A Doula...and so much more!

By Erin Waldron © 2013

My husband was in the military when our babies were born, and we were living 3,000 miles away from home. When I was pregnant with our daughter, I researched many things, but I did not give much thought to my birthing options. I took a hospital childbirth preparation class and watched TLC's A Baby Story every day. That was the extent of my 'research.' I knew that I definitely wanted to avoid a c-section at all costs, but I did not desire to have a drug-free birth. I told myself I would try to go without an epidural, but because I did not know what to expect, I would just have to see how things went and decide in the moment. My pregnancy and birth ended up being very typical of an OB/GYN hospital experience. There was mention of a c-section when my daughter was transverse breech at 36 weeks (which I avoided thanks to some tips from Spinning Babies), multiple internal exams, membranes stripped before 40 weeks, and an induction scheduled for 5 days past my estimated due date (also avoided, thankfully!). My birth experience consisted of an epidural at 4cm, a full day of laying in a hospital bed watching TV, continuous monitoring, a catheter, and hours of controlled pushing to a nurse's count. The hospital staff was wonderful to me, and I did not think twice about any of these interventions. I trusted their advice, and because my daughter was born healthy and perfect, I thought I had a great experience.

As my daughter got older and we started participating in play groups, I became close with a few other moms. As we began to share birth stories, I realized that some of my new friends were not happy with the hospital on post. They shared stories of their heartbreak over unnecessary c-sections, their frustration with hospital staff pushing for inductions and epidurals. One friend actually drove three hours to the nearest birth center just to avoid delivering in our hospital. I couldn't understand what was so terrible about our little hospital. I liked it! I hadn't been passionate about a natural birth, but I had a good experience, loved the nurses, and didn't understand what the big deal was.

A year into motherhood, after realizing that I favored a more natural parenting style (breastfeeding, babywearing, cloth diapering), and after spending time with my new friends, I became more interested in the idea of natural birth. When I was newly pregnant with my second child, my friend suggested that I read Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. I was completely enthralled by it! I could not put it down. I was so inspired by all the beautiful birth stories I read. The experiences those women shared sounded so exciting and so empowering! I could not relate to those experiences, and I wanted to.

I became determined to do things differently with my second birth. I immediately joined a Natural Birth board online, and became obsessed with reading birth stories. I looked into my options for birth centers or homebirth, but due to our remote location, military insurance, and lack of midwives in the area, I ultimately decided I would deliver at the hospital again. This time, however, I wanted to labor at home until the very end to avoid unnecessary interventions (and to be with my daughter for as long as possible.). With that decided, I went on to read Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds, and got started on my birth plan.

After all my reading and research, I knew that I could physically do this. I knew my body was meant to give birth naturally, but I was worried that I would end up panicking and head straight to the hospital. My husband is very supportive, but he is rather high-strung and does not remain calm under pressure. Because my family was on the other side of the country, I decided to hire a doula for extra support and encouragement. My friend recommended her doula, Robin, who lived an hour away. My husband and I met with her about halfway through my pregnancy, and we all clicked right away, but living on one tight military income, I was hesitant to spend the money on her services. What if I ended up caving and getting an epidural? What if I wound up with a c-section? That $800 could be used for so many other things! But I did not trust myself to be emotionally strong without her, so I took a chance and we used a chunk of our tax return to hire her.

Throughout the rest of my pregnancy, Robin and I kept in touch through email and texts. I kept her updated on my appointments, and she answered any questions or concerns that I had. Toward the end of my pregnancy, she came to one of my prenatal appointments with me, and then stopped by our house to chat and show my husband how to do "hip squeezes" for when the big day arrived. We talked about my hopes (and fears) for that day, and she reassured me that I would do great.

After a couple days of random contractions, things finally kicked off at 39 weeks, 6 days. By the time we put our daughter to bed that night, my contractions were strong and consistent, so I called Robin and she headed right over. Robin was an incredible help to both me and my husband, because she was able to suggest different positions and ways to help me cope with contractions. She would squeeze my hips while my husband rubbed my back. She offered me herbs, sips of water, and encouraging words. When I needed space, she backed up. When I needed silence, she respected that. She was absolutely wonderful. Because the hospital was so close (I could literally see it from our backyard), we planned to wait until the very end to head over. Because I had never really experienced the intensity of labor with my first birth, I didn't quite know what to expect. I had never felt the power of transition, or an urge to push. At one point I was in the shower, and I suddenly felt extreme pressure on my bottom. I was so taken aback, I called out to my husband and Robin, "I feel like something is about to fall out of my butt!!" Robin hurried into the bathroom and informed me that that was most likely the urge to start pushing, and we had better head to the hospital. We called our babysitter, and Robin drove me over to the hospital while my husband waited for her to arrive. He was just a couple minutes behind us, but we couldn't wait. The nurses were very surprised to see just how ready I was when we walked in! They were asking, "How far along are you?" and "How far apart are your contractions?" as I leaned against the wall and breathed. Robin had to answer for me, as I was past the point of holding any type of conversation. I was finally able to blurt out, "I'm pushing NOW!" They quickly hurried me into a delivery room, where I literally pulled my pants off, rolled onto the bed, and began pushing. It felt very primal!

The nurses were frantic, and telling me not to push yet, that they had to go find the doctor. One nurse was trying to hand me a pen to sign a c-section consent form (really?! as my baby's head is crowning?!) while another was trying to put a hep-lock in my hand. Now I realized why my more natural-minded friends were not fans of this hospital. I looked to Robin, and she just nodded and told me not to worry about the doctor - to just do what I needed to do. With her encouragement, I gave one big push and my baby's head was out before the doctor had both feet in the door. One more push, and my baby's body was out. I did it!!! I really did it! It was so intense, but the second it was over, I felt amazing! I had this awesome, euphoric feeling, like a natural high. I couldn't believe I had actually done this. I felt so proud of myself! I felt like the women described in Ina May's Guide to Childbirth!

Robin was amazing and took lots of pictures for us, and was right there next to me as I delivered the placenta and got stitched up. She stayed with me through everything, and sat with me for a while when my husband went home to get our daughter. We sat together and talked about everything that had just happened while I had a snack and Robin cuddled and loved my beautiful new baby. She filled me in on the parts that I couldn't remember, the parts of birth that were foggy. She told me that my husband high-fiving me when he discovered that our "Team Green" baby was a BOY was one of the funniest, sweetest moments she had seen at a birth. We laughed together, and she told me how proud of me she was.

After three years away from my mother, mother-in-law, sisters, and girlfriends - after not having one single visitor in the hospital when my daughter was born - it meant so much to me to have a woman like Robin be a part of my birth experience. In that moment, she was not just a professional doula I had hired, she was suddenly a friend. She was an important part of my son's birth story, and my journey as a mother. I knew she would always have a special place in my heart. ❤

The last time we saw Robin was about a week after my son was born, when she came to visit and check on us at home. My husband and I sat and talked with her for hours, while I nursed my son, and my daughter played. When she left, my husband told me that hiring Robin was the best $800 we've ever spent. He admitted that he originally wasn't sure if a doula would be worth it, but that he was amazed by how helpful and encouraging she was for both of us. We agreed that we couldn't have done it without her.

We have since moved back to our home state, but I will always remember Robin, and will always keep in touch with her. Nearly a year after that day, I am still very proud of myself, and feel so happy when I reflect on my birth experience. I feel like I can do anything now! I have recently decided that I would like to become a doula myself, so that I can help other mothers gain the confidence that Robin helped me obtain. She was an inspiration to me, and I am forever grateful that with her help, I trusted my body and had the amazing natural birth experience I never knew I always wanted.

Excellent Birth Books gathered at: http://astore.amazon.com/peacefparent-20?_encoding=UTF8&node=3


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this experience. My daughter was born in a very respectful hospital, a pioneer in Spain for natural and respected birth. My son was born at home 4 months ago. I was assissted by 2 midwives and, as with my daughter, it was a wonderful experience. I will be marked by these two births for good.



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