With baby number four on the way, my husband and I started reminiscing about our past labors with our other three kiddos.
I was induced at 38 weeks with my oldest for pre-eclampsia, my middle came all on his own at 37 weeks, and my youngest (and at the time, we thought last) decided he wanted to make his own statement coming into this world by arriving at just 35 weeks.
With my third child, my water broke around 1 p.m., and I did not start having contractions until 8 p.m. The OB intended to start Pitocin (a medication to induce contractions) but was pulled away to an emergency, and in that time my body decided to kick start itself.
A mere two hours later my little Elias entered the world. During labor my contractions got more intense than the ones before, but when I was not contracting I felt fine and was even joking with my husband, the nurse, and some friends. Because my labor was progressing quickly, when I was about 7 cm dilated my doctor said, “If you want the epidural you better get it now because if we wait any longer there will not be time. There is just a little lip left on your cervix and when that is gone it will be go time, your body will rev up, and you will completely dilate very fast.”
With my other two kiddos, I got epidurals during labor. But this time I wasn’t in as much pain. Had he not scared me with the “now or never” approach, I probably would have declined pain medication with that labor. But, I was already in an anxious state of mind knowing my baby was coming too early and may need NICU time so I just gave in.
The story of my third labor still makes me disappointed every time I tell it, because I felt I could have continued to labor unmediated, but out of fear I let my doctor's commentary sway me. Now do not get me wrong, I was absolutely in love with him and would have him again if he didn’t move away. I think he was just giving me a harsh reality check that it was now or not at all for an epidural.
After we found out about baby number four, I did some research. I had never had a doula before but had heard about the benefits and how others had positive labor experiences with them. Previously, I never wanted a doula because I associated that term with midwife which I associated with home births. While that may be the way to go for some, for me, with my history, it was not an avenue I was willing to take.
But after doing research, I found out they are not the same at all. In fact, a Midwife has medical education while a Doula is a non-medical support person during labor. Doulas have training in understanding labor and its stages along with techniques and positions to help support you during labor, but they do not offer medical advice (whereas midwives are trained medical professionals). During my research I also learned many midwives will work in the hospital and are not exclusively for home births.
After sharing this with my husband and talking about it, we decided to hire a doula for my fourth birth.
As I say to potential clients, make sure you interview several doulas and pick the one you mesh with best. We found a local chiropractor that I ended up going to due to my severe SPD. After talking with her more and more, I learned she was also a doula. We got along so well it wasn’t long before we hired her. With her on my side, I felt that I would have the support I needed to continue to push through this labor and make my dream of a medication-free birth a reality.
My fourth labor with doula support left me convinced that everyone can benefit from a doula. I cannot even begin to describe the amount of support I felt from her. I went into labor at 35 weeks (again!) and due to some unforeseen circumstances, my birth plan went out the window (and that itself was very hard for me to grasp). She was there and helped keep me calm when I wanted to just run home and be done with it all. I was able to labor without pain medication even through Pitocin-induced contractions, and I am extremely proud to say that! I absolutely would not have been able to do it without her. (There were a few moments of despair on my end, and I will admit I did ask for some IV pain meds, but I was too close to delivery to receive them.)
Our interactions with our doula did not end there. She offered support postpartum as well, which I firmly believe is so important, and I preach it to anyone I can. Moms always put themselves last, and we cannot keep doing that. We need to take care of ourselves so we can take care of our family too!
After everything she helped me through, combined with my love for labor and delivery, I chose to become a doula myself! I am beyond excited that I chose this path, and I just can’t wait to be that person to them that my doula was to me.
A version of this blog first appeared on the Divine Doula Services blog.
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The Doulas of Iowa City blog contains guest posts by Doulas of Iowa City member businesses. We are excited to share with you about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and surrounding communities and to help you connect to fabulous local resources.