pretty quickly, so I decide to head to the hospital while my clients wait for Grandma to come to their house to take care of their toddler. I hear back from my back-ups and breathe big sighs of relief. I give necessary info so I don’t have to think about my other client still having irregular birth waves during another client’s birth. I try to get the kids organized to help my husband as much as possible; they do amazingly helping each other.
7:50 I text my clients to see how they’re doing as I’m pulling into the parking garage. They are on their way.
8:05 In triage–the nurse is all business, bustles in and tells client to pee in cup and change into a gown. My client is working incredibly hard. It always amazes me how strong and beautiful women are when they feel loved and supported through their labors. Her husband was feeling a little frantic, but he is taking good care of her. She is handling her labor waves wonderfully, even as they come every few minutes. She climbs up onto the narrow bed and promptly assumes the elbows and knees position. I suspect she is ready to just get this baby out, so I ask if she wants to skip the monitoring and just get checked to see if she could get back in her room. She thinks that sounds like a solid plan and affirms with a terse “YEAH!” It’s hard for women in labor to respond to people’s questions, and it’s best to just ask questions or make statements they can answer with a nod or shake of the head. The midwife asks if she can flip over to have her cervix checked. My client does not think that sounds like a good idea. The apprentice midwife is awesome and says she would do her best to check her in this “non-traditional” position! Many care providers make the laboring mother roll over on their backs for a cervical check. Apprentice midwife concludes client is at a 7 or 8 (10 being complete and ready to push the baby out), and we could immediately move down the hall to a room.
8:20 Officially admitted. Once we get settled in the room, I start the tub in case she has time to get in the soothing warmth of the water. They still have to monitor baby for a while according to hospital regulations. I’m stroking her hair and head, saying soothing, encouraging things while her husband rubs her back. Dad suddenly realizes his car is still down in the circle drive in the front of the hospital, and thinks he should move it. I say, “No, no, stay here! I’ll run down and park it for you.” I figure the distance would be about the same so I decide to run around the hospital instead of having to walk through it, and I am literally sprinting once I get outside the building. It feels amazing to run, even though I never do it anymore and am quickly out of breath. I find them a primo spot right next to the hospital door in the parking garage, grab their bags from the trunk and hightail down the hall, back to the elevators.
8:35 Baby born. As I enter the Labor and Delivery Unit, the nurse grouches, “You missed it.” My first thought is “Oh man! Bummer!” and my second thought is “Better me than him!” But all I say is, “I never thought I’d miss a birth because I was moving their car!” I have missed it by mere seconds thanks to my sprinting, as they haven’t cut the cord or hatted the baby yet. Mama is looking more gorgeous than ever now that baby is here, and Daddy is all choked up and beaming. I love these moments! I immediately pluck up my camera and snap some photos. I’m strictly an amateur photographer, but I know my families appreciate some memories captured from those first precious moments. I hang around for a couple of hours after the birth to answer questions, give leg massages, run errands such as getting heated blankets or coffee, talk things over, help with baby’s first breastfeeding if necessary, take photos of when babe gets weighed and measured, and just be there, holding space for them, as they need.
11:00 I take my leave and head for our Classical Conversations Community, where my four older kids already are. I’d been in a bit of a time warp and can’t believe it is still morning! It is a grey, wet day which usually makes me sluggish and morose, but not today! I swing by Panera to treat myself to a scone, a breakfast sandwich and coffee. Depending on the time of day, I almost always get myself a store bought coffee after a birth. I feel like I deserve it and, just on Birth Days, I want to act like a grown-up who has a job and money, instead of a stay at home mom, who scrimps on the coffee creamer. It’s always surreal for me to go back into the regular world after just witnessing the miracle of a new life, and seeing the overwhelming love between new parents and from them to their new family member. It’s almost weird to see people just working on their laptops, just drinking their lattes, doing regular people things. I want to yell at them, “Don’t you know what I just got to do?! Don’t you know where I just WAS?! Don’t you know what just happened? A BABY WAS BORN! A new person was given LIFE today! A mama found out how strong and powerful and wonderful she is!! Don’t you KNOW?!” But I hardly ever do that. I arrive at Classical Conversations in time to see the kids do their review. I have some really amazing conversations, and a friend prays for me and some relationship struggles I’ve been having. I immediately feel the pain and heartsick hurt dissipate. It is really incredible.
12:00 pm We all eat lunch together, which is always loud and overwhelming, but I get to talk to my friends and be with my Mama Tribe.
1-3 In the afternoons, I teach an English class. We do math review in addition to English grammar and writing. My phone goes off right at the end of class. Perfect. My text tone for my doula clients is the Justin Bieber chorus “baby, baby, baby ohhh” which gets my attention, no matter the time of day, and always makes me smile. I have been in contact with my other client all day and she is contracting more regularly now, and they are feeling more intense. We decide I would take my kids home, spend some time with my wee ones, and then I would head in to her house after an hour or so. I snuggle and nurse Finnella and read a few books to Elivette. I chat with the older kids and try to squeeze in their daily quota of hugs.
4:45 I arrive at client number two’s house. We spend time chatting while she is laboring. Her husband gets their other kids ready to go and I keep her company and help as she seems to need through the labor waves. She is handling them wonderfully.
7:10 When we get to the hospital, I am completely shocked to hear her tell the nurse they were a 10+ on the pain scale because she was so completely calm and relaxed on the outside. She really wants me to keep talking during her waves, which is surprisingly awkward for me. I’m used to most women not wanting chit-chat during the contractions. Everyone is upbeat and lively for quite a while. She watches some funny YouTube videos (Zach King, if you’re wondering), and we laugh and banter. As things heat up, we discover scalp rubs really help her relax during her birth waves. We do some relaxation exercises and she says she is feeling really calm and peaceful during this part of her labor.
7:44 We are in her room. She has some delicious essential oils in her diffuser going and I am thankful because this room really smells like nursing home.
8:47 It is time to push, and she starts out on her back. After pushing there awhile I suggest a squatting position. She tries that for a while and feels it isn’t effective. She wants to be on her back. I learn that as long as the mother chooses the position, it’s a great position to be in.
9:39 Her baby comes out face down, and completely rotates to face up. This is really unusual! Baby’s shoulders get stuck, which can be dangerous because the baby can’t get oxygen while the head is out and the chest is still in the birth canal. Extracting them is a little more complicated than usual because of baby’s face up position, but the midwife acts quickly and stays calm. Her expertise and instant action save the day.
9:41 Baby born! Baby is able to be placed immediately on mom before they take her over to the warmer and check her oxygen levels. She is fine and almost right away is brought back to mom. It was scary there for long minute though! I am so happy they were able to put baby on mom right after birth.
I’ve been at a homebirth when baby wasn’t breathing right away and mom was holding baby and talking to her and rubbing her while the midwife gave oxygen and did the necessary things. I’ve also been at a hospital birth where baby was taken away immediately to give oxygen and do the necessary things. The mom had no idea what was happening, the doctor wasn’t giving any kind of updates, and it was terrifying. I wish they could always do the former as much as possible. I stayed for a few hours after the birth, taking more photos, talking and helping any way I could. This mom was still nursing her toddler and didn’t really need any assistance nursing.
Two baby girls, born almost exactly 13 hours apart. They were both third children, and one weighed over three pounds more than the other. Both mamas handled their labors gorgeously, and completely differently. Two different hospitals, two different midwives, interestingly, both with a midwifery student.
I got home around midnight and promptly went to sleep.
Jessica Holst is a farmer's wife, the mother six rambunctious blessings, and the owner of Farm Fresh Birth in Iowa. They live in a temperamental 160+ year old farm house that has had Holsts living in it since 1889. She home educate her little ones, tutors an English class in her homeschool community, and writes for the Quad City Mom's Blog.
Jessica has experienced a Cesarean birth, a hospital VBAC with epidural, an unplanned unassisted homebirth, and three midwife attended homebirths -- including a water birth. Jessica's varied birth experiences ignited a fire within her to pursue birth work, as she knows how life changing the power of birth is. She knows how crucial being appropriately and continuously supported during birth is. As a doula and a Birth Boot Camp childbirth educator, she offers support to Quad City women.
The excitement that surrounds an expectant mother starts building as soon as the good news is shared. As her burgeoning belly grows, so does the 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.
In some cultures, the new mother is relieved of her daily duties and attended to for up to 40 days postpartum. Special restorative foods are brought to the mother, she is taken care of by members of her family, and her sole responsibility is to bond with her new baby. In our culture, 40 days after birth typically sees the end of a mother’s maternity leave!
You can help meet a new mother’s needs simply by using your heart and your hands, and sometimes your ears. Never expect to just plop in and be entertained – always ask what you can do to help. Often mothers have reservations about letting you pitch in with cleaning or laundry. If this is the case, place a simple list numbered 1, 2, 3 on the refrigerator. Ask her to write down three things she would feel comfortable accepting help with. The next time you visit, glance at the list and get going! If she insists life is great, do something unexpected for her. Bring her a pot of homemade soup and some warm bread. Drop off a new pair of pajamas for her, or the baby, or both! Demonstrate your active listening skills by using attending body language and summarizing her shared feelings; suspend your judgment and offer suggestions only if she asks for your opinion.
I have the fortunate opportunity to nurture and support women of the Bakersfield and Visalia areas during their experiences of pregnancy and birth. I have noticed the mother who functions well, feels good, and exudes confidence early in the postpartum period is the mother who continues to be blessed with help and visits from her extended supporters. Babies bring joy, but they bring demands as well. By meeting the needs of the new mother in your life, whether she is a friend, a neighbor, or your own daughter, you are enabling her to better care for and meet the needs of her own baby.
Three things that can help after the baby comes:
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)