Mothering the Mother is another explanation of what doulas do; birth and postpartum. I didn't realize how much of an impact we have until I hired one for myself.
It was 2006, my mother had just passed away from breast cancer the previous November- two days before my birthday. I was right in the throws of grieving when I found out I was pregnant.
I wasn't handling the loss of my mother so well and was very surprised to say the least of our news. I remember crying and praying in my car on the way to work, "God, this is the worst time to be pregnant, I cannot even think straight, my heart aches so much, how can I go through this- it's too much too soon." Please do not misunderstand, there was no doubt that we were having this baby. After my sob fest, I had the radio on and a quote by Carl Sandburg was mentioned , "A baby is God's opinion that life should go on." I wish I could tell you what station it was on or what the topic that was being discussed was, but I can tell you that it was exactly what I needed to hear.
A few months later while I was getting adjusted (the weight of a baby can really do a number on your back and hips), I noticed in the display business cards, one happened to be for doula services. At this time I didn't know what a doula was but based on the description of service I knew I needed her. We met with her (Mary Ann) and her sweet gentle spirit comforted me-we hired her on the spot. She was available for questions anytime, she met with me several times before my labor and brought me reading material and cd's with calming music and meditations about birth.
Three weeks before I went into labor I was experiencing prodromal labor. Prodromal labor can feel very much like active labor, yet is not consistently progressive. It made me very anxious, tired and frustrated. Mary Ann called weekly to check up on me. When she called on the 3rd week of prodromal labor I completely started bawling on the phone. She calmly affirmed how I was feeling and suggested my husband go purchase some bath salts, light some candles and draw me a warm bath. We did this and in about 15 minutes my labor became active.I was in labor from 12-am to about 8:15-pm (I know this because Mary Ann documented everything, which was helpful because the process of birth can become a blur after a while.) During this time Mary Ann encouraged me when I felt like giving up, she administered several comfort measures from her bag of tricks. She didn't replace my husband in fact they were a team. She encouraged my husband when he wasn't sure of what was going on. She grabbed him some food when he was hungry. She let him rest when he looked tired. She had a great relationship with the staff and therefore had access to things on the maternity floor that I wouldn't have thought to ask for. She hugged and swayed with me when I couldn't stand up. She sat quietly in between contractions so that I can grasp a minute of sleep. She suggested a position to turn the baby when she was faced the wrong way causing back labor. I could go on and on, but even recounting all she did takes me back, and regardless if everything didn't go according to my birth plan, I still had a great birth experience. My heart gets full and I will be forever grateful for her presence during what could have been a really difficult time. After I reviewed what she did it dawned on me that I was offering my friends and family the same care during their births and decided to officially become certified to help other women have births that they love to remember.