Doing it with a doula

When I first heard about a doula, I thought the whole idea was mad. Pay someone who isn’t a medical professional to be at your birth. Who would want extra people around them at a time of such indignity? What do they do anyway?

Traumatic birth number 1

We sat alone in a cold sterile room for hours on end, terrified, not knowing what was going on, with a hospital midwife who perhaps should have considered a career where less empathy was needed – home affairs clerk, traffic officer, factory production line worker all spring to mind.  Our doctor popped in twice, first to rupture my membranes which we’d discussed that he wouldn’t do unless labour wasn’t progressing (at that point it was), and secondly to give me an epidural (OK, that was because I was screaming for one) and then appeared again in gumboots and said it was time to deliver baby using forceps.  Our son arrived screaming and inconsolable, but healthy.  There was no way we were going through that again.

7 years later the memory had faded and we were ready to have another baby.  

Being better prepared

I spoke to friends who’d had natural births, births with various forms of pain relief and c-sections or a combination of them all, midwife births in hospital and at home, and I read a lot. After that I knew that I would not have a c-section unless lives or brain function or physical health were at risk but that we would use an obstetrician and give birth in a hospital. I found a doctor who was willing to let mothers have a natural birth (surprisingly difficult to find) and soon enough we were pregnant.

Once again the term doula cropped up. This time I didn’t dismiss this as some hippy fad. I discovered that far from it, a doula is someone who is there with you and your husband, who runs the bath, makes you tea, rubs your back, holds your hand, reassures you – all those things you think the hospital will do for you considering your medical aid is paying them the equivalent of the budget of a small country. Or that you hope your husband learnt at the ante-natal classes you both attended – but only one of you seemed to have had their mind present at.  

Finding a doula

I asked the doctor about this. He said that he found that parents were more relaxed during the birth and the hospital staff had their loads lightened a little too. He said he encourages mothers to use a doula. I asked for a recommendation of someone who wouldn’t play whale music or put crystals around the room. He said there weren’t any, but gave me the name of someone he’d worked with and found to be professional and pleasant. She was lovely and kind. She did talk a lot about natural remedies, but wasn’t pushy, I could smile through it. Most importantly, although she made it clear she couldn’t tell hospital staff what to do, she was willing to stand up for us if we were poorly treated by the hospital staff.  

Calm birth number 2

When I went into labour she was on the end of the phone, reassuring me, calming me. When my water broke at my son’s soccer practice, she talked me through everything, got my husband to come home from work calmly. At the hospital, despite knowing it was a second birth, ruptured membranes, contractions close together, when the nurse waved me away while chatting to her friend on the phone she insisted I was put in a labour ward and not made to stand in the foyer. She explained what the midwife was saying, she tied my hair up out of the way, she got things out of my bag for me.

She chatted to my husband while I sat in the bath not wanting to be touched, she massaged my back. She helped me out of the bath when I was tired of the water.  When I wanted an epidural and the midwife refused to phone an anaesthetist, she held me and reassured me I’d get through it. When I was being told to push but insisting I wanted a c-section, she calmly explained that baby was actually busy being born and I couldn’t have one. While she stroked my head and held my hand, my husband was able to be at the business end with the doctor and has the special memory of helping to deliver his daughter. Our little girl arrived healthy, calm, alert and with a little but lively cry and then quiet peacefulness.  

I wish everyone had a doula with them through birth.  

Have you used a doula? What was your experience?

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