So, we met the doula we were checking out on Friday (23 weeks!) and got such a good feeling that we decided to go ahead with her. Just waiting to hear back from her now. I’m incredibly indecisive with these things, especially anything that involves money, so it was just as well we had all that time on the Megabus to and from London yesterday for the second half of our hypnobirthing course with Katherine Graves. All in all, it feels like a few pieces of a puzzle are coming together for this birth. Not that that’s a puzzle that can be complete. There is always room for mystery in the human experience, especially in something as important as birth.
For any not familiar, a doula (say doo-lah) is a birth companion trained and experienced in assisting women in childbirth and the postnatal period. They’re knowledgeable about a lot of the issues that surround birth and provide the mother and father with emotional and practical support.
This being our second time around, I wasn’t totally sure we needed a doula and wondered whether the skills we’re learning through KG hypnobirthing, coupled with our own experience and various other preparations I’m making would be enough. Laurence was keen though and, talking about it I realised that none of those things had to be mutually exclusive. They could all be part of the story.
Our initial meeting with our doula served to refresh our memory as why we wanted a birth companion.
1. It’s useful having another pair of hands you know and trust
It means that Laurence doesn’t have to feel that he needs to be with me all the time. He can go off to do other things or to get some rest. I found I didn’t respond well to too much contact with midwives during my last labour. Lovely as the ones I remember were, I didn’t know them and my body was very responsive to any change in situation. I’ve met our potential doula once, feel very comfortable with her and will hopefully have a couple more antenatal visits with her before the birth. It may well turn out that this time we’ll stay at home and I won’t want anyone with me but it’s reassuring to have the option there. We’re also open to Talitha staying at home so it’s just nice to know that another grown up will be around, should the need arise.
2. It’s brilliant to have a birth companion who isn’t too emotionally involved
Labour may be quick and simple this time but in the event that any surprises come up, we both think it’s useful for someone to be there who won’t find the situation emotionally exhausting, simply because she’s not that close to us. Having that distance also means that she can help us talk through our options if there are any decisions we have to make without becoming unduly overwhelmed.
3. Her experience and training will be valuable
Ultimately, I’m the one who has to make decisions about what happens in labour. However, I don’t expect to be in a position where I can have an extended discussion of options and if I am, I’m probably not in established labour! Last time, I was so out of it that Laurence had to make decisions on my behalf which he found quite stressful, googling various things on his phone and asking numerous times for more time as one often can in labour. While a doula cannot give medical advice, she has good training in the physiological aspects of birth and many things seen in birth won’t come as a surprise to her, so she can help us sort through the information in a calm, encouraging and respectful way. She can also offer suggestions (eg positions) we might not have considered.
4. She can act as an advocate
While the doula cannot make decisions for us she will be well-versed in our birth preferences and, as someone outside of the situation, can remind of what they are. Laurence did a lot of this last time but it was wearing. It would be nice knowing that someone else can make sure that low-lighting and a quiet atmosphere are respected as far as possible.
I’m particularly concerned about the third stage being respected. I understand that the midwives felt it necessary to cut the cord immediately and inject me with syntometrine as part of the protocol because there had been meconium in the waters. I get that. However, I don’t feel those options were presented as just that, options. Being exhausted by that point, I agreed to whatever but it was something I’d felt strongly about and, knowing what I do now, it’s even more important to me that I attempt to have a natural third stage and delayed clamping, unless there is a clear medical reason as to why not. And even then, the decision needs to be ours. I feel more confident about this stage knowing that we’ll have an advocate on our side, if needed.
5. A doula can help you de-brief
After the last birth, I had a powerful need to talk about the experience – about the things I remembered, about the things others there remembered. I needed to process it. It had been too huge an experience not to. My community midwife was amazing at helping me with this but she hadn’t been at the birth and I found myself wishing I could talk to someone who had been there who wasn’t Laurence or my mother. The doula we’re hoping to go with also writes birth stories so that should be pretty cool too.
There are a few other reasons but I think I’ll call it there as this post is getting pretty long now. I think it’s such a personal decision and this time round it feels like the right one for us. Would you have a doula? If you did, what was your experience?