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It Takes a Village to Raise a Mother

I'm so excited about today's post! This beautiful account of what it is like to have the support of a doula was written by a previous client turned friend! I love having guest blog writers!

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but they don’t tell you it also takes a village to raise a mother. They don’t tell you that when you give birth to a child, you will also give birth to yourself—a new self that didn’t exist before the moment you become a mother. And this process of birth and rebirth is one that will completely shake you to your core in the most beautiful and powerful way possible. And because no one tells you that it also takes a village to raise a mother, even more so in a world where we are all virtually connected but often physically isolated from other women, you may or may not have the support you need during pregnancy, birth, or the post-partum period. You may never have heard of a doula.

The moment I found out I was pregnant with my first son, I was consumed with both excitement, fear, and joy. In equal parts. And all of these emotions led me into spending most of my free time thinking about, reading about, and preparing for birth and child-rearing. I researched the best prenatal vitamins to take. I signed us up for Bradley Method Birth classes (possibly the most in-depth birthing classes that exist). I read Ina May & watched the Business of Being Born. I walked daily, avoided sushi and coffee and cold cuts. I did kegels. I practiced breathing and relaxation techniques, and went to prenatal yoga classes. I gathered every item I thought I needed (much of which I never used) for our nursery. I read the weekly growth updates and took belly pictures. I listened to pregnancy podcasts and got weekly baby center emails. I followed pregnant bloggers. And I waited. Forty-one weeks and 3 days to be exact.

In the last weeks before birth, I got more anxious and impatient. Pregnancy lasts more than 9 months usually, but the last month lasts 431 days. In the last weeks before birth, I walked and curb-walked, I cried and prayed, I ate spicy foods and went for bumpy car rides, I walked stairs, I ate pineapple, I went to acupuncture and massaged pressure points on my ankles. I called our doula. I called her on two different evenings when Braxton Hicks seemed consistent enough to maybe turn into labor to let her know she might be getting a call. She assured me that she’d have her phone by her bed—ready to take the call. And then, the night I finally did go into labor, and let her know contractions were consistent, and that we’d labor at home. It was 11:30 p.m., and we told her we’d let her know when we were headed for the hospital. It was her first birth that she would be a doula for, and we were both excited. Around 1:45, contractions were a minute long and four minutes apart. This is when we’d been trained to go to the hospital, so we called our doula, and she met us at the hospital in the middle of the night. Contractions were intense, and she rubbed my back while I leaned over in the elevator. When we got there, I found out that I was only dilated 1 centimeter, and we were told it was a good idea to go home. I felt stupid and apologized to our doula—who comforted me and told me that it was fine. She was so calm and warm and re-assuring.

She came back to our house when labor had fully kicked in at 11:00 the next morning, and brought me a pad for my knees since I found contractions easier to take on all fours. I also thought I was going to vomit, and she held my hair and got me a bowl. She rode with us in our car to the hospital, and stayed for a very long labor that ended in forceps delivery. While I labored, she kept my mom informed of progress in between helping me. When my son was born, she ran out to tell my parents who were then in the waiting room that he was here! She hugged my mom and they both cried.

She was one of the first visitors that we had at our ​home after my first son was born. She came with an orchid. She came with a smile. She came and listened to me tell my birth story and let me cry. Have you ever had someone just let you cry? Those early days after birth are so raw, and having someone who can hold space in that way is so comforting, so necessary.

When I got pregnant with my second son, we had moved to a new city—again away from any family or friends. And I knew without a doubt that we would be getting a doula. My husband also thought that a doula was a necessary component to our birth team—since he too had felt how important having the support of a doula was. He didn’t feel like he had to be the only one supporting me. And when he felt anxious or fearful or just needed to get out of the birthing room for a breath of fresh air, he knew that I would still be supported. My husband felt like the doulas we had for both births worked with him as if they were a team, and their goal was to support me. Which is exactly what I felt.

Our second doula, Christina Evans, was so informed and had so many resources to give to us that we decided that we didn’t need to take a refresher birth course. She gave us a folder of handouts that were so helpful in addressing labor positions, labor planning, affirmations, birth as a physical process. She had a library of birth books that I could borrow from. She helped me research issues that arose during pregnancy. She met with us several times before birth. And when we had to transfer to the hospital even though we had planned a homebirth, she met us there and did so much to comfort me in my fear and uncertainty about the birth. One of the most vivid memories I have from that labor is walking up and down the halls and even out of the hospital up and down the sidewalk with her and my husband as the evening sun was sinking behind the mountains. It was a little windy, and she braided my hair to keep my hair from blowing into my face. I can’t remember the last time someone braided my hair before that.

During contractions she was there to massage my back during the intensity. She was there consistently reassuring me, giving me affirmations, even praying with me. Without her and my midwife consistently supporting me, I would have wound up with an epidural, and though there is nothing wrong with epidurals when you want them, when you plan to not get one, and that is your ideal, it’s very difficult to refuse one when you have to get Pitocin. But with the support of my doula and midwife and husband, I was able to birth my baby without the epidural—which helped me to avoid some of the horrible side effects that I had from the epidural after my first birth.

After my son was born, there was a lot of fussing from the hospital staff around his health, and Christina stayed for hours after the birth. I remember feeling so grateful to have her there for support, even though I felt guilty that she was staying so long after birth. But that was one of those moments where I was being born again as a new kind of mother with my second son, and having her support was so helpful. Beyond helpful. I don’t really even have the words. Even after she left, she continued texting and praying with us for the first week. She offered to help when we got home from the hospital. She also came to visit and helped to watch my first son while I took care of myself and some things around the house. In a town where we didn’t know many people, she was the village that so many women are missing today.

When we were given the green light to leave the hospital after the birth of my first son, my husband was anxious to go even though we had an extra day. As I was getting ready to go home, I was scared and worried. It was my first time being the caretaker for another human being’s life. And I remembered wanting to do everything I could to take care of him, but I was worried who would take care of me. My doula was one of those people.

Pregnancy and birth can be isolating—both physically and emotionally. And if you live far away from family, or even if you live close, having a doula is one way to feel that you are not alone. That you are worthy of care and love and support. And in the early days of little sleep and sagging skin and hormones, that is one of the most powerful and healing experiences you might have.

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