After hearing wonderful stories about doula-assisted births from several friends and family members, we knew we wanted a doula with us during the birth of our first child. We were heading towards the unknown—and despite all the reading and theoretical preparations, nothing could really prepare us for what the actual birth would be like.
You were to be our compass and guide as we navigated uncharted waters. We took your birthing class. We met to discuss birth plans and expectations. I knew I wanted an active birth sans epidural, if possible—but would I be able to stand the pain of childbirth when the time came? Would I be strong enough? Would my maternal instincts kick in immediately? Would it be love at first sight?
Your job was to be with us during this vulnerable yet intimate time. I wanted you at home with me, dealing with those early contractions. I expected you to tell us when it was the best time to go to the hospital, foregoing hours of walking down the hospital corridors as I waited for active labor. The maternity ward recommendation is to come once contractions are at a steady pace of every five minutes for one to two hours, but knowing that labor could take hours. I half joked that if I got to the hospital just in time to give birth, I would be happy.
My due date came and went, and I was still not showing signs of impending labor. Passover came and I was starting week 41. Aside from the hospital’s inclination to induce, the chance for a spontaneous birth grew exponentially by the day. Then, you came by to tell us you were going on a family vacation and wouldn’t be available for several days. You left us with the phone number of a replacement doula. But who was she? We had spent time getting to know you, learning from you, bonding and growing comfortable with you. Here you were dumping us on a stranger as if we didn’t matter to you. You had better things to do.
Naturally, it was during these days that my contractions started. I called you, but you said to talk to your replacement. I called her up and while she was nice, we didn’t know her. She lives farther away, and told us to be in touch with her when we felt it was time to go to the hospital. She would meet us there. I was left to deal with my contractions at home, without guidance.
Several short hours after my contractions started we were on the way to the hospital. We informed your replacement, and she said she would meet us there. With holiday traffic and my contractions progressing faster than they should (according to everything I’ve read), I barely made it to the hospital on time. Forgoing administrative procedures, I was rushed into a delivery room and gave birth within minutes (just as I had joked that I wanted to do). At some point, a strange woman came into the room and put her hand on my shoulder as I was pushing. Thanks, I guess?
You didn’t contact me during the rest of the day. When I called you that evening, you didn’t answer my call. At some point, you sent me a message that you would drop by the hospital when you got back the next day. I didn’t hear from you the next day until late in the evening when you gave a lame excuse for neither contacting me nor coming.
By that time, honestly, I didn’t want you to drop by. I lost faith and trust in you. The feeling that you betrayed me during a time when I was vulnerable might pass as birth fades in time—but it was your lack of interest in me afterwards that left me feeling that any emotional part of our relationship was one sided and, for you, entirely based on a monetary exchange.
My reasons for wanting a doula was to have a source of strength and guidance. Luckily, my entire labor was short, and the actual birth went by smoothly (although one of the doctors did scold me for coming to hospital so late!).
I surprised myself with my own inner strength and resolve. More importantly, I proved to myself that I possess the strength and maternal instincts needed to give birth. I was able to breastfeed during our initial skin to skin contact and I fell in love with my daughter at first sight. These past few days have been a whirlwind of emotions and lack of sleep, but I know it’s going to be OK. I’ll be OK. But no, I won’t be needing your services next time around.
This Strong New Mama