For today's post I collected an assortment of comments from moms who had doulas.
Amanda, second birth, first time with a doula: I knew I wanted a doula after my first birth did not go as planned As a labor nurse I thought I would be able to handle labor, especially with a very supportive husband. Boy was I wrong. I know I could of had the birth I wanted had I had a doula, so when I got pregnant with my second I had to have a doula! The loving care and support a doula provides is priceless! The encouragement and reassurance through out the whole pregnancy was so important to me and knowing that a knowledgable woman would be at my side to support me and my wishes for the labor I wanted was what my heart, soul and mind needed to have a completely natural birth! Ending my birthing journey with Kim Humble at my side was a perfect ending! I admire all doulas for their dedication and love of the birth process and for giving up time with their families and lives to help empower woman during their birth process.
Wendi, doulas with her second and third babies: Having a doula was the only difference between my first and second birth and wow what a difference it made! The counter pressure on my lower back during contractions was a godsend. It was so helpful physically but also emotionally to have someone there to focus on me. Avary and Evie, doula-assisted births. Avary: 1-03 with Erin Romrell in Clearwater, FL. Evie: 5-11 with Jarynna Chua, Chico, CA.
Jenny, birth with a doula after a loss: Like many people I didn't think I needed a doula. My husband is an excellent helper and I had never had problems with relaxation and delivery. However, after having a stillbirth my very good friend who is a doula gently offered advice that it may be helpful to have someone not as emotionally attached to the experience in the room to help us both. She was so very right about that. We were more anxious than we knew going into our birth experience post stillbirth. Our wonderful doula/friend/sister was there for the both of us to keep us calm and focused. My husband still did most of my support and coaching, but she was there to run interference with hospital staff and convey pertinent information in a calming way from our midwife. It also turned out to be a huge blessing in that our midwife had 5 women delivering at the same time so we had the extra attention we needed at a time when we were both immensely happy and in a bit of mourning that we didn't know we hadn't yet done.
Rebecca, first birth, doula support for birth, and postpartum depression: My doula helped me through post partum depression. She was invaluable during my birth but the support we got later was what kept me from cracking. We had her come in two nights to take the baby and let me sleep after 6 weeks of insomnia. It got me on the right path to recovery and I trusted her more than anyone else to take the baby at night while we slept.
Kari, first baby with a late decision to get a doula: The prenatal support given was invaluable. My doula helped me not only with the obvious stuff like practicing relaxation techniques and different positions, but with building confidence to have the birth I wanted. I went ten days past my "due" date but never questioned my decision to not be induced, as we had talk about the cascade of interventions that often follow. She helped me trust my body and backed me up when my gut instinct told me to switch providers at 37 weeks pregnant.
Our preparation allowed me to labor at home as long as possible, and then my doula advised when to head to the hospital. I'm grateful to have been fully in active labor when admitted, and didn't have any issues with stalling. I attribute this to how safe I felt. While in labor, my memories are mostly touch and hearing, and feeling cocooned by the women present - my doula, midwife, and midwife in training. Birth was a very female centered thing for me. My doula helped me stay centered when I hadn't even notice that my efforts and pushing were less controlled and therefore less productive. I'm happy to have had a non medicated hospital birth, and felt very empowered by the experience. I can't imagine childbirth without a doula! [Kari's doula was Avira Wenn in the Visalia Area.]
Katie, second baby though adoption, first time with a doula: We hired a doula for a pretty unique reason. My husband and I were adopting a baby, so we hired a doula for our son's birth mother. I had gone to her child birth classes with her, and was going to be with her during her labor (though I had never given birth myself). But I knew that once the baby arrived he would be my priority. I had an awful image of this amazing young woman who was giving me the most precious gift going home from the hospital with no one to check up on her, navigating a difficulty time alone. She had some specific desires for how she wished her birth to go, and we needed an advocate who would be there for her before, during and after her birth. One reason we chose an open adoption was because we feel strongly about a birth mother's rights. But we were also realistic; we wanted a baby badly. The emotions surrounding a birth and adoption can change the best laid plans, and it seemed a conflict of interest for me to be her advocate during that time. Our adoption facilitator suggested we hire a doula. I am so happy we did! Thank you, Stacie! I know initially the adoption element was a bit out of your comfort zone, but you were amazing!
In honor of all my doula sisters out there, I am sharing different posts featuring different aspects of life in the doula world.
Starting the month off is a post by my lovely friend, Anne Junge. Anne is a DONA-certified doula who was one of my partners at the Chico Doula Circle. She volunteered as a doula for a local hospital. She is a mom and a 4-H Lover, and she has an incredible sense of humor (very important in this line of work!). She wrote this post about all the things she learns as she supports families to their best birth stories. Anne has a doula heart and a doula brain, and I value her outlook and what she has to offer. She can be found at her website or on Facebook.
I learn at least one “new” thing at every birth I attend. One of the best things I have ever done in my development as a doula is keeping a doula journal. I made sure the journal I choose was pretty so I would enjoy retrieving it to use. It is smallish so that it is easily portable in my doula bag. As I enter year 4 as a doula, the benefits of keeping a journal are coming back to me.
So what do I record? The bare essentials, like first names of mom, dad, and baby. The date. The location. The care provider. Vaginal or cesarean. Epidural or not. Then I write down one special memory and one “thing” that I learned. Most entries are one page. Sometimes there is more than one special memory and more than one thing that I learned.
At the start of each year I also record some of the goals I would like to meet in the coming year. These are examples of some goals I have already met and some I am still looking forward to:
-Make a webpage.
-Have a booth at the Farmer’s Market.
-Attend Lamaze Training.
-Send in DONA recertification packet in August.
At the end of the year, I do a little recap on the statistics of my birth work. I can provide these statistics to my clients when they seek reimbursement from their health insurance!
-How many vaginal births versus cesarean births?
-How many epidurals versus no pain meds?
-Which hospitals did I attend the most?
The journal has been a great way to maintain focus on the how, when, where and why of my work in the birth world. I read my journal two to three times a year. Time changes perspective on events and often leads to new insights on why things happened the way they did. The new insight gives me a broader, more complete knowledge base to work from. So what have I learned?
I always pack extra hair bands in my doula bag, because my clients often get irritated with their hair in their face. Little did I know that one day I would use one to pull back the midwife’s hair (when her hair knot did not work)!
Always bring a fresh change of clothes. I never know when a birth is going to be a little lonnngggg. That includes socks. And underwear. I feel fresher and smell better.
Some women don’t like to be touched. Expand my verbal support toolbag.
Never, ever close my mind to the suggestions of a nurse or a care provider. Question them? Yes. But never dismiss them without respectful consideration. I have learned many things from nurses, midwives and obstetricians. But, on the other hand, the time to have an in-depth, philosophical conversation on “episiotomy or not to episiotomy” is probably not when my client is pushing (not one of my prouder doula moments).
If a mom gets discouraged during pushing, encourage her to feel the baby’s head. The amount of energy they find at that moment is amazing. Learned from a midwife.
At some births, I may never feel like I am in sync with the mom, the dad, the staff, the whatever. BUT, the most important thing is continuous caring presence. It makes a difference-it really does. Thank-you cards received months later and chance encounters with past clients in a grocery store have all proved to me that my presence was truly appreciated and positive. On the other hand, there will be births that are unhappy, but my presence will probably make it easier to bear.
Birth number 4, I decided I was never again going to tell a mom to push. There are plenty of other people in the room willing to do that. Instead, I focus on telling her how well she is doing, wiping her brow, reminding her to take a deep breath for baby, giving her a sip of water.
Some babies come really fast. Do I need to say more? Stealing a phrase from one of my doula sisters, “Use your spidey sense.” If a mom seems transitiony or pushy, trust your doula instinct.
Extended family love updates. Take a stroll past the waiting room on the way to a bathroom break. Give them an update. They may feel uninformed. It is a great time to provide educational support that may lead to them, in turn, providing better support to your client.
Few births are “typical.” They almost all have something that makes them unique. So, essentially the more you experience, the more likely you are to have the next birth teach you something new. A concept I learned from a lactation consultant.
I want a peanut ball. My clients like them and not all hospitals have them. Doula work is my passion. It is an art. It takes creativity, an open mind, empathy, diplomacy, and a willingness to learn. My journal gives me a chance to rejoice at the special memories and acknowledge the things I learned that will make me a better doula at the next birth, and the next birth, and the birth after that. Looking forward to recording my next Happy Pushing memory!
As an educator, I am pretty easy-going. My main goal is to offer accurate, evidence-based information and trust the expectant family to make the decisions they feel are right for their situation. I don't give a lot of "you should do this" kind of advice -- it's just not my style, and I don't think it lends well to a woman learning to trust her inner wisdom.
Seeing mom working so hard to bring their baby out? Making noises that seem more appropriate coming from a howling monkey instead of a human? Watching things that maybe one has only seen on Discovery Health Channel through half-closed eyes? The blood, sweat, and tears of it all? Does that answer your question?
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)