Should I hire a doula?
Looking back on my birth experience I would have most certainly hired a doula. Since my teenage years, I always knew I'd have a home birth or at the very least birth at a birth center. It was not that I thought hospitals were wrong or bad, it simply never crossed my mind to go to one unless I was ill. Both my mother and stepfather are doctors. I associated the hospital with illness or emergency and, as we know, childbirth is neither one of those things.
When I became pregnant my husband was interested in interviewing a few OBGYN's in Miami. Like many husbands (and I say this in a supportive and loving way) they think: "The more gadgets, computers, screens, the safer we are”. Something about technology makes people feel secure. Do 4D sonograms, cell phones, desensitizing procedures (epidural) etc really help people feel connected to their experience, or just in control? If you can follow me for a moment, imagine how these things that grant us a false sense of control actually disconnect us from what is really happening in that moment. As a doula myself I sometimes see clients fixated on the screen showing the baby’s heart rate. This type of activity takes the mother out of her experience and concentration into a place of anticipating a potential issue. This is why I much prefer intermittent monitoring or the use of Dopplers, but that is another conversation.
Needless to say we interviewed a doctor at a very prominent Catholic Hospital in Miami. Some times it’s good to do these things to get them out of your system even if you intuit the outcome. I've had a fibroid in my uterus for many years now. Depending on the hormone levels in my body sometimes the fibroid is the size of a pea and sometimes a chia seed. This doctor found it during the time it was deciding to be a chia seed. Right off the bat he said I would need to have a scheduled c-section because said chia seed was "blocking the birth canal". There was a “large” chance of a hemorrhage and he didn't want to take that chance. It was a sign I needed to get a second opinion. When you start to feel like you are someones liability you know it's not going to be a pleasant relationship.
Either way we met a few other doctors and midwives and after receiving months of prenatal care from a certain birth center in Miami at 8 months gestation we switched to a birth center in Hollywood, Florida. I'll save that story for another time. There we were met with competent, and compassionate midwives who didn't bat an eyelash about our plan to labor and birth at home. It was a low risk pregnancy, there was no medical reason for me to be in a hospital.
If a doula is there, what is your partners role?
After taking our Bradley Method childbirth class my husband was so excited to be part of this experience. He understood all of technology we are trained to believe we need were not necessary for a low risk birth. I will discuss low risk vs high risk births in another post. At the time this instructor was the only person teaching the Bradley Method in South Florida. The class was empowering. We thought we didn't need an additional support person, a doula. Through our journey we felt like we had learned enough about child birth, however; knowing what I know now it's not about everything WE know. It’s also about having a cohesive, non-judgemental support team to meet various needs. And if you have a 36 hour labor like I did, your spouse is going to want to tap out once in a while to eat, nap, pee and breathe! What many couples don't realize is that the partner needs the doula too. When it comes to making an important medical decision the doula offers a “time out” or family meeting. She brings everybody to a grounded focused place, she summarizes the options the midwife or doctor has presented and asks the parents what they want. It is so important to have a trained professional who can facilitate a conversation using informed consent. If she is a good doula, she will offer unbiased, evidence based information.
A cohesive birth team
A doula with experience and wisdom, will be noticed when she is needed and will go unnoticed when the situation calls for that
Does a doula crowd the birth room?
Some couples are concerned that a doula in the room is too many people, they are not. If you hire a doula with experience and wisdom, you will notice her when she is needed and she will go unnoticed when the situation calls for that too. When it comes to sisters, mother-in-laws, etc this can certainly feel like a crowd because there are emotional relationships that usually need to be managed with those individuals. Whether you believe in “vibes” or energy or not, just remember that one individual with “bad vibes” can feel like 10 people in the room. When I was nearing my "due date" one of my dear friends said to me, "There shouldn't be anyone at your birth that you have to take care of”. That refers to emotional care. If you have a highly critical (or even slightly critical person who wants to "be there”) your birthing room is the last place they should be. They can be the most help when you actually have the baby in your arms and need some laundry done, or a soup made.
At certain points the spouse or partner may not be what the birthing mom is looking for. They want, or even need someone who they have no history with, a neutral presence that brings support, compassion and knowledge. This can even happen at a hospital with nurses although it's incredibly rare since they often have 6-10 patients (I dislike the word “patient” because its synonymous with 'sick person'). Don't get me wrong their jobs are incredibly important and hard to do! but they are not support people, nor do they know the birthing mom or partner at all. A doula is someone who you will get to know at length during your pregnancy. A good doula will know what you like, don’t like and are vehemently opposed to. A hospital team won’t.
During my labor, my husband really stepped up and I mean, he was working with the midwife to move my cervical lip to make way for my daughters head. He brought snacks and smoothies, he rubbed my back and filled the tub, held me on the toilet while I pooped and ... you get the picture. Thats a lot of physical (and emotional) work for one person who is also there to have their own experience and welcome their child into the world. A doula figuratively and literally relieves the pressure!
We are more than pleased with how our home birth turned out, but the next time around there will be a doula present. That being said, if you are asking yourself, “Should I hire a doula” or “What are the benefits of a doula” a great way to answer these questions is to meet one and see! To find one in your town check out their reviews online, call your local midwife and ask if they have worked with them, and lastly, try not get too fixated on the “number of births they have done”, but focus more on how you feel with them when you have your face to face meeting. Feel the vibes…
If you're looking for a doula in Miami or live elsewhere I would love to hear your questions or comments below.