Why You Need a Doula, Even for a Cesearan, and Some Other Thoughts

I never had a doula for my first two deliveries, mostly because I didn’t know how helpful one could be in making sure I would understand what was happening calmly and rationally. I think it would have helped, especially with Seamus’s birth, and in the aftermath of Gilbert’s. When we moved to the DC area three years ago, we were lucky enough to move closer to one of my friends from college and his wife who had met in the PeaceCorps.* We’d stayed in touch over the years, always visiting when we were in town, and I liked his wife (especially her smile), but I had no idea how much we would begin to enjoy their friendship.

Three years ago, they had just given birth at home to their first child. I was thinking about this the other day and how amazing it is that I’ve known this kid his whole life. I don’t see him every weekend or anything, but I’ve watched him grow. Last year, I was a doula (or labor support person for her second homebirth: her story here). It was such a powerful experience for me, and I was eager to have an out-of-hospital birth for my third baby. I wanted most of all the peaceful, meditative certainty of the body working, to never be separated from the baby, and to come home as soon as possible to begin our lives a family of five. I got two out of three of these, I suppose.

My friend, who actually is a certified doula and nurse and is in midwifery school, so therefore has expertise I do not, came with us to the hospital to prepare for a c section. (I have issues calling it cesarean birth; maybe I’ll get there, maybe not. But I do know that some folks are more comfortable referring to it as such and that it does seem to spin the experience a little differently; I just don’t know if, for me, that terminology is more empowering/affirming.) She’s attended other Cesarean births, and obviously, she’s worked in a hospital.

Some things a doula can help with in a c section:

  • She read my birth plan, so she knew what I wanted.
  • Because she’s attended other births and worked in a hospital, she was able to help us ask for things in our birth plan to the appropriate people at the appropriate times. For instance, we might not have known when to ask about a mirror, but she was able to prod us when the nurses were available. Ultimately we didn’t get a mirror, but we did ask. More importantly, she helped us get an ultrasound so we could ask about the possibility of an ECV.
  • She knew my history, so when there were moments that might trigger emotional reactions, she was able to help me focus through them and also to help me advocate for myself, at one point stepping in for me when I couldn’t talk.
  • Mundane things like bloodwork or IV placement she distracted me through, especially through the long waiting. I think this was a big help to Patrick, who would have been hard pressed to small talk with me during the prep.
  • When somebody left the room after speaking to us, she was able to clarify some of the things they were saying.
  • She has a way of asking a softball question to a doctor that opens it up for us to ask our questions.
  • It’s nice to have a friendly face when you come out of that room. Kathy also had juice and flowers. And she tracked down our hospital bag that had gone AWOL.
  • She helped with breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact, something that would really help a first time mom.

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*One of my favorite stories is writing to my friend while he was in Ghana and bugging him about whether or not he’d met someone special because I had read something somewhere about many PC volunteers meeting their spouses on their assignments. He finally wrote back exasperated, “Leigh, I have not yet met the future ex-Mrs. Stop asking!” All right. I think he still hasn’t met an ex-Mrs.

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