I can't pinpoint the reason it has taken me two months to write about my first birth as a "real" doula. Because to put it quite frankly, it was awesome and had to be one of the most defining moments of my life (next to giving birth myself, and maybe meeting Tim). Because in that moment, when Kaitlyn gave birth to Charlie as I looked on in utter amazement, I knew what I would devote my life to.
Helping women achieve a birth experience that will leave them amazed at their bodies. That will leave them speechless at their abilities.
I think for a while I was hesitant because it was not really MY story to tell. Although it was a defining moment for me, it was her story all along, and I didn't want to spill any sweet details until she had the opportunity to voice her experience from her own memory and not from that of onlookers. Another part of my unconscious self is nervous because I feel incredibly new and naive at this. All the reading and studying in the world will not give someone experience in this field. It's real-life at its core.
I know I want to be a doula, but I'm still so inexperienced and not even sure where to begin. Birth is such a sacred and sometimes private experience that many women are hesitant to invite yet another outsider (in addition to doctor, midwife, nurse, random hospital staff, etc) into their realm. A few of my midwife-aspiring friends have trained to be doulas as well, only to find that many women are reluctant to the idea of a doula, even if she is offering her services for free. Doula is such a foreign term and concept - because isn't the doctor there to support the laboring woman? I have so many friends and acquaintances that for the their first birth were under the impression the OB would be with them during the process... only to see them for four minutes and then for pushing. At a friend's birth, the OB was sleeping and they told her not to push until they went and woke him up and got him in the room! It was ridiculous. Your OB will not be with you while you are laboring, do not be fooled (midwives, on the other hand... almost always will be... Jessica, my midwife in the hospital was with me a good deal of the time for 12 hours... she left to be with another woman who was laboring but hung out in our room quite a bit. Why every low-risk birthing woman does not have a midwife still puzzles me, it is a world of difference, even if you plan on an epidural).
And that's where the doula comes in: she's there for you, Hypnobirth/epidural/c-section, etc. Her role is not to make decisions for you, but support you in those decisions. She is not there to judge, to criticize, to provide medical advice. She can help to inform you, to help you make decisions on your own, and to teach you to question the cookie-cutter model of maternity care (induction/pitocin/break water/epidural/push flat on back in stirrups/episiotomy) that is so pervasive in hospitals across the United States. I think every woman needs a doula, no matter how awesome the midwife/OB/husband/partner is. Tim rocked at birth support, Jessica was there for us and an almost constant presence, my nurse Heather was quiet but very supportive, and I still loved having Analiesa there to rub my back and tell me how awesome I was. I can't imagine a woman not having a doula with no partner support, a nurse who was overworked with too many patients, and a practically absent doctor. I think doulas should be standard practice in hospitals everywhere.
If you want to read more about doulas and myths surrounding them, here is this article. And if you would like a free (or very cheap) doula at your birth, I am available as well as a few of my really lovely friends. I can even provide [one] reference[s] :)