Posts Tagged ‘doula’

Managing Birth Expectations

Monday, July 25th, 2016

DSCN1032The birth plan … I took a twelve (twelve!!) week class on natural childbirth (and infant care) before the birth of my first son. Part of the class was, after educating everyone on different options (including passing around an epidural needle set to terrify everybody by the sheer size of the thing), crafting the birth plan, using a multi-page checklist as the starter point.

My birth plan was pretty laid back, and mine included no epidural, but still, the head nurse checking me in snickered and told me that I should get an epidural right then at check-in, as there was no guarantee the anesthesiologist could ever get back in time again (assuming that I would inevitably ask for one).

After all of this, guess what? Nothing really went according to plan. And even though I thought I was super laid back about my expectations (you know, the old, “I want a natural birth if possible, but as long as my baby is healthy it’s good”), I was massively disappointed in how my birth story played out. I ended up with an emergency c-section, the only non-natural birth from our class.

Moral of the Story: I think it’s very important to be educated on the birth process and the different options out there, and to know beforehand what you personally are comfortable with. It’s also important to remember that while there are many options out there concerning birth, they will not all necessarily be an option for you. You may want an epidural, but your labor may progress so quickly it’s not possible. You may want a home birth, but likewise your individual circumstances may not allow it.

If you are concerned about your birth plan, hiring a doula is a good way to make sure that your voice is heard in the delivery room and that you are supported the whole way by an educated and experienced third party.

Finally, moms and dads, we need to stop judging the birth plans of everybody else. Using scare tactics against pain relief methods, snickering at patients’ pain relief plans, and bashing each other all on choices made during pregnancy and labor/delivery over the Internet–this helps none of us. No matter the events leading up to the birth, ultimately, that’s a healthy baby is the goal, and everyone of us that has been blessed with a healthy birth should be able to celebrate that, without a cloud of guilt or disappointment over our heads.

Meaghan Howard is a stay-at-home mom to two little boys, both born healthy, despite how their birth plans turned out. 

Maisie’s Birth Story

Friday, September 25th, 2015

DSCN1032Editor’s Note: We are starting to include the birth stories of bloggers here as a way to show a variety of birth experiences. These stories may be graphic in description.

Thursday, 9/25

I went to work like normal the last day of my 38th week.  I came home that night and Adam and I had dinner, then went for a walk up and down the street twice. While we walked, we talked about all the things we needed to do the upcoming weekend to prepare for the baby. I was going to go to the grocery store, get the car seat installed, get the oil in the car changed, and get my license plates renewed. We also talked about how I had not even seen the plug yet–a telltale sign you are close to birth–and that she probably would not come this week. I told Adam that I had a feeling I would not see it, even though most women do.

We came inside and watched Oregon State finish pummeling number-one-ranked USC, which meant that Oklahoma would be number one now. The game ended around 10pm, and we went to bed right after. At about 11pm, I woke from a dead sleep, sat straight up and gasped. Adam jumped out of bed, thinking for some reason I had seen someone in the doorway. I told him, “I think my water just broke.”

I went to the bathroom to look at my undies to see if maybe in my late stage of pregnancy I had just had an accident, but it didn’t look or smell like urine. Adam was standing there and told me to call the doula. I called Angela and described what happened. She told me that she believed it was my water, and to go to bed and get lots of sleep. “I can’t sleep!” I told her. “I’m too excited! I’m not ready for this!” She told me again to get some sleep, eat a big breakfast, and to call her back first thing in the morning.

I tossed and turned all night, getting up frequently to go to the bathroom as my water continued to leak. I watched Conan O’Brien, the cartoon network, and chatted with some ladies on the message board. Around 4 am, I was finally able to fall asleep despite the contractions I was starting to feel. I woke up around 730am and the doula called. She told me to take a hot shower, eat a big breakfast, walk around the block for 30 minutes, and to call the birth center when they opened up. She said she thought I was indeed in labor. Adam made me blueberry muffins and got ready for work. He said he wanted to go in for at least a little bit so he wouldn’t have to take off the whole day. I was a little puzzled, but I let him go and would call him when I knew something more. Before he left, we looked up the instructions for the car seat online and Adam installed it in his car before going to work.

Friday, 9/26

It was raining that morning, so I took a shower, grabbed an umbrella and walked the block while I texted folks to update them on what was going on. At 830am, I called the birth center and they had Cece, the midwife on call, call me back and ask me about everything. I got kind of chewed out for not calling them as soon as my water broke, but they would have had me come in just to send me home, Angela told me. Cece told me she thought I was in labor based on what I had told her, and would meet me at the birth center at 10am. I called Angela and Adam and told them to meet me at the birth center at 10am. Adam left work immediately to come home and pick me up.

By the time we got to the birth center, the contractions were getting stronger, but I could still talk through them easily. Cece arrived and we went back to the big birthing room. She waited for a contraction to hit and felt my stomach. She said that they were good contractions and that I should stay. I asked if they were going to check my dilation, and she said they would wait and do it in a little bit.

When we realized we were staying, they asked if we had brought any food. We hadn’t, so Adam went to Trader Joe’s and got everything peanut butter–peanut butter cups, peanut butter pretzels, peanut butter crackers, a sandwich for me, and a ton of water. He got himself a burrito from Chipolte. I really wanted one, and he said he would go back and get one for me when we were done.

I sat on the birthing ball for a while and rocked through my contractions. They were still getting stronger but I was in good shape. They brought in Olivia, the nurse, and I met her and Fran, who would be covering for Cece while she had a meeting from 1pm to 4pm. I thought, “She is going to miss the whole thing if she’s not back until 4pm!” Adam laid on the bed and played a video game on his computer, while his iTunes played for music. I had planned to bring some CDs but totally forgot.

After a while of laboring on the ball, Fran came in to check my dilation. This was the first time I was checked. I got out of my maternity cargo pants and turquoise top I bought the weekend before when Allison was visiting. I took off my jewelry except for my watch and put it in my purse. I put on a pink and white wrap Sarah got me in Mexico when we got married, and hopped up on the bed for my first check. Fran determined that I was 2-3 cm. Angela said we needed to go outside and walk to get things moving. If they didn’t start up fast, I would have to have cervadil or pitocin to augment my labor. She said we could do cervadil without pain meds, but if I had to have pitocin that natural thing might be over.

We went outside and walked around, just me and Angela. We did two laps around the outside of the center. Then we came back inside and I sat on the ball a little more. After I labored a little while more, things began to heat up a bit. I felt nauseous during contractions and quit eating my sandwich. At this point they were getting pretty bad, so I went to the shower, then came out and got on the ball. Adam was pressing my hips together during contractions and massaging my back with Angela’s back massager. birth3

Angela told me to get out of the shower so they could check me again. I was really hurting by now and knew what Angela was talking about earlier when she said I couldn’t be too far along because “there were still smiles.” At the time I was offended, thinking that she was being pessimistic, but now I knew what she meant. We had been smiling and laughing between contractions, but that was over now. I thought for sure when they checked me this time that I would be 5 to 6 cm. Cece told me I was now 3 to 4 cm. I started crying uncontrollably. I told them I couldn’t do this and that I needed to go to the hospital. I just didn’t think I could take who knows how many more hours of this pain.  Cece told me that it was okay, and we would get through this. They ignored my pleas to go get an epidural.

We regrouped and went outside to squat with the rope. When I felt a contraction, I dropped down, holding the rope, to make it more intense and let gravity help me dilate. We walked again around outside with Adam this time, so I could drop down during contractions while walking. Adam and Angela held my arms and we were about halfway around when I started peeing with the contractions. We came back in and I was in more pain. They checked me again and I was not making much progress. That’s when they told me she was posterior. They got me on the bed and I hung my body over an egg shaped exercise ball to try and get her to turn over sunny-side up, as they call it.

From there things get really fuzzy. My eyes were closed most of the time. I know I asked about pain options at some point, and they told me about these water shots they could put in my back, and also a narcotic that would not numb me but would take the edge off for a bit. I labored in the tub once I got to 6 cm. I was hot and sweating but did not want them to turn on the fan. I remember liking the heat. Adam had rolled up his jeans and was sitting behind me on the edge of the tub so I could grip his legs as a pushed. I also had my legs straight out and was pushing off the tub. Some of the time I leaned over the front of the tub and labored on hands and knees to encourage things to move along.

We really didn’t talk at all the whole time after things got hairy. I remember trying to talk in between contractions, but it was like trying to talk when you are asleep and dreaming. I would mumble things that didn’t make sense and no one could understand anyway.  Sometimes I even felt like I was having lucid dreams between contractions. At one point when I was in the tub she got the hiccups and I could feel how much lower she was then when I was pregnant.

After this, they wanted to give me IV fluids because I had stopped drinking water. At that time I got out of the tub and labored in the bed on my side. They gave me the narcotic and almost immediately my brain felt fuzzy and I nodded off until the next contraction.  It felt a little less intense but mainly the difference was that I could rest a little bit. Adam was laying on the bed with me, and I gripped him during contractions. At some point I ended up back in the tub for a while and then agreed to do the water shots.

They told me that they give the water shots during a contraction because that way you aren’t focusing on more pain. They give you four and do them all at once. I got on hands and knees on the bed and waited for a contraction. I told Anglea and Cece that it was coming and they gave me the shots. It was the most painful thing I have ever felt. The shots seemed to just keep coming and coming. I think there were really eight. You felt one blast of pain when they stuck the needles in and another as they pushed down the plungers. It felt like a swarm of bees attacking my back. It was much worse than the contraction and I howled in pain.

The whole time Cece and Angela were encouraging me to make low, guttural sounds instead of high-pitched screams, so each contraction, I yelled “oh” in a low groan the entire contraction. This was to make sure that I was breathing deep and getting oxygen to the baby. The whole time they were monitoring her from the outside, and every time her heart rate was perfect whether I was contracting or not. It dipped when it was supposed to and came back. Right then we knew she was a really strong baby.

I got back in the tub and then they had me get out and they checked me again. I dreaded being checked for dilation because each check caused another contraction. At this point I was at 8 cm and I had progressed very quickly, so they thought she had flipped for us. They told me to walk around the birth center, which was vacant by this time. Angela helped me walk around, and Adam came with us to rub my back during each contraction. Instead of massaging, he would grab each side of my hips and squeeze them together as hard as he could.  It helped a little bit but not much. I didn’t have to tell him anything to indicate I was contracting. I would start groaning and grab the wall like I was being frisked, and that was his cue to grab my hips and squeeze.

As we walked around the birth center, Angela encouraged me by telling me how close I was and I asked if I could have the narcotic again. She said probably not because I was too close to pushing. When we got back to the room I asked Cece and she said I could. I laid down in the bed and they gave me the narcotic. It didn’t feel as strong this time. I clung to Adam and labored some more. He was watching his watch and told me when I only had five minutes of the drugs left–they only lasted a half hour. After they ran out, Cece told me to get on the birthing stool, that it was time to push.

I sat on the birthing stool and Adam sat behind me with his legs on the side so I could hold on to them. We started pushing and it seemed to go slow. I could feel her in the birth canal but not exactly where she was.  I pushed and pushed, and Angela told me not to push with my face. I tried to keep my shoulders down, my face relaxed and push like they told me. I grabbed the padding from underneath me and pulled up on it like the reins of a horse and leaned back hard on Adam. It was like pooping the biggest poop you have ever pooped in your life–the pushing feels exactly the same.

I pushed for a while and it seemed like nothing was happening because she would inch forward when I pushed and suck back a little when I stopped. The urges came in waves like contractions, but weren’t as painful. However, it was painful to have her stuck there, so it made me want to push faster. I pushed like a crazy person, moaning and groaning and then Cece asked me if I wanted to feel her head. I reached down and could feel the peach fuzz of the top of her head. Angela held a mirror so Adam could see her coming. I didn’t want to look, I just wanted her out. I kept telling myself it was almost all over and I could rest soon. Cece held a warm cloth on me to keep me from tearing. A few times they told me to stop pushing so everything could stretch out.

18 hours oldThen Cece told me her head was out. Adam stood up and leaned over me to look, and told me she was almost out. I pushed and pushed and then all of a sudden she said “Here’s your baby!” and they put this little blue coneheaded thing on my chest. Her cord was still connected and the placenta hadn’t come out yet. I just gasped because everything was so worn out I hadn’t even felt her come out. It still felt like she was stuck down there. I stared at her with my mouth open and said “Isn’t she beautiful?” Adam just leaned over me staring at her. We were both in shock. I couldn’t believe it was over after all that time. After a second or two in my arms she cried out, a good sign. She filled her little lungs with air and then immediately quieted down and stared right back and Adam and me. Her little brow was furrowed like she was suspicious of the whole thing. We sat there for a bit, and then right as they were about to give me pitocin to encourage the placenta to come, I gave one big push and it came out on it’s own.

Once the cord quit pulsing, Adam cut it and they clamped it off. They wrapped the outside of her in a blanket and put a little hat on her to keep her warm, but left her skin up against mine. Right before they moved me to the bed, Adam left to go get that burrito I had been promised.

When they moved me to the bed, they pumped my abdomen from the outside to get all the blood out and force the uterus back. Then they gave me a few shots to numb me and began sewing up the tear that resulted from the birth. Cece apologized and said it might hurt as she gave me the shots, but I couldn’t feel a thing I told her she could probably take a limb off right now and I wouldn’t notice. I was just laying on the bed sideways holding my baby and I could look at her and literally not be able to hear or feel anything outside of her. It was like we were in a bubble of just us. I kept saying “I can’t believe it’s over!” and the nurse kept laughing and said, “Honey, it’s just beginning!”

Cece finished sewing me up and they helped me get into bed. Adam came back with my burrito and I gave him to her to hold. She had been awake and alert the whole time. The nurses even commented on how alert she was. The first time Adam held her she smiled for us. All we could do was just stare at her. She was just fascinating.

After about an hour, we were asked what her name was for the paperwork and that’s when we decided on Maisie. She was born at 9:20pm, which meant we could leave at 2am, but we were so tired we stayed the night. The next morning she got looked over by everyone at the birth center–Cece, the nurse and a pediatrician–and we got to dress her in her brand new OU outfit and take her home at 8am.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls. She lives and writes in Oklahoma City. 

Alice’s Birth Story

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

Editor’s Note: We are starting to include the birth stories of bloggers here as a way to show a variety of birth experiences. These stories may be graphic in description.  

Dear Alice,

Your birth story begins the Tuesday before you were born. I was already overdue, and woke up at 3am with contractions. I began timing them, and thought they were likely labor contractions, since a glass of wine and a soak in the tub did nothing to stop them. At 7am they were still persistent, so I called the doula, Kathy. We worked through them for a bit, and then decided it was time to go to the hospital. Daddy took sister over to a neighbor’s house and then when he got back, we headed out. I ended up throwing up in the yard right outside the house before we got in the car, further convincing everyone that I was in labor.

As we drove to the hospital, I noticed my contractions all but stopped. This should have made me very suspicious that it was false labor, but I didn’t know that. We got to the hospital and the contractions picked back up. They took me to maternal observation and did a pelvic exam. I was at 2 cm. As soon as they told me that, everything stopped.


All the pain left. Being overdue already, I was very disappointed. They said they could admit me, and the doula offered me the opportunity to labor at her house just blocks away, but I said no, I just wanted to go home. On the way home, I threw up two more times.

I was so depressed the rest of the day. This labor was starting out just like sister’s—slow. Painfully slow. I didn’t want a repeat of that experience. The rest of the week, I was pretty down. It’s hard to go overdue, and no one tells you how emotionally draining it is. It’s like waiting for a package day after day after day. Every day, you wake up thinking, “Today could be it!” and imagining yourself going into labor during everything you do, picturing different scenarios that will never play out. Even when you decide NOT to try and think about it, you can’t help it.

I had my 41-week prenatal appointment that Friday. The day before, they had me visit a perinatologist and take another peek at you. He scared us to death, saying you could be anywhere from 8-12 pounds, and saying I couldn’t go much longer because of how big you were. When I went to the midwives the next day, I was crying and terrified of being forced into an induction. They reassured me that you were not that big, and we’d be fine. They also recommended a chiropractic adjustment, saying that if I was able to get adjusted and free up a tiny bit more space, that might give you the room you needed to get down and engage to make real labor happen. I went straight there for appointment.

The next day I awoke to a friend’s posting on Facebook with pictures of her new baby girl, born at 2 am that morning. She had been due July 19, just a few days before me, and gone overdue as well. I was making waffles and started crying into the batter. I really felt like I was never going to have you!

That morning, sister and I went to the store, and then I took her into PetsMart to look at the animals. Bebe called, and I told her that no, there was no baby yet. Then we went to the pool with our neighbors and some friends from church. Going to the pool was the only thing that made me feel normal that long, hot summer. We chatted and hung out for a few hours, me doing deep squats in the middle of the pool the entire time to try to promote labor.

We got home, and even though I had just used the bathroom before we left the pool, I felt a serious urge to go again. When I looked down, there was blood. The bloody show. Shortly after, I lost my plug. My heart raced, and I became seriously hungry, like my blood sugar had just vanished. I started eating crackers, and your dad went to go get hamburgers. I still wasn’t sure it would happen today, but I knew this was at least progress.

Within an hour or two, the contractions started up. These were very different from the false labor contractions. Instead of the burning, constant, PMS-like cramps, there were definite waves, with a clear beginning and end.  I called the doula and told her what progress had been made. She talked me through several contractions, agreed that this was it and headed to my house.

I labored in the living room over the yoga ball for a while, rocking backwards and down during each wave. Then I worked on a sewing project for a bit. The doula arrived, and we walked around your room, the old guest room, stomping hard. Sister followed us. The contractions got more intense, and Daddy took sister to a friend’s house to wait for your aunt. While he was gone, my water broke right there in the kitchen and we called Daddy to see where he was. I wanted to get to the hospital soon.

When we got there this time, they did not send us to maternal observation. We went straight to a room where they asked me a million questions and then my midwife checked me. I was at 6 cm. They filled the tub and I began laboring in there while the doula gave me water and juice, reminding me to stay hydrated. Think “Wet and wild,” she said. When they checked me the next time, I was at 8 cm. I got out of the tub and sat on the toilet for a little while. I don’t know why, but that can be very comfortable when you’re in labor. Then I got on the birthing ball. I laid forward with my arms over the bed, and Daddy pulled on them during contractions. The doula sat behind me, telling me that this baby was going to be born at 10pm and that I didn’t have much time to go.

Around this time was when I started giving up and saying I couldn’t do it anymore. The midwife reassured me that me saying that meant I was close to being done. Almost right after she said that, I had a big contraction and felt a pop. It was such a huge feeling that I jumped off the ball and looked down to see what came out. There was nothing there.  I yelled that I needed to push. She checked me and said I was at a 10 and could push. She asked me what position I wanted to be in, and I said I didn’t know. The nurses guided me to my knees and I grabbed on to daddy’s waist as I started to push. The nurses got him a chair to sit in and I leaned over him, grabbing his belt loops while I pushed. I pushed for about 20 minutes, at one point again saying I couldn’t do it. I even pictured myself refusing to do it, and just walking around, continuing life with a baby still in me, still stuck down there. I’m also pretty sure I cussed a lot.

223860_10150254921771065_522296064_7721154_5438106_nFinally, at 9:59pm, you were born. You came out and almost immediately the cord popped before Daddy had a chance to cut it. None of the nurses or even the doula, who has been helping women birth for 25 years, had ever seen that happen. The nurses helped me sit back and they gave you to me to hold. I looked at you and said, “Hello Alice! You’re finally here!” And right about then you began crying.

You were the prettiest little thing—8 pounds even and 21 inches long, really plump and beautifully pink. You were perfectly clean like you had just had a bath. They helped me up into the bed where I birthed the placenta while I held you. After they got me cleaned up ad stitched up, I held you and you nursed like a champ. I held you next to me the whole night, where you nursed all night long. The nurse encouraged me when she came to check on you, saying they had babies under the warming lights who didn’t have as good a temperature as you did.

Your birth was an amazing experience, Alice. It was painful, and it was hard, but I wouldn’t have missed out on it for anything.

Love, Momma

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three daughters. She lives and writes in Oklahoma City. 

Tips for Your Postpartum Transition

Friday, January 9th, 2015

Tips for Postpartum transitionYesterday, you were pregnant. Yesterday, your doctor/nurse/midwife saw you at least once a week (or, if you were like me and had a pregnancy concern, every other day). Yesterday, everyone wanted you off your feet, wanted to make sure you didn’t lift that heavy box, wanted to make sure you didn’t eat that sushi you so desperately craved.

Today? Today, your baby is here. Your doctor won’t see you for another 6 weeks, your best friend is already calling for a coffee date, and you’re supposed to automatically know how to do it all without guidance or support. Basically, today you’re on your own.

Recently a number of my friends and I were discussing this article about the sad state of postpartum life that is reality for many women in the United States. Personally, this rings true for my own experience. After being seen every other day for the last 2 weeks of my pregnancy and basically surround by people and instructions, I suddenly found myself clueless with a new infant and unsure where to turn or who to turn to. My daughter was seen 3 times by her pediatrician and once by a drop in home nurse in the 6 weeks that I waited for my own checkup. I found well-meaning family overwhelming and stressful, rather than helpful. Breastfeeding was hard and I had no idea where to turn. I even had to ask my husband to watch for the signs of postpartum depression, since I realized that no one else was.

So, what can a woman do to lessen this postpartum isolation? Here are a few great ways that you can help ensure a smooth transition after baby arrives.

  • Establish reliable help. For me, that would have been my husband, who took some time off of work. For you, that may be a mother, sister, family member, or good friend. Whoever it is, be sure that they understand that you’re looking for more than someone to hold the baby while you keep house. Choose someone who will really help keep the house running while you recover and bond with your baby.
  • No guests for a week, at least. Of course, everyone is eager to meet baby, so explain that you will be more than happy to see them all in a week or two. If you do receive guests early on, try to limit the length of those visits and establish clear hours when visitors are allowed to come by.
  • Find your community. At the time I had no idea that a community full of women who were ready and wanting to help me was literally at my fingertips. The internet, and more specifically Facebook, is a wonderful resource for the new mom. Your local La Leche League, postpartum support groups, mommy meet ups and any number of others forms of assistance can often be found with a simple search.
  • Be your own advocate. Your doctor or nurse will typically be happy to take a phone call to answer questions and many even offer email as a method of communicating with patients. Call, ask questions, and trust your gut. If something seems off, call for an appointment earlier than that 6 week checkup.
  • Look into hiring a postpartum doula. When I was pregnant I was well aware of what a doula does, but had no clue that postpartum doulas exist. I wish I had. According to Dona International, “the role of a postpartum doula is to help a woman through her postpartum period and to nurture the family.” While what each doula will do will vary, the additional help could definitely ease the transition after baby arrives.

What was life like for you when you brought baby home? What tips would you give new moms on surviving, and hopefully, thriving in those first few weeks?

Kate Cunha is a mostly stay-at-home mom of a 2.5 year old little girl. Living in the Pacific Northwest, she’s always on the hunt for good friends and good coffee.