My journey to the role of a doula started with a midwife's question.
"Have you ever thought of being a doula?" Sena asked; while I was still high on oxytocin. My dear friend just had her baby in a tub, in my living room.
But wait, back up... lets talk about how we got here. To babies being born in my living room...
First of all, it was not my idea to have a midwife. When I found out I was pregnant, the thought never even crossed my mind. When I told my partner he immediately started researching midwives in the area. I was weary of the idea even until I met her.
The midwife we chose was Sena Johnson. She has a home birth midwifery practice out of Lakewood, Colorado called Birth Choice Association. Sena was incredible and I cannot say enough good things about my care during my pregnancy, birth and postpartum. I will always cherish the memory of my birth and how she helped me attain it. I recommend her services very highly if you are looking for a midwife in the Denver area.
However excited I was, I delt with a lot of negativity over the course of my pregnancy over my choice to have a home birth. Many people felt the need to tell me their horror stories of how their births went wrong and that if they were not in a hospital then blah blah blah would have happened.....
I very quickly learned to only take in the positive stories, and to politely decline listening to any story that was scary or felt stressful to me. I also read Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth for some very inspiring home birth stories.
Sena did a very good job of diffusing the negativity. When I came to her with a birth story that someone told me she would ask, "And what else do you know about that birth?"
To which I would reply.... "Nothing."
"Take it with a grain of salt." She would way, "You don't know the WHOLE story."
I learned to trust my body and relied on positive birth affirmations to get me through times of doubt. I used repetition to engrain in my head that I already knew how to do this I just had to let it happen. Birth is normal and safe. My body knows how to have this baby.
All in all I had the privilege of having a beautiful home birth to welcome my first son into the world. See his story here! And a wonderful midwife who was calm and quietly encouraging me when I felt like I just couldn't do it anymore.
I now had a FANTASTIC story to tell. Anyone who had before given me stories of what went wrong, I told them mine. Anytime someone asked where I gave birth I proudly shared as well. Through telling my positive story of birth, I found myself a soapbox.
I believe women should have a choice in where and in how they birth.
I knew that if I had been living in the state I was born, I wouldn't have had the same birth experience. In Alabama it is illegal for a midwife to assist a home birth. In fact, they cannot even be licensed in the state. There are many counties that don't even HAVE maternity care!
This made my soapbox BIGGER!
So then one day Im shoppin' in the grocery store with my girl Mallory. Im puttin' some chips in my buggy when she shyly comes up to me holding her hands in front of her she said she needed to talk to me about something.
She didn't have to say anything else. I knew.
She told me she was pregnant and asked for my advice on what to do. We talked about it and I asked her to please interview at least one midwife even if she sees an OB. Just because its a different kind of care.
She knew I had had a home birth and started asking me questions about it. Of course I hopped up on that soap box and started preaching! You have a CHOICE mama!
So Mallory did end up interviewing my midwife and they chose to use her as well. BUT there was a hang up. She lived into the mountains west of Denver and was moving even further south before baby came. Their new place was too far away to continue care with Sena.
"Obviously you can stay with me!" I said as soon as I heard the news.
I offered my best friend to stay for a few weeks surrounding her due date and to use my house to have her baby. I also offered her my support during her labor if she wanted me there.
So that became the plan! Mallory would stay with me from 38 weeks until she had her baby, and then for a week or so after.
I think I was more excited than she was to have the birth going down in MY living room. And not only that, but she was going to let me help her through it. I could not believe what an honor it was to be included in their special time.
When she started having contractions, I had no idea what I was doing. Except that I would get her whatever she needed and I would make sure she was comfortable and stayed hydrated.
My partner helped us set up the birth tub and then he took my son and left. It was just Mallory and her partner and I at the house alone until the midwife and her assistant got there. I labored with her inside and outside and all over the house. We changed positions a lot. She got in and out of the tub, and onto the toilet and then onto the bed and then back into the tub. And then did it all again.
Her labor was long. I was also taking photos and videos for her when I could.
I had asked her several times if I was bothering her by just laying next to her or being there constantly; finally she looked at me in the eyes and said, "Don't leave me alone through a contraction. You being here makes it manageable."
I knew at that point I was doing something right.
When the baby finally came it was like I had just had a baby again too! I was so happy and relieved I think I cried a little. I helped with whatever Sena needed and we got the herbal bath set for Mallory and her little girl. I continued to help out in whatever ways I could until they were settled in.
Then Sena asked the question... "Have you ever thought of being a doula?"
"Hmmm... not really." I said. But after that I was interested.
I had heard about doulas but had not considered it. I still didn't, really. I just brushed it off and went to sleep at 6 am after a long night of birth work.
Then my family moved back to Alabama. I continued sewing and working on a food truck. And then I found out I was pregnant again. And OHHHHH the soap box. There was no doubt where I was going.
I called the farm in Tennessee, the closest care provider that offered a home birth. We went for one appointment and was decided. We scheduled our next appointment and looked forward to it. Unfortunately I had a miscarriage at 10 weeks. I was upset but really also intrigued. I had a glimpse into the farm. I also experienced the hospital and an OB as a (still) pregnant woman in Alabama. Their response to my previous successful home birth blew my mind. I still faced negativity and harsh words towards my preferences.
Soon I had a cousin as well as another friend find out they were pregnant. I knew at that point that I wanted to be a doula. I also knew that I needed to talk to them about having one, wether or not it was me. I explained that in a hospital setting (where they would be regardless of my soapbox) a doula could help to drastically reduce your intervention rate.
I started researching the Doula certifying organizations. I also started reading all of the required reading I could get my hands on.
Very quickly I was focused in on getting that training workshop in before the due dates of these women so I could be their doula and use those births towards my certification. It just so happened that the organization I was interested in, DONA International, had a training happening in Huntsville the first few days of march.
I registered as soon as I had the funds. Which was literally a few days before the workshop.... But I was thrilled to embark on this journey in a whirlwind.
I finally found my calling. I still have a soapbox, but now it involves your rights as a childbearing woman, not just home birth. YOU HAVE A CHOICE!
In fact you have lots of choices. Some of them may seem easy or obvious to you. Some of them you may not know you even had. And more of course that there are more options than you may have known existed. My training has taught me to support women and families in making these decisions for themselves.
I am a Doula because I want you to be able to achieve the birth YOU want to have. I am here to guide you through the decision making process and to help you navigate your feelings around the choices. I am a Doula because I know your voice matters. I also know that if your intimidated you may not use it and I want to break that silence. There is always time to discuss your options. You always have a choice about your care.
My goal with this blog and this website is to grow and blossom as a Doula and a birth worker; but also to provide you, childbearing woman, with information and support and to empower you to make choices that you feel good about.
Thanks for reading and I hope you'll stick around for more!