Through my three pregnancies, and three very different labors, I’ve learned an absolute ton about pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
And honestly, the things that are “normal” and “mainstream” in America towards pregnancy and delivery are worlds different than in other countries, or even in this country a few decades ago.
We’ve been subliminally conditioned to think we can’t give birth and that we “need” help.
We need the Pitocin, epidural, episiotomy, and whatever else is recommended by doctors.
And sometimes, we do! They can and have been living saving. But can I tell you a secret?…
Women aren’t given enough credit.
Not only CAN we give birth, on our own, of our own volition, with no interventions aside from support, but we were literally MADE to! Of course there are always exceptions and everyone’s stories and births are different, but 9 times out of 10, we really can.
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.
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.
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.
I will never forget sitting on my couch, 39 weeks pregnant, sobbing my eyes out because I didn’t know how 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.
I had to get out, and time was not on my side.
I ended up calling a practice with a midwife who I talked to, and I simply told her what my story was, that I was scared and I felt stuck. 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. 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?
They are support, encouragement, comfort, confidence, options, and dignity.
They support you (and your husband) when you’re weak.
They encourage you when your faith in yourself is nonexistent.
They provide comfort for you when you don’t know what you need.
They have confidence in you when you don’t have confidence in yourself.
They give you choices you might not even know you have.
And they protect your dignity when you’re at your most vulnerable.
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.
Here are some things I wish someone had told me about having a doula:
They 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.
They’re 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 for nearly 5 hours.
I was traumatized. That is NOT how birth should be!
I needed a secret weapon, but I didn’t know it at the time.
I had my secret weapon with Lexi, 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!
They’re 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.
They’re whatever you need when you need it.
Need a washcloth? BAM, here.
Need it darker? Boom, done.
Need a hip squeeze? Yupp.
Your pillow? Got it.
Need 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.
They’re on your side.
They’re simply there FOR YOU, whatever that means.
They will support whatever your birth choices are.
I think another misconception about doulas is that they will push a certain type of 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.
They support you during pregnancy, labor, and after.
I remember how 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.
They don’t give medical advice, they give you choices.
They are well versed in the medical aspect, but they don’t give medical advice.
They give you choices. They make sure you understand your choices, and 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.
They’re 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.
They 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!
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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.