The following birth story is a guest post on Strength Love Birth written by Ali of The Massage Business Mama. I met Ali earlier this year and immediately was drawn to her kind, driven, grounded presence. She shares here about the birth of her son and the ways a doula might have facilitated her birth experience in positive ways.
Ali’s Birth Story
Before I got pregnant, I always loved the idea of having a doula or a midwife for the birth of my imaginary child! As a pretty natural, granola kind of gal, I liked the idea of women supporting each other through one of the great miracles of life. Plus, Ina May is like the coolest!
Then, when I actually got pregnant, I was unsure. You see, my husband was the type of person who sits back and allows others to take charge of a situation. He typically won’t jump-in or speak-up, and what I wanted more than anything was for him to be involved in the process of birthing our son.
Trouble Finding a Doula
I interviewed a few doulas, but none felt quite right. One seemed to have a time management problem, another I just didn’t really click with, and really my options were limited, living in a small, remote mountain town.
I also believed that if there was someone else there to support me, my husband would take a backseat. Again, I wanted him front and center. So I chose not to have outside support.
From talking with others, I now see that doulas help men shine during the labor and delivery process. At the time, I wasn’t there. I now know I could have benefited from the service of a doula in oh so many ways!
Planning My Birth
I went into labor 17 days prior to my due date. Just the night before going into labor, I completed my 17-page birth plan compliments of one of my favorite companies, Earth Mama Organics. They have since shortened it up a bit, but you can find Earth Mama’s Free Birth Plan right here.
I called it my “Birth Wish List.” While I had very strong opinions about the types of things I did and didn’t want to occur during the birthing process, I also knew that the reality of things going exactly as I wanted was not entirely realistic. Therefore “Wish List” it was. I crossed out “Plan” and inserted “Wish List” on the printed copies, hoping this would endear me to the nursing staff.
It did not.
The second I walked into my labor and delivery room, and insisted my husband give everyone their copy of the “List,” the nurses scowled.
The Hospital Staff Doubted My Abilities
“Who is your support team?” The staff demanded.
“My husband.” I pointed at my husband.
They scoffed and scowled some more. “You want a natural birth and the only support you brought is your husband?”
“Yep.” I confidently replied.
6 Copies of My Birth Wish List
I printed six copies. (I’ll pause here to tell you that I am an extreme planner. When I get nervous and excited, I go into a planning frenzy. I contemplate all the potential outcomes and try to prepare as much as possible for each scenario. Please don’t think that you need to have a 17-page document, and five hospital bags as I did).
1) One for my husband. Obviously, it was super important he had one.
2) One for my mom. My mom lives 4 hours away. I wasn’t really even sure if she was going to make it to the birth, or if I wanted her there. But I wanted to make sure that if she was there that she was well aware of my wants and desires.
3) One for my best friend, in case my husband was at work when I went into labor.
4) One for the nursing staff.
5) One for my doctor. I had an appointment scheduled with my doctor the day I went into labor. Really, I had been hoping to go over everything with her that day. Instead, my son decided to come early. I cried when it was confirmed my water had broke. I still didn’t have enough baby hangers for all the adorable clothes I had gotten at my baby shower, the freezer was not prepped with all the meals I had planned on making, and I had work scheduled for three more days.
6) And lastly, one for me. As if five copies floating around wasn’t enough already.
A Fast but Tough Natural Birth
I wanted a natural birth. And I was pretty convinced that I could do it. My labor just as was in the case of my mother and her mother, progressed quickly. From the time my water broke until I had my son was a 5 1/2 hour long process.
And man oh man, was I vocal!
Seriously guys, I have never been louder IN MY LIFE! For the 3 1/2 hours I was laboring in the hospital, I screamed like nobody’s business.
Because I was so vocal about my pain from the moment I arrived, I think the nurses and doctor doubted my ability to endure. I consider myself pretty tough, I played rugby in college and have had multiple surgeries, but being in labor was different. I quickly understood why women choose drugs!
The doubt the doctors and nurses had in my abilities, coupled with my extreme pain caused me to question my resolve. It would have been nice to have had an advocate who had experience in the birthing process, someone to encourage and support me!
Ways A Doula Could Have Helped Me Through The Birthing Process
1) Going over my birth plan – I never was able to go over my wish list with my doctor before the big day. If I had a doula, I would have at least been able to go over it with her.
2) Doubt from the hospital – The nursing staff wouldn’t have doubted me so much if I had a doula. They were like hyenas laughing at my crazy request to give birth naturally. Maybe they would have doubted me just as much, but I believe a doula could have kept the circling pack at bay.
3) Less fighting – When I was in labor, I felt like I was fighting through the pain as well as fighting with the staff. The staff wanted to monitor my heart rate as well as the babies. Pretty standard stuff here.The only problem, I was sooo sensitive to anything touching me. The slightest brush of my skin had me crawling! So strapping an elastic belly band with nodes to monitor heart rates was not something I was too enthusiastic about. You may even say I was combative. They fought me the whole time I was there about the belly band.
Finally, I yelled at my nurse, “I don’t want to fight anymore…”
She misinterpreted my remark as a concession to wear the band, “Yes!” she exclaimed, “Just wear the band!”.
“No,” I said, “you don’t understand. I need you to stop arguing with me about this. I am having a hard enough time laboring. I don’t want to be fighting with you as well. Let me sign the papers and STOP asking me about the band!”
So that is what I did, much to the alarm of my husband. I signed a document releasing the hospital from any liability regarding wearing the band to monitor heart rates.
4) Filtering Comments – A doula could have filtered comments from the staff.
Things like, “If you had wanted to do it that way you should have just done a home birth.”
Well, the thing was, I didn’t want to do a home birth. I had just got new carpet. My dog and cat had an annoying tendency of always being up in my grill. My house is never as clean as I want it. My place is small with not much room to move around. And lastly, I live in a condo with neighbors on all sides. They would have hated my guttural vocal rumblings!
I wanted to labor in a hospital, I just so happened to also want to have a natural birth.
5) Recording the experience – I really wanted to watch my son emerge into the world. In the haste of the moment, this failed to happen. With a doula, there may have been a better chance of having things recorded. At least I may have been able to use the mirror I brought to watch his exile.
6) Fewer issues with saving my placenta – The staff thought I was crazy when I asked to keep my placenta. Warning me about the unsterile nature of the post-birth environment, telling me that there really were no benefits to utilizing the placenta…all sorts of unnecessary comments that, really, I didn’t want to hear!
7) Helping husbands shine – While one of my motivations for NOT having a doula was because I wanted my husband to be fully present, I realize now doulas help husbands shine! When my husband was in the hall chatting with nurses and I wanted him to be quiet, to be by my side, and NOT to touch me, a doula could have helped facilitate this.
Leading up to our delivery day, I asked my husband to look me in the eye and promise he would bring all 5 of my hospital bags in as soon as we got to the hospital. When we got there, he did not. He got swept up in the frenzy of activity and felt that the bags were not that important in the scheme of things. Which honestly is probably true. But when I wanted my coconut water, and for him to put his shorts on and get in the birthing tub with me, I wanted them NOW! There was no waiting for him to “run” out to the car. Insert doula, and this becomes a non-issue.
In spite of all of these things, I was proud of my husband and the support he showed in a situation that was extremely scary for him. It WAS a hugely bonding experience for us, as I hoped it would be. I just think a doula could have facilitated the same outcome in a less stressful way!
Doulas: Simplifying Natural Birth
I often say that I wish I could relive the day my son was born. It was the most beautiful, awe-inspiring experience of my life! And while it was empowering to achieve my goal of having a natural birth, I don’t think I needed to make it quite so hard on myself.
Doulas have been there. They have seen all the various possibilities a birth can present. Having never been through a birth, and only having ideas in our heads of how we want things to go, presents challenges. Challenges that doulas can help eliminate. Do yourself a favor and consider the possibility of hiring a doula!
Finding a Doula
If you, like Ali, think a doula would be a helpful addition to your birth team, check out DoulaMatch.net to find doulas in your area who are available around your due date.