Do I Really Need a Doula?

Before I begin I should confess I am a bit biased about doulas. I am trained as a doula, but got pregnant immediately after finishing my training and have yet to attend a birth.

Even so, when I first got pregnant I thought I might be okay without a doula. My husband would stay up for three hours after every three hour doula class and learn everything I had just learned: my voice high, words fast, spouting about this intervention and that idea.

I told him early in our relationship that I wanted my children born at home, and he had gone from thinking I was a crazy hippie to fully understanding and embracing my thoughts and feelings about birth environments.

And then I realised that my partner’s love for me and his baby would send everything we had learned in training right out the window. Yes, I needed a doula.

A doula is a fascinating creature. When a woman invites a doula to attend her birth, she invites someone into the most intimate parts of her soul, into her marriage or partnership, into her life. You are hiring someone to love and protect you and she does it without reservation.

I sat on my own couch at home while I watched another woman coax my husband into confessing his fears, worries, hopes and dreams for his first born child. I didn’t feel threatened: I felt loved, I felt trust.

Megan helped us do everything from navigating midwifery protocol to practicing ideal birthing positions to coaching us spiritually to reminding us to keep things going in the bedroom. She loved us wholeheartedly.

My due date came and went and I was eventually facing a hospital induction for reasons I believed in my heart to be complete nonsense. My doula reminded me of my options. I opted for acupuncture treatment and a herbal induction in an attempt to protect my wishes for a home birth.

By the next morning my contractions were in full force. Megan came to our home and the three of us labored together. My husband and my doula worked as a brilliant team to ensure all of my wishes were met while I labored. My midwife and doula were a cohesive unit, each making certain to respect boundaries and scope of practice. Each of them making beautiful sacrifices in their own life to serve me.

The first twenty four hours of my labor was beautiful, painful, amazing: it was the party I had imagined. But I had made very little progress. My baby was OP and deflex: sunny side up and her chin wasn’t tucked. Her positioning promised me an exceptionally long labor and a slightly riskier vaginal delivery.

When the sun rose on the second day of labor, I somehow knew that my sweet baby wasn’t going to be born at home, and I knew that at the hospital my cervix would not cooperate. Megan sent Kirk to tell me that it was time to go. I told them that I couldn’t, that I knew they would cut me at the hospital.

My husband was a mess, too, and all of his biggest fears were bombarding our peaceful home birth. Luckily, Megan was there to stand in a gap I wasn’t even aware of.

Megan’s back up doula met us at the hospital. I had two midwives, two doulas, and my husband standing at my bedside cheering me on. I watched as a resident OB with an attitude came in and my birth team made a human wall between her and my exhausted body. Of course, she reigned supreme.

Things went exactly as I expected – epidural, pitocin, birth rape, failure to progress, heartrate deceleration: Cesarean Section. Thirty nine hours after the onset of labor I had my baby girl in my arms. Forty two hours after the onset of labor, my doula was finally able to go home to bed.

Because of my doula I know how to love my surgical birth. I can say with certainty that we tried everything to get my sweet baby out and to honor my original birth plan. Megan had me walking, dancing, squatting, lunging, screaming – everything! – even when I was ready to give up. Without her, I would have regrets.

I would be left wondering why I hadn’t tried any number of things. But we gave it everything we had. She protected my emotional and spiritual well-being. She gave my husband the tools to support me when he was broken too. She reminded me to be selfish.

One of my initial reservations about hiring a doula was cost. I’m not poor, but I don’t have an extra few hundred dollars kicking around. I’m glad I set that worry aside and cut personal costs to have the cash. I had kept track of the time Megan spent with us and worked out what she made by the hour: a whopping $7.95.

I didn’t include supplies she provided, mileage, or child care. She didn’t get paid overtime, she didn’t collect holiday hours, she has no benefits. She has specialized training that needs to be worked into what she makes. She probably needs a chiropractic adjustment and a couple hours of massage therapy after providing a day’s worth of counter-pressure to my sacrum.

She would make better money working in a fast food restaurant. She would make better money babysitting on evenings and weekends. Nobody enters the birth world as a get rich quick scheme (or get rich incredibly slowly scheme, either): it is a labor of love, a calling of the most intimate kind, a sisterhood.

Megan continues to provide postpartum support to my family. She has helped me see the beauty in the way I had to birth. She has inspired me as a birth advocate and doula. I still believe in every woman’s ability to birth in whatever way she sees fit.

Hiring a doula doesn’t make a woman immune to interventions or surgical birth. A doula reduces your chances of unwanted interventions, and helps you overcome the waterfall of emotions when things go off course. She doesn’t take the partner’s place, she educates, empowers, and inspires connectedness.

Hiring a doula helps to educate a woman, helps a woman to see her options. A doula breathes life into a solemn and terrified hospital room. A doula sneaks your partner a delicious submarine sandwich and brings her labouring mama a cup of broth and a sip of coconut water.

A doula reminds you to be strong and believes in the innate wisdom of a woman’s body and her unborn baby. A doula knows how to be firm or gentle or whatever she needs to be. A doula knows how to love.

Yes, I needed a doula.

(Written by Virginia Heron)

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