My journey into becoming a doula began with the birth of my daughter 16 months ago. We had gone through the standard birth class, and I had skimmed through a book or two, most notably “be prepared” by Gary Greenberg and Jeannie Hayden. (I recommend this book to any partner for the labor process, and some great ideas after.) Through the birth class I first became familiar with the term doula. Our instructor was one and definitely led the class in a way that emphasized the use of the doula and to focus on as close to a non-medical birth as possible. While we discussed the potential of a doula, as the date approached, I requested that we look into it more seriously. I liked the idea of someone with experience being on hand to tell me what I could do to help. Or just feel like I could use the bathroom without feeling that I was abandoning my wife.
We found a doula through doulamatch.net and were happy with the process. Afterwards she mentioned that it was rare that she could say the partner of a birthing mother would make a good Doula.
Back to the birth itself though, as that is what a birth story is supposed to be all about. My wife went into labor early in the evening. She was infused with energy and whipped up a massive tray of shepherd's pie. Calling the doula, we were told to drink a glass of wine and head back to bed. We did our best to labor at home for the next 6-8 hours or so. Watching shows we enjoyed at the time. (We haven’t gone back to watch them since.) Listening to music. Walking in circles around the island that divided our kitchen and living room. When contractions hit, she would wrap her arms around my neck and we would slowly sway like at a high school prom. As the contractions got closer together, we called up our doula to join us, for any further coaching that would help us prolong the free movement of being at home. Soon after her arrival it was time to go to the hospital, my wifes’ contractions were painful enough she could no longer speak or move through them. The doula followed us in her own car, and I had never driven so cautiously in my life. Parking the car, it took three contractions to reach the hospital from the parking lot. A further two contractions to reach the triage room, and a couple more once there before the nurses were available to see us. The process of being admitted and getting up into the room was a little nerve wracking. The stories of people coming to the hospital too early were fresh in our minds from the birth class. It seemed the admitting nurse waited until she could watch a particularly painful contraction make tara scrunch up her face to a recognizable pain scale before they showed us to what would be our home for the next 24 hours or so. In the process of admission, my wife was given a narcotic to help deal with the pain, whether it was her make up, the dose, or some other outside factor, there was very little to no effect. She opted for an epidural fairly soon after we made it to our room. Teaching hospital or luck of the draw, it took two attempts to get the epidural placed correctly, and it was like a cloud was lifted from the room. I had not recognized the stress I had felt with my wife in pain. My shoulders no longer hovered around my ears. Our doula settled in a couch as the set up nursing staff departed.
What followed blurs into one long night. The doula being there enabled me to take cat naps for ten minutes here and there. Our nurse for the first shift was fantastic in getting Tara to change through a couple of positions every half hour or so. It was hard work and made her nauseous, I remember through the haze waking up with an impending sense of being needed, and grabbing containers to catch vomit for my wife. As the hours wore on our Doula reminded us to eat, having made sure that the staff did not place a limit on the intake my wife could have, I was able to order burgers and breakfasts through the next 24 hours or so in the hospital. I recall strongly as the night wore on the IV system setting off an alarm nearly every thirty minutes or so as it either stopped flowing, or got an air bubble. After three different changes of machines, it finally seemed to stop alarming. However instead of a bag of fluids in a ten hour span, nearly an entire bag flowed into Tara in a little over an hour, causing quite a bit of swelling.
Nearly 24 hours had gone by when the nursing staff suggested rupturing the bag of waters in an attempt to keep labor going. This soon was followed by the suggestion to push Pitocin. I am not sure how much this did or didn’t accelerate the process, as it was another eight hours before transition occurred and the time to push had arrived. Seeing my wife in pain, I agreed to a booster for the epidural at this point, as it didn’t seem like the second placement was working anymore. She later told me that the booster really had no effect that she could tell, and if anything she was worried about what the added drugs may do to our daughter as she entered the world. The room went from a relatively low occupancy, one interested nurse checking in on us to seemingly filled with forty people, all doing their jobs quickly and efficiently. I remember the doula and I holding Tara's legs back for her as she pushed, straining against us for what seemed like hours. (It was four hours of pushing it turned out) While it seemed to be taking forever, the time also passed so quickly I didn’t take note of it. I could hardly comprehend the stamina that my wife had to be working so hard for so long, and keeping at it. I remember vividly the moment my daughters head first became visible. The doctor exclaimed; “Look at all that blonde hair!” My wife and I both stopped for a moment to check out the mirror. Blonde? We are both brunettes, and I can’t think of anyone in the immediate family who is blonde. After that moment of levity I was proud to tell my wife how much progress she was making, watching hair, and skill slowly crown and emerge. Emotions flooded through me as my daughters face issued forth, and I was astounded at how quickly the rest of her followed. I hugged my wife hard as tears streamed down my face, and our baby was placed on her chest.
My daughter screamed with a lusty bellow and I felt my heart ready to burst from my chest in pride. I cut through her umbilical cord, and followed her over to the inspection station. Some nurse asked if we wanted a picture of our baby taken, and I was too overwhelmed and dumbfounded to respond. Thank you again doula who jumped in to say yes, when I could do nothing. I was handed my daughter all wrapped up in a blanket and we moved back over to mama. What followed was a slightly rushed feeling as placenta was delivered, doula and nursing staff did their best to latch the baby, and my daughter stopped everything to push up with her arms and look around.
All of a sudden there was just my wife, the doula, and our new baby. Doula took her leave to let us rest up as a family, with promise to check in a couple days hence. I couldn’t get enough of touching my childs head with wonder. Even now I get a little choked up. The three of us passed into happy, exhausted slumber, a family as a whole.