When I became pregnant with my second child, I knew I wanted a doula.
During my first pregnancy, we took a 12-week childbirth education course with the goal of my husband acting as my support person. During my labor with this first child, he was phenomenal. But, from the time I woke up with that first contraction to the time my daughter was born, it was 24 long hours of labor. By the time 10:00 p.m. hit (hour 18 of contractions), we were both exhausted and didn’t think our daughter’s birth was going to occur anytime soon.
Still at home, I sent my husband to bed.
I think I let him sleep a total of 5 minutes.
And in those 5 minutes alone, I lost it. Without support, I started to weep and lose my confidence that I could do it - give birth, be a mother, or even go to the bathroom, which was a wickedly tricky endeavor at this point.
Three or so contractions later, I woke my husband and we began debating whether or not we should head to the hospital. One arduous car ride later we found ourselves in Labor & Delivery and learned I was 8 cm dilated!
That breakdown I had? That was me hitting active labor hard and fast, but thinking that I couldn’t possibly be in “real” labor based on my 40-week visit to the midwife earlier that afternoon.
With no one else more experienced to let me know that my vocalizations and need to be naked indicated a rapidly advancing labor, that time between telling my husband to go to sleep and learning baby would soon be born was an emotionally turbulent time full of doubt and anxiety.
Cue the birth of second child and our decision to hire a doula - not because we didn't think we could do it just us two, but because I knew deep in my gut how important continuous support would be to me in labor. That 5 minutes of rest I granted my husband in my first labor was 4 more than I needed to come to this conclusion.
The birth story of my second took a different shape, as each birth always does. The deep intimacy my spouse and I experienced went unchallenged - if anything, that intimacy was more protected by having our doula present. She held space for me, for both of us, and a labor that could have taken a very different turn proceeded naturally and without intervention as was our hope.
My birth experiences were not just the physical act of giving birth, they were also an experience in another plane as I crossed the threshold into motherhood once and then again. Our culture doesn't that pay this second transition much if any heed. But for me, it held so much power. Our doula’s support, and the support of her back-up doula who helped my son and I begin our nursing journey as our doula headed off to another birthing couple, made such an important contribution to my birthing experience.
So, could we have managed that second labor on our own? Absolutely. But, with the support of our doula, we didn’t just manage it. We experienced it, enjoyed it, and derived great meaning from it. And, we’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Considering adding a doula to your birth support team? Looking for support in the postpartum period? Come to our next Meet the Doulas of Iowa City, and learn more about the services our member businesses offer to pregnant, birthing, and postpartum families. And, if you can't make the event, contact any of our member business for a free consultation.
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.