by Krista Smith
I’m pretty sure the first time I heard the word “Doula” was on an episode of Gilmore Girls. It was the name that Luke’s sister gave to her daughter and I figured out that it was some sort of birth term but didn’t really think much more about it.
When I had my first son, my husband and I earnestly prepared for his arrival. We hired a midwife for a homebirth in our small apartment, took a childbirth preparation class, stocked up on cloth diapers and tiny clothes, educated ourselves on breastfeeding and babywearing . . . we felt so READY! When labor finally began (at 42 weeks and a few days gestation), it was textbook progress. I excitedly rode out each contraction while relaxing with my husband, and as things grew more intense we called the midwife and filled the birth tub. Somewhere around the 6-8 hour mark things started to stall. My midwife went home to sleep for awhile, my husband wanted to get some rest too, and I suddenly felt very alone. The hours began to blur together, and I remember my birth instructor came over for awhile, but loneliness and fear still gripped me. I knew in my head all of the things I should do, but why was this baby still not coming? I was in active labor for over 50 hours (with no sleep) by the time I started thinking I was going to need to go to the hospital instead of having my planned home birth. I wanted the baby OUT OF ME and all I kept thinking over and over was that no one seemed to want to help me. My husband and midwife were understandably exhausted from my long labor. My mom was there from out of town, but having her in the room while I labored was making me feel stressed, so she graciously stayed tucked away on the sidelines. All I could do was sit in my birth tub riding out each wave while desperately wishing I would feel that unmistakable urge to push. My first son arrived at 43 weeks gestation via c-section after over 60 hours of labor. I was devastated. I was exhausted. I felt like surely there must have been more I could have done to have had the birth I had planned for. I vowed that things would be different if we went on to have more children.
It wasn’t until after my firstborn was a few months old that I started to learn about these birth workers known as doulas. A lightbulb went on in my head – THIS was the person I had needed in labor! My husband, wonderful as he was, could not be my sole support person in labor. I had needed someone who was knowledgable about birth, but not just the medical side like my midwife. I needed someone there to walk with me through labor and birth in a way that supported my heart and soul. When I became pregnant with my second son, I contacted a doula agency almost immediately. I knew beyond a doubt that this would be the missing piece in my birth story this time around. I met my doula and absolutely adored her. I was so excited to have her there to support me during this labor and birth! Labor started just after 41 weeks, but from the first contractions, I knew that this time around was going to be more challenging than the first. I could not “ride the waves” in the same way, and felt like I was going to throw up from pain with every contraction. My doula arrived at the hospital not long after I did, and I was so thankful for her reassurance as labor got more intense. She walked with me, encouraged me, and allowed my husband the rest he needed so that he was able to be more alert through the more difficult parts of labor and birth. I wish I could tell you that I had a beautiful, natural birth with my doula at my side, but that wasn’t exactly the case. I got to a point in my labor where my birth team wanted to help me speed things up (Maybe 20 hours in? The timeline is fuzzy) and eventually I ended up getting an epidural so that I could get some rest. Somewhere in there my kiddo was pressing on his cord, his heartbeat was making dangerous sounding blips on the monitor, and yet another c-section was decided upon. I was devastated once more – how could this be happening again? My baby was born after 30 hours of labor, and it was not the way I had imagined things would go. However, this time, something was different. That emptiness and loneliness I had felt during my first labor had been filled by the caring support of a doula, and I can honestly say that when I reflect upon my second birth, her presence made all of the difference.
What a doula does:
Provides emotional and physical support before, during, and after labor. Supports your partner so that they can better support you.
Helps you communicate with the rest of your birth team.
Join the Livingston County Birth Circle TONIGHT, April 11th at 7pm for our Meet The Doulas event! RSVP here.