I Am A Doula
The phone rings at 2 a.m… “what it is about 2 a.m.”, I grudge, as I reach to my bedside cell-jack. It’s Maria.
Maria is 42 weeks and 2 days with her 2nd baby. The women in her family have carried all of their babies ‘overdue’, so it was no surprise to me that she was carrying this babe the same.
“I think this is it.” She moans on the other end of the line. We talk about her contractions; how far apart they are, where she is feeling pressure, if she can talk through them, I ask if her water has broken, and how she is feeling emotionally. We talk until she has another contraction, and I listen to her work through it. I suggest she take a bath and I will head over, if she is ready for me.
“Yes”, she says emphatically, and we hang up.
It doesn’t take me long to tell my husband I am going to a birth, leave the day’s instructions on the table, check the inflation on my ball, grab my bag, and head out the door with a fresh thermos of coffee under my arm.
I am a doula, a ‘woman’s servant’ – a professional trained to bring emotional and physical support, as well as act as personal advocate, for a woman during her birthing time.
Arriving at Maria’s home, I test the doorknob and, feeling it turn easily in my hand, let myself in. The living room lights are off while someone has lit numerous candles on every available surface. The mood is peaceful, the ambiance is soft, but the woman that I hear in the bathroom is working hard.
I gently call out to let Maria and her husband, John, know that I am at their home. While waiting for permission to join them, I put a pot of water on to boil and add a few drops each of Lavender, Clary-Sage, and Peppermint.
“Nicole”, I am summoned to the tub side by Maria. She is squatting like a frog in the tub. I ask her where the pressure is, she points, low. I ask if she has had anything to eat or drink lately, she replies no. I instruct John to make her a bowl of chicken soup, which they had prepared ahead of time and stored in the freezer, get her some crackers, and her sport bottle of Labor-Aide that was sitting next to the stove.
While he is busy, and with Maria’s permission, I palpate her belly. Baby is low, I feel the babies back to the left side of mom and head down. He wiggles under my touch. Perfect.
She has another contraction and raises her buttocks off of her heels. Facing down, she ‘naughs’ through the contraction. It lasts a good 50 seconds, which I ‘time’ by watching the movement of her abdomen.
She eats, drinks, and sleeps between contractions. All in all, Maria remains in the tub for a good hour after I first arrive; the only time she gets out is when I suggest that she empty her bladder. When I suggest something different, she says she would like to try a nice walk in the neighborhood. Working in her time, we get ready to venture out in the early morning, crisp, late-summer air.
Around 4am, we set out on our walk. She and John walk hand in hand; I walk behind them, giving them space. With every contraction, he wraps his arms under hers and she drops her weight at the knees, sagging against him. I approach behind her and provide counterpressure to her sacrum. They work beautifully together and don’t need me to guide them, only to support them.
Around 1 mile from home, her moans are getting louder, her face is getting flushed, and her thighs are starting to shake. At this point, I suggest we turn around and head back to the house. Early morning commuters stop and ask if we need help. I reply that it is baby day and to send thoughts and prayers their way but we are fine.
¾ of the way home, she begins another contraction and drops to a full squat. Although she is not yet pushing, she is near. I can tell from how low baby is and how mama is working with her labor. Beautiful!
It’s time to get to the hospital, where she is planning on birthing her baby…
Maria and I had spoken often throughout her pregnancy about her plan to stay home as long as possible before going to the hospital. She lives 7 miles from the hospital and wanted to, ideally, show up 9-10 cm and simply have her baby, rest for 12 hours, and go home. We talked about the places she does not like to be touched, words that empower or discourage her, and what her beliefs in the labor and birthing process were.
We outlined a plan of if everything goes wonderfully, what to do when things don’t go as we plan, and how to traverse the hospital system.
We met with her care provider and outlined how best I could help him, knowing Maria's choices.
Maria and her husband ‘rented’ books and movies from my home, lent resources to her mother and mother-in-law, and emailed me often for help with different options as they were offered on her journey to labor.
I don’t practice medicine; I don’t do medical exams or perform medical tasks. I am in the business of support, education, and natural, normal birth.
I believe that childbirth is a natural and normal event. Variations in birth do occur; but, with proper support and advocacy, even those variations can be looked upon as satisfying and empowering events. I am an advocate of natural childbirth, but work to empower women to make their own educated decisions regarding labor and birth. I firmly practice the advocacy of informed choice.
Pregnancy and childbirth is a time when women can be motivated or de-motivated to fulfilling their roles as strong, capable and competent individuals, which then translates into their mothering roles after birth. The difference often lies in how they are treated during their pregnancy and birthing time.
Empowering women with options and support enables them to take ownership for their healthcare and their bodies, which, later, gives them the confidence to take responsibility as mothers. A doula-relationship allows for that mental and emotional wellbeing while also freeing the medical professional to focus solely on the physical wellbeing. This holistic approach to pregnancy and birth has been proven to be the safest and most satisfactory approach for all involved.
I believe that a doula can help a woman to reclaim the beauty, strength, and humble respect of the rite of passage to motherhood called childbirth.
Doulas support women who are choosing unmedicated birth, medicated births, hospital, home, and birth center births. We support women with multiple gestations, medical complications, variations, and normality. We are trained in what is normal and natural and how to make situations where interventions are chosen or become necessary as productive and risk free as possible.
I am a Doula.
Other Posts You May Be Interested In:
Do You Doula?
Doula Rule #1
Don't Underestimate the Power of Support
Doulas in Action
6 Promises and Doula Thoughts
(in response to Science and Sensibilities Healthy Birth Blog Carnival)