After I watched the documentary The Business of Being Born, I had a clearer picture of what I wanted my birth to be like. At the time I wasn’t even pregnant, but I’m all for being prepared (ask my husband — I asked him to watch it too). And when I pictured my birth, it included a doula.
What is a doula?
The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.
Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily. (source)
I wanted a doula to help me prepare for labor and help me during labor because I wanted a natural birth and knew I needed all the help I could get. The more I learned about what a doula did, the more it made sense to me to have a trained person in the room with me that wasn’t in charge of the medical “stuff”, but was in charge of making sure I had the best labor possible.
Convincing the husband
I didn’t really have to do much convincing. Brad watched The Business of Being Born with me and knew what natural childbirth looked like. We didn’t want family in the room with us because we wanted the birthing experience to be something we privately shared as a couple. But it seemed like less of an infringement on our privacy to hire a professional labor coach (the doula) who wouldn’t be emotionally invested in us like family would.
What about the Bradley Method?
At first glance, it may seem like following The Bradley Method which focuses on the husband as the labor and birthing coach is contrary to hiring a doula, but I don’t think it is. I personally think asking a man to get you through the rough parts of labor and help you birth a baby is asking a lot of him. Traditionally through history, women with childbirth experience has served the informal role of doula, so while men are perfectly capable, I don’t necessarily think it comes natural to all men. The Bradley Method requires a lot more of husbands (or partners) than just being present and emotionally strong. And as much as we practiced, can you really truly practice for birth in a way that prepares you for the real thing? I knew Brad would do his best, but I don’t think I was aware what a great birthing coach he would be and I don’t think he knew how “into it” he would get. He turned out to be a sponge for birthing knowledge.
In my mind, my husband and my doula would work together as a team. She would coach him through the rough parts and would relieve him if things became too intense or he just needed a snack or a restroom break. I think it made Brad feel more confident because he had a partner to help him through this that was a seasoned and trained professional. I mean, if you were doing heart surgery, wouldn’t you want a more senior surgeon there, just in case?
Choosing a doula
I have a great network of other moms in the area who have gone through natural childbirth so I reached out to them, in addition to doing some online research. I reached out to several that came recommended via email. In the end, Rachel was the only one who emailed me back. I actually brought this up to her voicing my surprise and she said we were in the midst of a very busy season for babies. But the fact that she got back to me (and quickly) made an impression on me. I mean, I could have followed up with phone calls to the other doulas. But I operate via email and texting primarily, so I was comfortable with someone who would meet me where I liked to communicate.
Also, I loved Rachel at our first meeting. She made me feel good about what I already knew about childbirth and she was super positive about everything. Rachel seemed like someone I would be friends with. I was completely comfortable with her.
And maybe this sounds a little crazy, but she was the only doula around that had a super cool website. Maybe it’s silly but I tend to draw conclusions about a person’s professionalism based on their website.
Rachel and I met four times total before I gave birth. First, was our initial meeting where I met Rachel and decided that I wanted her to be my doula. Seconds, she met with Brad and I at our house. Even though Brad felt that I was perfectly capable of choosing my doula alone (he was away on business at our initial meeting), Rachel thought it was really important that she meet him and let him ask any questions he had before we signed anything. After Brad agreed that Rachel was the doula for us, we paid her half of her cost of services up front. The second half was due three weeks before the birth of our baby when she went “on call” for us.
We also met two other times with her to actually discuss labor, our birth plan, exercises, teas and herbs to help prepare for labor, and pretty much anything else we wanted to talk about. Rachel called and texted me all through out my pregnancy just to check-in, make sure I was doing my exercises, and give me encouraging words.
Rachel was so awesome during my labor. Even though it didn’t turn out exactly as I wanted it. I attribute her with helping me get through so much of my labor without drugs and helping me to feel so comfortable at home. I started feeling contractions at 8 am on a Friday, knew I was in active labor at 10 am and we asked Rachel to come over around 2:30 pm. We had been on the phone with her since 10 am and she stayed with us at home until we left the house early that evening. She was with me during the entire labor. She encouraged me to do things that I didn’t want to do, like walk laps around our island in the kitchen at home and labor on the toilet at the hospital (which was so painful!). It made me feel good that there was someone there with a lot of experience that was an advocate for me and my baby.
She encouraged me and helped me through one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and helped me to be okay when things didn’t quite go as planned. She stayed with me all through the night until Elliott was born and had established a good latch.
Rachel also followed up with me via a few phone calls and texts and came over a few days after Elliott’s birth to meet him outside of the hospital.
I can’t say enough good things about my experience with a doula. I know that if I had arrived at the hospital any earlier, I would have ended up with a C-section. And I don’t think I could have ever labored at home so long without her support and encouragement. As a first time mom, its easy to doubt yourself and your abilities. Rachel’s encouragement made my birth experience so much better than it ever would have been without her.
The relationship between doctor or hospital midwife and patient can seem so clinical. They’re in there to do their job, they check in during their hospital rounds and they are done. The relationship with my doula seemed so much more authentic. Because you’re hiring someone to help you physically and emotionally through your labor, it’s only natural that you connect with them emotionally too. Through my pregnancy and labor, I came to think of Rachel as a friend.
Obviously, I have a very limited experience with only one doula, so I can’t say that everyone’s experience with a doula will be the same. But I can say that based on my experience, I can’t imagine labor without the help of a doula.
If you’re looking for a warm, knowledgeable, and amazing labor doula, I highly recommend Rachel Van Buren, otherwise known as The Neighborhood Doula.