Are you surprised to know that I didn’t hire a doula for my birth? Confused? A little leery? Here’s my story on why I didn’t and what I wish I’d known.
My first pregnancy was smooth-sailing. Minimal morning sickness, an adorable round bump, a number on the scale that didn’t mortify me…the perfect pregnancy! We had just moved into a family-friendly duplex just outside of Placerville, complete with a white picket fence and a grassy front yard. I had a bout of preterm labor at 34 weeks that put me on light bed rest at home, but other than that, things were fantastic. I was empowered!
I delivered my sweet baby girl at 37 weeks and 2 days after 2 hours of active labor and a lovely dose of fentanyl.
Then I hemorrhaged.
I remember distinctly the alarming sensation of the midwife pulling the cord as I watched my newborn on the warmer, lovingly doted on by her grandmothers and Daddy. I remember thinking, “I really wanted to keep her with me…” but I was too dazed and thrilled with my birth that all of those concerns fell away. Soon I birthed my incredible placenta, the amazing life force that sustained my beautiful baby for 9 months. It looked fantastic as the midwife explained it to us, identifying the maternal side and the fetal side and setting it in a bucket so we could eventually take it home. My midwife sewed me up and we rested a bit.
Soon after, I was asked to use the restroom. I waddled to my delivery room’s bathroom, sat down, and felt a rush of stinging (thanks to my new stitches) relief. I stood up, held the wall, and lifted my leg as my nurse tried to assist me with my glamorous mesh panties and whoosh — I gushed blood. Having never given birth before, I didn’t know what was normal so I wasn’t terribly alarmed. I felt okay, no lightheadedness or dizziness, and my nurse did a great job of not utterly freaking out despite the once pristine bathroom now looking like a scene from Dexter. She calmly put a chux pad between my legs and whisked me back to my bed to relax. Uterine massage, a dose of Pitocin, professionals coming every few minutes to check my blood flow, and eventually my midwife informed me that I was bleeding a bit on the heavy side; not enough that she would call it a hemorrhage, but enough to be concerned. She gave me a list of what they were going to do to help the bleeding, and suddenly they were all taking place at once. More Pitocin and suppositories and an anesthesiologist and attempts to open my legs and go in manually to see where the bleeding was coming from and then — my world went quiet. An IV of Versed drifted my mind away while my body was torn open again, this time from the outside in, to handle my now-profuse bleeding. My blood pressure plummeted, the crash cart was brought in as my poor husband held our fresh, new baby in one arm and held my arching torso down with the other. Eventually my team got my hemorrhaging under control. I slept for a few hours and woke up none-the-wiser, ready to snuggle my darling girl and move forward with my new life as Mama.
I wish I had known that hiring a doula would not have been just for me, but for the support of my sweet husband, feeling helpless during my labor and especially so during a horrifying hemorrhage. I wish I had known how out-of-body I would feel after birth, how that oxytocin high would blur all of the decisions I had made beforehand. I wish I had known things would go the way they did. I wish I had known that way back at my “pre-term labor” scare, I could’ve told the doctor, “No, I would not like a cervical check,” that she really did not have to perform one, and just maybe I wouldn’t have been put on bed rest.
There’s no going back now, and I’ve made my peace with my first birth experience in the past two and a half years. The fact that I wish I had known these things then means that I do know them now, and to me, that’s a benefit. Would my birth have taken the same course if I had hired a doula? Maybe, maybe not. There’s no way to know for sure, and doulas can’t guarantee outcomes. I’ve realized that the benefits of hiring a doula are far-reaching, and looking back, I wish I had hired a doula.