In honor of World Doula Week, Client Sarah L was willing to share her birth story, featuring some of the many ways a doula can be helpful in labor, birth and postpartum.
When we found out we were pregnant it was a little bit of a shock, we were hoping to get pregnant, not preventing but it happened sooner than we expected. I had always thought that I would want midwifery care during pregnancy and maybe choose to give birth in a birth center, I had been born in one, but in the whirlwind of this news we initiated care with the OB I had been seeing since I was fresh out of college with the plan to deliver at the hospital where she worked. Despite this choice I knew that I still wanted to try for as non medicalized a birth as possible in that environment. As a nurse, I knew what a hospital delivery could mean in terms of unwanted and unneeded interventions and I was apprehensive about accomplishing a low intervention birth.
My husband and I had countless conversations about how we would work toward an intervention free birth in the hospital. I was pushing for doula support. I had attended births as a nursing student with doula support and had several friends who were midwives who really encouraged a doula. My husband took a lot of convincing. He thought we was all the support I needed, he said that I was, “formidable” and would not only be able to handle the work of labor but also handle the staff at the hospital. I wasn’t as confident. Although I had studied birth in school, the fear of the unknown of how labor would actually go for me continued to make me apprehensive about a hospital birth without the support of another woman trained to aid others during this time. After several lengthy discussions my husband agreed to meet with the doulas. My husband had been concerned that if we hired a doula his role as coach and birth partner would be undermined, after meeting with the DCH doulas he was ensured of his role and was impressed by the breadth of knowledge of each of the doulas.
Our doula, Emily, was a great support during the last weeks of pregnancy. She helped us to form our birth preferences, gave us lots of resources and was always a call, email or text away when I had questions. I felt my first early feelings of labor in the middle of the night, thinking they could just be more Braxton Hicks, which I had felt my entire 3rd trimester I went back to sleep. Something in me, however thought, 3-15-17, that would be a great birthday. When I woke up that morning and was still feeling the same sensations now and again I texted Emily to let her know what was going on. I told her we had planned a walk and she encouraged that along with a good breakfast. When I had to stop several times on the walk to get through what I was now realizing were contractions and when that good breakfast didn’t stay in me for long, I gave Emily a call to let her know what was going on. I had thought that I would need/want her support for much of labor, but when it came to it I was okay with the physical work of labor, but I needed her there to be my sign posts, help me to determine where I was in labor and help to interpret what was happening. She worked with me over several phone calls and texts to time my contractions and help me get into a good breathing pattern.
I found a groove in labor sitting backwards on the toilet in the bathroom attached to my daughter’s future nursery. I wanted to be alone, I was completely inside of myself and didn’t even want my husband there. I had my cell phone on the back of the toilet, checking in with Emily and my mom. My husband would come in from time to time to bring me water and check on me, but I would promptly send him away. At some point I felt cold and began to shiver, thinking I was just chilly I asked my husband to draw me a bath. I forgot to share this small detail with Emily (had I she would likely have told me I was in transition and to get to the hospital ASAP!). On the way to the bath my water broke. I called Emily and let her known that and that I was feeling a lot of pressure, she very calmly told me to call my doctor, she wanted the “go to the hospital” call to come from them. I was so worried about getting to the hospital too early, so having her support put me at ease. She gave me some great breathing techniques to help relieve the pressure and get me through the car ride across DC and said she would meet us at the hospital.
The car ride was epic. I was feeling so much pressure it was difficult for me to sit down. As we pulled up to the turn before the hospital I told my husband that I felt like I had to push. It was something out of a movie. In my head, as crazy as this sounds, I was still worried we could get up to L&D and they would tell me I was like 6 centimeters. Thankfully, the term “rectal pressure” got the attention of the staff pretty quickly. They brought me right back to a room, checked me and let me know I was ready to push! My baby was coming fast, the staff asked if I wanted to wait for my doula, but baby girl was not waiting on anyone. Two pushes and she was out, moments later Emily walked through the door. After the placenta was delivered I was still bleeding. All of the interventions I had avoided in birth started to pile on, there were injections, IVs, manual removal of clots, it was much worse than labor! While my husband was busy admiring his new daughter, I was so thankful to have Emily there holding my hand and support me through the management of the bleeding, taking a few treasured photos, and helping me to initiate breastfeeding.
Although she wasn’t physically with me for my labor and birth, the support that Emily provided me throughout my labor and immediately postpartum was invaluable. As she said when she arrived I, “reached my goal of laboring at home and having my baby in the hospital!”