Mexican Domestic Goddess

Doulas for everyone!

Jacqui SkempComment
It's World Doula Week, and while my doula wasn't able to make it to Iggy's birth (that's his fault, not hers) I'm grateful for the care, support and encouragement she gave me before and during my labor, and in those early weeks as a new mom as well.

I can't remember when I first heard about doulas. It was well before I was married, and well before I met my husband. But the idea of having a doula made sense. I didn't know if I would necessarily have a certified doula with me, but it seemed like a good decision to have another woman there whenever I would be giving birth.

When I was pregnant with our first babe, I started doing some research into birthing options, and I knew that I wanted to have a natural, intervention free labor. I don't look down on mommas who chose to get some assistance (whether they intended it from the beginning or not). Being on this side of the birthing experience, I completely understand how and why women would want those interventions. But being on this side of the birthing experience, I am so glad that I was able to have a natural labor.

My reasons for wanting a natural labor?

1. The idea of an epidural slowing things down and making the whole process last longer than necessary did not sound like fun to me.

2. The recovery after a natural labor tends to be faster.

3. I needed to face my biggest fear head on. I needed to prove to myself that I could do it.

The hospital I delivered at has amazing nurses who I think I fell in love with (I love you, Nurse Betty). So I had that going for me. But I wanted someone else there to help me and help Ian help me. It's not like he had been through this before. A girlfriend of mine told me about a girlfriend of hers who was in training to become a certified doula. Ian and I talked about it. Me: We need Karen to be there as my doula. Ian: ok. We met with Karen and she was so, so wonderful. We talked about the kind of support she would offer and she gave some suggestions for reading, and in my head I knew what that day would look like. I imagined I would labor at home with Ian and Karens support, timing contractions until I really should head to the hospital, be there for some 12ish hours and hello baby. You know how plans go.

When I was 34 weeks pregnant and decided that I just needed to see my mom, so with my doctors permission I flew out to California. I didn't tell anyone that I was 1 cm dilated already, and while I was in California I was having some contractions (sorry mom). I told myself that if they didn't ease up two days before my return flight I would just stay there and see how things went for a few days. I was fine and flew back to MN.

Two weeks later (36 weeks if you're keeping track) we were visiting our good friends, the Coynes, at Children's Hospital here in St. Paul. It was a Saturday morning, and Ian was working when I got a message from Alex that he and Anna had decided to have Johnny baptized since he was going to be having surgery the next day. Since we were his godparents, I grabbed a change of clothes for Ian, picked him up and we rushed to the hospital. He was baptized in the presence of his parents, grandparents and godparents. Anna's labor had been long and hard, and Johnny's journey was just starting. It was good to have those couple of hours with them before the whirlwind began for us.

On the way out of the hospital my water broke. I called my mom because moms fix everything, and someone needed to fix this situation asap! We contacted our doctor who told us to head to the hospital and I called Karen who was actually out of town. As things would have it, I had just met with my friend Abigail two nights before and we discussed the possibility of her being there to photograph the birth. So I called her up, and asked if she would be willing to meet us at the hospital. I also called my friend Gabby, who had two babies au naturel, and had previously offered to be there as a support for me. We had never settled on any details, but in the moment I knew I wanted those two women there with me. Karen was in contact with Abigail throughout and even offered to find another doula to step in for her. But I knew with Abigail and Gabby I was in good hands.

Ian and I raced home so I could pack a bag, and I ran around frantically looking for my yoga pants (why? who knows, labor makes you weird). By the time we checked in around 3:30 I only had a few contractions and was feeling pretty great. Mostly because I was ignorant. Thing progressed rather quickly. And as I hummed my way through contractions, Gabby counted up and down the peaks of pain, assuring me that I was just that much closer to meeting my baby.

At some point I started telling the nurses that I was feeling close to the point where I might ask for an epidural, but even if I asked for one, they had to ignore me. I think I said something like "I'm might ask for an epidural but I don't want one". By the time I hit the wall of pain that many mommas hit, I realized I was close. And when it was time to start pushing I shook my head because I didn't want to do it. I remember Gabby saying "it's so worth it". She was right.

I don't remember many details, but I do remember feeling very loved and cared for. I felt comforted and encouraged. There were many hands to hold mine, back and foot rubs, and comforting and encouraging words.

Eight hours after my water broke, six hours after checking into the hospital, and three pushes later, Iggy made his appearance. All 5 lbs 10 oz of him.

While Karen wasn't able to physically be there with me, her confidence and support prepared me for the greatest work of my life. And I am so grateful that I had my husband and two of my dearest friends by my side to welcome my son into the world. I truly believe that had it not been for their encouragement, I would not have been able to have had the amazing and positive experience I had. So positive, in fact, that within that first our after Iggy's birth, I turned to Ian and said "I could totally do that again" ;)