For World Doula Week we will be sharing a series of interviews with people who experienced doula support. We’re starting with Sarah one of the Hampshire doulas who was also lucky enough to have a doula for her third birth.
How did you hear about doulas?
I can’t remember when I heard of doulas. I read a lot during my first pregnancy and I think doulas were probably mentioned in at least one of the books or if not for sure on one of the websites. It wasn’t until after my second birth that my interest and understanding grew and I discovered it was what I had always wanted to do but never realised.
Why did you want a doula?
Being a doula myself, when I fell pregnant, one of the things I was excited about was that I would be able to have a doula. I knew all of the statistics and that I would be more likely to have the birth I wanted with a doula to support my husband and me and I knew from the experience of my clients that whatever this baby and this birth had in store for me I would feel more positive through it all with a doula by our sides.
How did your partner and wider family feel about the idea of a doula when you first brought it up?
My husband knew more than most about what doulas are like and how they work and expected me to want one when we found out about our daughter being on the way. He was known to joke that we were getting a doula so he could spend more time playing on the play station with his day off for the birth. But really, he knew it was a good idea because he knew how much practical work there is at a homebirth and was glad to have someone to share the responsibility with.
My extended family were the same well aware of the benefits of doulas and mostly just thought it was our business what we did around our baby’s birth. I find that the most common reaction I get when asked to explain what doulas do is wow I would have loved that for my birth.
How did your doula help you prepare for your birth?
One benefit I discovered that I hadn’t realised a doula provides in the run up to my birth was having someone who was as interested as I was in my pregnancy and upcoming birth. If a thought occurred to me about my birth plan or I was worried about something there was always someone I knew I could talk to and not think they’d probably had enough of me going on about birth or babies!
I had a trial run of labour when I thought my waters had gone and started having regular mild to medium contractions. This was the only time it was difficult being the client rather than the doula because although I knew nothing was happening for quite a while I also knew that I had told my doula (as I should have done -us doulas like to know) what was going on and after that I kept thinking about how she was feeling wondering what was going on. When you’re a doula and a client goes into labour but doesn’t need you yet and then you don’t hear from them for a while you try to relax and know that they will call when they need you but the little niggle is always there at the back of your head, what if everything went fast and sudden and they haven’t had the chance to call me and then you worry about them just a little. So, although I knew nothing interesting was happening I tried to keep my doula up to date! This was also helpful to me because it meant I knew I was not in active labour because I was able to think rationally about whether to call my doula over or not!
I did call my doula over in the end and she made herself very useful working with my husband to find and patch the hole in the birth pool! We pottered around through the night and everyone had a nap. It was after that I realised I wasn’t having contractions. We tried a few things to get my contractions going again. My doula made herself useful keeping the clary sage oil in the burner going. But no success so I sent her home and had a quiet day.
What did your doula do on the day when you went into labour?
The next evening when I started having contractions again I kept it to myself as I didn’t want to get everyone’s hopes up again with nothing to show for it. I went to bed and slept between the contractions which were coming about every 15 minutes. I got up at about 4 am as I couldn’t sleep any longer. By 5 am I was fairly confident this was the real thing as the contractions were much stronger and were regular. I woke my husband up at 6 am and asked him to put my TENS machine on. By 7 am he had the pool inflated and my doula on her way and my kids and mum were up. I bounced on my ball chatted to the boys and breathed through my contractions. My mum took the kids to school and my doula arrived. She was immediately able to give my husband confidence that he should, as he thought, call the midwives even though I hadn’t asked him too!
My doula helped me get myself sorted out with my top and into the pool. She remained calm as I started to make pushy noises and asked how long the midwives would be and helped my husband to keep calm too. When I needed to have my husband right there to hang on to through the last bit of my labour my doula was able to keep up the practical tasks around us, passing me a drink, sorting out the music and the oil burner. When I felt my baby’s head crowning I asked her to get the camera and she took a brilliant set of photos of the arrival of my daughter which I really treasure.
What did she do after the baby was born?
After my baby arrived my doula helped my mum and my husband to clean up and helped me to snuggle on the sofa skin to skin with baby. She took more lovely photos and helped me upstairs to have a shower when I was ready. I was able to relax and enjoy my baby. My doula provided us with amazing chocolate brownies to eat after our baby was born which my older children would list as the number one benefit of doula support!
What was the best thing about having a doula?
For me, the best thing was the relaxation of knowing there was someone who knew me really well who would be there with me and my husband whatever happened and who would understand and support my point of view unconditionally.
Would you recommend having a doula to other families?
Yes, I do constantly even though it can’t be me at the moment. I believe every family can benefit from doula support. This is the reason I put my time and energy into Hampshire Doulas so we can increase awareness and provide information so that more families can discover this wonderful addition to their birth team.