I’ve mentioned a few times that Mike and I hired a doula for the birth of Miles and have hired her again for the birth of Baby 2.0. But why?
When I first heard of doulas – I think it was on a Pregtastic podcast, which I was addicted to while pregnant with Miles – it sounded like an extravagance. I liked the idea of having a doula, since I knew I wanted to try to have a natural birth, but (have I mentioned I’m a cheapskate?) wasn’t sure that it could be worth the added cost. The cost of doula services varies according to the general cost of living where you are, but ranges from $300-1000, with the average being around $500.
Once I started looking into it, though, Mike was 100% on board and argued that the price was well worth it. We had both watched The Business of Being Born by then, and we were both set on having a natural birth in a hospital setting. I have to give most of the credit to Mike for dispelling my hesitation over using doula services because he was gung-ho about it from the get go. Now, I would say that that was probably the best decision we made in preparation for Miles’s birth.
If you aren’t sure what a doula is, she is a trained professional who supports a woman (and her partner) before, during, and after birth. She is not a midwife and does not deliver babies or perform medical services, but she is there for emotional and physical support and brings a wealth of experience to the baby’s birthing time. In hospital settings, she can be an advocate for the mother’s wishes when dealing with medical staff. There are two different types of doula – a Birth Doula and a Postpartum Doula – but usually when people talk about doulas they are referring to Birth Doulas (who typically also do a postpartum visit, as ours does). The official DONA site has more good information about the benefits of hiring a doula, but the long and short of it is that clinical studies show better outcomes for mother and baby when a doula is present at a birth.
For me, it made a lot of sense to have a doula at my baby’s birth, because I wanted to go to the hospital, where I knew I would be dealing with the possibility of unwanted, or at least unplanned, interventions that might derail the natural birth I so desired. Of course I couldn’t have predicted that I would end up being induced, but when I was, having Dusti there for support was even more essential. She helped me through the panicky moment when I first heard that I might need an induction, and then of course she was invaluable during the birth itself, which I have written about here.
Dusti gave me the wonderful advice about using the energy of contractions to move my baby down. She literally helped me use the toilet during labor (not something you necessarily want your husband to do!) since at a certain point it was so difficult for me to even consider moving, never mind actually walking to the bathroom. She suggested positions that might be comfortable for me, reminded Mike to remind me to keep nibbling on ice, asked me if I needed my socks on or off (the littlest things sometimes matter so much! and usually husbands do not realize this), and she put some awesome counterpressure on my hips that felt wonderful as the baby was descending.
She was a wonderful emotional and psychological support as she talked me through the rollercoaster of giving birth… something not everyone realizes is that just as there are physical stages of labor, there are emotional stages that are very normal to go through, moving from excitement and a little fearfulness, to tension and a tendency to “hold it in,” and through the loss of confidence that often comes with transition. Having someone with you who understands these emotions and knows how to help you through them is so important – and your husband, partner, mom, or best friend may not realize that they are just natural parts of birth and not signs that you are in distress or need medical intervention.
This is part of why doulas are great for birth partners too (spouses or other family members who support you during birth) – they are trained and experienced in attending births. They care, but they aren’t nervous or worried for your safety. They free up your spouse to enjoy the birth of his baby. They help set a positive tone in the birthing room. Although I wasn’t part of the conversation between Dusti, Mike, and our nurse, I was very much aware of their happy and excited chatter around me and it kept me calm and centered. And another of the little things that is practically priceless – at the moment Miles was born, Dusti grabbed the camera. We have photos of our faces as we first met our son (and no I won’t post them!).
We just had our meeting with Dusti today to talk about the birth of Baby 2.0. This time, as I have mentioned, we are excited about planning a Hypnobabies birth. Otherwise a lot of things will be the same – I am delivering at the same hospital (technically a brand new hospital, but same hospital system) so we are all familiar with standard procedure there. They are natural birth friendly and I know that they will want me to have a hep lock and intermittent fetal monitoring, but otherwise will be pretty low intervention. We talked about mother-directed pushing, which I would very much like to try since pushing was the least smooth aspect of my birth experience last time around. Also this week I had a prenatal massage with Dusti, since I am a lucky duck whose doula is also a licensed massage therapist, and all I can say about that is I really need to do it more often!
I continue to listen to a Hypnobabies maintenance track once a day, and I’ve gotten better about practicing the Finger-Drop Technique of self-hypnosis several times a day. And now… we wait!