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When I was pregnant with my first, I wanted a hospital birth that was as at-home-like as it could be, so hiring a doula was one of the natural first steps.
The process started out straightforwardly enough. Once I found a doula I thought was right for us, my husband, the doula, and I met to discuss our hopes for the birth. We went over, in detail, all the ways I relieve stress and manage pain. It was important that our doula had that knowledge, and a good reminder for us we prepared for the big day.
The doula also came over to our house before I went into labor and spent some time praying and meditating with me over the birth. She even designed this beautiful henna tattoo for my belly. We spent some time focused on connecting, and I felt confident that we were prepared for almost any outcome.
Except … our plans unraveled from the start. We had hoped to wait until I was well into labor to leave for the hospital. But after my water broke, I was having some unusual bleeding, so I was admitted to the hospital and monitored before labor pains had even begun. So. Not. The. Plan.
My doula joined us the following afternoon after I'd been given Pitocin to get my labor moving along. I still hadn't had consistent contractions at that point and we'd been there about 12 hours. My husband took advantage of her presence to go get some food and I relaxed a little, knowing my team was together.
The Pitocin kicked in within the hour and contractions became increasingly more intense and regular. Once they were really going, I was able to get into a birthing tub. I remained there for the next four hours. The only pictures of my laboring were taken by my doula during the tub time.
My doula was a safe, constant presence. She got water for me and my husband, who was supporting me in the tub. She earned major kudos for always having a puke bag ready, because I threw up between almost every contraction. She never said a word – she just made sure she had a small stack of those little blue bags ready.
Labor is exhausting. Puking is exhausting. Not sleeping for 20 plus hours is exhausting. When it was time to get my dilation checked, I remember thinking, If I'm at 5 cm or below I'm getting an epidural. I wanted a natural birth, but I was getting tired. I didn't want to be talked out of my choice by either my doula or my husband, so I didn't say anything.
When my midwife announced 5 cm on the nose, I told them I wanted an epidural. It was eight o'clock at night and I knew I couldn't go on.
After I got the epidural and was able to relax, it was about 10 p.m. We all settled down to get some sleep. My body labored while everyone slept, and my daughter was born at 4:59 the next morning. All the pictures from her birth were taken by my doula. Her words of encouragement as I pushed my baby into the world helped me feel powerful and confident. She praised my daughter's latch and I felt like a natural-born breastfeeder right from the start.
Then our doula helped me in a way none of us anticipated when we made our birth plans. About an hour after the birth, my nurse came in to give my belly a final pounding. In the process, a clot the size of my fist, along with a lot of blood, poured out between my legs.
My husband was with our baby as the pediatric specialist went through some routine checks. My doula stood next to me and held my hand as my vision went blurry from the medications I was given so it hurt (a little) less when they reached back into my womb to find the source of the bleeding.
My doula stayed by my side until the doctors decided I was safe, although still in need of monitoring. They never found the source of the problem, but my bleeding had slowed down enough that I didn't need emergency care.
I was going to be fine, but I was tired and pale, drained of more than a liter of blood. My doula, having been there 24 hours at that point, was pretty drained as well. Once we were settled with fresh blankets, water, and a sleeping baby, she took her leave. We met with her a couple times after that to process through the labor and receive nursing support.
I am so grateful for my doula's support that day. Labor was not at all what I expected, but my team helped me through every unexpected development. I mean, what's not to love about someone who reminds you of your strength, who is there to witness you overcome adversity, and only wants the best possible experience for you? What we paid was more than worth it.
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.