When I first fell pregnant in the fall of 2006, I had never heard the word “doula”. I wasn’t even particularly well-versed on the role of a midwife: in North America all you ever really heard about and watched on TV growing up was about OB/GYNs and hospital births (and traumatic ones at that). So when I went to my family doctor and he asked if I wanted midwifery care or obstetric care, my immediate response was to default to “obstetrician, of course”.
But I always believed in the power and ability of my body to give birth (it’s what the female of any adult mammal is meant to do), so when I started to read literature targetted to mothers-to-be, the word DOULA jumped out at me (the word midwife was still hardly written). I got online and contacted Birth Roots Doulas, a doula cooperative that was based in my hometown, and a few weeks later I met a doula. I hired her nearly “on the spot” and also decided to take the two weekend antenatal class that the cooperative was offering.
My doula met with me (and either my mother or my ex-husband) several times during my pregnancy. She provided literature, answered questions, and got to know me and what I wanted from MY birth. She answered all the questions that my mother didn’t have answers for, that my OB didn’t have time for, or that I had “spur of the moment” and could write down immediately in an email and pop off for a reply. All this for a nominal fee really, considering becoming a parent is a LIFE-LONG commitment and how it begins has a huge influence.
In any event, there was a chance that my son’s father would miss the birth, so I knew having a doula there during my labour was potentially a huge need (who wants to labour & birth without support?), and it was also clear that if we/I decided to call her, she would be there supporting both parents-to-be.
Then the big day came.. and boy-oh-boy was I glad I had had my doula for the pregnancy and that she had answered my questions (questions often spurred by the literature I had read hoping for ANSWERS!). I knew what to expect at the hospital, I knew how to advocate for myself, I knew that I didn’t want an IV or continuous fetal monitoring. I knew that if I was hungry I could and should eat (you burn over 1000 calories AN hour in active labour!). And it turned out that I didn’t need her to come support me until after I was fully effaced, 7cm dilated, and only a couple hours away from pushing (at which point she arrived, looked me in the eye and said exactly what I needed to hear and literally minutes later, I felt the urge to push).
I birthed my son in hospital, with a doula by my side. No interventions, no tearing, immediate skin-to-skin! How empowering!
I cannot explain exactly what my doula did / did not do. She worked intuitively. Doulas in general watch and learn and listen. They protect the sacred space that is your birth place (whether that is at home, at a birth house/centre, or hospital and with or without interventions). From that day on, becoming a doula myself was always a possibility… (though I first had to learn to breastfeed and become a parent!). You can read that journey “Learning to Breastfeed, Learning to Parent” here.