Just good, old-fashioned, doula praise! Sometimes it doesn't get better than that! The doulas shared here are Coleen Salazar and Avira Wenn.
In the beginning of my pregnancy, I didn't even know what a doula was. I honestly met a doula while serving on a jury. While on a break in Visalia, CA, Coleen approached me. I was reading Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, and it peaked her interest about me. We began to talk about birth, my pregnancy, and the struggles I was having with trying to get my OB on board with the natural birth I wanted. We talked at great length, and I loved everything about her so much that I kept in contact with her.
In addition to being a doula, Coleen was also a lactation consultant at a hospital in Tulare, so she invited me to a free class she was teaching on breastfeeding. I went to the class and found out the it was part of a local birth network. From that day on, I became very involved in the birth network. I began to educate myself on natural birth, breastfeeding, and various other birth related topics. In my third trimester, I also left my OB and switched to a midwife who was totally on board with the way I wanted to birth.
Although I had learned a great deal about birth, and switched to a midwife, I still wasn't sure I really needed a doula. However, I really wanted Coleen at my birth because she was the first person, throughout my entire pregnancy, that made me feel completely confident in my decision surrounding my plan for a natural birth. When I asked her about being my doula, she told me about her friend, Avira, who was finalizing her doula certification. She needed to attend births in order to fulfill her requirements. Coleen encouraged me to be open to the idea of having two doulas.
After meeting Avira, I couldn’t say no! She had such a calming presence that proved to be amazingly beneficial during my birth. I feel very fortunate to have had two doulas by my side. Although I hired them late in my pregnancy, they still came to my house to discuss their role in my birth, nutrition, my birth plan, and further educate me on birth options I didn’t even know existed (delayed cord clamping, passing on standard but unnecessary needle pokes, etc.). I was on a tight budget, but they were committed to helping me have the birth I wanted and worked with me on payments.
Both Avira and Coleen were by my side through my entire labor. Avira literally supported me through some of my contractions and massaged my back during the most intense parts of my back labor. She knew just what to say and how to touch me. Coleen knew just how to motivate me when my contractions were tough. She encouraged me, kept me hydrated, helped me with positioning during contractions, and helped me know when I should transfer to the hospital.
Their job as doulas was to be completely in tune to my needs, and they were. I consider my doula experience completely invaluable! I really don't know what I would have done without either of them by my side. My daughter had better care due to my doulas, I had the birth I envisioned for myself, and I was able to successfully breastfeed my daughter due to Coleen’s breastfeeding expertise (still going at nearly two)!
I had amazing postpartum care as well. When I needed anything, or had questions, they were there for me. They both came to my house and stayed with me while having some issues with my daughter nursing. They helped me through some of the toughest times I’ve had. The only other person as fully devoted to me throughout my entire experience was my husband. I'm so glad I made the choice to have a doula, and I don't plan on birthing anymore babies without one. I will be forever grateful to both of them for supporting me through such an amazing time in my life.
I have been a couple of days ahead of these 31 days' posts. Yesterday, on day 8, I was ready through Tuesday, including a special Mother's Day post for day 10. All I needed to do upon waking up today was hit "publish" for day 9's post.
I was called to a laboring mom in Tulare at 2 am, yet I knew I could use my website's mobile app to publish from the hospital -- but not so, I kept getting an error message (while mom was being triaged in a Visalia hospital and I was in the waiting room). I finally gave up and focused on this birth, knowing I could figure it out later.
This birth! This birth was amazing. My friend and fellow doula, Denise, asked me to support her during her surrogacy birth. Her husband, Chris, was a huge helper -- after all, he has supported her through her natural births before. That left me wondering, what would my place be when the partner is already doing great? I did doula the dog while we labored at their house; poor Buddy had been hiding under the bed until I arrived. I walked in to lay my hands on Denise's back to let her know I was there, and from under the bed, something began licking my feet. Buddy!
What we couldn't predict was, once we got to the hospital, Chris started feeling very sick to his stomach. He needed to go to the car and rest for a while, and he was kind of in and out of the scene. When he was present, he was very present, offering everything he could to support Denise (and the way they worked together was inspiring). And when he needed to step out, he knew things would be okay.
Denise had an amazing midwife, Rita. Rita is a powerhouse. She had five children of her own, and when she enrolled in a midwifery program Stanford offered for three years back in the 80s, she was pregnant with her 4th baby. Many doubted she would finish, but Rita is nothing if not relentless! And this shows when it comes to supporting her patients. Not only did she go to bat for Denise's comfort and preferences, she also knew how to talk to Denise to keep her courage up and help her move forward when she hit emotional and physical walls.
The intended mother was at the birth, and she quietly witnessed the whole thing, very concerned for Denise's safety and comfort. When this little baby girl was finally born, she was laid on Denise's chest, with her mom right there, awestruck and deeply moved. I don't think any one of us in the room had dry eyes. Soon the mother sat down in a rocking chair and baby was placed skin-to-skin with her. We all watched this new mother interact with her baby -- the sweet words, the lilting voice, the facial expressions and the snuggling; it was an amazing peek into the private world of a mom and her infant. Soon the new dad joined mom and baby, and again, the tender voices and touches were sweet affirmations to those present that this new gift was one worked hard for, one cherished.
I didn't intend for this to be anything more than a short Day 9 post to stay on track, but it is hard to withhold the beauty of birth -- every birth. I am amazed at Denise's strength and her generosity. She truly went through one of the hardest physical and emotional experiences in her life to grow and birth a baby for a family who did not have this ability. Four hours or so after the baby's birth I finally left, but one of Denise's last comments to me was this: "I am so grateful I could do this for them."
And I am amazed.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)