Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Doula Anyone?

I spent an hour the other day, rubbing my beautiful, pregnant friend's feet.  No joke!  She is past due with her second baby now and I get to be her doula.  What is a doula, you might ask?  The word doula comes from the ancient Greek and means a woman who serves.  Today it refers to a woman who is an attendant to another woman before, during, or after labor and delivery.  Some doulas provide continuous physical and emotional support during labor and others provide emotional and informational support for the mother postpartum.  I have been enthralled with all things pregnancy since I lay awake at night dreaming of who the little person in my belly might be over five years ago.  
Today I have zero desire to push anyone out of my vajayjay, but I can't imagine any job better than that of a doula.  Seriously.  Every woman deserves to have their hand held and hear a gentle voice reminding them that yes, this watermelon will by God's grace, squeeze out of a hole the size of a grapefruit.  Labor is the great common denominator among women.  It doesn't matter if you are forty or nineteen, big boned or built like a stick insect, if your diaper bag is Kate Spade or mass produced by Wal-Mart, we all have to go through it to have a child.  And C-sections are no less terrifying!  Why is staying awake while someone slices through your abdomen ever a good idea?! Look junior, there is a picture of Mommy's small intestine! 
My own birth experiences were not positive ones.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not whining.  After duking it out a round with infertility, I was so overjoyed to have a baby, no matter how she got there! But I sometimes wonder how things might have gone differently if I had a female advocate with me during my deliveries.
With my eldest baby, I was in labor for a whopping 34 hours.  I had read What to Expect When You're Expecting like a dutiful mommy in training.  I attended the marathon 8 hour birthing class that the hospital provided with Hubby.  But trust me when I tell you that no one ever told me that intensely painful contractions could last for more than 24 hours without dilation.  I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy!  After a sleepless night of labor pains, Hubby and I excitedly headed to the hospital ready for a baby.  Unfortunately, I had made zero progress towards said baby and was sent home.  Hours later in excruciating pain we returned only to be told that we were getting nowhere.  Hubby was exhausted and frightened, which fed into my fear of the pain.  I begged for an epidural, but was denied because of my stubborn cervix.  Finally, I caved, and asked for anything they should shoot up my arm to take away the pain.  I got a dose of morphine that allowed me a fitful sleep.  Thirty hours in to my labor, I was finally allowed an epidural.  It worked on half of my body but was a great relief.  Unfortunately, the effects of the morphine had not completely worn off, so when my Savannah was born, I was high as a kite.  
With our second child, I actively sought a doula, but could not afford one at that time.  So I read up on my breathing techniques and hoped for the best.  I got my stamp of approval at the 40 week doctor's appointment for an induction scheduled the following week.  On our way to the hospital I started having some tiny contractions and they increased after I received a gel to help my cervix along.  I was given two hospital grade ambien to help me sleep and I swallowed them, ignoring the little voice inside my head that said, "This could be a bad idea." There was no sleeping.  The next eight to ten hours are a blur that I can not remember.  I remember crying and vomiting, and an intense back pain but that is all.  I knew something was wrong, but I was told to wait until the doctor arrived at 6:30 the next morning.  When she came, she took one look at me and asked for an ultrasound machine.  My baby had turned completely breech since the last prenatal exam and we had been inducing a breech baby all night.  I was whisked into an operating room, and given an epidural.  Again, only half of my body became numb so the anesthesiologist said that I had to be put under.  Hubby had to leave the room and I was out in minutes.  When I woke, everyone, including the medical staff looked shaken.  My baby was very quiet and floppy.  No one would tell me her apgar score.  Hours later, my husband told me that he waited for me outside the operating room for two hours with no word.  Lilah had a bowel movement in her amniotic sac and inhaled it, so they struggled to get her breathing for a long time.  Poor Hubby sweated it out, waiting to hear a cry from our quiet baby, while I slept.  I got the better end of the deal for sure.  
Now I'm not one of those granola mamas who think that labor should be one giant orgasm in a plastic baby pool.   But I do think that an informed female advocate is an asset in the delivery room.   A huge hurdle in labor is the fear factor.  How great would it be to have a calm presence around to reassure you in your hour of need?  It's why we want our mamas when we're sick.  The best medicine is a voice to say, "I know you are hurting, but everything will be alright.  Your body can do this!  It will be over soon." 
In researching doula certification, I found some interesting statistics about the impact of a doula on a woman's delivery.  Here are the numbers from the most recent study I could find. 
* 26% less likely to give birth by cesarean section
* 41% less likely to give birth with vacuum extraction or forceps
* 28% less likely to use any pain medications and
* 33% less likely to be dissatisfied with or negatively rate their birth experience 

Who knows?  Maybe one day soon I will be a real, bonafied, back rubbing, mama hugging, sweet talking doula!  I am just so grateful that for now, my buddy has agreed to let me be a part of one of the most incredible days of her and her husband's lives.  They are great people and I am happy to be along for the ride as the birth day cheerleader. 



  1. Katie-Bug,
    I think you would make an amazing, wonderful, beautiful and gifted Doula. I think it's one of God's thumbprints on your life. I can hear the passion in your voice when you talk about it. I am SO proud of you for your first Doula experience with Sophie. It sounds like you did an AMAZING job as did Miss Sophie!! I am beyond proud of her!! thing. You reference Sophie as your first Doula experience and that's not really true. Even though we didn't use the label, you WERE my Doula when William Peter Prenni entered this world and it could not have been a more perfect delivery experience. Coincidence? I think not!!
    I love you.

  2. I can't think of a job more special!!! I know you are perfect for this!!

    With my last pregnancy I also wanted a doula (I actually wanted to deliver at home!) but money also came into the picture...Insurance companies don't pay for these things (really sucks) and we just couldn't afford the extra cost being that it was free through our insurance.

    I did stay at home till the very last minute I could. I still have issues with that birth because I was so in control the whole time I was at home, and the moment I walked in to the hospital I felt like somebody else was now trying to control MY birth. I think if I would have had a doula with me during that last 1/2 hour things would have gone a little different. Not the epidural part, I had skipped on that, but the telling me how to lay down, pee in a cup, "wait for the doctor to come!", "don't push yet!!" part of it. Because in reality my pushing shouldn't depend on when the doctor is ready or when someone else tells me to push...


    Anyway!!! You are just the kind of person I would want near me during times like that!!! ( :