A Summer in the Life of a Doula

Wow!  It's been a long time since I've posted here... probably because I've been at BIRTHS all summer!!  I had a wonderful three months of doula-ing, and last week was my final follow-visit for my last birth of the summer.  Here's a recap of what I've been up to (with names changed) ...

May's birth
In April (I know that's not technically summer, but it was such an awesome birth that I wanted to throw it in :), I had the privilege of attending an incredible and insanely FAST vbac (vaginal birth after cesarean)!!  May had gone into her first birth as most moms do, not really educating herself about labor and birth, and she ended up having "the works" in the hospital.  Pitocin, epidural, c-section.  I loved May so much because she took the traumatic experience of her first birth and used it to change and grow and become a stronger woman.  And let me tell you--she is strong.  Her entire labor was LESS THAN THREE HOURS and completely intense the ENTIRE time.  It was actually kind of funny, because we had spent so much time prenatally preparing for a totally "zen" type of labor, with calming visualization and relaxation techniques, and we used absolutely none of it.  But it was awesome.  She called me at about 1pm, saying that her water broke, I met them at the hospital at about 3pm, and baby was born at 3:22.  It. Was. Insane.  And completely beautiful. 

Christine's birth
Christine's water broke at 10pm about a week before her due date--the first week of May.  She and her husband, Jeremy, worked through early labor at home for most of the night, and met me at the hospital at 8am.  She was definitely in early active labor, having to concentrate through each contraction.  I loved supporting this couple because they worked so well together, Jeremy supporting Christine with the relaxation exercises they had been practicing at home during her pregnancy.  As labor got more intense, it took everything she had to make it through each contraction.  It was an incredible effort for her to even speak, she kept alternating between too hot and too cold, and was nauseous the entire time.  She experienced several moments of self-doubt ("I can't do this for hours and hours!), but pushed through it all with incredible endurance.  Early in pushing, the doctor took a look at her perineum and told us, "Look how tight this is, we are going to need to cut this."  Nevertheless, I coached Christine to keep all those muscles down there relaxed, and to keep her jaws and hands open (per Ina May's "Sphincter Law").  And wouldn't you know it, she opened up just fine, and birthed her baby without even a tear!!  The whole birth was just so rewarding.

Julie's birth
In early July, I had the amazing privilege of attending the second birth of my very first clients!  Julie's first birth was incredibly long (water broke, no contractions, pitocin, hard labor for 8 hours, only 1cm dilated, epidural, rest, FULL DILATION, and two hours of pushing!), and quite the initation to being a doula!  But while spending all that time with her we bonded quite a bit, and became good friends after that.  She was SO hoping to go into labor naturally this time around, but due to some complications in her pregnancy, her doctor wanted to induce her early.  This was my first planned induction, and it was quite different.  The pitocin didn't really do anything the first day, so they turned it off at night and gave it a go again in the morning, this time breaking her water.  That got things moving along, and soon contractions became really painful.  It was such a cool experience coaching her through these contractions, knowing what worked well for her with her first labor.  She eventually opted for the epidural again, knowing firsthand how difficult labor was for her with a broken water bag and pitocin.  Pushing went much smoother this time, and she pushed her second baby boy out in to the hands of his daddy!!  (The doctor had him put on gloves to catch the baby!  So crazy!)  In spite of all the unwanted interventions, it was so good to support Julie and Kevin through their second birth.  What an honor!

Nola's birth
This was probably my favorite birth yet.  It was also my longest (second only to Julie's first!), and most challenging.  Actually, there is so much that I want to say about it that I'll save it for another entry.  Stay posted!  It's a good one!

Jamie's birth
Finally, in August, I had my last birth of the summer.  Jamie had been hoping and preparing for a natural birth, staying at home for as long as possible, and laboring in their secluded outdoor hot tub.  Unfortunately, she had tested positive for Group B Strep, which meant that if her water broke, they would want her to get to this hospital right away.  Which is what happened.  When they got to the hospital, the nurse started pitocin, and I arrived shortly thereafter.  Labor wasn't too painful at first, but quickly intensified and she needed lots of support.  We tried different positions and relaxation techniques, and definitely utilized the shower a few times.  She was laboring beautifully, and was doing a great job with her relaxation, and getting into a rhythm as labor got more difficult.  She made it to 6cm, labored for a couple of more hours, and was still at 6cm.  She had had enough, and chose to get an epidural.  This allowed her to get some rest (it was about 11pm and she had been in pitocin-induced labor ALL day), and was completely dilated at around 3 in the morning.  She pushed like a CHAMP for 2 hours in all different positions, but the baby was not budging.  The doctor recommended a c-setion, which she agreed to, and after quite a rough procedure her baby boy was born (they discovered that he was OP, or "sunny-side up," which is why he wasn't moving through the birth canal.  Babies can definitely be born in this position, but this little guy didn't want to budge).  The doctor had arranged for me to go into the operating room to sit with Jamie while they stiched her up (since dad would go with baby to the nursery).  This was a very cool experience, as I got to be with her as she saw her baby and kissed him for the first time, and as dad got to hold him.  It was such a surreal and sweet moment.  And it was such a joy that I was able to be with her for the next few hours, rubbing her shoulders and neck, and just making sure that she knew she was cared for even though things obviously didn't turn out as planned. 

All in all, I'd say it was a pretty awesome summer in the birth department.  I don't have any clients lined up for the immediate future, and I have to say that it feels AMAZING to not be on call.  And while I'm taking a litttle break from births, I'm working together with some very talented friends on a super-amazing, top secret project, that will hopefully be ready for the public sometime late this fall...  I can't wait to show you!