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The Doula Advantage: Becoming a doula

Real stories of doula life

Want to help other women birth their babies? Why not consider becoming a doula? Pregnancy & Baby's own Rachel Gurevich talks about the craft in this excerpt from her book the FabJob Guide to Become a Doula.

Stories of doula life

The best way to decide if doula work is for you is to go out there and try it! The second best way is to ask doulas to share their stories about doula life.

"I had a VBAC [Vaginal Birth After Cesarean] mom who had worked very hard to prepare for her labor and delivery. She was [a] super-star! She claimed that with doula support it never even occurred to her to request pain [medication]. She labored all day and pushed for well over an hour in a squat! As the baby was crowning, we helped her back into a semi-sit so she could pull the baby out herself. She pulled the baby up onto her chest and said, "Oh Baby! It was so worth it!" And covered the baby with kisses." -- Lucky Tomaszek, certified doula (DONA)
"My most exciting experience as a doula was the time I had a client who was in labor and went to the hospital to get checked; she was about 2 cm dilated. The doctor told her to go home because it would be awhile. We labored at home for an hour and she wanted to get into the tub. Once she got in, she felt like she had to push and me and her husband had to try to get her out of the tub and into the car -- not an easy task by any means. She thought there was no way she could be that far along in dilation, so she panicked and thought something was wrong. We spent the whole ride doing HEE-HEE breathing. [We] got to the hospital and she was 8 cm [dilated]!!! We were all shocked -- she delivered a healthy 9 pound girl 30 minutes later." -- Jennifer Rush, certified doula (DONA)
"I had a mother recently who wanted a home birth, but she was an insulin-dependent diabetic. She saw a "high-risk" OB team during pregnancy, and we knew that the deck seemed stacked against her. Two of the [three] doctors felt she might be better off with an induction and/or cesarean at 37-38 weeks. She wanted a very natural birth with no intervention. Thank goodness the other doctor was flexible and felt that as long as certain bases were covered, she could do whatever she wanted. I helped her to decide when to compromise and get what she wanted in the long run. At 38 1/2 weeks, she went into labor naturally and had a "natural," drug-free labor and birthed in an upright, squatting position. I think the staff was shocked. It was my most challenging doula case so far, but definitely very fulfilling!" -- Candace Robinson, certified doula (DONA)
"I had [a] single mom once who had chosen to be supported by several other women while she labored. She listened to her body, moving from rocker to ball to shower. She was amazing at pushing and we rounded up the rest of [the] women she wanted present at the time of the birth. As the baby was born, this mom was in a semi-sit on the bed, with her mom, the doula (me), her massage therapist, two friends from school, a lifelong friend, the midwife, and the L & D nurse in a circle around her. We broke into applause when the baby was born and served birthday cake!" -- Lucky J. Tomaszek, certified doula (DONA)

The following birth story was written by a doula who is currently seeking certification through ALACE, The Association of Labor Assistants and Childbirth Educators. Her story has a lesson for all doulas, new and old. The lesson is so important, I feel that every person considering entering the doula profession should read and ponder its message.

"Tuesday evening I arrived at the hospital just after the pitocin [a medication used to speed labor] was started. My client was in bed and surrounded by her husband, sister and a good friend. I thought to myself, "Great, a room full of people, what the heck am I going to do? Why am I here?" She started complaining of painful contractions, but nothing was registering on the [external fetal monitor]. The nurse even felt her abdomen during contractions, and there was no hardening. I believed that she was having them, and worked through them with her. We were up every twenty minutes to use the bathroom, and she was becoming increasingly uncomfortable and asking for some narcotic pain relief. She was so petrified of how much worse the contractions would get, so it took a lot to get her focused on dealing with one contraction at a time. My hands didn't leave her body once during this time and she stared intently into my eyes like a helpless little girl. After about an hour the doctor checked her and said she was 3-4 cm and could have her epidural if she wished. Being that it was her plan all along, this news made her very happy. She really had done a beautiful job so far and had underestimated herself tremendously. The nurse however, didn't call the anesthesiologist for about a half-hour and it was another half-hour after that before he arrived. The dad decided to step out of the room and I was left alone to support my client during the placement of the epidural. She buried her head in my chest and I stroked her hair while I talked about her new baby that would be arriving.

Things progressed fairly quickly from there and the entire time I was by her side. I didn't open my birth bag one single time. I knew that I was there for other reasons. Although she had by this time, four friends, her sister and her husband, she never took her focus off of me. The epidural was patchy and she didn't receive full pain relief until about an hour after the placement. About six hours after the [induction] was started, she was complete, but not quite ready to push. They decided to give the baby some time to rotate and descend first. She was an expert pusher, taking the baby down a station with each set of pushes. Unfortunately, the baby wasn't tolerating the pushing and the fetal heart tones were not recovering.. All of a sudden there were six nurses and the [doctor] in the room (And we didn't know until later, but they were also all set up for a crash C-section.) and they were racing to birth this baby. At this time, I was the only person that my client would listen to and it took everything that I had to keep her focused on the task at hand. Our eyes never lost each other. Baby was vacuum extracted and was pink and crying in no time at all. [Baby] latched on [to breastfeed] with no help too!

I don't know how many times that night I heard her sincere thanks for me being there. I realized after this birth that this is exactly what being a doula is all about. I did more emotional support on this birth than the other six [certifying natural births] put together. I truly think she needed me more than any of my other clients [did]. I learned that I can have a completely different philosophy about birth, but that doesn't mean that I am any less needed. I learned that my desire to birth naturally at home is not shared by everyone, and their desires and choices are just as important and as valid as mine. I learned that everyone handles things in their own way, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. I learned that I shouldn't judge a situation before I'm actually in it. Although just twelve hours prior I was dreading this birth, I walked away with more lessons in my pocket than I could have asked for. During this birth, I was truly mothering the mother."

-- Brandy DeLuca More on

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