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I don’t have regrets about my first birth experience, but I definitely have a lot of ideas about how it could’ve been better. I am not a shy person in most arenas of my life: a glance at my blog and my Facebook page are proof of that. But when it comes to advocating for myself in a healthcare setting, I am notoriously meek. I am reluctant to ask questions. I want to do what the medical professional tells me, even if I don’t understand. I don’t want to let on that I don’t understand for fear of seeming incompetent or of not respecting their expertise.
When I look back at my pregnancy and the birth of my son, I realize that my fear of appearing stupid or insubordinate stopped me from understanding what was going on with my body and from advocating for myself in the delivery room. During my delivery, a doctor I’d never seen before broke my water in this moment of (for me) sheer panic: I had just arrived in my hospital room and my husband was parking the car. Both the baby and I experienced a drop in blood pressure that made me feel like I was going to pass out. Emergency calls went over the intercom, my water was broken, my husband burst into the room wondering what he had missed. At some point, another doctor told me baby needed to turn, so he gave me Pitocin to increase my contractions and flip the baby around. I also requested pain medication some time later in the day, but I don’t have a clue what I was given. I just remember I kept falling asleep in between contractions after receiving it. When I was finally given the go ahead to push, my OB told me to stop pushing because she needed to make a cut: baby was coming too fast, she said. So I had an episiotomy. At each one of these interventions I had no idea what was going on in my body, or if I had any say in the matter. I was afraid to get up out of the hospital bed, so I laboured on my back for hours. Oh, and did I mention that my husband had his laptop and cell phone with him and was working remotely at my bedside because he had no second-in-command at his job?
Despite all of this, I was happy with my birth: I managed the pain well, in great part thanks to strategies I gleaned from therapy for my anxiety. My husband was an exceptional partner, as expected, but between supporting me AND dealing with work from my bedside, he was fast asleep on a cot before I had even gotten into bed in the maternity ward. (Thank goodness for the post-delivery rush of adrenaline for me!) Breastfeeding went off without a hitch. But when my Mom debriefed me about how the birth went, there were all these moments where I felt like I had no idea why certain interventions were done. When I told my birth story to my midwife during our prenatal visits for my daughter, she posed a number of questions to which my answer was: “I have no clue!” Now that I’ve learned a great deal about the role of a doula, I realize how much both my husband and I would’ve benefitted from having one on our team at my son’s birth!
What is a doula?
The word doula comes from the Greek word doulē, which means “female slave.” I’m more of a fan of the French term for doula, which is accompagnante à la naissance. This translates to “birth companion.” So, a doula is a woman who accompanies a mother or a couple throughout pregnancy, birth, and often post-partum.
Doula Services in Calgary
I recently interviewed Lacey of Chinook City Doulas (CCD) because I wanted to learn what this Calgary-based doula service had to offer parents in YYC. Currently a team of three doulas, they are now in their second year of business.
Who is a CCD Doula?
The doulas at CCD have been “compassionately supporting others their whole lives and are finally able to make their passion a career.” To work with CCD, a doula must have attended a ProDoula workshop and be in the process of obtaining ProDoula certification. On choosing ProDoula as the exclusive doula training organization for Chinook, Lacey tells me:
“We chose ProDoula as the exclusive doula training organization for Chinook City Doulas because of their unique program that focuses on providing clients with doulas who are not only caring and compassionate but professional and educated. ProDoulas are taught to partner with clients to ensure a truly judgment free environment in which they can make decisions, grow and thrive. We feel that ProDoula is committed to training doulas who not only offer clients a high level of service but also work cohesively and respectfully with other care providers.”
In addition to this training, they also maintain First Aid certification, including Infant CPR. It is expected that all CCD team members be lifelong learners: recent workshops attended by the team include a baby-wearing workshop and a business program for birth workers.
A point of confusion for parents when it comes to doula services is the difference between an obstetrician, a midwife and a doula. While obstetricians or midwives are medical professionals who provide clinical care and actually deliver your baby, a CCD doula’s “role is to attend to the client’s emotional and physical needs. We provide assistance with comfort measures throughout labour, offer resources and information the client requests to make decisions, and give reassurance to the couple throughout their experience. We help clients work through a decision-making process, but we do not make decisions for them. While the client’s medical care providers focus on the physical health of the mother and baby, we focus on the family’s emotional wellbeing.” CCD doulas only attend births that are attended by a doctor or midwife, be they in hospital, at home or at a birthing centre.
Why hire a CCD Doula?
Lacey told me there are four main reasons why parents want to hire a doula:
1- To ease fears before, during and after birth.
Pregnancy, birth and the post-partum period can be downright terrifying when you don’t know what’s going on with your body.
Remember how I was too shy to ask questions and advocate for myself at the hospital? A doula means always having a non-judgmental and compassionate birth expert at your side or a mere phone call or email away. CCD Doulas are there for you from the minute they are hired! During my first pregnancy, if I had a concern, I always wound up on the phone with my OB’s frazzled and impatient receptionist.
2- To ensure continuous support throughout the birth process.
Remember how my husband was off parking the car during what turned out the be the scariest part of my labour? Having two hands on deck means the labouring mother never has to be left alone.
Remember how my husband was taking phone calls and sending emails during my labour and was then so exhausted he passed out once we got to the maternity ward? Nobody showed me how to put on a diaper. Nobody told me what to expect that first night at the hospital. My husband was snoring and I was alone with a newborn! Enough said.
3- To reassure and encourage your partner.
My husband can handle blood and guts. He doesn’t panic easily. This is not the case for everyone!
As Lacey explains: “A doula can be reassuring and let your partner know that all is well. When your partner is relaxed, you will be able to relax as well and focus on the work of birthing your baby.”
4- To be a voice of reason and calm.
Lacey explains: “Having a doula is like bringing your childbirth educator into the birth room. The doula can help you recall what you already know or help you to navigate changes in your birth plan, all while remaining unemotionally attached to your experience. A doula is an excellent resource with unemotional reasons for attending your birth.”
I didn’t write out a formal birth plan, but I had definitely learned that it was beneficial to walk around during labour and between contractions. Instead, I chickened out and stayed glued to the bed. I had also learned that there were many possible positions to try during labour. I chickened out again when it came time to push, and stayed flat on my back. A doula would’ve been able to (gently) encourage me to get up out of bed. She would’ve reminded me of the different laboring positions I could try … and I do wonder if a doula had been coaching me, if I might’ve avoided an episiotomy. (One thing’s for sure, I would’ve known to ask my OB about her usual practice when it came to cutting!)
Are you considering a hiring a doula? Did you have a doula present at your delivery?
Connect with Chinook City Doulas
CCD serves clients in Calgary and the surrounding communities including Airdrie, Cochrane, Priddis, High River, Okotoks, Chestermere and Strathmore. If you’re interested in hiring Chinook City Doulas, fill out their contact form and you will be contacted to assess your needs and set up a complimentary consultation. A full description of services offered is available at ChinookCityDoulas.com.
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