So you’re pregnant and navigating the crazy world that is prenatal information. You’re learning that your child is currently the size of a gummy bear (or a lime, or a pineapple), that you might eventually grow skin tags or have heartburn, that you will only continue to get bigger. Not to mention the fact that at the end of this crazy ride, you actually have to deliver a baby.
You are exhilarated/nervous/terrified. Labor and delivery can be an overwhelming process, so wouldn’t it be nice to have someone in your corner?
How about a doula?
But you’re saying, “I have a partner! THEY are going to get me through labor!” And for the most part, you’re right. No one can replace your partner; that is the person that will stand by you through the ups and downs, and a doula won’t try to.
So What Does a Doula Do?
As Rachel Gurevich says on the Crib Sheet, a doula is going to provide you with childbirth support. For me, that meant working with me through contractions, helping me remember to breathe, and being my very own cheerleader. She also kept my husband calm, gave him tasks, and had him fanning me like a pro. She helped me keep my head on straight when there were questions that I didn’t immediately know the answer to (such as did I want the doctor to break my water?), and reminded me that I could totally DO this when I thought I couldn’t.
My husband was a rock star, but my doula was a rock.
What are the Benefits of a Doula?
As the Crib Sheet states, a reduced rate of c-sections, fewer pain meds, and labor augmentation… which are all great things. A shorter labor is pretty good, too. (Although I don’t know how much shorter I would have wanted my second labor to be, since it was six hours and only three pushes to get my little girl out.) But reducing the fear was my big thing. My labor was fast and furious, and I was terrified at the end. My doula was my cheerleader, getting me through the worst of it and reminding me of how strong I was. At one point, she had to hold my face in her hands and get me to focus, breathe, and stop panicking when the contractions were coming on strong. She made me feel like I was powerful and could so.totally.do.this.
How Will the Doula Work With My Partner?
I knew in my heart of hearts that my husband loved me and didn’t want to see me in pain, which for our birthing relationship meant that he was relegated to the sidelines. He was my water boy, the one who told me he loved me, and the one fanning me like his life depended on it. He and my doula actually worked together in pretty amazing harmony, and she made sure that he was very involved when I wanted him to be and was far enough away from me when I wanted someone to blame for… everything. I felt so comfortable with her that I almost let him go grab a bite after my water was broken… good thing I didn’t though since the baby came 45 minutes later.
How Do You Get a Doula?
I was lucky that I didn’t have to look for one. My doula was a friend who had already been used by many women I knew, which made me comfortable with her from the get-go. As the Crib Sheet suggests, definitely look on DONA.org and CAPPA.net, but also make sure to ask around. You may be surprised to find that one or many of your girlfriends used a doula and can refer you. And even though I didn’t need to go on an extended search, I did start the process about six months in advance.
Choosing Your Doula
DEFINITELY do your homework. You want the best person to attend your birth and that is going to be the person who knows what they are doing. Also, interview, interview, interview. If you don’t feel comfortable with one, keep looking. Do NOT be afraid to ask questions. Do NOT let anyone bully you into thinking that you need to birth a certain way to be a success. Do NOT settle. You will find someone that you and your partner mesh with! And once you do find that person? I recommend more than just one meeting, time permitting.
My doula and I met three times before the big day. Because I went into false labor a few times, I spent many hours texting and emailing her questions. Make sure to ask your doula how they feel about that. I was personally comfortable enough with my doula that I actually had to restrain myself from sending her too many texts about how I was feeling that day or how annoying I was finding my husband.
The most important part is to ask questions and set expectations. You may or may not know exactly what you want from your doula, but you should be able to lay out some guidelines about what their role will be. All of the points Rachel made on the Crib Sheet are great ones and remember that at the end of the day, it’s about what you want from your birth experience. Make sure that the doula who’s in the room with you knows that and supports you.
Whether you’re planning on birthing in the hospital, at home, in the woods or in an operating room, you’re going to come out of it a strong, powerful, woman and mother.
You can SO.TOTALLY.DO.THIS.
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