Amber is no stranger to the 31 Days of Doulas project. She wrote about the advantages of a doula who hasn't had children yet, how doulas help in all kinds of births, and her "labor" as she started nursing school. This year's addition gives us a peek inside Amber's life. Nursing school is not easy! And Amber's confidence was shaky -- until she realized the true value those doula skills held.
Doula training has a way of bringing out the best in people. Sure, before I was a doula, I was caring and compassionate, but I was also a wild 20-year-old who wasn’t always focused on others. When I completed doula training at 22 years old, my eyes were opened to the injustices that many women and families face as they meet their baby for the first time. I was made more aware of how much what we say matters, and how important it is to simply listen and respect people. During my training, I also learned physical skills to provide comfort. I didn’t know it at the time, but the knowledge I gained over my two-day doula training would stay with me, even when I wasn’t supporting women and families during the childbearing year. Most notably, my doula skills have all proved extremely useful as I’ve journeyed (yes, sometimes trudged) through my last 2.5 years as a student nurse.
Prior to starting nursing school, I absolutely loved being a doula. Being present for one of the most intimate moments in a family’s life was an immense privilege. The qualities that I already had were allowed to shine when I was a doula for a family. Once I started nursing school, I was immensely saddened that the magical relationships that I built with my doula clients would be a thing of the past. It was time to become a nurse, and my touchy-feely relationships would only be distant fond memories.
At the end of my first semester in nursing school, I was talking to one of my professors about how much harder nursing school was turning out to be, in relation to my expectation of what it would be like. Her response was one I vividly remember. She told me that you can be a nurse forever, and learn all these fancy technical skills, but that it is extremely hard to learn how to be truly empathetic, be good at listening, and have emotional intelligence towards your patient. She told me that it seemed I already had these skills. It wasn’t until she pointed this out to me that I had really stopped and realized just how much I had translated my doula training into my practice as a student nurse.
I hadn’t realized it, but I had been all of my patients’ doulas. The older folks who had dementia who just needed someone to talk to, the veteran who was depressed, the widow who was confused and scared because she didn’t know where she was -- these were now my doula ‘clients’. Except, they were my patients.
There was something that I brought to my practice that was slightly different than some of my classmates. Now, the other students in my cohort are amazing. We are all very different, and have very different skills. Some of them are fearless, they always jump at the opportunity to insert an IV or catheter. I, on the other hand, was sometimes almost petrified with anxiety just thinking about doing something I didn’t feel confident in. Some of my other classmates were really book-smart, they had memorized complex physiological processes and medications. I sometimes compared myself to these other students, and felt inadequate, that I would never be as good as them. But, once I realized that emotional support was my strong suit, I stopped beating myself up.
When it came to talking to patients who were depressed, needed someone to talk to, had just received bad news, had dementia and missed their loved ones, or were in pain, I felt very comfortable. It seemed that knowing appropriate yet comforting things to say came easily for me, and I didn’t shy away from using physical touch on my patients. With this knowledge in hand, the rest of nursing school has been different for me. Yes, I’ve had some tough days (and nights!) but I know that every single one of my patients felt emotionally supported, respected, and truly cared for. I know that if I were in the hospital, this is how I would want my nurse to be, too.
Now that I’m at the end of my nursing school journey, I feel confident that I’ve left a trail of cared-for patients in my wake. The unique set of skills that I will always carry with me as a doula can be translated into any area of life, and I am so happy that I don’t ever have to stop being a doula. I am especially grateful that I also had the opportunity to share some of my doula-ness with my classmates. I think some of the knowledge about providing comfort will stay with my classmates. Some of the doula wisdom I’ve shared with my class, which can be translated to almost any patient are:
I’m planning to start working as a labor and delivery nurse this summer, so I will truly get to put my doula skills to use on my patients. But, I also know that wherever nursing may take me, no matter a patient's sex, age, or whatever brought them into contact with our medical system, I will always be their doula.
Amber is a special soul to me. Years ago when I was bringing the first of many DONA-birth doula trainings that my former trainer, Connie Sultana, would offer in Chico, CA, I got a phone call. It was Amber's mom. She asked me questions about doulas, the training, what it would mean for someone like her daughter who had a fascination with helping people and a passion for birth. She passed along that information to Amber, and the rest is history! Amber and I became fast friends although we weren't exactly peers -- me with three kids, and she, college-aged and free! But we had a connection, and we built on that. Slowly we started finding more doulas, bringing Connie back for more trainings, serving families, and creating plans for better ways to serve families. Eventually we helped form Chico Doula Circle. All this time, Amber was set on getting into a nursing program. I moved away, and she got into a program -- and here she is, at the end of that schooling-journey, ready to jump into the world as a nurse! Amber will be an amazing nurse, in any field, although her heart is set on birth. I am so excited for what her future holds!
How fun to have the first English/Spanish contribution for 31 Days of Doulas! Clara is a doula in an area of Argentina with a high cesarean birth rate. She told me, a woman basically has to be progressing very fast to have a vaginal birth. When faced with so many obstacles to normal birth, it is important to retain your passion for doula work -- what brought you here in the first place? And to have an incredible support system in place. I am confident Clara has both. I am also confident that she will make a difference in the lives of the families she serves. I can't wait to see where doula work takes Clara!
The night after my first birth as a doula I couldn’t sleep -- I was very sad, very tired, and very quiet.
“My water broke, no contractions yet, the midwife told me to go to the hospital at five.” I was on a bus, busy with formalities when I received the mom’s text. I went back to my house as soon as I could, checked-in with my doula group on WhatsApp, washed my hair, got my doula bag, printed DONA certification papers, and left. Filled with excitement and adrenaline, I was happy. At last, 2 years after my first doula course, 3 months after my DONA training, a mama had trusted me to be her doula, and I was over the moon; although I knew this wasn’t the best scenario.
“Remember all our plans? Well, we are going to let them go.” I said that to the mom, but I was saying it to myself, too. An hour later I was in her bedroom, had turned the lights down, and understood that the couple’s choice was to go soon to the hospital. I had half an hour to time contractions. With the birth ball, rebozo in dad’s hands, and massage, a few contractions came -- shy, like someone who comes into a new place and doesn't know what to do. Respecting their decision to leave for the hospital at five (we had an hour or so of driving), I suggested we go.
“Wait, I have to do some stuff before -- get me the hair iron.” So there I was, with a mom about to go to the hospital not in labour -- but I was supporting with love what was important to her though it wasn't ideal to me. I took the iron, and while she was on the birth ball I did my best so she wouldn't realise I have no experience with hair irons (my hair is so straight!), and my fingers were burning. I took my time, this was important to the mom, so it was important to me. When I finished I helped the dad so he wouldn't forget anything. She put on perfume, called for a car, and we were out.
“It’s not a big deal, just relax yourself.” The driver had been a policeman, and he had attended three births himself. I think this man knew more about births than a lot of OBs. The energy in the car was pretty high, there was confidence and smiles, but the mom already knew that as soon as she entered the hospital, the interventions and protocols and rules would start.
“We’re going to try a vaginal birth, ok? But you know that at 37 weeks, your cervix is immature, and a c-section, is always a possibility, ok?” The midwife talked to the mama, but she was in another place. She sadly signed admission papers -- each form was a broken expectation given away with her street clothes and her credit card.
“Everything is perfect, Clari. There’s always a bigger plan than the one we can see or understand.” The WhatsApp group of my doula-mates was strong, careful, douling the doula. The same group that replied when I asked for a photo of “Labouring in bed” by Penny Simkin. In the hospital, I learned I would not able to be with the couple in the room -- rules are rules and only one person goes with the mama. We all sat in the waiting room. I lent my doula stuff to the dad and gave him some advice and information. When the mom was finally called, she was so upset I didn’t know what to say as they walked away.
The waiting room was full with grandmas, aunts, sisters and expecting couples. Absolutely every birth of that afternoon/night was a cesarean birth. C-sections were so many that the OR was full all the time. I cried a little, then got calmed -- I did my best, there was nothing I could do but wait, think positively about them, pray a bit, and wait some more. We were on the 10th floor, and as I watched elevator numbers rise up, I tried to visualize it was the mom progressing to 10. I listened to sticky-sweet love songs on TV, and whenever I opened WhatsApp, my doulas were always there, supporting me.
No news. I texted the dad, sending him inspirational pictures, advice, good intentions -- they knew I was there. Time passed and I thought that maybe so many scheduled c-sections (Easter holidays were coming) would give her some time to progress. Five hours later, I saw the OB, and then the midwife.
“The baby was born.” I never, ever wrote a message so fast. I needed them, I needed my doulas. Their experience was my support, their words, my relief. I asked the midwife if everything was fine and she said yes, “she didn’t progress and she had a c-section." She said I was able to see them now. I started to go down the stairs. I cried. I cursed. I read messages of support, of the lovely presence beyond this hospital, doula sisters. I held my tears and entered the room.
“You know how this works… doulas, midwifes, the more you know about it, the worse it is.” I thought the worst was over, I was wrong. There was the midwife, putting poison in mom’s mind with her words, blaming the c-section on a painful tired new mama who knew too much or had too much support, who was still dealing with anesthesia. I turned down the lights, stroked the mama, and watched a new mama with her baby -- the greatest love that exists, the one that heals everything.
Mi Primer Acompañamiento
La noche de mi primer acompañamiento como doula no pude dormir, estaba muy triste, muy cansada, y también muy tranquila.
“Rompí bolsa, estoy sin contracciones, la partera me indicó que me interne a las 5.” Estaba en un colectivo yendo a hacer trámites cuando recibo el mensaje de la mamá. Volví a mi casa lo más rápido que pude, di aviso a mi grupo de doulas, me lavé el pelo, agarré las cosas, imprimí los papeles de DONA y salí. Después de la excitación y la adrenalina inicial, disfruté. Por fin, después de 2 años de mi primer formación de doula, a 3 meses de la capacitación de DONA, una mamá había confiado en mí, y yo estaba en las nubes de la felicidad, aunque sabía que el escenario no era el mejor.
“¿Viste todos nuestros planes? Bueno, los vamos a soltar.” Se lo dije a la mamá pero me lo dije a mí misma. Una hora después estaba en su cuarto, había bajado las luces, y comprendido que el deseo de la pareja era llegar pronto al sanatorio. Tenía media hora para llamar a las contracciones. Con la pelota, un poco de manteo de parte del papá y masajes, fueron llegando algunas contracciones, tímidas, como quien recién llega a un lugar nuevo y no sabe bien qué hacer. Respetando el deseo de llegar puntual a la institución (teníamos una hora o más de viaje), sugerí ir saliendo.
“Esperá, antes tengo que hacer cosas, alcanzame la planchita.” Ahí estaba yo, con una mamá a punto de internarse sin trabajo de parto, acompañando con profundo amor lo posible, lo real, dejando de lado lo ideal. Agarré la planchita y mientras ella estaba en la pelota, hice mi mejor esfuerzo para que no se note que soy casi inexperta en el tema (mi pelo es hiper lacio) y que me quemaba los dedos. Me tomé mi tiempo, esto era importante para ella, así que fue importante para mí. Al terminar ayudé al papá a que no se olvide nada, ella se puso perfume, llamó al remís y nos fuimos.
“No es nada del otro mundo, solamente hay que relajarse.” El remisero había sido policía, y había atendido él mismo 3 partos en vía pública. Hoy creo que el remisero sabe más de partos que muchos médicos. La energía en el auto estaba alta, había confianza y sonrisas, pero la mamá ya sabía que apenas pise el sanatorio, empezaría el baile del protocolo institucional.
“Vamos a tratar de que sea por vía vaginal, ¿sí? Pero igualmente vos sabés que en semana 37 el cuello está inmaduro y que la opción de la cesárea siempre está, ¿sí?” La partera le hablaba pero ella estaba en otro lado. Firmaba los papeles de la internación con tristeza, cada formulario era una expectativa que se iba, que debía entregar junto con su ropa de calle y la tarjeta de crédito.
“Todo es perfecto Clari. Siempre hay un plan más grande que el que podemos ver o entender.” El grupo de whatsapp con mis compañeras doulas atento, firme, douleando a la doula. El mismo grupo que respondió de la mejor manera cuando les pedí una foto de “Trabajo de parto en la cama” de Penny Simkin. Ya me habían dicho que no podía pasar, que por normas sólo pasa una persona, que es la misma que luego entra a sala de partos. Nos sentamos a esperar la internación, le pasé mis cosas de doula al papá, le di consejos, y le reenvié la información de Penny Simkin. Cuando la vinieron a buscar, el ánimo de la mamá estaba tan bajo que no supe qué decirle.
En la sala de espera había abuelas, tías, hermanas, parejas. Absolutamente todos los nacimientos de esa tarde/noche habían sido por cesárea, tantos que el quirófano no daba a basto. Lloré un poco y después me calmé, había dado lo mejor de mí y ya no podía hacer nada más que esperarlos afuera, pensar positivamente en ellos, rezar un poco, y esperar. Estábamos en el piso 10, miraba los números que indican en qué piso está el ascensor y visualizaba que era ella quien progresaba a 10. Escuchaba canciones melosas en la tele. Abría whatsapp, las doulas ahí, conteniendo, acompañando.
No hay noticias, buenas noticias. Le escribía al papá por whatsapp con imágenes inspiradoras, consejos, buenas intenciones, ellos sabían que yo estaba ahí. El tiempo pasaba, pensé que tantas cesáreas programadas (ay, los médicos, se acercaba Semana Santa) quizás le den tiempo. Cinco horas más tarde, veo pasar al obstetra, y luego sale la partera.
“Ya nació.” Nunca escribí tan rápido un whatsapp, las necesitaba, necesitaba a mis doulas, su experiencia era mi sostén; sus palabras, mi consuelo. Pregunto a la partera si estaba todo bien, me dice que sí, que no progresó y fue a cesárea y que podía pasar a verlos. Empiezo a bajar la escalera. Lloro, puteo. Caen mensajes de contención, de presencia amorosa incluso a la distancia, mensajes de doula. Bajo la escalera, contengo las lágrimas, espero a que salgan las enfermeras y el obstetra y paso a verlos.
“Viste cómo es esto, doulas, parteras, cuanto más sabés… peor es.” Pensé que había pasado lo peor, pero no, ahí estaba la partera, culpando a una mamá dolorida, cansada, aún bajo los efectos de la anestesia, poniendo veneno en el suero con sus palabras. Bajé las luces, acaricié a la mamá, y contemplé el amor más grande que existe, el que todo lo cura.
Day 14: The 14-year old Doula
I am incredibly thrilled to share today’s post. Samantha Morgan is the youngest trained doula I have ever known. She has faced adversity and prejudices, but that hasn’t stopped her from working toward her goals. At 14, I was thinking of boys and music – I certainly didn’t care much about birth and moms’ experiences! It has been inspiring to see Samantha’s passion, and her desire to help families.
I thought both of my doula trainings were amazing (birth & postpartum). I loved my trainers and they were able to bring fun into their trainings and put it on a level where everyone understood. I've been a vet tech for the last two years and I love getting to spend time with clients and I always love helping when an animal comes in with difficulties in labor. When a friend of mine told me about doulas, I couldn't believe there was actually such a thing, I was so excited. I have always loved kids and babies, and I love going above and beyond to help people. Thankfully DONA International doesn't have age restrictions, so I was able to take my trainings at 14, making me the youngest trained doula yet. I was able to graduate high school earlier this year and I'm now eligible to apply for certification having attended 6 births. At 15 (right before my birthday), I took a Lamaze workshop in Houston with The Family Way -- I am the youngest to take it and I plan on certifying in October once I take the exam.
Being young and not having children myself is actually one of my biggest problems (that I don't consider my problem!). Last year I joined in affiliation with another doula business, and after about 3 months, the head doula called me in and said “the other doulas in the group don't feel comfortable having you as back-up since you don't know what women go through having not experienced it yourself. They are also worried, since it seems like you just jumped into the doula carreer, you are not likely to stay in it.” So I was “let go.” I started talking with another doula who was young and childless herself. Together we found, looking down on doulas who have not gone through birth can be a very big problem in the doula community. This led to me create a Facebook group strictly for those doulas 25 and under who don’t have children.
I have never been turned down to be someone's doula. My clients always comment on loving my beliefs and personality. The local Midwife loves me, as I her, and she loves the fact that when I go to a birth, hospital or home, I'm dedicated to stay with my client no matter what. I have pulled all-nighter all the way to 3 nights with no sleep. Why? Because it's not my birth, I have plenty of time to sleep later. I was given great advice by one of my trainers to not freely give out my age. Of course if I'm asked I do tell, but you don't see it on my web page or in write-ups.
My main client base comes from literally all directions. I normally find myself traveling for births. I travel up to 2 hours away. I suppose most of my clients are ones who already know how they are wanting to labor or deliver. I make sure my clients have an opportunity to tell, express, and fight for what they are wanting -- whether that be natural, medicated, or even upside down, I support my clients 110%. My clients choose me because of my heart, not because of my life experience. I love working with clients to find an affordable price, to find what they need, what I can do, even the smallest things, to be able to help them. I'm always there for my clients, and I don't need to ever step away to make a phone call to check on kids, a babysitter or husband. I'm devoted and educated. I know the most recent research and facts that have been proven so that the client can make informed decisions immediately.
I love my job, my clients and everything in between. I don't worry about what client I will have next; my personal motto is that God will bring me what I need. He has never failed me. Often clients come from people I meet -- car sales man, bosses of expecting employees and such. For example, I needed a car and the salesman’s wife was expecting. He asked what I did, and I get the opportunity to share my passion. Guess what? He wants a doula for his wife. What an amazing divine appointment! I never let the strikes against me bring me down or discourage me; God will bring me exactly what I need and not a second too soon.
I am a DONA trained Birth and Postpartum Doula. I attended my Birth workshop in March 2013 along with a Childbirth Education Class and a Lactation Class (all DONA Approved). In April 2013 I attended my Postpartum Workshop. I'm currently working on my DONA certification. In April 2014, I attended a Lamaze Childbirth Educator Workshop and I'm looking forward to becoming certified in the late fall.
I believe every woman is empowered to give birth her way, naturally and confidently. My mission is to provide doula care and supply expecting parents with the information and education they need for pregnancy, labor, childbirth and the postpartum period. I want to give parents the loving support and encouragement they need during this special time.
For more information, visit my website, my Facbook page, or find me on Twitter.
There are so many videos out there for the childbirth and breastfeeding world, and many come with hefty price tags -- it's hard to know what would fit your classes or clientele. Needing to make a concise list of my material anyway, I am taking the opportunity to also share what I have, how (if) I use it, and where it can be obtained.
One video I use at the beginning of every childbirth series is Lamaze's "Everyday Miracles." It is about 8 minutes long and for me, it sets the tone for my Lamaze-created curriculum, to let parents know what to expect and to introduce them to Lamaze as a philosophy (healthy birth practices) versus the older method (breathing). It follows three ethnically diverse couples through their labors and births with lovely, uplifting words detailing emotionally what the couples are experiencing. My only gripe is, they do not place the babies skin-to-skin with the mamas, but that is more about the time than the idea -- skin-to-skin and kangaroo care were just starting to get attention. Although this isn't a brand new video (2002), it is still relevant and the families shown look relatable. Two women have their babies in upright positions in bed, while a third births on a birthing stool. It is available to watch on Lamaze's website, and it is available for purchase for the very amazing price of about $13 through InJoy.
I Love Teaching!
I had a rewarding experience today. I ventured out, alone on a break from my family, to Costco. I generally like to avoid Costco on Saturday afternoons, but I really needed some only-get-at-Costco things.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)