I knew almost nothing about natural birth when I became pregnant in 2000 with my first daughter. I had read a birth story in 1998 and decided right then and there I wanted a home birth. And, because I am a Type A, make-a-plan kind of girl, that was that. Oh, how naive I was!
When I got my positive pregnancy test, I hired a midwife, check, and excitedly drove to the local Barnes and Noble and picked up a copy of Husband Coached Childbirth because I knew I wanted my husband to be my "coach", check, check.
Birthing Without A Doula Was Hard!
Throughout my first labor, I felt like a runaway train, fighting my labor and emotionally out of control. I yelled...a lot. (In some part of my brain I thought the neighbors would assume I was being murdered and the cops would show up. Apparently, my neighbors were deaf or assumed we young things would work it out.) I cried...a lot. I puked...a lot. I thought I had food poisoning while in labor because I had eaten fish for dinner. No lie.
I didn't know the signs of transition. I sweated profusely. I climbed in and out of our tub. I cried and yelled some more. The water wasn't hot enough. It was too hot. It wasn't deep enough to cover my belly. So, I tried the shower. I hated it. Nothing felt good except laboring on the toilet. And yelling.
I will never forget my husband, Joe, placing a path of white towels on our bathroom floor from the toilet, to the doorway of the bathroom. I pitifully looked at him at one point and said, "It's like the Trail of Tears." And then I cried. My hair looked like my childhood pet poodle when she hadn’t had a blow-dry. I wore no makeup. None whatsoever. My friends will tell you I NEVER go anywhere without my makeup, even while roughing it. My grand vision of looking beautiful at birth, was forgotten somewhere between the puking and the yelling. I find it hilarious now, but at the time I really thought I was going to die, really die. I remember looking at myself in the mirror across from my toilet (I know, super weird) and thought how dumb I was for not signing up at the local hospital (I had no idea of their HUGE c-section rate, thank goodness for small mercies!) and getting an epidural. I also remember questioning why I even wanted a natural birth in the first place.
Thankfully, I had a very straightforward birth experience. Once my bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 5:00 am baby was born, and I mean right after I pushed her out, placenta still attached, I said to my husband, "I want a MILLION of them!" The pain was immediately over!
Birthing With A Doula Was AMAZING!
I have never felt so strong and powerful as I did after the births of my girls. Joe and I only had three more babies, not a million, and we had a lovely doula attend the rest of my labors. Oh, the difference! Even though I now know my first birth was a perfectly textbook labor and birth, and I was pleased with it, I knew I needed some tools for coping with the intensity of labor for Round #2. The first time, I didn't know what I didn't know. I couldn't just "tough it out". That was absolutely the wrong mindset to have at a birth. I read Ina May's Guide to Childbirth and it was life changing. I learned to embrace the contractions, totally surrender and not tense as I anticipated them. They served a purpose.
In 2004, I learned about a magical being called a doula while pregnant with my second daughter. A friend of mine had just completed her doula training course and asked if she could come observe and help me in labor. First I said, "What is a doula?" Then I said, "Why not! Come on, it will be fun!" I had no idea how grateful I would be for her support of both myself and my husband.
During my second labor, we all watched Meet the Parents and paused it while I had contractions and rolled on my birth ball. We genuinely had a good time in labor! Laughing and embracing those contractions was an enormous shift in how I coped. We asked our doula to attend the next two births as well. With our doula gracefully guiding us, my births were much easier and less painful and I mean that!
The Magnificence of It All
My births have shaped the doula I am today. I began my training in 2009 after my last little one was born. I was sad to think my childbearing years were over and missed the birth world. So, on a whim, I signed up for a doula training course and right after completion I knew I had found my "thing".
Since becoming a doula, I have had the immense pleasure of working with fantastic women for a local chapter of Birth Network and I also sit on the Advisory Board and Management Team of Birth Boot Camp, a natural childbirth class for couples, and Birth Boot Camp DOULAS, a certification program for birth doulas. Birth Boot Camp has childbirth instructors and doulas all over the country and host several trainings a year. I am the first Birth Boot Camp Doula working in the Atlanta area and we are thrilled to be hosting a doula training next summer!
Finally, every birth is magnificently unique. Some births are easy and quick, some are forever long and extremely hard, and some have a very different outcome than the original plan. None are less beautiful or amazing. It's a privilege to accompany families along their birth journeys and although this a very different career path than what I imagined at age 20, I can't imagine waking up at 2:00 am for anything else.