During my first pregnancy, I was overwhelmed with a strange mixture of excitement and fear. I was excited to be a mom and to hold my sweet little one but there was anxiety surrounding what the pain would be like. Worry about how to manage my pain and what people would think of my choices overwhelmed me. I did not have a doula.
I tried not to care about the what-people-think bit, but it seemed everyone had opinions about how and where a baby should enter the world. I did not want to make the wrong choices or be seen as weak. It is frustrating to know that someone will always have something to say about choices for your birth and your baby. Having a doula would have helped me find peace in my choices by knowing I had the non-judgmental support of a woman who helped women achieve the birth they wanted on a regular basis.
I decided I wanted to attempt an unmedicated, in-hospital birth, but was open to doing whatever necessary because I had no idea how my body would react to birth. My provider suggested a few classes for me to take with my husband, but we were not available during the same evenings and so we did not sign up. If I had hired a doula, she could have given me a better understanding of how to manage my pain, pointed me to online classes that I could have watched on our own time, or walked through what arriving at the hospital would be like. A familiar face and a calming, knowledgeable presence in the bustle of labor while arriving at the hospital would have been an enormous comfort.
When I called my provider to tell them I was in labor, they directed me to go to the hospital and they would meet me there. However, when we arrived, first person we talked to was a grumpy man who seemed angry I was having a baby and asked me to sit. I asked if I could stand while waiting for the provider to meet me, but he said no, it was policy to sit. If I had a doula, she might have been the first face I saw getting out of the car, one of joy and support. Perhaps, she might have been able to suggest a few ways to manage my contractions while I was sitting.
I went to a room so the nurse could check on me and baby and it was decided I was far enough along to send me to a delivery room. “Baby is coming today” the nurse kept saying to me every time she would come in or leave the room. With every contraction I was internally yelling “stop saying that, CLEARLY baby is coming, it makes me feel stupid that you have to keep reminding me, why can’t you help me…” I know that she was doing her best to encourage me, but all it did was upset me. A doula might have simply reminded me, “your body is working with baby so you can meet him soon. You are doing great!”
Once in my room, my provider came in and brought the confidence and excitement that I needed. I was experiencing intense contractions and the idea that perhaps I could not do this was beginning to form on the fringes of my mind. Thankfully, my provider realized that I was getting anxious and reminded me gently but firmly to take a few deep breaths. If I had a doula, she might have been able to coach me through those overwhelming thoughts of doubt and helped me to relax my body so it could continue to do the good work of labor.
After delivery and going back home, my husband and I did not have much prepared in way of additional emotional support. We have wonderful and supportive family and friends, but my husband and I did not have someone we could talk to about our birth story without having to retell it first. Having a doula would have given us the chance to talk through the process of birth and the emotions that went along with it without having to explain each moment. It would have been a relief to have had a conversation with a doula about our unique personal experiences and have her understand because she was with us.
I think the best gift of a doula is the assistance she offers. She is there with you and your partner through each step. She would have been a sounding board when we needed to talk, an extra word of encouragement when I needed help, or another set of hands for comfort me when I was in the middle of a difficult contraction. A doula would have been a buffer to the negativity of others and could have provided suggestions about how to manage different parts of birth. A doula is the best support a woman can have in pregnancy and birth. It was in not having a doula for my deliveries I learned their value.