What is a Doula? Part 1

Today's blog post is one of a 3-part series written by BFW Grandma, Gini Emigh (Linnea's mom), reflecting on her birth experiences, and how she may have benefited from a doula.

Doula? What’s a doula? By the time I knew what a doula was, my children were already grown. When my daughter became pregnant and talked about having a midwife and a doula, I asked, “What would the doula do?” But now, as I think back about the births and early months of my children’s lives, I see many times when a doula might have been a real treasure to us.

First child (1980):

My pregnancy had gone well, but, still a week before the due date, the midwife in our OB’s practice was talking about inducing labor. The doctor and midwife were having me into the office every other day and making me very anxious. I didn’t know how to sort out what was going on. Would our doula have helped me ask the right questions to put me more at ease?

I didn’t have much hospital experience, and I couldn’t know exactly what to expect, but I was pretty certain that I didn’t want to stay in the hospital any longer than necessary. We entered the hospital for induction around noon, and our son was born that evening. All had gone well, but I felt self-conscious in the hospital and I couldn’t rest because every time I heard footsteps in the hall, I thought someone was coming into my room. Would our doula have assured me about necessary hospital practices and been a buffer between me and those footsteps in the hall? With a doula, would we have felt more at ease to actually rest?

On Saturday morning, we started asking to be discharged. We obediently waited until the OB, midwife and pediatrician had made their visits and assured us that all was well. With some reluctance on their parts, they told us we could go home. Then they outlined all the dire circumstances under which we should return to the hospital. As we were loading the car, the nurse handing me my baby said, “You’ll be back.” Would our doula have reassured us that our decision was fine and she would be there to support us at home if we needed her?

Ted had accepted a job in another state, and we were expected to move within weeks of our first baby being born. We had good friends, but most of them didn’t have children, so they didn’t know how best to be helpful. My parents and my in-laws all lived thousands of miles from us. Of course, they were eager to visit and be helpful, but they hadn’t nurtured babies for decades and they could only be with us for a short time. Fortunately, my parents were able to spend a week with us before we moved and a week in our new home after the move. If they had known about doulas, I think they would have considered doula services as a valuable gift to us. Would our doula have relieved some of the stress and exhaustion by being there day to day, at least for a talk on the phone?

Now, here I was in a new town, with a new baby. Ted was at work full time at a new job, and he drove our only car to work every day. Nothing was within walking distance, I didn’t know anybody, and for my own sanity, I needed to get acquainted quickly. Would our doula have been able to offer me resources for connecting with my new community and helping me out as I got plugged in there?

Wow! We did ok; we survived. But, it would have been great to have a doula.

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