Thursday, November 29, 2012

Journey towards becoming a doula.

"I finally did i!. I signed up for and took a Doula course in November !. I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am  Ever since I became pregnant with Amelia I have been fascinated with pregnancy and birth. It is hard to explain why, but I can't help but read everything I can get my hands on about the subject. I love hearing birth stories. It doesn't matter is they were traumatic, easy, ugly or beautiful. I find each women's experience incredible."  - Jocelyn
I have always been passionate about empowering women, and through the process of learning about labouring practicing and common hospital procedures, I realized that the majority of women find their birth experience not only terrifying but dis empowering. I went on to discover that the almighty dollar has a HUGE impact on how and how long women are "allowed" to labour. These reasons not necessary basic on the "best interest" of the mother and her child, but for the ease and financial gain of the health care provider. Some may say that the "method" is not so important as the end goal: a healthy baby. While I agree that a healthy baby is of paramount importance, shouldn't a healthy, empowered woman be of equal importance? What about making sure that every women receives the education, support and tools necessary to have the best birth they can have. Birth can look very different from one woman to the next, but what matters is HOW the woman feels about her birth experience after the fact. Did she feel empowered, confidant, knowledgeable, and supported?
It is for those reasons that I embarked upon this journey towards becoming a doula.

A Birth Doula .....
Recognizes birth as a key experience the mother will remember all her life
Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor
Assists the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth
Stays with the woman throughout the labor
Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decision
Facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her clinical care providers
Perceives her role as nurturing and protecting the woman's memory of the birth experience
Allows the woman's partner to participate at his/her comfort level
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.
My experience with Doula's

1st Birth

When my pregnancy with Amelia had been confirmed at a local drop in clinic I was referred to a baby clinic in town. While in the waiting room for my first ultrasound (to see how far along I was) I quietly asked the clerk if she knew where I could access midwifery services. Her eyes lit up and she excitedly handed me a phone number for a midwifery office in town. She told me that she highly recommended that route (in a hushed voice) as though she was routing for Pepsi in a coca cola factory. In my third trimester, my midwife and I began discussing my birth plan, and my support network. She highly recommending having a doula. At the time I did not know what a  "doula" was and started to research their  purpose. It didn't take me long to learn how valuable a doula could be. My midwife happened to know of a doula who had just finished her training and could provide her services for free. At our first appointment we talked about the ways that she might be able to support me, my birth preferences and concerns. I remember telling her that I wanted her to help me make calming sounds, instead of screaming like a banshee (as I had often seen on TV). On the morning on March 18th, I woke up feeling  a little crampy at around 6:00 in the morning when Nathaniel's alarm clock went off. I didn't think much of it and went back to sleep until 10:00 or so (those where the days). After a long warm bath, something of which I also rarely indulge in, I set about my regular routines of cleaning, returning emails (while bouncing on my ball) and making stew for dinner. At some point in the day, possibly around 1:30, I realized that I was having consistent contractions. When my husband got home from work and announced that he was probably going to be laid off for a couple of days, I said "that's good because I think I am in labour". We quietly started timing contractions, did some grocery shopping and told my parents that I was in labour. Around 7pm I called my doula to let her know that I was definitely in labour and she hurried over. She arrived just as I was heading into transition (which is about 7cm) and I was starting to loose my composure. She quickly helped me start breathing and swaying and helped ground me again. When I climbed into the tub she put cool clothes on my head, brought me water and stayed close. After Amelia had been born she stayed behind after the midwives had left and cleaned me up, brought me a meal and helped me with breastfeeding. Her calm presence was incredibly reassuring.
2nd birth

As soon as I knew that I was pregnant with my second child I started searching for a midwife and a doula. I knew that my chances of having a midwife were slim (due to the fact that we lived in the middle of nowhere), but I hoped that maybe I would be able to find a doula. Thankfully I did! We met once a week in the months leading up to my delivery. We would sit in a cafe and chat about everything related to pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. From the start I knew that she was "in my corner". We shared similar values and she understood my aversion to delivering in the hospital. I knew that I could count on her to be my buffer, and most importantly, my advocate. I knew how to labour and I knew that Nathaniel would be an excellent support, but I didn't know what it was like to labour in a hospital. More than anything I just needed a sound board. I appreciated her the most when I was overdue and was being pressured to have an induction. She researched acupressure methods, herbal remedies and many other natural methods for starting labour naturally. She understood that I DID NOT want an induction and supported me 100%. She prepared emotionally when I had to do a fetal stress test and diagnostic ultrasound that check that my amniotic levels were adequate. She warned me that the OB that did the procedure had a reputation for guilt tripping women into inductions and prepared helped me understand my rights in such a situation. She did everything she could to help me get the birth I wanted and gave me every possible resource to help me do so. When I went into labour (on my own) she met up with us in town, did a Starbucks run with me, walked around in the park with me and helped me breath through my contractions. She drove with us to the hospital when I was ready to go,  massaged my back in the minutes leading up to the frenzied birth and then helped get Claire latched shortly afterwards. She visited me often in hospital over the days that followed (out of town patients are expected to stay a minimum of two days) and we spent a great deal of time talking about Claire's birth and my thoughts about how it all went down.

 I would highly encourage anyone who is pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant to consider the value of having a doula present at the birth of your child.  It is a day you will never forget, so you might as well have a great team to support you and make it great!




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