35 years ago a doula was born in Salida, Colorado. This is the story of how she was conceived, was born, and has grown up over the years.
What’s a doula you ask?
Maybe you’d never heard of a doula before you were pregnant. I guess it’s the same as most professions; until I needed a CPA or a SEO (search engine optimization) specialist I never knew they existed. Thank goodness they do!
Baby Dolls, Baby Animals, Babies, Babies, Babies
I was born the second child of eight closely spaced siblings. I loved my baby brothers and sisters. I loved my baby dolls, and I loved all the baby animals that were born on the farm where I grew up. I can’t remember a time that I didn’t love babies and wanted my own babies.
After graduation I married my high school sweetheart and moved from San Diego to the Colorado Rocky Mountains, a perfect place to have our babies! During my first pregnancy I took a childbirth class and ate healthier, and walked a lot. I was grateful for the progress in maternity care and the new ABC aka “Alternative Birthing Center” rooms in hospitals. Hold on!
“Birth isn’t supposed to be like that!”
This is when I learned that birth is big business. I soon realized the ABC was a marketing scheme, it was just a new title for the same old hospital birth. I got the usual routine procedures, got no support from the nurses or my doctor (who knew the doctor just shows up at the very end?!). It was nice that the daddies were now “allowed” to attend their baby’s birth except that my young husband had an aversion to hospitals. All in all I escaped with only an episiotomy and a forceps assisted birth for my sunny side up i.e., posterior baby girl. I clearly remember thinking, “Birth isn’t supposed to be like that!”
Birth MY Way
Motherhood was wonderful, breastfeeding went well. Every single woman in my mountain community breastfed so it was easy for me to learn by example. When we decided to give our daughter a sibling I knew I wanted to avoid the same hospital experience. I HUNTED out my own form of “childbirth education” and GATHERED the emotional, spiritual and psychological tools I would need to birth my baby naturally. I found Ina May Gaskin’s first book, Spiritual Midwifery!
In the end I determined to have a home birth but finding a midwife in 1979 in our small mountain community proved impossible. I wrestled with my options and when the time came I went back to the hospital.
This is where A DOULA WAS BORN!
I woke at 3AM to contractions, I relaxed, checked in with all my limbs, large and small muscle groups and REALLY RELAXED. I’d been practicing. It wasn’t long before the contractions felt long and strong so I got into the hot shower. I could have stayed there forever and had my baby right there. Instead I got out of the shower and woke my friends who drove me to the hospital (My husband was working out of town). When we stopped for gas I remember feeling a lot of energy moving through me! I felt like Rocky Balboa! I felt like what a boxer looks like when they are loosening up before the fight! I was working really hard to keep EVERYTHING loose! I felt my powerful contractions but they didn’t hurt. I knew I didn’t need to go to that “hurt” place if I stayed happy and loose.
I was in labor land, in the zone!
I walked into the hospital fully dilated, 10 centimeters dilated. In no time at all I was holding my baby. My best girlfriend standing by my side. It was 6AM. Three hours from start to finish. Not the 28 hours that my first labor was. Not even painful! I was ecstatic with joy, I had crazy energy, and a super high-as-a-kite feelings that washed through me for days! This was not something I could keep inside. I immediately wanted to tell the world how amazing birth is!
How amazing childbirth can be!
All the women in my life flashed through my mind and I couldn’t wait to share my astonishment, my realization that our bodies are amazing and birth really works! I shared and continue to share because every mommy deserves to experience such a euphoric transition into motherhood. Some of my doula friends gave birth to their babies via Cesarean Section. The day they realized their surgery was unnecessary and preventable was the day they were born a Doula. They are passionate experts helping women avoid surgical birth. Doulas are called to birth work in many different ways. But one thing is certain, doula work is heart work.
Time To Focus On Her
You may be surprised that when I meet a prospective Doula client I do not share my birth stories. Although I am passionate about birth and believe that the most important thing I bring to birth as a doula is my faith in women’s ability to give birth and faith in the birth process, I do not share about the days my own three babies were born and I do not share the day I was born as a doula. My times spent with this woman, my client, is time to focus on her, her story, her birth wishes, her past birth experiences, and her life experiences that have brought her to this day and brought us together. I have walked my path, she is on her path of discovering her own way of birthing her babies.
The word doula means woman’s servant. I provide physical, emotional, and informational support to the family around the time of birth. I am contacted somewhere between week 20 and 30 and if I am selected as the primary Doula we meet three times prenatally to prepare for this special birth day. I join the family in their home when mom’s labor starts or at any point after it starts, when she or her partner are ready for my presence, my company, and my helping hands. I provide help in a thousand various ways. In labor we may spend time walking, eating, in a warm tub or a long shower, sleeping, laughing, crying (yes, it’s okay to cry), giving massage, chatting and just being quiet, being pensive, thoughtful.
When a woman is healthy her labor and birth is called low risk. I also support high risk pregnant women, women who want an epidural, cesarean births, etc. But when a woman is low risk it means she can stay home for most of her labor. It means that her birthing time is not an emergency, is it an emergence…of a baby! I often smile and remind laboring women that birth is life and life is birth, just keep living life until you get the urge to push. Birth often takes plenty of time, plenty of time to keep living life! That means that we probably have time to fold laundry, bake brownies, and walk the dog, even as her contractions keep coming. The time will come when labor takes all her attention and she needs to go into a dark small space (hospital room, bedroom or bathroom) to prepare to meet her baby. This is a sacred place. An intimate time. A time in a woman’s life that she will never forget.
I am blessed to be her Doula.