January 12, 2014 § 1 Comment
No one prepares you for the barrage of questions you’ll get as you approach the birth of your child. Will you labor in a hospital? Will you get an epidural? What do you mean you’re not getting an epidural? Are you crazy? Will you breastfeed? Will you give vaccinations? Have you read a baby sleep method book yet? Oh, wait, you’re vegan? Are you getting enough calcium????
And the list goes on… and on… and on…
Most who ask these questions have the best intentions. But for a first-time mom-to-be, it is utterly overwhelming.
One question I didn’t get asked enough though is whether or not I was hiring a doula. Hiring a doula is becoming all the rage and I’m glad to see that given the title of this post. However, despite its gaining popularity, not many people asked me about this. It was I who informed them about my choice to have a doula – which was usually met with wide eyes and “Oh, what’s that?”
According to dona.org, a doula is a “trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth”. The key words for me in this statement are continuous and emotional.
To give a bit of context, I was planning a drug-free labor, in a hospital, with a midwife. I knew my midwife was going to be very hands on throughout the labor once I arrived at the hospital – hence why I chose a midwife over a doctor – but I was concerned about the time at home. We had planned, at the recommendation of our midwife, to labor at home for as long as possible – which according to everything I’d read could be anywhere from a few to 24+ hours. The thought of my husband and I on our own through an experience so unknown as this was a bit terrifying. I thought a doula would provide us reassurance and guidance as we entered the unknown. What I didn’t know was that she was going to provide us SO very much more than that!
Despite this concern, I really went back and forth on hiring a doula. Would I really need a doula with a midwife? Would a doula take away some of those special moments I hoped to share with my husband in the hours before my daughter’s birth? Was it a waste of money? Let’s face it, with baby bills stacking up, every cost was highly scrutinized.
All I can say is thank goodness I went with my gut and hired a doula. It was one of the best decisions I made about my pregnancy and daughter’s birth. She was an absolute ray of light and mountain of strength through what was both a beautiful and difficult labor. I honestly do not know how we would have managed without her.
So, why do I think a doula is the best money ever spent?
- You need an advocate who’s only motivation is to serve YOU and only you. Once you enter the hospital doors it can get a bit crazy. Having someone by your side that can speak for you in the event that you can’t or maybe you just don’t want to is key. Nurses can be great support and I’ve heard many stories of nurses going above and beyond to offer not only physical but emotional support, but with so many laboring mamas assigned to them, this is hard. You need someone focused on you and you alone.
- Your husband also needs support. You may be asking with #1, “But wait, isn’t my husband supposed to do that?” – Yes, your husband should be your #1 advocate. Mine absolutely was. But truth is, he is about to see you in a state he’s never seen you in and that can be scary. Furthermore, labor can go on for a long time. Chances are you’ll both be exhausted and a doula can provide much needed relief offering breaks to your husband or helping out in the hours after the baby is born. Our doula remained with me while my husband ran home to let our poor dog out!
- Even if you’ve hired a midwife for a hospital birth, a doula may still be needed. It is true a midwife is going to give you so much more attention than a doctor and be really hands on. But in my case, my labor progressed so quickly – I checked in at 9 cm and there was no time to call our midwife so I was assigned the OB on call. Luckily, my doula was by my side to provide the hands-on care I needed.
- You need to be prepared for the unexpected. A lot can happen in labor and having someone by your side for the unexpected can be a big comfort. We thought we were going to have a pretty easy labor – like I said, I checked in at 9cm! – and while we did for the most part, there were some unforeseen complications that were pretty hard to deal with. At one point after my daughter was born, the OB told me he was going to have to take me to the operating room. It was only through my doula’s consistent care and attention (my husband was with our daughter) that I was able to remain calm and avoid being transported. Having someone by you (and your husband’s) side to help you through unforeseen complications and be an emotional support is very helpful.
- Sometimes you need a cheerleader. I had a drug-free labor, something I was 100% committed to but equally terrified of. My husband and doula’s constant reassurance and motivation were key to my ability to do fulfill my wish. My doula went above and beyond and sent me motivational text messages nearly every day as labor neared – reassuring me, I could do it. Further, my husband was completely supportive and equally my cheerleader, but not everyone has a husband so supportive. From what I’ve seen it isn’t that the husband isn’t supportive – it’s that he is scared and second guessing the mom’s desires. If this is the case for you, having someone there that you know will support you 100% is key – and this will likely put your husband at ease as labor progresses.
Thinking back to that list of questions, I think the most important one is “Will you have a doula present?”. And for the reasons listed above, I recommend a doula to every mom-to-be I talk to!
Did you have a doula? If so, what was your experience?