Reflections on my First Year as a Doula
It was a hot July evening last year when the burning desire inside me to become a doula just wouldn’t cease. I had a 5-week-old baby in my arms and I was still on a high from her birth. I knew it would be impossible for me to actually become a doula though. My husband worked 8-5 Monday-Friday and I didn’t have anyone who could watch my 3 young kids on a random basis while I was at births. But even knowing there was no way it would be possible, I decided to text Sarah, my doula. She called me immediately. She said they were actually looking for a third partner and that they needed someone to work on the weekends! I was perfect for the job and the rest is history.
In the last year, I’ve been able to support 30 moms as a doula and each experience has been truly remarkable. Each birth is special, unique, and makes an impact on me. I’m regularly amazed by the strength of the moms as the welcome their babies. Here are some highlights from the past year…
The first birth I went to was my longest birth. I shadowed with Sarah and Christina for my first five births. I met Christina at Women’s Hospital for this first one. The mom was in the same room where I had my first baby a few years earlier, so it was especially nostalgic for me. We arrived on Sunday at 4:00pm. The first time mom was there because her water had broken and she was having some contractions. She was so kind to allow me to come alongside her! She tried to sleep all night, but the contractions made her uncomfortable. I took a one hour nap during the night. When the sun came up, Christina and I left and Sarah arrived and took over as her doula. The mama labored all day on Monday and as the sun went back down, things were looking like transition and Christina and I took back over as her doula. This strong mama labored over 48 hours. She pushed for 3 hours and I held her leg. Finally, at some point early on Tuesday morning, her sweet boy was born and I just wept. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and I knew from that moment on I had to be a doula.
Last fall I had the opportunity to support a mom desiring to have a VBAC. Her first labor was not at all how she envisioned. We met during her pregnancy and I knew that she was so determined. She was doing everything right – taking care of herself, educating herself, getting the extra support of a doula… she did it all. Her labor started so well. When I arrived to support her, she was relaxed but working extremely hard. She labored through the night… but then things started to change. Her baby didn’t sound as happy as he once did on the monitor… and he actually started to go back up in her pelvis and her cervix started to close. Despite all the preparation and amazing care providers, it was decided that it was best for mom and baby for the baby to be born by cesarean section. I was able to go in the OR to watch the birth and take photos for the couple. I learned that cesareans are necessary sometimes. I also witnessed what I already knew – It’s very hard on a mom to not have the birth she wanted. Not many people will be able to understand that a mom can be both happy about her healthy baby and sad that she missed out on a birth experience she desired. I can be a safe person for her to express that.
This summer, I’ve been able to be a doula for two amazing friends. My first friend desired a water birth and she told me she wanted me to be her doula before she ever got pregnant. It was an honor to walk with her though her pregnancy. I knew she was going to be amazing in her labor and that this experience would be better than her first birth. She had prodromal labor for a few days, but when active labor kicked in, it happened fast. She was so peaceful. The room was dark – only lit by some flickering LED candles. And we talked about the contractions like waves, so the sound of waves filled the room. She was in and out of the tub. After only about 5 hours of active labor, she caught her own baby in the tub in a beautiful water birth. She described the experience as perfect. My second friend desired a VBAC. Just like the other VBAC mom I mentioned, she had done everything right. In the days leading up to her labor, she had a lot of back pain. I recommended the Miles Circuit and she did it daily. A few days after her due date, she got an induction massage and saw the chiropractor within a few hours. That night, she called me in the middle of the night and it was time to go to the hospital. With her first labor, there were so many things that stacked against her in her desire for a vaginal birth. This time it was the opposite. When she arrived at the hospital, she was already 6cm and things progressed quickly. She was so strong. When a labor is that fast, it is intense and she had a beautiful natural birth only 2.5 hours after arriving to the hospital. She said that she wouldn’t have changed a thing. When your friends describe their births as “perfect” and that they “wouldn’t change a thing” and you got to be a small part of that – It’s a wonderful feeling.
There are so many stories. So many incredible moments. Some uncomfortable moments. Some sad moments. But I LOVE what I do(ula)! I want to say a huge THANK YOU to all the mamas who have allowed me to be part of their special journeys. I’m forever grateful.
Photo courtesy of Lauren Jolly Photography