My friend (and the first woman whom I ever officially doula-ed for) has a fantastic blog over at Birth Faith. I asked her to write a guest spot for me about her first birth and the wonderful woman who made all the difference.
When I gave birth for the first time, I didn’t know what a doula was, but I later realized that the care and support of a “doula” is what actually carried me through that unknown territory of my first birth.
Her name was Eve. She was the labor and delivery nurse assigned to me when I entered the hospital for my oldest daughter’s birth. She was gentle, unassuming, and kind. When I told her that I was hoping to “go natural,” she mentioned that she could offer positions to try and techniques to cope with the pain of labor. She said she had given birth without drugs before, and knowing she was supportive and experienced gave me courage.
As labor progressed, Eve showed my husband how to provide counter-pressure to ease the discomfort of contractions. She pulled out the rarely-used, water-proof telemetry monitor so my husband could spray my back with hot water in the shower. When I got out of the shower, she brought in a birth ball and helped me to sit and rock on it. Later, she coached me to keep my vocalizing low, deep, and relaxed instead of high-pitched and tense. When I doubted myself and contemplated drugs as I struggled through the hardest contractions, she said, “Why don’t we check you first—you might be almost fully dilated.” Sure enough, I was only a couple of centimeters from the end. She told me that, in her experience, it felt good once you could push (and she was right). She rubbed my feet and sat by my side through those last intense contractions, encouraging me with her reassuring words. Although her shift ended before the pushing started, she chose to stay with me until after the birth. Ultimately, I did it! Giving birth for the first time without complications or drugs was one of the most empowering experiences of my life.
At the time I didn’t realize it was rare to find such a supportive, encouraging labor and delivery nurse. But, after my daughter was born, all I could do was mumble over and over to Eve, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I knew (and still know) that if it hadn’t been for Eve’s patience and support I absolutely would not have had such a wonderful, satisfying birth. Eve was a hospital nurse, not necessarily a trained “doula,” but she filled the doula role in my case. Based on my personal experience, I can attest that every laboring woman ought to have a doula’s aid.
Few women are lucky enough to have a supportive and attentive labor and delivery nurse like Eve. Birth has been given a bad rap over the years largely because women haven’t had the support they need to navigate labor’s journey with confidence, and society has, for the most part, lost faith in women’s bodies and the beautifully orchestrated process of birth. Birth can be a beautiful, satisfying, empowering experience—it has been for me every time. It could be that way for all women, and doulas are taking huge strides toward making that happen.
Feel free to check out the Birth Faith blog. It's full of oodles of information for pregnant women and mothers.