going through labour with and without the support of a birth doula
Since becoming a birth doula myself, one of the more common questions I get asked is, "did you have a doula present at your births?" Yes and no.
I was a very young mum, just aged 16, when I had my first baby. I was very ignorant at the time about all things birth and didn't even know what a doula was! Sadly, I had an unpleasant first experience in hospital where I felt like decisions were being made for me instead of feeling involved in my own care. I wasn't informed regarding medical interventions which left me feeling disappointed and in some ways, traumatized. The second time around, I was hoping to have a more positive experience so I reached out to a friend who was also training as a doula. I can't say how much she helped my husband and I! We met with our doula regularly and the support she provided was just what we needed to feel prepared and confident going into labour. She met us exactly where we were at and I grew to trust her completely. I felt much less fearful because I knew I had a professional by my side who we could call upon if and when needed. I felt immense relief in comparison to my first labour where I felt so alone! The joy and empowerment I experienced after meeting our baby girl is part of the reason I'm a doula now! I hope to help others have a positive experience, no matter what "type" of birth they have at home or in hospital!
My third labour was a fast and furious home birth that no one, including my doula, made it to in time! I woke up in transition at 4 AM and my son was born just over an hour later in water with just my husband and I at home. Was it pointless having a doula in this case? Absolutely not! Our doula still helped my husband and I prepare during pregnancy. There was one night in particular I remember feeling particularly overwhelmed, teary and anxious. My birth doula came to my home and we had a great conversation discussing my fears, which was probably 2-3 hours long! She also arrived shortly after the birth of our baby boy and helped as I birthed my placenta, helped my husband make me a placenta smoothie, aided with clean up of the birth pool and was so loving as she helped me in the bathroom following birth. I think back on that experience now and I felt so taken care of. Okay, I'll stop the mushy talk now!
When I conceived the fourth time, I had some very particular preferences for my labour. See... I had three prior birth experiences which all taught me something new and interesting about myself. I am very much able to describe my "perfect" or ideal labour support team and who I do and don't want in my space. For example, I knew I did not want any males, besides my husband, in my birth space if I could help it. As a sexual assault survivor, I find the male gaze particularly triggering while labouring. Of course if a male did need to support me at any point, I would deal with it... but ideally, female-only support, please. I also knew I preferred to labour uninterrupted, I love labouring in water and I like a soothing atmosphere with dimmed lighting. My preferences are not conducive for labouring in a hospital, clearly. Another key point of my preferences is I like as few people as possible in my birth space. All of these reasons are why I chose to birth at home with the support of midwives. As I planned certain aspects of my fourth experience, I thought about how a doula would be another person in my birth space and to be honest... I felt like I was going to rock my birth even without birth doula support! I was 100% confident with my midwife and my husband was such a great support to me. I felt so much more calm as I neared the end of my pregnancy with my fourth baby. I simply didn't feel like a doula was necessary at the time... and that's okay!
Does everyone need doula support? No. Do many people want birth doula support? Absolutely! Whether your are preparing for your first or second+ labour, a birth doula can help you approach your experience feeling calm, confident and prepared for any path your labour may take! Currently, about 40% of my clients are first-time parents and the other 60% are second+ time parents who have had a less-than-ideal first experience, who are now looking for a more positive outcome this time. No matter your reason, I would love to support you during your journey into parenthood (again!).