When I found out that I was expecting, I did some reading. Correction: I did an insane amount of reading in a short amount of time which I believe highly contributed to my anxiety. I still operate a bit like this today with all of my parenting woes, but I’ve gained a little more self-awareness of how detrimental this can be. I quickly realized that the age-old What to Expect When You’re Expecting was not the advice I was looking for. I found many phrases and bits of information outdated, and even a bit socially off putting. So I filled my Amazon cart with books that more closely resonated with me and my beliefs. To date, my favorite has been Expecting Better. I have loaned this to friends and family, and I’m not even sure where my original copy is now. I believe in the approach Emily Oster took to educating expecting moms everywhere: evidence. I am a firm believer in science. After all, I work in healthcare. I practice in a country that almost exclusively trusts Western medicine, an evidence-based approach based on rigorous studies. The knowledge born out of these studies has saved lives and improved the quality of life for many. But there are gaps, and I can certainly acknowledge that. There is a place for complementary and alternative therapies in many disease states and chronic conditions, as well as in pregnancy. The physical and emotional wear that pregnancy was taking on me had me looking towards anything that would even anecdotally help. Here are some things that some would classify as “crunchy”, and I jumped on board with both feet.
The single best decision I made during pregnancy and something I would recommend to anyone, but one that was not taken lightly. What is a doula, you ask? According to DONA International (Doulas of North America), a doula is defined as “a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible”. The word “doula” is derived from a Greek word meaning “a woman who serves”. A doula is not a nurse (although some doulas happen to be nurses) or other medical provider. They receive certification through bodies such as DONA International, but most of their value and expertise is obtained through their real-world experience.
When I told Dave I think I wanted a doula at our birth, he was not thrilled, to say the least. While he is supportive of me in all areas of life seemingly unequivocally, he was not supportive of having a (paid) stranger in the room while I push a baby out of my vagina. He was of the mindset that he is husband, therefore he is the one (and only one) who can help me through birth. He took my desire to have a doula as me expressing that I didn’t believe in him to be my support. Herein starts a series of discussions (ahem, or arguments) that lasted for weeks. He finally agreed to interview one of the doulas that was recommended to us. We met Annely at a Starbucks near our house when I wasn’t even showing yet. She was a mother, grandmother and doula (as her second career). Dave and I are living thousands of miles away from our own families, and there was just something about her that made her feel like family to us. Dave finally agreed, and we signed on the dotted line with Annely.
Her support from that moment up until after Carson’s birth was indescribable. She emailed me once a month, at least, just to check in and see how my appointments went. I knew I could text or email her whenever I wanted. As Annely is also a certified lactation educator, a breastfeeding class was included and I brought my sister Holly with me when she was in town (and Dave was at practice). And she honored our wishes at all times. I honestly had no real desire to have an unmedicated birth, and that was totally cool with her.
A pre and postnatal home visit is also something that Annely provides. We did not make it to our prenatal visit because Carson was so early. You can read more on Carson’s birth story here, but without sharing all the nitty gritty details, both Dave and I wholeheartedly agree that having Annely to call at 2:42am when my water broke at home was so comforting. We don’t know what we would have done without her! We were offered interventions such as Pitocin within a couple of hours of getting to the hospital. It was amazing to have Annely to discuss our options with, and we even though I did end up getting Pitocin in the end, it was on my terms. I was able to walk around the unit, eat 3 meals and take a nap before Carson made his entrance. Annely’s intuition, based on her years of experience, was spot on. Carson came quick once the Pitocin hit my veins, and she knew immediately when to call for the birthing staff. She implemented many techniques for pain relief (such as counterpressure) that I found very beneficial. She was able to direct Dave as to what to do, and as a result, he felt way more helpful. If you ask Dave today, he would tell you that he would recommend a doula to any new parents.
While I categorize “doulas” as crunchy because of all of the weird looks I get when I tell people I had doula, there is actual evidence to back up how amazing they are. According to Evidence Based Birth, “there have been at least 26 randomized, controlled trials that tested the effects of continuous labor support on more than 15,000 people total”. Some of the amazing effects seen were a 25% decrease in the risk of having a Cesarean, a 31% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with your childbirth experience (which is super real when so many women struggle with legit PTSD from birth experiences), a 10% decrease in the use of any pain medications during labor, shorter labors by about 41 minutes on average, and a 38% decrease in the risk of your baby having a low Apgar score. And while I have only had one pregnancy and one birth under my belt, I have to say that those outcomes were real for me and I credit so much of that to Annely.
Bohren MA, Hofmeyr G, Sakala C, Fukuzawa RK, Cuthbert A. Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2017, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD003766. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003766.pub6
Hi! I'm Laura, a 30-something first-time mom raising her little dude in southern California. It's been quite a first year, and this is my way to try to make sense of it all. This is a safe space for all moms to get some laughs, recommendations and feel like they are not alone.