I’ve spoken before about my traumatic first birth. One of the things I hated most about that labour/birth was the loss of control. I needed to have ultimate control next time and felt I had to do everything I could to ensure that. One of the ways that I achieved that was through hiring a doula. One of the biggest issues I (and many women face) during labour is being unable to advocate for yourself. To birth effectively you need to go into yourself, into the ‘zone’ and every time you try to speak to people, it’s bringing you out of that zone. I had done extensive research for my second birth and knew exactly what I did and did not want. Having previously had an emergency C-section I would be going against medical advice to have a Home Birth After C-Section (HBAC) (read my HBAC birth story here). I knew I would potential encounter midwives/doctors who were not supportive of my wishes but absolutely didn’t want to have to try and advocate for my choices during labour.
Now, I could have left the advocating to my birth partners but they weren’t voraciously reading all the stuff that I was. There is no way they could know what I wanted and why in every medical situation and advocate for me in the way that I could. But a doula could. A doula would know more than me and they could be my guardian angel. The way I saw it is if you get amazing midwives and are having a good labour, the doula doesn’t really need to do a great deal. However, if your midwives are too stretched and aren’t on the same page as you, or the hospital is trying to force you to conform to its strict one size all birthing policies against your wishes then a doula is worth their weight in goals. They are there to fight for you, your birth plan and your rights.
What I perhaps didn’t envisage was how much general support I would get throughout my pregnancy from having a doula. I interviewed three doulas in trying to choose one (something I would 100% recommend doing) and they were all great, I could have happily gone with any but one really stood out to me. Sarah just ‘got me’. Sarah’s first birth was a very similar emergency C-section and birth trauma. She KNEW what I had experienced and the trepidation I had because she too had fought through it as well. Not only that but Sarah had then gone on to have a home birth too. She knew exactly what I was up against and how that felt as a pregnant woman.
It was really important to me to try and work through my birth trauma whilst pregnant. I didn’t want flashbacks to pop up during the labour that caused fear in me and stalled my progress. I didn’t want to spend my whole pregnancy terrified. Sarah played a critical role in helping me come to terms with my first birth. We spent lots of time talking about how it felt, why that sucks and crucially, why that wasn’t my fault and wouldn’t limit me this time around.
Sarah helped me practically, loaning me books and making recommendations for hypo-birthing, acupuncture and chiropractic care. I felt so much better in her hands during my second pregnancy. When I was 41 weeks pregnant she drove to me, picked me and my three year old up, bundled us into her car and took me to a chiropractor appointment so that I could go but that she could also learn techniques that would help me during my labour if I stalled again.
After 2 days of prodromal labour I was starting to get a bit down. She drove through and gave me a pep talk that really helped me to get in the right frame of mind again.
During the labour itself, I actually didn’t need Sarah so much. Most the value for me from Sarah came during the pregnancy. That’s not to say that having her there during the labour birth wasn’t helpful to me, it absolutely was. I just mean, don’t overlook the support throughout, it’s not just about the birth. I looked to her for reassurance as to when to call the midwives. I was worried if I called them too soon I would be put on a timer and they would be more likely to transfer me to hospital for slow progress. When the midwives took 1.5 hours to arrive and I was already pushing, having Sarah there gave me additional peace of mind that if the baby did arrive, we would cope. Sarah had been to many births and she would know what to do much better than my mam or Papa Ginge. There was also a moment during labour, where I had been pushing for 4.5 hours and the midwives wanted to do an episiotomy and I couldn’t decide what to do. Sarah turned and said to me something that I knew, but needed to hear ‘you will not come out of this with an intact perineum either way’. I knew this to be true deep in my gut but hearing Sarah say it to me in clear decisive terms helped me come to my decision, the midwives did a half episiotomy and Lena flew out on that contraction in her entirety.
If Sarah hadn’t have been at the birth I wouldn’t have this, my most treasured video of Lena’s first moments:
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Warning – bit gory! Here’s the video I promised you all over on my Instagram stories. I’ve never shared this publicly before as it’s got a bit of blood/meconium/vernix etc but this is the most precious video I have. This is seconds after I gave birth to Lena 4 years ago today. You get to see how out of shape her head was because she crowned for 4.5 hours – yes it messed me up for a while! You get to hear how out of breath I was from the 3 day labour and 4.5 hours pushing. You get to hear me thank the midwives for their amazing support. You hear my mam excited and see Papa Ginge stroking my arm affectionately. And most importantly, you get to hear me acknowledge my daughter for the first time, setting the stall for the kind of mother I would be, romantically declaring, ‘she stinks’ and Papa Ginge laughing at me. My letter to Lena for her 4th birthday is now live on the blog if you want to see where that journey has taken us 4 years on: https://nomipalony.com/letters-to-lena-on-your-4th-birthday/ Happy 4th birthday my little partner in crime, I love the way you stink!
I can’t remember how much I paid for Sarah’s services now, I think it was around the £600 mark (which is a huge privilege I know, Doula UK does have a Doula Access Fund for those in emotional, practical or financial hardship though) but Sarah was worth her weight in gold and I cannot put a price on having had the birth experience I so deeply craved from my burrow of trauma. To see my child actually come into this world, to have had a birth experience where I felt in control, at peace and not scared – there is no money I wouldn’t pay for that. My only regret about hiring a doula is that I didn’t do it for my first pregnancy.