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to doula or not to doula

to doula or not to doula

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When you picture yourself giving birth, who is in the room with you? Other than the doctors and nurses, there will be your partner, probably. Your mom? Maybe. What about someone that, most likely, you only met a few months before, who probably hasn't even met your family? Sure, if you don't know any more details than that, the idea could make you a little uncomfortable. I, for one, wasn't sure if I needed anyone else in the room looking at my lady garden. But, when that someone is a doula -- a trained birth coach -- she (or I guess he) can provide much needed support for you and your partner.

While I had heard of doulas before, I wasn't planning on using one. It seemed way too crunchy for me and I wasn't sure how much I wanted a virtual stranger to be witness to basically the most intimate moment of my life. But, after reading Expecting Better, I changed my mind. Emily Oster, who wrote the book, has proof of everything she advocates. In the case of doulas, women who retain their services during labor had a very reduced chance of c-section or other birth complications. And that was pretty much enough to seal the deal for me.

Luckily, Beth Israel hosts a Meet the Doulas event every few weeks with Birth Focus. As I mentioned in this earlier post, it was essentially speed dating with doulas. And, since it was free, it allowed me to learn about what hiring a doula entailed and to decide if it was going to be right for me and Mike. At the event, I met with a handful of doulas, but really clicked with Kim. Within a few days, we had locked her in for our due date (ha! due date! I'd call it due month, but even that doesn't apply. Anyway ... ) and she scheduled a time to come to the apartment so she could also meet Mike.

Now, some of you may be saying, if I already have my husband/partner, why do I need someone else? Well, you don't, necessarily, but unless your husband is skilled in coaching you through birth, you're both probably going to be flying a little blind. And if your husband is the queasy type, what happens if he passes out? Do you know how he'll react when he sees you in a great deal of pain? Plus, while the doula's primary focus is going to be YOU and your baby, she's also there to help make sure that the labor and delivery is a great experience for dad as well.

Before I delivered, we met with Kim about three times and went over everything from our birth plan, to what sorts of exercises I could do to help prepare for labor, to what childbirth class we should take and much, much more. She was available basically 24/7 on the phone and always made sure to check in with me after doctor's appointments or if she hadn't heard from me in a few days. Overall, it was just uplifting to have someone else in my corner, cheering for me every step of the way, even when my due date came and went and I was feeling rather cranky.

And then, at the hospital, she stayed with us pretty much the entire time, getting there a few hours after I was induced and not leaving until after Avvie was born. It's important here to note that doctors and nurses will have shift changes; doulas will not. But more than just being there, she convinced the doctor to let me have some apple juice when I felt like I'd been pushing for three days. She made sure that my lips weren't chapped. She even brushed my hair so that I didn't look quite as much of a hot mess when we took our first pictures as a family. She TOOK the first pictures of us as a family. Plus, she was there to support and keep Mike company and could deliver updates to our families in the waiting room.

And, most important, when we got into the active labor part of the whole process, she was there to give words of encouragement, help me keep my stamina up and make sure I didn't start hyperventilating. Considering I pushed for two and a half hours, this was easier said than done.

Since Avvie's been born, Kim's already been by to visit her and continues to text and email lots of helpful links, videos and docs about everything from sleep schedules to breastfeeding. A doula's job doesn't end with the birth; and there are  even specific post-partum doulas that not only teach you about your baby, but help you to recover, too.

Having a doula may not be right for everyone, but for me (and for Mike), my labor experience would have been poorer without it. Did you have a doula? I'd love to know your experience!

the birth story

the birth story

what to bring to (and take from!) the hospital

what to bring to (and take from!) the hospital