Having a Doula - my experience
My pregnancies and births were each very different, with all three encompassing unexpected and varying circumstances, some wonderful and some very difficult. None have been 'textbook' or straightforward, yet all have been huge learning curves and lessons for which I am grateful. Life moulds our character and experiences develop qualities. I have always been a carer, a nurturer and always felt that the joy of pregnancy, birth and beyond has, over the years, been eroded for many women. Becoming a doula was just the most obvious natural step for me to take. This is the story of how meeting a very special woman, my doula, moulded my first aspirations of being one too...
My first experience of pregnancy and birth was by far the most influential, not least due to the presence of Annette. She helped me embrace my untapped mental, emotional and physical strengths and in doing so empowered me in ways no book or class ever could. Most importantly however, and this is crucial for every woman I believe, she equipped me with the deepest confidence in myself and my instincts, which have served me well ever since.
My first pregnancy and birth was in Germany , where Chris and I attended an antenatal weekend preparation class. This was run by some amazingly grounded and sensitive midwives and students trained in the philosophies of the renowned obstetrician Frederick Leboyer. Here, a bond developed between myself and Annette, a trainee midwife. Being a very instinctive, open, calm woman and mother of three naturally born children, I felt a deep connection with her thoughts and outlook on birth and how we approach it. I really 'clicked' with her. We asked her if she would consider attending our birth purely as a companion and happily for us she agreed.
We knew Chris would provide all the love I needed and he would support me any way he possibly could. However, we both wanted the reassurance of someone there we knew and trusted. Someone who could relate to me woman to woman, in labour and giving birth, to guide, reassure, advocate and 'be there completely', just for me.
When things were difficult, Annette was, as always, close by when I needed her and she knew when to give us space when we needed that too. Her suggestions and explanations, her calm gentle facial expression or her touch would tell me that I was doing well and that she had every faith in me. She believed in me and my abilities, which in turn eliminated my own doubts and gave me renewed strength in myself. Her presence re-charged my self-help batteries!
When Chris like many men, grew worried or felt frustrated that he could not do more, Annette explained processes to him, phases and stages as they occurred and suggested things he could do for me. He later told me that they exchanged a lot of non-verbal dialogue through facial expression or body language. She let him know all he needed to know, when he needed to know it, without speaking and disturbing the atmosphere. He drew great reassurance from her.
Annette continued to visit me as a friend for the first week, helping me in my new role with gentle guidance. She provided me with the tools to build the confidence I needed to follow my own instincts as a new mother.
We feel blessed to have had that experience when we did and it equipped and empowered me personally in so many ways, not least for my future pregnancies and births. My second was a very difficult pregnancy resulting in an unexpected and truly natural, wonderful waterbirth. My third was a relatively problem - free pregnancy resulting in a difficult, premature, medicalised hospital birth. So you never can tell how things will go.
I feel very deeply about being able to help women, like she did me, achieve the best possible outcomes and feelings about their birth experiences, however they take place, whether at home, in hospital or a birth centre. Whether it turned out how they expected and planned or if it took a different, less welcome route. Ultimately, I believe, it is how you feel about your experiences and how you deal with those feelings that colour your memories for life.
I know from personal experience the difference it can make.
People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel - Maya Angelou