A Doula’s Story of Her Own Birth Journey
Everything was a haze. It wasn’t like I didn’t know what was going on or who was present. At the moment I was pretty aware of everything and everyone around me. The haze I felt was more like my senses were forcing me to have tunnel vision: not allowing me to think about everything going on in order to focus on the incredibly difficult task I was immersed in.
“Here comes another”. I shook my head helplessly: I didn’t feel ready. My grip tightened even harder on my husband’s poor fingers. “But this is how things progress…” I kept reminding myself. “This is happening.”
I started my official work as a doula when I was 24 years old. I had the training, compassion, and determination needed for the job. One thing I lacked was empathy. I had seen all the birth videos, read the books, and been imparted much knowledge through my classes, but I didn’t know what it was like to give birth. After a time, my husband and I were overjoyed with the news of our first child, expected in June of 2018. But this was not to be, as our precious little girl slipped away from us after only 17 weeks in my womb. The process of induction gave me a tiny taste of the birth experience, but obviously very different from the real thing. However, God soon blessed us with another little life, due February 26th 2019.
I realized something very quickly as this 2nd pregnancy progressed… Everyone assumed I knew what I was doing. After all… I am a doula. They weren’t wrong. I felt like I knew more than the average Joe about what to expect and how things would progress. I schooled my husband over and over about early labor.
“Contractions could start then stop. I could even experience days of early labor before the real deal. We don’t want to let everyone know prematurely…” See? I knew how this worked. Doula-me had this.
It was now nine days after my due date. After experiencing a few random aches and pains throughout the past couple weeks, I paid little mind when I felt small crampy twinges on this particular evening. I was tired of getting my hopes up.
Hubby had made it clear that he wanted me to let him know if something started to change at night, so I wasn’t suddenly waking him in full-blown labor. So as I began to notice more serious cramping around 5 am the following morning, I dutifully shook him awake to inform him. Guess what? An hour later I found myself on the ground, needing focused breathing through each contraction in order to cope with the pain. It felt like they were coming just one after the other. Hubby’s hand reached for his cell. I waved my hand at him.
“Wait babe, I don’t want to call too early…” I winced as another contraction came on.
He insisted on at least calling his Mom, who would be serving as my doula, as well as give the midwife a heads up. The midwife, upon walking in the room and seeing me on all fours as I tried to deal with what definitely looked liked like an active-labor-type-contraction, had to smile a little. It was most certainly appropriate that she was here. Good call, hubby.
Mom and Auntie showed up and the pool was prepared. At this point, my memory is a little hazy. This classic phenomenon is a (albeit slightly annoying) blessing in disguise. It’s like a dream that in the moment is so vivid, but as time puts distance between you and it, the dream slowly fades.
What I do remember? I remember my husband never leaving my side. Quiet person that I am, I remember shocking myself at the vocalizations that were coming out of my mouth as I tried to cope with the hard contractions. At several moments during my labor, I remembered my little inspiration/scripture cards I had taken time to make for this very moment; but now I didn’t care.
“Would reading something on a card make me feel better?” I thought to myself. “At this point, yeah… nope!”
I remember the midwife directing me as I reached down to feel my baby as he was halfway between his world and ours; his hand grabbed onto my finger. Such a beautiful moment that I will always treasure.
Finally, hours of intense labor paid off. My precious 8lb boy was born. As soon as he was brought up out of the water, he drew his first breath then snuggled up on my chest, perfectly content to learn about his new world with calm alertness.
So now I’ve done it. I’ve given birth. And the big question…
“Was it what I expected?”
Well, I was told 12 hours of hard labor is “Not bad” and “Pretty expected for your first.” I knew that. Gotta say I didn’t feel it. (Or did feel it, depending on how you look at it.) So, this was somewhat expected. On the other hand, I was prepared for hours and hours of early labor. Heck, I was waiting for it pretty much from week 37! Reality? I jumped from zero to sixty within an hour. This was most definitely unexpected.
I’m the type of person who is very detail-oriented. I like to be prepared, to know exactly what to expect and at the end of things, understand how it all comes together. While it does help to have book knowledge, I realized that in the moment, what I actually needed was those around me to help me through my labor. In my head, I could track my labor progress but it really helped to hear the midwife explain where I was at and what to expect. I knew what I was doing, what I was supposed to do, and that “My body was made for this”. But knowledge did nothing compared to the moments I heard those words of encouragement come out of the mouth of my Aunt or Mother-in-love during the hardest contractions. And the one thing that brought me the most comfort? Squeezing my poor hubby’s arm and fingers and just having him there by my side the entire 12 hours. (He really was a trooper!)
So here’s the reality that I “knew” but now I know: It’s good to be prepared, but the only way to truly have an understanding of the experience is to… well, experience it! Birth is one of the most physically difficult things you will ever go through. But the gift is tenfold and the pure growth you as a mamma will gain through this process is such a phenomenon in itself, not to mention the unfathomable miracle of new life.
Don’t let your expectations get in the way of your story. Every birth is different; there will never be another just like it. These differences, dear mamma, make each story unique, strikingly beautiful, and perfectly yours.