I’ve been fascinated by babies ever since I can remember. In high school, we had to take a Home-Ec course where we took home an electronic baby for the weekend that cried when it’s needs weren’t met. I could not wait for it to be my turn. I was that girl. I loved every second with that baby, and it became the launch pad for a lifelong passion.
I met my husband my senior year of high school, and we were married just after our college graduation. We were young, and the first of our friends to tie the knot. So less than a year later, we were also the first of our friends to announce our pregnancy. I wish I had known then how hard and lonely that journey would be.
My first pregnancy was a nightly battle between strange symptoms and the infinite possibilities on Google. I didn’t have friends to turn to with my questions, because none of them had pregnant before either. So I bought a ridiculous amount of pregnancy books and decided I would just have to become the expert on everything. Which meant I was an expert on nothing. My pregnancy was filled with unnecessary fear and doubt.
I went into labor in the afternoon, and went straight to the hospital like we had been trained. Once there, I was given routine checks and meds I didn’t understand, signed papers without knowing why, was threatened with a c-section, and ended up with a very medical and scary birth. I remember feeling like I was just a vessel for this baby, but not anything like a mother. I was confused. I was alone in my thoughts. And I didn’t know how to process all that had just happened.
I had planned on breastfeeding, but had no idea what that looked like. I bought myself the nicest pump on the market, and decided to go all in as I cranked the power to max and tried pumping for the first time. Ouch. The memory of that moment still makes me cringe. I went out into the hallway to find a nurse that might help me understand pumping, feeding schedules, and everything else boob related. I asked a few questions, and the nurse looked back at me like I was the dumbest mother she had ever met. I was so embarrassed, and decided that was the last question I would ask. There was always Google.
Weeks went by, and I lived my days in survival mode. I struggled to find joy in my days, still doubting myself and my capabilities as a mother. I slowly slid into post-partum depression. I couldn’t tell anyone. My friends wouldn’t understand, and most of them had disappeared anyways. My doctor was also my boss, so that was complicated. And my husband would have been overwhelmed if I told him that I believed I was failing at the one thing I had always dreamed of becoming. So I convinced myself I could just fight through it on my own. And I did, but it wasn’t pretty. And it most definitely wasn’t necessary.
I have had 7 more pregnancies since that first experience, and each one has challenged me in new ways. But the the biggest change I made was to make sure that I had support people in place the moment that 2nd pink line showed up. I started out choosing trusted friends that had been through their own births before. They prayed in our hospital rooms, they brought snacks and distractions to the hospital, and they always knew just what to say when I needed some encouragement. I have never regretted having my girlfriends experience my births with me! My last few pregnancies, I was able to hire a Doula to be a part of my team, and my eyes were opened even wider to the possibilities of a beautiful birth story. These women were trained to comfort and support a birthing mother, in all circumstances. They were true gifts in the moments that have mattered most in my life. So I decided to pursue the passion that began way back in my highschool years when I brought home that ridiculous newborn baby. And I became a Doula.
What is a Doula?
A doula is a person who is trained (and hopefully certified) to attend to a birthing mother throughout their pregnancy, labor, birth, and those first special weeks with baby. They provide educational, physical, and most importantly, emotional support throughout the entire journey. They teach birthing women how to be empowered through labor, how to advocate for themselves, and how to make wise decisions based on authentic research, instead of blindly following medical staff suggestions. A Doula holds space for the birthing mama, and encourages them to own their birth, no matter the circumstances of how the baby arrives earth side.
Why would you want a Doula?
Because Doulas can fill a space that you didn’t even know was empty. Because if I had known about Doula’s with my first pregnancy, it would have been a much different story. And because Doula’s can walk arm in arm with you throughout one of the most intense human experiences, helping to make sure you are heard, you are seen, and that you know how to use your voice. Mama’s can conquer anything if we have those tools.
If you are pregnant, or have a friend that is pregnant, start the conversation about having a Doula! Look for local Doula agencies in your area, or ask in your circles for recommendations. Interview with a few different Doulas, and find the one that is the right fit for you. This person will become a beautiful piece of your birth story, and you will walk away with a precious friendship with someone who has shared in an intimate experience with you. Birth matters, so get your support team in place, and avoid my walk of shame from the nurses desk all those years ago. You won’t regret it.