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What the Doula Learned That Day


First of all, let me say it was a miracle the two babies didn’t come on the same day. Their due dates were three weeks apart, but as baby-timing would have it, they came on the same weekend.

I was just so grateful they didn’t come simultaneously.

Coming off the first, fun, uplifting birth, I was happy to get the call about the second, and laughed in the shower at God’s brilliant timing, grateful that I had slept between babies.

We were going to labor at their house, so when I got a text that they had already left for the hospital, I thought, “Wow! I better hurry or I’m gonna miss this baby!”

But when I dashed into the hospital room forty-five minutes later on the outer-edges of an oncoming hurricane with a full-moon waxing, I was surprised to see Mom sitting up in bed.

She was one centimeter dilated (out of ten, for those who aren’t familiar with birth).

Throughout the next sixteen hours, Dad, nurses, and I helped this mom give birth naturally – which was such a great reward for her after so much hard work.

But joys aside, I learned some prickly lessons at this rural hospital, like:

– When you introduce yourself to the nurse as the doula, ask if she’s ever worked with a doula before.

if yes – smile, and reiterate that you still recognize they and the doctor are in charge
if no – smile, and carefully explain that you are there to support mom through labor and not because you and the family think the nurses are incompetent. Let the nurse know you are not as experienced as she is and that you are willing to take correction and learn from her.

It would have been so much better if I had.

Instead, I bounded in, washed my hands and got right into the midst of my client’s contractions.

Later, it occurred to me to introduce myself to the nurse, AFTER offering Mom some food, contrary to hospital rules, even though Mom’s OB already approved it.

Her OB, the nurse reminded me firmly, was not on duty that weekend.

So many little things could have worked better if I had realized sooner how threatened the nursing staff was by my presence! When baby arrived, things were better, and the nurse who came on duty when Mom started pushing was used to doulas. But there was no peace until several prayers for help with interpersonal relationships had been offered!

– Ask questions if the nurse has a new technique you haven’t seen.

I learned a couple of great new tips by watching and asking, and the nurse relaxed some when I showed a willingness to learn from her.

– If the clients have a really strict birth plan, try to soften the staff impact with smiles and gentleness.

I didn’t realize quite how much extra work the nurses must do to accommodate some birth styles. It’s a flaw in the system, not their fault, but like tipping well for extra service at a restaurant, staying calm, smiling kindly, and refraining from belligerence while supporting the birth plan helps bring peace for Mom, baby, family, and staff.

A teaspoon of honey, as my grandfather used to say, attracts more flies than a gallon of vinegar.

And by the way, it IS true. More babies are born when the moon is full.

Add that to Hurricane Sandy occurring simultaneously, and it’s no wonder both babies came when they did!

God bless birth attendants!

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Morning Glory

The particular light of sunrise over fog-crested hills and hollows taken by cell phone camera from the car.
Virginia is so beautiful!

Text came in at 5:33 – strong contractions for an hour.

Hooray!

I jumped up and dressed in the semi-light leaking past the shade and curtains, not stopping to realize the shirt was on inside out – a situation not rectified until I looked in the bathroom mirror some three hours later…

Got on the road, and had the pleasure of driving reverse-commute. It’s not quite gloating, the feeling you get when you speed along opposite a two-mile backup, but it must be similar.

I arrived at 6:30, and all progress stopped.

We walked and walked around the neighborhood. Contractions came back steady and strong while we walked, but the moment we went back in the house – back to a standstill.

My friend is very discouraged.

I came home in the mid-afternoon after making a visit at the exquisite, cathedral-style church in her neighborhood where Our Lord just happened to be exposed for Adoration.

We’ll try again when baby says it’s time.

The Business of Baby

My friend is working on perhaps the most difficult task of motherhood – waiting for labor to start in earnest.

She has been in prelabor for the past two days, and as her doula – or birth assistant – I am waiting with the same tense anticipation for a text telling me to jump in the car and charge off to the next state over for the birth.

I love the way the process of birth knocks down barriers of race, creed, and nationality between women. When you are in that excruciating, seemingly endless place, there are no longer any barriers between the laboring woman and her female up-holders. There is only pain, and the courage to face it – shared between them.

In the Dominican Republic, my daughter and I helped total strangers of different colors and cultures through labor and delivery, only to find at the end we had become – more than friends. A tight bond of having been there together, one vulnerable, the other fiercely protective, is forged in the birthing process between its female participants.

Honestly, it’s very hard, and somewhat inappropriate to bond like that with male doctors/midwives/attendants, and in the long tradition of women helping women at this delicate and highly vulnerable time, I think Mom should be attended only by women, especially women who have been there themselves.

With the possible exception of some husbands.

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