It was Friday May 22nd and I had my 41 week appointment at the birth center that morning. My mom insisted on coming to get Leo just in case and I am so glad that she did, that took a lot off my mind knowing he was safe and little did I know this would be the day. At my appointment the Midwife confirmed that my water had indeed broken (I had felt some small gushing the day before and I was fairly sure it was my waters). The fact that my water was broken meant I was on a time limit, I had 2 days to go into labor before I would risk out of birthing at the center, and getting my water birth. It was super important to me to have a water birth because I had my first son Leo at Natural Beginnings as well but there was a water main break which prevented me from having him in the pool. Anyway back to this story, Midwife Erica gave me some options for natural induction and suggested trying the midwives brew first (castor oil) so that is what we decided to do. I was kind of nervous because of all the stories I had heard about Castor Oil but I preferred to try it first over a medical induction. When we left the birth center we went out to look for the ingredients to make the brew and got some lunch. I decided to take a nap before I took it because I knew labor could be an all night ordeal and I hadn’t slept much the night before. When I woke up I mixed it up and drank it and this was around 5 pm. It tasted so gross, I don't think ill be able to eat almond butter for a loooong time. It mainly made me nauseous....super-miserably nauseous, for about 2 hours. During that time I watched one of my favorite movies Leap Year and bounced on my exercise ball. Gotta love a good Chick Flick to get those emotions flowing. ;) When I finally started to feel better I decided to eat some dinner for energy and was craving soup. A cup of noodles was all I had on hand so I made it and sat down at my kitchen table, had a few bites and felt a POP! I knew that was my waters breaking....it’s a strange feeling being a Doula and being in labor because you know what’s happening and you know what’s coming. At that point I got up to go to the bathroom and water was streaming down my legs...I checked for color and all that good stuff...all clear there so that was good. But it was also at this point that I felt a little panicked, I knew that waters leaking meant the cushion between babies head and my cervix would be gone and that equals pain and time to push. I wasn’t sure how long we had so as I sat on the toilet to see what my broken water looked like I told Jon what had happened and that we needed to leave ASAP, he was in the shower. He rushed out and started getting everything together and also following me with a towel wiping up water as I threw the last few things in the bag. Contractions started immediately and were 4-5 mins apart and pretty strong. I called the midwife and she asked me questions I couldn’t answer and finally asked if I thought it was time to come and I said yes! Lol I also texted my Birth Photographer and Doula and that was probably the last communication they got from me. We hit the road and the contractions were down to just under 2 mins apart and insanely hard. I prayed they would slow down and ease up but that did not really happen so the ride there was pretty terrible. I definitely felt like I would be pushing soon if I made a change in position so I just sat in my seat, tried to breathe through them and timed them for the hour drive. I called the midwife When we were 20 mins out and asked them to fill up the tub because I knew things were going fast. When we got there I went straight to the bathroom because, you know, castor oil . Nothing would come out but I was terrified of pooping in the birth tub so I wanted to try before getting checked. Erica checked me and I was 8 cm! Woo hoo! So in the tub I went. I was relieved that we made it and I probably didn’t have long to go. The tub felt great but I was at the point where it didn’t offer that much relief. I can at least say it was worlds better than the car. My friend Melissa arrived shortly after us (my photographer) and I could barely greet her but I was so glad she was allowed to come. Then a few more contractions and my Doula Andrea arrived. I was happy to have her for moral support, I needed her to be there for my birth team to be complete! I had been laboring in the tub for 30 mins or so and I just felt like he wasn’t coming down like he should be so I tried lunging each leg up alternating in the pool per Erica's recommendation. Then I felt like I should take one last trip to the potty just in case and of course that was agony...as I knew it would be from my first birth. Toilet contractions hurt and move baby down so sometimes it makes you feel pushy. Still nothing happened so I got back in the pool and started feeling an urge to push. At this point the nurse, Jamie, checked Hudson’s heartbeat and then the way that she looked at my Midwife and they exchanged glances, I knew what that meant- I needed to get him out soon. So I decided to let my fear go and just try to push. I probably pushed 5 contractions or less and could feel his head. I will say it was so much easier the second time, it wasn’t such a scary feeling but it was still intense to feel that power surge through me. This pregnancy I had focused on learning how to use my pelvic floor muscles and tried really relaxing those as my body compelled me to push. I didn’t feel like it was working at all because everything just feels so stretched and like it was about to tear, but I leaned into it and tried to release and I heard Erica say “ok he’s at eye level” so even though I was in between contractions I tried little light pushes to ease his head out, she said “nose, lips, ok head is out” and I was like “wow! Hard part is over!” (I pushed for like 2 hours with Leo so this was surprising.) Erica told me I needed to get him out with the next contraction and so I waited for it...it felt like forever and then I gave it all I had and pushed him out with a primal scream. Erica grabbed him out of the water and I saw her unwrapping the cord...three times! Then she handed him to me and he was very gray-blue and not moving. I knew this was somewhat normal from experience at births and I kept rubbing him trying to get him to breathe. Erica then told me to give him some breaths by putting my mouth over his nose and mouth and blowing, so that’s what I did. After two breaths he coughed and began to cry, and so did I! I pulled him to me and said “my baby!” I just thanked God that he was okay and in my arms. I was overjoyed that I finally got my water birth!! The icing on the cake was having my dear friend be able to capture those moments forever, having my Doula there for a second time, having the sweetest Midwife who felt like a friend and a nurse who was just the best, and learning that I didn’t tear at all! The pelvic floor exercises must’ve worked! I was super happy and just enjoying my natural birth high. Hudson weighed 9lbs 8 oz (WOW!) and was 21 inches long! He was chunky and wide eyed and just so so sweet. I will cherish the memory of his birth forever. <3
Today I am finally kicking off my blog on my Doula website. WOO HOO it feels good! This has been something I’ve planned to do for months but we have been traveling, as we always do in the summer, and I’ve had clients and certification work to keep me busy.
So here I am writing my first post and I wanted to start off by dispelling some common myths about Doulas and what we do.
Our first myth is that a Doula does something medical, similar to a Midwife.
This is a common misconception in my experience. When I tell someone I am a Doula I usually ask them if they know what that is, their response is usually something like, “yes, you deliver babies!” Most of you probably know this is not true but if you don’t know much about Doula’s you should know that we do not do anything medical. The word Doula comes from a Greek word meaning “female servant” and the modern definition is: a woman, typically without formal obstetric training, who is employed to provide guidance and support to a pregnant woman during labor.
Myth number two is that a Doula is only necessary at a planned natural birth.
False! Doulas are helpful at any and all kinds of births. While it is true that a lot of women who are trying to have natural births often hire a doula, doulas can be of immense value at any birth. For example when a mom wants an epidural a doula can educate the mother about the process and when would be an ideal time to get one, then once she has it the Doula can be there for moral support, bringing things mom needs, and helping her into different positions in the bed that can keep labor moving along. Sometimes an epidural will not take on one or more sides of a mother’s body and at that point a doula is an excellent back up plan. For a C-section a doula is able to comfort the mom and, if mom wants, may be able to go into the operating room, depending on the hospital. For c-section moms a Post-partum Doula can be a life saver, helping around the house while she enjoys precious moments with her new baby.
A third myth is that a Doula is simply a labor coach.
While sometimes a doula can play this role, a good doula is far more than a labor coach. More times than not a doula is operating in the background, helping dad know what to do, bringing mom a drink of water, hip squeezing, rubbing her back, applying a cold or hot compress etc. A good doula attempts to understand what mom is feeling and therefore meet her needs without her having to ask. A good doula will also recognize when mom might be reaching her breaking point and need a confident word of encouragement, or when she is pushing with all her might the doula will become the cheerleader. So this myth is partly true, but you get the point!
Myth #4: I don’t need a doula, I have a ______________. Fill in the blank with Midwife, partner, mom etc.
While I encourage all mothers to have whoever they wish at their births, none of these people are a substitute for a good doula. Your husband may be your rock and may have taken a Childbirth class with you and (kind of) read that book you had been nagging him to read. ;) However, when true labor contractions hit and you realize you are actually in labor, the excitement is high and 9 out of 10 times dad will forget all of his training. It is difficult to see the one you love in pain and as Husbands a lot of time they just don’t know what is helpful to you, this is where a good doula will step in and show him. He may have learned counter pressure is helpful but not know when and where the right spot is for it. Another thing to consider is if you are having a hospital birth but have certain desires for your birth plan, your husband may be too concerned with helping you to remember the birth plan and advocate for your wishes. Doulas are experts at helping you advocate for your rights during your birth. If you want your husband to be your main support person, make sure you tell your doula this and the right doula will help make your husband your Labor Hero.
A good midwife can and does operate as a doula when the need arises but most Midwives love having a doula at the birth because it means they can focus on their most important job - the health of you and your baby. Midwives have to keep a close watch for signs of problems, monitor heart rates, blood pressure, etc and make sure baby and mom are ok during pushing and that baby arrives safely. Doulas and Midwives work together to help Mom during labor.
I would say that the birthing mother’s Mom might actually be our best candidate for a substitute doula in some specific cases, as a doula is essentially “mothering the mother.” However, as with the husband, a lot of moms do not like seeing their daughters in pain and can’t handle that when the time comes, they become more of a worried presence than the calm, confident one that the doula can be. Also some mother-daughter conflicts can make this a tricky situation, the last thing you want in your birthing space are old negative emotions arising. So while the choice is up to each pregnant mom as to who is her support person, a doula is going to be the most beneficial and fit for the job.
Myth #5: I can’t afford a Doula.
Ok so I don't know your personal situation, while a doula is certainly an investment, so is a wedding planner and all of the costs that went into your wedding. If you put all that into having a great wedding, why wouldn’t you invest in the birth of your child? Giving birth is a sacred, yet natural event and a doula understands this and seeks to make it one of the best experiences of your life, sadly so many moms are having the opposite experience during birth. You can read some positive birth stories where a doula is present and the families will say that their doula was worth every penny. There are also ways to offset the cost of a doula; most doulas offer payment plans so you can pay their fee gradually leading up to birth. Also some insurances will pay for doula services, I have also had clients pay for my services with their HSA accounts. A doula’s services can make the difference between “just getting through” labor and actually having a positive birth experience, and that is worth it.
Myth #6: doula is a Hippy that burns sage and rubs essential oils on my face while singing and telling me to “just breathe and open.”
Ok this one is a silly one :P but seriously I have encountered family of clients who totally do not understand the purpose of the doula. When my client told them she had hired a doula they thought there was going to be some kind of Pagan ritual going on. Haha! Also when I was pregnant, my husband told his friend that while he was out of town, if something were to happen I could call the doula and he replied Abdula? Who’s Abdula?! LOL. While some doulas certainly are eccentric, most are just normal women and often mothers who have had their births impact their lives in ways that they want to help other mothers. Some are not mothers but have the instincts and training required for the job and help laboring moms in their own ways. There are many different styles of doulas so when you are looking for one it is important to find one that lines up with your beliefs about birth, your values in life and your desires for your birth. There are different doulas for different clients, don’t be afraid to shop around, and doulas, don’t let your ego get too big to recommend another doula if you know you are not a good fit.
Well I think this is all the myths that I have time to debunk today. I hope this helps you in your decision to hire a doula and your journey in hiring the right one! Are there any myths that I've missed that you need some clarity on? Comment below!