It took me three pregnancies to look into having a team of doulas. I can say most people don’t realize the following facts about doulas because I was in that category! I don’t know why I had never even really considered one during my first two pregnancies, because if I had known these truths about doulas then, it would have changed the story of my first two births.
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A Tale of Three Wildly Different Births
When I was pregnant with Sophia, I blindly believed what I was told by my OB, and it’s truly one of my biggest regrets.
If I had been wise enough to conduct my own research, my labor and her delivery would have been worlds different. She was my longest labor at 36 hours, because I didn’t have the tools and the knowledge I did by the time Lexi came along.
Fast forward, and before I knew it, I was 9 months pregnant with Ella. 39 weeks, to be exact. I was in a terrible situation where I had been bounced around my practice and I was set to be delivered with an OB I didn’t like and I didn’t trust.
He tried to strong arm me into a C-section I didn’t want and didn’t need, saying that she was too big, she would never fit, she would go into distress, and he would have to break her shoulder to get her out.
When I still didn’t go for it, he scheduled me for an induction he knew I didn’t want. I found out when the OB floor called me the night before to confirm my induction, and I had never felt so violated. I was scared, I felt stuck, and I felt like I was running out of time.
He basically told me I had 5 days to go into labor, and if I didn’t, I was getting induced.
So I started reading and researching everything I could get my hands on about how I could go into labor naturally and did everything I could find, and by the grace of God, I found “The Business of Being Born” documentary.
Sitting on my couch, 39 weeks pregnant, sobbing my eyes out is ingrained in my memory, because I didn’t know how or if I was going to have the labor and the birth I wanted so badly.
I told my husband I wasn’t going to the hospital I was set to deliver at when I was in labor, because I knew said OB was on call.
I didn’t trust him, and knew if he delivered me, he would strong arm me into a C-section, whether I needed it or not.
Pin it for later here.
Time was not on my side. I had to figure something out, and quick,
What ended up happening was my calling a practice to speak with a midwife who I told my story. I was scared and I felt stuck, I told her. I didn’t know what to do, and I needed help.
Normally practices won’t take you on past about 35-36 weeks, but since I was low-risk, hadn’t had any complications, and had a history of a normal delivery with Sophia, she mercifully agreed to see me and registered me at a different hospital. Relief swept over me.
I’ve learned that a woman won’t go into labor when she doesn’t feel safe. It’s all hormonal, and when your brain is telling you that you’re not safe, your body will all but suck that baby back in to keep it safe.
My sweet midwife didn’t get to deliver that baby because I went into labor before I could get to my appointment with her, but talking to her enabled me to be delivered at another hospital by another OB who made me feel heard, respected, and listened to.
If you don’t feel like that with your provider, I encourage you to find one who does make you feel safe. If they don’t make you feel heard at an office visit, they won’t make you feel heard when you’re in labor.
You have got to trust them. One day your and your baby’s life might be in their hands… You need to know that they’re good ones, and truly trust their judgment.
I’ve said all that to say this… If I had had a doula with my pregnancies with Sophia or Ella, their entire birth stories would have been different.
I had a team of doulas on my third pregnancy with Lexi, and they were absolutely invaluable to how my pregnancy and my labor went.
Talking to them inspired confidence. They knew I could give birth when I questioned it. Their knowledge gave me confidence because they felt like a little secret weapon in my back pocket.
Why in the world are doulas not more talked about?
- Support. For you and your husband – especially when you’re weak.
- Encouragement. When your faith in yourself is nonexistent.
- Comfort. When you don’t even know what you need.
- Confidence. When you don’t have confidence in yourself.
- Options. That you might not even know exist.
- Choices. That you might not even know you have.
- Dignity. When you’re at your most vulnerable.
- A friend and advocate. Standing confidenently in your corner.
- A cheerleader. When you’re exhausted.
- Strength. When yours is gone.
- Help. They are anything you need when you need it.
I have seen so many people hear the word “doula” and immediately dismiss it, but seriously, why? What is the argument against feeling encouraged and empowered in your birth? But the best part is that they are so much more than these…
There are so many misconceptions about doulas. My thinking with Soph and Ella was kind of like, “Why do I need a support person when I have Joey?”
Well, because they’re so much more than that.
Truths About Doulas Nobody Told Me
Doulas compliment your husband.
I think one of the biggest misconceptions about having a doula is that they replace your husband. This is not the case at all! They’re actually an asset to both you and your husband. They will encourage him if he needs it too, and inspire confidence in your ability to birth this baby.
Doulas are like a little secret weapon.
They’re not just there for emotional support, either. They are fluent in all things pregnancy and labor.
Having them gave me extra confidence because I knew, even if something didn’t go perfectly, they would have the tools and knowledge available to help me.
I had a very long labor and transition period with Ella. My labor was 21 hours, and I was at a 9 ½, in transition, for nearly 5 of those hours.
In hindsight, I think she wasn’t in an optimal position, was on a nerve, and being a larger baby, made for an incredibly long, excruciating, and beyond exhausting labor.
If I had had a doula knowledgeable in optimal positions for labor and birth, baby positioning, and baby spinning, it would have saved me hours of excruciating pain, given me comfort during the hardest part, and from an epidural I didn’t even want.
It ended with a late epidural because I didn’t have the tools available to help me get through without it, and no one around me knew what to do, either; aside from an epidural and Pitocin to make me dilate that last 1/2cm.
I never want to feel how I did during that labor again, and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.
I think she was one a major nerve, too, which resulted in excruciating nerve pain from my ribs to my knees every 90 seconds or less for nearly 5 hours.
Honestly, I was traumatized. That is NOT how birth should be!
I needed a secret weapon, but I didn’t know it at the time.
Lexi’s birth was different. I had my secret weapon, and, as a result, had my quickest, easiest labor. I was in labor technically for about 16 hours, active labor for about 6, and in transition for maybe 20-30 minutes.
That’s how it should be, mama!
Doulas are a wealth of information.
Seriously though. My doulas, Jenn and Lisa, were fluent in all things labor and pregnancy!
They knew the medical lingo and made sure I was comfortable and confident with what was happening.
They were knowledgeable in baby positioning and optimal baby position for birth, best positions to birth in, comfort measures, baby spinning, hands on comfort such as hip compressions, rebozo use, and water use, just to name a few!
I texted Jenn the morning I was in labor and told her what was going on (coupling and inconsistent contractions). She recommended I do the Miles Circuit and go for a walk. I took her advice, and within a half hour, I was in active labor. I wouldn’t have known about a Miles Circuit without her, and could have spent many more hours laboring, like I did with Sophia.
Doulas are whatever you need, when you need it.
Need a washcloth? BAM, here.
Darker room? Boom, done.
Hip squeeze? *already there*
Your pillow? Got it.
Emotional support? I got you.
Need a hand? Here’s mine.
I actually remember toward the end of my labor with Lexi, I got really overwhelmed and started crying. I had hit the “I can’t do this” part right before I started pushing.
My eyes must have been closed because I don’t remember seeing anything, but for some reason I got overwhelmed and my hands just start flailing.
Somebody grabbed my hand mid-air. It was a firm, confident kind of grab that said I could do this, and reminded me that I wasn’t here alone. I didn’t even know who it was, but I squeezed and emotionally sunk into that small act of support.
Through pictures, I later realized it was Jenn.
Whatever you need, whenever you need it… That’s a doula.
Doulas are on your side.
They’re simply there FOR YOU, whatever that means.
Doulas will support whatever your birth choices are – and help you have a more positive birth.
I think another misconception about doulas is that they will push a certain type of birth or labor on you. That is not the case at all!!
Mine had been there during for every type of birth you can imagine: elective C-sections, emergency C-sections, in every possible birthing position, home births, birth center births, hospital births, water births, and everything in between.
They support YOU, plain and simple.
A good doula’s primary goal is to give you a positive birth; whatever that means to you.
Doulas support you during pregnancy, labor, and after.
Mine checked up on me several times after I had Lexi. I shared with her what a difficult time we were having breastfeeding, and she gave me resources to help me.
I saw both of my doulas at a breastfeeding workshop several weeks after she was born and kind of started sobbing and poured my heart out.
Just seeing them gave me so much comfort, because I knew they “got it” and that they were on my side.
Doulas don’t give medical advice; they give you options.
While they are well versed in the medical aspect, it’s important to note that they don’t give medical advice.
Instead, they give you choices and make sure you understand your choices. Then, they offer support you through whatever choices it is that you make.
They give you the courage to advocate for yourself, but they don’t make choices for you or persuade you one way or the other.
Doulas are there for your comfort.
I love my midwife! But she’s thinking about the last time they heard heart tones.
She’s watching for signs of distress in me and in my baby.
She’s making sure things are going well.
While she cares about my comfort, she’s more concerned about my safety and my baby’s safety than the last time my hips were squeezed.
That’s where your doula comes in.
Doulas are only one in that room that is employed by YOU, not the hospital/birth center.
They have no liability.
They’re under no obligation to the place you’re delivering in. They don’t have to “protect themselves”.
They will be real with you, because they’re employed by you, and there solely for you and your husband.
If I could do my first and second pregnancies over, the number one thing I would change is having a doula.
If I had, I truly believe their birth stories would be different today.
Everyone says having a healthy mom and healthy baby is the ideal outcome… While I don’t disagree, I believe with my whole heart that there is more than enough room for mom to feel safe, confident, loved, and supported during this vulnerable time in her life!
Knowledge is Power
Having a doula is proven to:
- Improve birth experience and perception – no matter what kind of birth you have.
- Reduced requests for pain medical, including epidurals, by as much as 60%.
- Decrease in C-section rate by as much as 50%.
- Reduces use of oxytocin by as much as 40%.
- Reduced length of labor by as much as 25% (more in my case! Having a doula shaved 32 hours off my third birth compared to my first and longest birth).
- Lessened stress and anxiety.
This article from the American Pregnancy Association on having a doula is awesome, and provides more resources to conduct your own research. 🙂
Here is another fantastic article from Evidence Based Birth! This one is more detailed and informative (in my opinion).
For more information about doulas or to contact Jenn and Lisa directly, please visit Gentleseeddoulas.com
** All birth photos in this post courtesy of Ashley Meyer Photography.