During World Doula Week we are sharing a series of interviews with people who have benefited from doula support. Emily and Stuart’s first baby was born by c-section and their second baby was born at home in the birth pool with the support of both a doula and an independent midwife.
How did you hear about doulas?
I met a doula in a breastfeeding support group who explained what doulas were.
Why did you want a doula?
In my first pregnancy, I felt clueless and unsupported. I felt I had to go along with everything I was told to do without having it explained to me. I felt that with a doula to support me I would be more confident finding all the information I needed to make decisions. I felt I would be more confident asking questions. I also felt I would be more confident making and expressing my decisions. I felt I would have someone to be my back up if I disagreed with what I was told to do.
I also wanted more support for my partner because he felt pushed out during my first pregnancy and birth. I knew that a doula would support us both and help him to feel involved and confident with asking questions and talking to health professionals. I knew it would also help him feel more confident during the birth.
How did your partner (if you have one) and wider family feel about the idea when you first bought it up?
My partner thought it was a good idea, he was keen to have that support just like me. My family were confused about what a doula would do and how one was different to a midwife. Once explained, they were supportive of the idea. My mum had another job looking after my eldest which helped her not feel too disappointed at not being a birth partner.
How did your doula help you prepare for your birth?
My doula supported me in a meeting with the hospital to review the notes from my first pregnancy. This was good as it helped me to get closure on what had happened. We also did birth partner training with our doula which helped my partner know what to expect and how to support me through the stages of birth.
My doula reassured us that no matter what happened on the day she would support us to make birth a positive experience regardless of anything that came up which might cause us to change our plans for the birth.
She suggested alternative therapies and comfort measures for dealing with the aches and pains of pregnancy, labour and after childbirth and to help my body get ready and go into labour naturally.
If I or my partner had any questions I could always ask my doula and she would support me finding answers or reassure me what was normal, keeping me away from the worry that can come with googling!
My doula supported me at hospital appointments when I had an ICP diagnosis (this is a rare liver condition associated with pregnancy there’s more information here http://www.icpsupport.org/ ). She supported me thinking through and making decisions around plans for if I needed to be induced or potentially to choose a c-section as a result of this condition.
She supported me when pre-labour started and stopped. Including one occasion when things seemed to be happening one evening, she came round to our house and then helped me stay positive when everything stopped.
What did your doula do on the day when you went into labour?
I first called in my doula at 4 am when I was having contractions and my son was awake and needed attention. She provided an extra person to occupy my son, or set up the birth pool or support me.
In the morning, she helped my son get ready for a party he’d been invited to and co-ordinated a friend to pick him up and look after him for the day so I could rest and focus.
She tried to encourage me to eat and drink to keep up my energy through the day. She kept this up gently even when I wasn’t keen to eat as I was struggling with nausea and vomiting. She helped to keep track of how frequent contractions were and also encouraged my husband to eat and drink to keep up his strength too.
My doula helped me deal with sickness with acupressure, massage and essential oils and by avoiding strong food smells and helped me choose small amounts of food that I could manage. She also caught my sick for me (in a bowl) when that became necessary.
She helped my husband fill the pool the first time and empty and refill the pool when it got cold and needed reheating.
She reminded me to get out and go to the toilet and encouraged me to change positions to help keep things moving.
She allowed my husband to be able to focus on supporting me in the way I needed him to and not be distracted by all the practical things that also needed doing.
She took turns with my husband providing physical support when he needed to rest, eat or go to the toilet. She used hand massage during contractions. This helped because I was more able to concentrate on my hand being held which distracted me from the intensity of my contractions.
She also took photos and video during the labour and when our baby was born. Although I didn’t notice this happening at the time I enjoyed looking at them after my baby was born.
What did she do after the baby was born?
My doula helped to empty the pool and take it down after the birth. She put fresh sheets on our bed making it all comfortable to get into with our new baby to sleep. Which was a real relief and allowed us to relax and enjoy our baby rather than worry about those practical things.
She made a placenta smoothie right after the birth and prepared the placenta into ice cube trays for freezing for future smoothies.
What was the best thing about having a doula?
Knowing that I had someone with me who would be sure to stay calm and have a level head. Knowing even if something happened that might have made me and my partner feel confused or upset someone would keep us calm. That we had someone who would be on our side whatever situation occurred.
Would you recommend having a doula to other families?
Yes, I regularly do. 😊