- Leah Outten
How I Learned the Value of a Doula
I had never had a doula with my 4 previous births. Partially because for the earlier births in the hospital I didn't know they even existed but once I learned what a doula was, I didn't think I needed one. Call it pride. Call it ignorance. Call it me wanting to save my money. Whatever you want to call it, I thought I could do this birthing thing on my own.
I mean, I had my husband there and my midwife...that was enough, right? They knew what I would need! And yes, with my 2 natural experiences at the birth center and at home they did their best to be what I needed. Both were very positive experiences and going into my 5th birth I still felt confident that I didn't need a doula present.
But then my husband couldn't be at our birth. With 3 other children (if you are confused on that math compared to above: I do have 4 children but one was placed in open adoption when I was 16) the most sick I have ever seen them with high fevers, lethargic, flu-like symptoms, we knew that he needed to stay with them while I labored and birthed elsewhere. We had planned for a home birth again, but for this reason we decided it best to go to the birthing center near by to avoid the germs and for my team to have space to move around the home as needed. Having the place figured out, I felt scared of doing this on my own. Sure, I had my midwives but their job is split between me and the baby. I needed someone there dedicated to my needs while in labor and afterwards like my husband would be. Typically, he is my rock during labor, I needed a replacement rock.
So, a friend that is studying to be a doula offered to be in that place and another dear friend ended up staying for birth as well. I had TWO rocks! It was incredible. Of course, I wanted my husband there and I did have to work through some grief that he wouldn't be there to witness his daughter's birth, but I also felt a lot of peace in the situation. I knew I had the support I needed. And as a result of the situation, I learned the value of a doula.
For the first time in my 4 labors, I had a woman's touch to push my hips together or rub my back and stroke my hair as I breathed deep into my zone. For the first time, I had other women there to talk me through the fear of the pressure I was feeling, knowing what was coming soon and knowing they knew what I was feeling. I had someone to encourage me to try this position or that, to remind me to breathe more efficiently. I had someone make the suggestion of trying this oil or that one for how I was feeling. Their heart-to-hearts while I sat in the tub will always be treasured moments of Sadie's birth. The atmosphere was full of peace and JOY! There are pictures of us laughing while I'm in the tub and my friends perched on the other side in between contractions. When a contraction hit, one or both of my friends would jump to action to be by my side, one rubbing my back and one rubbing my hair.
As a result, I felt completely relaxed and in control throughout my entire birth, even during pushing. My previous birth at home, while a positive experience, there were things I wanted to improve on like relaxing more during transition and pushing, trying a different birthing position, being quieter during transition, breathing more effectively, etc. I truly feeling having my doula friends there to be my support helped me meet those goals to feel in control. I pushed only 3 times and while I did RAWR my daughter out into this world, I still felt very in control of the whole process.
My midwife commented later how this being a birth without a man present felt like a trip back into time as an all women birth was how it used to be, so now we affectionately call this our "Red Tent birth." She also mentioned how watching my friends supporting me she almost felt like she shouldn't interfere too much and kept her distance to not interrupt us. Of course, my midwife was still there to keep tabs on baby's heartbeat and assess how I was doing, they were there to help deliver my second caul baby as she was born into the water, and was there to breathe life into her when Sadie needed some extra help at first. It was an amazing, incredible birth experience all around. The power of women is an incredible thing. I drew strength from them, knowing they knew what I was feeling.
I wanted to share this with you because you are worth having a doula. I now think every mom should have a doula if possible, it's worth every penny for every moment that they are to support you in one of the biggest moments of your life. If you cannot afford one, look to a friend or a doula in training that may assist for free. However you can make it work, do it! Doulas are so valuable to a having positive birth experience.