Doulas–Do You Need One?
When I was pregnant with my first child, I, like any pregnant woman, felt anxious on what the whole childbirth process would be like. What would contractions feel like? How would I know that I was having them? What would staying in the hospital be like? And, probably the number one question, would it huuuuurrrt?
I tried to approach childbirth with an open mind–I had an easy pregnancy; hopefully labor would be the same. If I needed an epidural, fine, but I would try to go without. As anyone who has given birth knows, it’s great to have these “ideas” but one needs to go with the flow. And that’s what happened–I went in, breathed deeply through the contractions, and when the nurses finally came in to see my dilation progress, I had reached the finish line. Turned out I was able to get through without an epidural and I wasn’t loud–I was in a quiet meditative state (which I attribute to practicing yoga). My son latched on and fed, and off we went. All said and done, the entire process ran very smoothly and I didn’t think twice about not having a doula.
With the birth of my second child, however, things were much different. My pregnancy was incredibly difficult and I had every ailment possible. The culmination of this ended in a breached baby (I had even tried acupuncture, where I had to have my pinky toes held close to burning moxa, in order to try and get her to turn). Alas, she wouldn’t budge and I had to have a cesarean.
After my first, relatively easy, drug-free labor, this was a hard pill to swallow. Everyone tells you that it doesn’t matter how the baby comes out, as long as they’re out safely. Yes, this is true, but there is something very “womanly” about having a natural birth. When I was wheeled into the surgery room, the entire process was very sterile, with bright lights, and not the least bit homey. Immediately after my daughter was lifted from me, I was able to hold her for a moment, then they took her, along with my husband, and started doing the newborn testing. I realized I was alone in the room, with my OR nurse and another young man who was cleaning. They lifted me off the table (I had no sensation, I thought I was going to fall) and moved me to the recovery room. By this time, the morphine had kicked in, and I was so nauseous, I couldn’t hold my daughter, let alone try and feed her. Then the itches kicked in, and to make a long story short, I felt miserable. Most of which was caused by the fact that I couldn’t cuddle my newborn.
Why am I telling you all this? Because you never know how childbirth will be. Looking back, I never thought of hiring a doula for my first born, but one would’ve been wonderful to walk me through my cesarean. People associate them with getting you through child birth naturally, but they are so much more than that.
A doula will read your emotions before you do. If you’re nauseous, the bowl will be under your chin before you can say you’re not feeling well. Although they are not involved with your birth medically, they’ve been around the block and can understand what procedures need to be given, what steps need to be taken, etc, and explain it to you and your partner since, most likely, you won’t be in the frame of mind to take it all in.
Usually, you hire a doula a couple months before your due date, so you can get to know one another. During the birth, she’s there for your every want and need, coaching you through it, and helping your partner out. Though some doulas can be expensive, many offer a sliding scale of fees in order to match your income level. As one doula said, “I’d hate to have someone turned away because of finances.”
So, if you’re currently pregnant, or you think you will be soon, don’t overlook the possibility of a doula–they can be a lifeline.
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