I Love My Doula.
I adored the support and cherish the memories! I would recommend hiring a Doula to anyone having a baby and especially anyone expecting in less than optimum circumstances. I wish every woman on the planet had access to the kind of Doula I did. I cannot speak highly enough about my experience, I’d shout it from the rooftops were I not likely to be committed.
But just what did this woman do for me that deserves such praise?? Well let me tell you 🙂
I didn’t know what a Doula was when I had my first and second babies. I had never even heard of the concept and certainly didn’t know what they do. All that changed when my daughter was about 6 months old and I began to embrace the online support available for breastfeeding mums. I was simply looking for reliable information but my searching led me to a woman who would become hugely important in my life. One day this, then, ‘virtual’ friend would hold my hand for real as I birthed my third baby. And it was by no means a straightforward journey.
During a year of fervent research into birth and the birth rights movement I discovered that my 2 cesarean sections were in fact unnecesareans! And they shouldn’t have been medically necessary and certainly weren’t my fault, so when I found myself unexpectedly pregnant with baby number three, I knew what I needed to do. My research (or the literary stalking of Ina May Gaskin) had taught me that my body was just as capable of birthing naturally as the next womans and that I hadn’t actually ever been given a decent chance. Since my first cesarean was due to failure to progress after a failed induction and my second ‘elective’ (I hate calling it that) at 41 weeks because thoughts of induction terrified me and the hospital said 41 weeks was as long as they’d ‘let me go’. I had never been allowed to let my own labour begin naturally but I was going to get my chance this time! I was going to make sure of it.
What I was aiming for is known as a VBA2C or Vaginal Birth After 2 Cesareans and is a depressingly rare occurrence in this country. In fact if you ask around the general consensus is that after 2 sections and no vaginal births, any subsequent babies would HAVE to be sections too. That it is way too risky and both your lives would be in danger. Or that no doctor/hospital would let you try. So even with my new found knowledge and confidence that this would be possible for me, with two section scars (literally) under my belt, I knew I’d have to fight to get my chance. When I learned about Doulas and the role they play in birth support, there was no doubt in my mind that it would be the right choice for me. And when a woman I already considered a friend decided to train as a Birth Doula it seemed perfect. I was already planning to ask her when she completed her course. This woman’s own journey to birth her second daughter at home was hugely inspirational to me and I just knew that if she told me I could do this, that i’d believe her. Thankfully she said yes when I asked and I became her first client. We couldn’t have known the incredible journey we were beginning but I will always be grateful that she was with me.
Here’s what made my birth experience special and why
“I LOVE my Doula”.
I love my Doula for being there.
Throughout my pregnancy, Anne was always just the push or click of a button away if I needed her. And I DID need her. Although physically about 2 hours apart, messages and phone calls made me feel that support and an understanding ear was always close by. If I was ever feeling unnerved or shaky about my pregnancy or our birthplan, Anne would calmly and expertly say just the right thing. She was there for me in every text of encouragement and message of reassurance. She understood me so well and never made me feel like my feelings were insignificant or that calming irrational, hormonal women down, when you are a busy mum of two yourself, was in any way inconvenient. She came to antenatal appointments with us and met our consultant (incidentally another incredible woman and an Obstretician worthy of recognition, who played her own very important part in making this birth possible) . She was there for me, boosting my confidence when asserting myself and my decisions when they clashed with typical hospital policy or protocol. She was there for me when I excitedly messaged the signs of early labour. She was there to meet us at the hospital door and she never left my side from that moment until we’d achieved what we set out to.
I love my Doula for believing in me.
A VBA2C is not common in Ireland and while my newly found knowledge of normal birth gave me no reason to believe that I couldn’t push a baby out of my vagina, there were times when my doubts and fears or others less informed opinions would shake my confidence. I understand that people are skeptical since VBACS remain such a rarity so I don’t blame those who questioned why I thought I wouldn’t need a section this time when I ‘needed’ them before. Or the those who believed that the doctors would know best and clearly thought me mental. I don’t even hold it against the internet trolls who insisted that VBACS or homebirths were just selfish attention seeking ploys by hippy women who put their ‘silly all-natural notions’ before the safety of their unborn child. None of that stood up to the complete and unwavering belief that Anne had in MY ability to birth MY baby MYself. Her belief in me was priceless. She knew I could do it and knew when I needed reminding. She simply believes in birth and trusts in the power of women. She absolutely helped me to trust my body. Even while confirming a details for my birth plan in the case of a repeat C-section she would calmly say that it was important to have but we wouldn’t need it. She was the only one not completely shocked when this baby decided to come right around my due date. I’d never even had the first twinges of labour before 41 weeks with my previous pregnancies and was sure I had weeks left!! Anne’s faith in me never faltered throughout what was a long labour. Even when my second stage had entered its 4th hour, Anne didn’t doubt me and when exhaustion made me doubt myself her assurances and total conviction in me were crucial in keeping me going. She believed in me when few others did and without that level of support I’m sure I’d have let the doubts grow into fears and my dream to birth naturally would have been impossible.
I love my Doula for ‘getting’ me.
Anne listened to me, she understood me and she made sure she knew what was important to me. Basically she ‘got’ me. By taking the time to find out about my past experiences of birth, hospitals, breastfeeding, doctors etc Anne was able to reach a level of empathy that meant that I was able to relax. I could relax knowing that she would know how I’d want things done if I was unable to say or decide myself. Little things that may have seemed inconsequential to many were viewed as important if they were important to me. She even helped me figure out how I really felt about things that I hadn’t given much thought to. She was able to be what I needed when I needed it and that really is quite an extraordinary ability. She never allowed me to think that my feelings were anything less than paramount . She was able to pinpoint and emphasize what calmed or encouraged me and helped me avoid people or situations that she knew would upset or stress me in any way. Anne ‘got’ why I was doing things in a certain way and I knew she be quick to stand up for my choices to anyone who disagreed. Her empathy and compassion for me and my birth experience were truly gifts I’ll be forever grateful for.
I love my Doula for seeing the beauty in birth.
Three pregnancies in just over as many years had taken its toll on my body and more so on my body-confidence. The resulting stretching, marking, widening and loosening did not fit my idea of beauty. I’ve seen some women pull off pre-natal glamour but I just felt thoroughly unattractive most of the time and as a mum of two toddlers was kept so busy dealing with sh*t (literally and figuratively) that there was no time for preening. To my Doula I was radiant, I was the very embodiment of feminine beauty and the source of light and life and how could that not make you feel better about yourself? Anne was able to see the beauty where I couldn’t and it was a such a gift to see myself through her eyes. To celebrate my pregnancy and mark the transition from woman to mother (again), Anne organised a “Mother Blessing” or “Blessing-way” before my due date. I have never felt more Goddess-like in my life. It was a truly beautiful experience and Anne even adorned my bump with a Henna tattoo. I loved it so much I was suddenly happy to parade around with my gorgeous body-art on view when I had previously hidden my thrice stretch-marked tummy area and ‘outy’ belly button from the world. Anne sees the beauty in every part of pregnancy and birth. It’s impossible to stay self-conscious around her and I loved how completely comfortable she made me feel. The sprawling blue veins on my breasts, through my tracing-paper Irish skin weren’t ‘unsightly’ they were ‘amazing’ and showed how ‘abundant the blood supply’ was to this important area! During a visit the day after the birth she helped me get a bath, there was naturally some postpartum blood loss but it wasn’t ‘icky’ or ’embarrassing’. One throw away comment from Anne about how rich the blood was in iron and I relaxed once again reminded that she was able to see the beauty in everything!
I Love my Doula for supporting my Husband.
Some people are dubious about what role a husband or partner plays when a person hires a Doula but I believe any who have experienced birth with a Doula would tell you that having more support is never a bad thing. Firstly from a purely practical point of view having more hands on deck means less pressure on each individual. And in our case labour happened over many hours and having Anne calmly breathe through contractions with me meant that my husband could get some sleep in the early stages. His strength and support were vital towards the end when my own reserves was all but spent. Both physically and mentally Anne provided rest and perspective.
A doulas unique woman-to-woman insights can help guide partners to more effective support techniques and the wealth of expert knowledge and experience can be just as reassuring for husbands who may never have seen a woman give birth before being expected to step up and help out! It also meant that I wasn’t left on my own when my baby needed medical help after birth (due to a rare congenital anomaly). So while my husband went to NICU with our daughter, Anne held my hand, spoke to consultants and focused on me and I know that my husband is immensely grateful for that (as of course am I).
Most of all I love my Doula for making it possible – a VAGINAL birth after two Cesareans! For restoring my faith in myself and my body. For helping me heal.
I think the biggest measure of how much I love my Doula can be inferred by the simple fact that someday…. in the future ….should I ever pee on a little stick and see two little lines appear, I honestly don’t know who’d I’d call first….
my husband or my DOULA ❤