Pregnancy is so exciting! There are amazing things happening within your body, and the joy of being a part of that is indescribable. Even when it’s 150° outside. What’s not so exciting is dehydration and the effects that can have on you and your unborn. Contractions and swelling are no fun, and can be no laughing matter! As the temperatures go up, please remember your water bottle.
Parenthood is hard! It’s amazing, and wonderful, and awesome, and blissful, and challenging , and… well, very very hard.
Your whole life changes, your family dynamic is suddenly completely different, your life perception has been skewed to an entirely different understanding, and add to that sleep deprivation, hormone changes, huge expectations from a tiny jelly-like human, and high expectations of ourselves.
We have long since abandoned the tribal way of life, where we have whole communities of families raising the young together, women supporting women, and no one being left high and dry to discover childbirth or parenthood alone. There’s a stigma attached to the idea of asking for help, as though it means we are less of a person, or somehow incapable of normal human instincts, or worse still: weak!
Well, I’m here to tell you, just as there’s a service you can pay for to have someone mow the lawn when you can’t (or don’t want to) get to it, and a person you can hire to fix your car when you don’t know how to fix it, or don’t have time to get to it, there’s a doula for your journey into this new chapter.
Birth doulas help you discover your own path through your birth, the inner strength to get through every contraction, and the voice inside to be loud enough for the birth team to stand up and take note, the support of the partner, who is also going through these same life changes, and so very scared for their loved one being swept away in this vortex of contractions and hormones and noises coming from her never heard before, with no idea where to stand, where to touch her that’s comforting, and feeling lost because they can’t “fix it.”
Postpartum doulas are there after birth to lend a hand to moms as their bodies are recovering from childbirth, to make Mom a sandwich and a cold glass of water while she focuses on feeding Baby, throw in a load of laundry, load the dishwasher, maybe assist with latching a fussy baby, give you that time to focus on your new roles as parents, and overcome the stigmas and expectations we (and our society at large) place upon ourselves as new (or new again) parents, find that new normal, and discover who this new human is.
You don’t have to go it alone. You don’t have to be Super Parent. Just as you’d hire a contractor to build an addition to your house, you can hire a doula to welcome this new addition to your home.
I LOVE being a doula! Not merely like, not simply love, I truly, madly, deeply LOVE being a doula. There’s nothing more fulfilling in my eyes, than being a part of this journey. Watching life begin in the most miraculous way. Being a positive influence on the process. But possibly the main reason is because of the passion I feel about birth, and reclaiming our bodies, our births, and OUR IDENTITIES! Not everyone chooses to become a mom, and that’s just as awesome and wonderful as a woman who decides to have just one, or 100 kids! But regardless of our life choices, they should be just that: our choices!
Recently I attended a birth where a laboring mom asked the OB to tell it to her straight. “Are you going to cut me open, regardless of what happens here?” she asked, in an exhausted state. My heart fell to my toes (and probably fell the next three floors to the ground level, to be candid) as I felt more than heard the tangible pain and fear in her voice. This wasn’t someone begging to be done with labor, as the surgeon understood it, but a scared mom who felt her ideal birth slipping away.
Sadly, this is the reality for so many births! Surgeons, who specialize in cutting out babies from their mommies bellies, attended nearly 90% of births last year. And we wonder why cesarean rates are at 35+%? In areas where poverty levels soar, and access to midwifery care is severely limited, or even nonexistent, as much as 55% of births take place via surgery.
To gain perspective on this, imagine for a moment you’re about to embark on a new career, in a new city, and everything around you is completely unknown. Sounds exciting, yet daunting, right? Now, imagine you just had a major surgery. You’re unable to do even the most menial tasks, you have to clutch a pillow just to clear your throat, you can’t laugh without extreme pain, and you’re not even allowed to cook, clean, or even bathe, and yet you’re still expected to take on this whole new role. Welcome to motherhood after an unplanned cesarean!
Now, understand that there are many women who prefer this method to the pain, the unknown birth date, the side effects of vaginal delivery, etc. For these moms, it would be traumatic to be robbed of her ideal birth, as much as the mom with slightly, or even completely different plans. To suffer the consequences of someone else’s feelings or opinions, as well as the loss of the ideal birth is traumatic.
And that is why I became a doula.
Birth should be up to Mom and baby to dictate terms. When this can’t happen safely, when it’s not just a convenience thing, or the preference of those in the room, we are all so thankful for interventions, thankful that a surgeon was close by. We are not, however, thankful for one of the highest mortality and morbidity rates of all first world countries. So let’s change the face of birth! One mom, one baby at a time. Advocate. Hire a doula. Be a doula.
Did you know? Because I didn’t know. And I’m a doula! I’ve been doing this for years, and I received an email today, wishing me a happy IDM (International Doula Month), informing me that there’s a whole month dedicated to doulas! #MindBLOWN
So what does this mean for you? Aside from my Facebook being decorated with all things birth and babies, for those of you looking for a birth doula, hiring me in the month of May for your birth, you will get a 15% discount! Simply request the IDM discount, and you save yourself a nice chunk of change. Nice, huh?
Just after the Spring equinox is World Doula Week. Call your favorite Doula and wish her happy births and full calendars, hug a doula, buy a doula a donut. Do something to say, “Thank you for taking a job where women pay you to be screamed at, cried on, and advocated for.”
If you care about birth: Be a Doula
If you care about pregnancy: Be a Doula
If you care about healthy outcomes: Be a Doula
If you care about more than just healthy outcomes: Be a Doula
If you can’t be a doula: Hire a Doula!
“How much longer am I going to be pregnant?”
“When is s/he coming out?”
“How much bigger am I going to get?”
“My back/feet/skin/brain can’t take much more.”
“I just want my body back.”
“I just want to hold my baby in my arms.”
“Will these Braxton Hicks contractions never end?”
You know that feeling. You’re about 37 weeks, and you start the countdown. Really, around 32 weeks things may have gotten less fun, more mundane, and you started thinking a lot harder a lot more often about the day you’ll hold your baby as 2 months or less away. At around 38 weeks you’re still determined to keep going, no induction, but, whoa, look at the size of my feet! And everyone at the office (and grocery store, and gas station, and…) has to comment on your size as you walk past them. Sometimes numerous times a day. (And why did I think my office was nicely placed? I have to waddle past the same 11 people 8 times a day to go pee, and even though not all of them comment on my belly, they give me that look.) Around this time is when people start questioning your decision to keep going. They begin to make comments like, “You’re still pregnant,” and “Why haven’t you left for maternity leave yet,” or, “You’re going to pop any day now!” By the time you reach 40 weeks, though only a percentage of babies have already been born at this gestation, you’ve possibly been fed so much propaganda, been ridiculed in jokes and sly comments that you may feel you should be done by now.
Since when is it acceptable to talk to a woman about what’s going on inside her vagina like you’re asking about the weather or their new job? Or for a stranger to ask as nonchalantly as asking for the time what your birth plan is?
The fact is, people feel that something private is being made very public just by you walking around in maternity clothes and subconsciously rubbing your swollen belly. Your pregnancy has become public knowledge and a public topic, as much as politics, or religious affiliation: something complete strangers will talk to you about, though sometimes you’re begging them with your eyes not to go there. Now I understand why John the Baptist’s mother, Elizabeth, was indoors for the last 5 months of her pregnancy!
So, then, what is the right time for baby to come? When is an induction something you need to do? There really is no clear answer on this. In fact, to give you a bland answer would be as unacceptable as telling you because of your size, age, demographic, pain tolerance level, or marital status you’re going to have a cesarean. We talk a lot about what pregnant women should or shouldn’t do, or are or aren’t allowed to do, but this is something you can do all on your own, armed with knowledge, and not scare tactics, aware of the pros and cons, and not possibilities and what ifs that someone else gets to dictate. It’s never too late or too early to arm yourself with knowledge. Though Google can be a great tool in helping you locate information, remember Dr Google is not infallible. Your answers shouldn’t all come from anecdotal evidence from your friend’s grandmother (unless she’s currently practicing in the birthing field), from forums or your Mommy groups. Look for evidence based information, sites that show the studies that back up their statements, articles written by educators with credentials, writers that talk of Cochrane Review, SMFM, and ACOG as setting good standards of practice, and people who don’t believe one answer fits every mother, every pregnancy, every time. And most of all, trust your instincts!