Saturday, January 22, 2011

Doulas: a most certain DO!

About the time I found out there weren't many midwives in the area in southwest MN where we'd be having Lydia, someone asked me whether or not we were planning on having a doula present at the birth. I hadn't thought about it, mainly because I had no idea what a doula was. Now I know that having a doula is a completely necessary thing during birth, especially in this area.
Doulas are trained birth assistants, present during a birth and usually for a time postpartum as directed by the mother. Some doulas do a lot of pre-birth visiting and monitoring of the mother's physical and emotional health. Doulas coach parents in childbirth practices, laboring positions, healthy lifestyles before and after baby is born, and emotionally support a mother's decisions during birth. Without reciting the entire website, a fantastic place to go for more information is DONA International, the website for all registered doulas. If you are interested in looking for one in the area, surprisingly New Horizons Crisis Center has a brochure and listing on many doulas in southwest MN. I can get it for anyone who's thinking about it!

As for the medical benefits of having a doula, I copied and pasted this from another one of my favorite blogs, Birthing Beautiful Ideas. Her post on doulas was fantastic, and this is an excerpt:

Doula support has multiple (and unique) benefits for both moms and babies.

I couldn’t say it any better than this (from DONA International):

Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth

  • tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications
  • reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
  • reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans
  • reduces the mother’s request for pain medication and/or epidurals

Research shows parents who receive support can:

  • Feel more secure and cared for
  • Are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics
  • Have greater success with breastfeeding
  • Have greater self-confidence
  • Have less postpartum depression
  • Have lower incidence of abuse

In a word, doula support is truly invaluable for a woman and her partner!

Our doula, Ruthie, is from Cottonwood. We loved her to pieces. I was able to get in contact with her through a chiropractor in Marshall. Our first meeting was in August, and we (Charlie, myself and Ruthie) discussed the finer points of what kind of birth Charlie and I were seeking to attain, what I was taking for vitamins and herbal supplements, how I was feeling, how Charlie pictured being a part of the birth, and how she could further support us in finishing out a healthy pregnancy. Our second visit with her, in later August, dove more into how Charlie and I could be strong together during labor, and we tried out different laboring positions that could help bring Lydia into the world with more ease and grace (HA).

After our second visit, Ruthie and I stayed in touch via texting, and waited for Lydia to arrive. I texted her probably three or four times a week, asking questions about what Lydia was doing in there, how I was feeling, what supplements could help my symptoms of fatigue and stress...pretty much any question I could think of. She gladly answered them for me, and encouraged me to stay in close contact as our due date came and went. Finally, on a clear and sunny Sunday morning, I called her while experiencing cramps and contractions 6-10 minutes apart. We talked about the fact that we'd chosen to labor at home as long as possible just the two of us, Charlie and I, and that she would meet us at the hospital in Luverne when we decided to take off.
When we all got to the hospital around midnight, Ruthie kept a calm presence for Charlie and I in the labor/delivery room. Throughout the night I remember her quiet, meditative help in keeping me centered on what I was doing. She offered gentle suggestions on how to alleviate my pain, and kept Charlie feeling positive and reassured our friend Lani that everything was going fine during our birth. Charlie and I mainly worked together to birth our daughter, but she took over when Charlie was fatigued from the work of helping me out, and gave him ideas as to what he could do for me--letting me hang onto one of her tools called a rebozo (I'll explain later), feed me applesauce and lots of water, push me to do squats and hip circles, rest on my hands and knees over our birth ball...lots of different things to do instead of laying on a bed!
I'm pulling with all my might on a rebozo in the picture above. A rebozo is a long piece of woven fabric designed to withstand some heavy use during a birth. Ruthie used it with me in different ways: tying a knot in one end, hanging it over a closed door and letting me hang on it to do squats, pulling on it in a tug-of-war with me during a contraction, wrapping it around Charlie's neck and letting me hang from him doing squats, and pulling on it while wrapped around the squat bar during the actual pushing and birth process. Ruthie had other things she'd packed in her doula bag for us too, but the rebozo stood out the most to me. I suppose a person could use a pashmina or a similar tightly woven scarf, but a rebozo would probably be the best bet. I wouldn't want it to rip during a birth!
While I was pushing, Ruthie helped me to envision how to push, when, and told me what I'd be feeling. After Lydia was born, Ruthie helped me to establish breastfeeding (our first latch was done using the football hold) and then she left us to revel in the glory of our new baby. She came down to Slayton a couple days after Lydia was born to check in with us, help us with the new baby, and brought us some homemade granola (YUM) and a cute outfit for Lydia. In one of the pictures she's teaching us how to get gas out of the little one's tummy by bicycling her legs and massaging her abdomen, something that came in very useful in the days to come. I hadn't yet mastered getting Lydia latched properly, and so she was taking in a lot of air along with her meals. Problems solved!

I highly, mightily and happily encourage anyone who's having a baby to consider the services of a doula, especially if you're at all nervous about the following:

1. Being able to stand up for your beliefs during your birth. Your doula will act as your birthing advocate, and will support your decisions. She will remind doctors and nurses of your wishes, and will keep you focused on your birth without compromising your beliefs. If you don't want something to happen and you've already told the doctors and nurses, she'll make sure to keep your wishes at their first priority.

2. What your partner will do during your birth. Having a baby can put tremendous strain on a couple. Whether or not your husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/special person is going to be in the room and helping you, a doula can provide services to the both of you as you work at bringing the little one into the world. She helped Charlie figure out how to best help me during labor, and all of the nurses and our doctor said they'd NEVER seen a more involved and dedicated birth partner than Charlie. I threw out his back, breathed my horrid sick breath in his face, screamed and cried in his ear...and he still stayed by my side and labored with me till we had Lydia in our arms. And then there are husbands who faint at the sight of blood, think that birth and breastfeeding are gross, and have no willingness or ability whatsoever to help or support their loved one. Doulas can provide support in the absence of a partner, or champion a couple through laboring on their own.

Has anyone else had a doula out there during a birth? After reading this, would you be willing to see if having the services of a doula at your next birth would be for you?

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