"If ye are prepared ye shall not fear."
My birth experiences following the first were much different. I went into these births much more educated and confident in my abilities. I understood that birth was painful because I was fighting against the sensations in my body rather than allowing them and focusing on relaxing and breathing. I learned to master my mind and to speak up for myself and my wishes. My husband learned to support me as well, and I count those experiences as some of the most precious and sacred moments in our marriage.
Birth doesn't, and shouldn't, be something that just happens to you. Nor should you fear it. You are literally the key player, the heroine, the main character of your story. Wouldn't you like to know the path you're on before you take it? Or, better yet, create the path that you want. If that means a home birth, let's talk about what that looks like and how you have to prepare. if that looks like a hospital birth with an epidural, let's talk about what that looks like and what your choices are. Of course a doula can never predict the outcome of your birth experience, but my clients know that as their doula, I am dedicated to supporting them, their family, and their wishes. I am committed to making those connections, involving their spouse (I do not take the place of dads) doing everything I can to help them feel prepared. The more prepared you are, the less you will be afraid... and the better your birth experience will be.
For more information about Doulas and what they do, please visit https://evidencebasedbirth.com/the-evidence-for-doulas/
What is this word you say, "Doula?" The first time I heard it was when my mom mentioned that her sister, my Aunt Janie, was one and that I should see if she'd like to help me with my first birth. Of course, I had no idea what she was talking about and thought, " Isn't that what a doctor is for?"
*pssst. The answer is NO.*
So, I went along my merry way, took a hospital Lamaze breathing class, and went into labor TOTALLY prepared... Until those surges started coming a few minutes apart and I had no idea what my body was trying to do to me.
Thankfully, I was able to have a non-traumatic birth experience in the hospital with a really great doctor, my mother, my loving husband, and my epidural. I thought everything had turned out pretty good and was happy to have my baby, but it didn't quite feel the way I had expected. I mean, I expected it to hurt, but the feeling when my baby was on my chest wasn't what I expected. It's like the entire experience happened to me without really involving me.
Now, four children later and with A LOT of birth experiences under my belt, I understand why I didn't get that feeling I had been expecting: I wasn't educated, and therefore, I didn't have options. I had handed my entire birth experience over to my doctor, the nurses, and the hospital policies.
I don't look back on that first experience with any anger or real regret, because I understand that I didn't know what I didn't know. But looking back, I think I really would have appreciated having someone who could point me in the right direction to educate myself, help me make choices to frame my birth experience, advocate for myself, and feel more prepared for the process of birth.
That someone is a doula.
Let me give you a rundown of what I do:
• A doula is a birth companion who supports mothers during labor and birth. I provide emotional, physical, and informational support and advocate for my clients. A doula is NOT a medical professional.
• I support you emotionally by my continuous presence, reassurance, encouraging words, praise, validating your feelings, and generally being a positive energy in your birthing space.
• I provide physical support by soothing touch, helping to create a peaceful and calm environment for birth by dimming the lights or adjusting curtains, pillows, etc., assisting with water therapy and hot and cold application, reminding the mother and the father to stay hydrated and fed, and assistance with different coping mechanisms for discomfort.
• Beginning before birth, I provide resources for education and answer questions about birth that you may have to help you prepare for your experience becoming a mother. I share with you evidence-based information about options available to you and help you to decide what choices are best for you and your family. I suggest techniques in labor, such as breathing, relaxation techniques, and movement (which is important with and without an epidural). I also explain medical procedures before they occur.
• As your advocate, I support you in your right to self-determination, or supporting you and your right to make decisions about your own body and your baby's. I encourage you to ask questions and verbalize your preferences, ask you what you want and support you in your decisions, amplify your voice if you're not being heard or are being dismissed/ignored, teach and encourage positive communication to your spouse/team, and create a space and time for you and your family to ask questions about birth and gather evidence-based information, and make decisions without feeling pressured.