CONFESSIONS OF A DOULA – WHAT YOUR BIRTH TAUGHT ME
The word ‘doula’ is a Greek word and it means to ‘mother the mother’, a perfect job description.
As a doula, I’m not medically trained, like a midwife, nor do I have the expertise to deliver a baby but what I do offer is a supportive role in the journey of a pregnant woman. I support her in many ways and I work with her, to create a positive and memorable birth.
I believe it is under pressure that you see what a person is really made of. It can certainly expose your worst, but as a doula, the goal is to bring out the very best from within you.
Some of the things I learnt from your birth:
Some mums want a cast of thousands
I was at a birth where husband, mum, dad, sister, two best friends and I were invited to join the entire medical entourage at a mum’s first birth. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a party, but there was no good time being had at this one.
I knew enough to know that if this extravaganza had any chance of success, it was essential that each person had a specific role. So, each was assigned a helpful task to assist mum. Unfortunately, mum’s parents were super emotional from the on-set and they very quickly lost the plot of theirs.
As birth mum’s contractions intensified, her very emotionally-charged mother became hysterical. Thankfully, mum saw it best for friends and family to leave so she could get back on-task.
Some couples choose to have their other children attend the birth
Whilst sceptical at first, these types of family events, albeit a little unpredictable, have proven to be powerful. I wouldn’t recommend it for all, but if you’re the salt-of-the-earth type, this might suit your family well. Be prepared for a little bit of chaos and of course make sure your child/children are fully educated (prior) about what to expect.
This is memory-making material! Not too many kids can claim they watched their kid-brother enter into the world.
Some women poop during labour – well.. most!
The thought of pooping yourself in labour and birth is by far the most reported horror I hear from pregnant women. Obviously no one wants an audience attending a bowel movement; the truth is though, it’s natural and pretty standard.
In days gone by, women had an enema prior to going into labour, this was eliminated (pun not intended) long ago. Today, its just expected, for most, that in the second stage, your poop will evacuate by itself. Good news for the modest – your midwife, totally un-phased, will whisk this sucker away with very few noticing. High five a midwife today!
Some women eat their placenta
Yep, some eat it (stir-fry style), some encapsulate it. True story. In my early doula days, I was to later learn there were recipes everywhere for this. Interestingly, this was one of the first things I needed to understand as a doula, and I have to admit, I wondered what sort of coven I’d joined. With it being an age-old tradition in many cultures, placental encapsulation is growing in its popularity in Australia and other nations. Although the jury is still out in regards to its benefits, we know it’s rich in iron and protein 🙂
For some women, a doula is their only support
Many mothers embark upon labour with the intention of birthing/parenting solo, but the birth where the dad got drunk and didn’t turn up was a low-light, to say the least.
I must have called him 15 times from her birth suite. He never picked up his phone. As a last resort, I contacted a friend of the birthing mum’s to go and visit his home. He never answered the door. Apparently, birthing mum and partner had a domestic the night before which launched him onto a bender.
This mother had to fight adrenalin throughout her labour because of this personal anguish and after 6 hours of established labour, it stalled entirely. Mum ended up in emergency with a C-section. The saddest labour I ever supported and thankfully never experienced another like it again.
It’s a doula’s mission to create an adrenaline-free zone for the first stage of labour. On occasion, this is easier said than done.
Some women have had a traumatic previous birth
These could be women who were poorly supported or educated during their first birth or perhaps their birth took a different course than expected.
There is also the less-common scenario too, of our dear mum-friends who give birth to a still-born baby, or who lose their babies shortly after delivery. There are many reasons why a mother might experience a birth-related trauma and a doula is there to create emotional stability.
Sometimes dad/partner needs a break
All partners need to be given a ‘hall pass’ at some point ie to go pee, or take a quick breather; your partner might need this for their own mental health. Accept that this is usually needed at some point, ‘allow’ them to have this, so they can quickly get back on task and continue to be your best support.
I was accompanying one couple through their first delivery where dad had a ‘gastro bug’. Poor fella had to leave the room swiftly several times to deal with this. The interesting thing was that he developed a ‘gastro bug’ at each time his wife laboured.
You got it. This wasn’t gastro at all, was it. Here was a dad genuinely overwhelmed by the magnitude of each occasion, he just needed to be able to take a break.
Men typically get a bad-wrap when it comes to childbirth but their presence is critical to making their partner’s birth as calm and comfortable as possible. Dad is often the only one that has the capacity to do this. Let’s not forget too – It’s important that the birth experience is positive for him too.
The power and wonder of birth is undeniable
Birth is a total show-stopper; there’s nothing like it and I’m constantly astounded at what a woman can achieve. It’s often with a split personality-like combo of exhilaration, invigoration, astonishment and complete exhaustion, but none-the-less we birth life from our form, and that is totally cool.
Mums often talk about their bodies post-birth, with a new-found respect and admiration far beyond what they imagined, and so they should.
I will never stop being amazed or fascinated by your birth and there are no words to adequately describe or give full expression to the entire experience or what I glean from it.
Anyway, it’s not even my experience, it’s yours. I’m just a doula who is the lucky (and hopefully helpful) bystander.
Hugs into the ether…