Way back when I was in graduate school I took a feminist research methodologies course. It was an elective course so I took the opportunity to study something other than my graduate focus. I had an interest in pregnancy and childbirth, and particularly the medicalization we’ve come to see so often in US culture. I reviewed oodles of research about the topic and also read many women’s stories about their birth experiences. Many women reported disappointment with how their birth experience played out compared to what they expected or wanted.

The topic fascinated me and even though I was years away from thinking about even trying to get pregnant, I knew it was important for me to educate myself on the subject. And by educate, I mean empower myself through knowledge and to really believe in my body. While pregnant, there were times I feared childbirth, who doesn’t, but I would remind myself, my body was built to do this.

For me, empowering myself meant collecting as much information as possible, having an idea of what I wanted, and being open to the fact that things may turn out drastically different that how I want. In an effort to do all this, A and I were sure to select a child birth class based on reviews. We wanted to know everything – from med free to C-Section. Because we just did not know what could happen. There was never a question about whether or not we’d have a doula. And I can honestly say, second to the costs of getting pregnant, the money we shelled out to pay our doula was the best spent money through out our entire journey.

We began monthly meetings with our Doula last September. She came to our home and the meetings lasted about two hours. She’d check in to see if we had questions and would also come prepared to talk about different aspects of pregnancy and childbirth. We talked extensively about what I wanted in my birth experience. She was accessible to us outside of our meetings (and still is after the birth) via phone and email. (She’s even called just to check in after our pedi visits, as Mr. E’s been battling Jaundice and needed 24 hour light therapy until two days ago.) She also visited us at home after the birth. This was helpful and gave us a chance to check in about breast feeding and also have her answer some questions about the birth.

On the morning of the big event, our Doula was the first phone call I made. Speaking to her calmed me down and helped us focus and put our plans into action. We remained in constant phone communication and it was for us to decide when we wanted her to arrive at the hospital – which was nice, because A and I wanted to spend a good amount of time alone early on. But as mentioned in Mr. E’s birth story, I decided I wanted her there, to help us navigate the medical system when the midwife started pushing induction.

As much as A and I had educated ourselves, I know that it was our doula’s presence that helped us tease out the overly medical approaches which in turn helped us find our comfort level when accepting medical help. Our doula also played a key role in taking care of both A and I while I was laboring. She helped me by suggesting position, helping me to focus my breathing and noise making, and by applying healing touches as needed. She checked in with A to assure her I was okay, and provided her with necessary support. Above all she kept us calm and focused and in the moment. We took each contraction as it came, and made decisions as needed with all the appropriate information.

I can’t say that I wouldn’t have had a similarly amazing birth experience with out a doula. Because, maybe I would have. I sure surprised myself with how well I coped with such a long labor. But I do think it would have been more stressful – for both A and I, and I am not sure I would have known how to most effectively use my breathing and sounds to help move the baby down. After my experience, I would not even consider giving birth again with out a doula.

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