childbirth

On Having a Doula for a Medicated, Hospital Birth

“Totally worth it.”

That was what Dan said when I asked him recently what he thought about hiring a doula. If you’ve read Elliot’s birth story, you know that it did not go entirely to plan, and that there were a few curveballs even beyond what you might expect from an induction. And through it all, I relied on my husband and he relied on Jenny.

I know that there’s still a feeling among pregnant women that a doula is only for women who are planning an unmedicated birth and want to avoid allopathic medical interventions, but I wanted to talk a little about my experience with hiring a doula without being fully committed to unmedicated birth. Yes, I prepared using Hypnobabies and would not have been upset to have a totally unmedicated birth, but I also know myself, and know that I do not deal well with discomfort. And from our first consultation Jenny and Rose of Silver Spring Doula made it clear that they were here to support my birth, however that may go.

Silver Spring Doula consists of doulas Jenny and Rose, who have together attended more than 200 births as doulas. They also both have children of their own. Rose is a certified Hypnobabies instructor and actually was the one who pointed me in that direction when I expressed that I wanted some way of coping before getting to the hospital. She’s also a bereavement doula and was particularly helpful as I went through a pregnancy after loss. Jenny is a former actor and singer and I’ll admit, I gravitated towards Silver Spring Doula simply because Jenny’s bio spoke to me. Also, our cat likes both of them.

I will admit that I did not do much research or due diligence in choosing a doula, which is strange for me. But, as I mentioned before, Jenny’s bio clicked for me, and when we met Rose at our initial consultation, I was sure these were the doulas for us. We did our community prenatal class with Jenny and had Rose as our primary contact doula for our private prenatal visits, but Jenny was the one who attended my birth (I very narrowly avoided having the backup doula, which would have happened if I’d gone into labor on Christmas Day). Throughout my pregnancy, Jenny and Rose helped me feel more comfortable and gain confidence that I could handle what was coming. And they lent me the Spinning Babies Daily Essentials, which was absolutely key in my physical comfort in the last month or so of pregnancy.

Fast forward to the hospital. I’d been doing my Hypnobabies study, and Dan had gone over his Hypnobabies material and read The Birth Partner. We felt pretty confident and prepared for my induction. The first night was easy, and we decided we’d wait until I started pitocin to ask Jenny to come to the hospital (we were texting with her the whole time). By the time she got to the hospital, my water had broken and my contractions had intensified and I was already beginning to think it was time for an epidural.

Jenny came in and chatted with Dan and me about how I was doing, and made sure I had had enough to eat (I didn’t really have any desire to eat anything besides the approved clear liquids, but I did eat a lot of homemade gelatin). We talked through getting the epidural and she hung out with me and helped calm me down during contractions. Dan definitely picked up on what she was doing differently because when she had to step out during the actual epidural placement, Dan took over and mimicked a lot of her techniques.

Then she came back in and suggested I get some sleep while I had to lay flat. Once I was able to get back up, she helped me into a side-lying position that would still encourage Elliot to descend.

And then the epidural started to fail.

I first noticed that my left hip was starting to feel more uncomfortable. We thought maybe it was that the medicine was pooling on my right side because of how I was laying, so Jenny helped get me flipped over. When that didn’t work, she went to work advocating for me. Now, most of my friends’ epidural stories are of the “epidurals are magical” variety, but one friend of mine had a not-so-magical epidural experience, complete with nurses who refused to believe her when she knew something was wrong. Well, Jenny was my advocate while I was too busy coping with the now-increasing pain (they’d hit maximum pitocin while I was still feeling the epidural, so when it wore off, I was at almost twice the dose of pitocin from where I’d been when I first asked for the epidural). Dan was free to sit with me and help keep me calm through contractions while Jenny stayed on the nurses about my pain.

I honestly don’t know if we could have convinced them to redo the epidural if we hadn’t had Jenny there. They were certain that I just needed more medicine in my line because it’s very common for epidurals to wear off, but not so common for them to fail like mine did entirely.

Then, almost 36 hours after I’d gotten to the hospital to begin the induction, it became apparent that Elliot still wasn’t descending and I was stuck at 8cm dilated and -2 station. Jenny sat with Dan and my doctor and me as we discussed my options. She agreed that it wasn’t too early to consider the c-section because she’d seen the heart rate decelerations Elliot was having when I tried to lay in any position that encouraged him to descend.

Unfortunately, Jenny was asked to leave before I came back from the OR, but she kept in contact via text and came to visit while I was in the hospital to see how I was doing. And she came by the house for our postpartum visit the week we got home from the hospital. She even helped Dan and I figure out the stretchy wrap, thus starting our babywearing journey, and suggested that I look into getting a ring sling to help keep him off my incision.

She’s continued to keep in touch via email and has been a great source of support through all stages of my journey into motherhood. I hope that by sharing my experience with her I can convince others that a doula is not a frivolous expense, even if you’re having a medicated, hospital birth. I would argue that a hospital setting makes a doula even more necessary, as it was helpful to have someone who had experience with birth whose only job was making sure Dan and I were comfortable and supported.

NB: This is not a sponsored or paid review. I have not been given any incentive to write this post other than my own good experiences and all thoughts are my honest opinion.

childbirth, pregnancy

Seemingly-Simple Wisdom from our Doula

I’ve made references to our doulas in the past. We’re having a doula from Silver Spring Doula attend our birth. Since both of them share duties, either Jenny or Rose will attend the birth, but our “primary contact doula” is Rose. She’s a certified Hypnobabies instructor and has been really helpful as I’ve gone through my self-study, and has been working as a doula for over a decade. Plus she has two kids of her own. So she’s learned a thing or two. And I thought I’d share some of her little wisdom gems.

  1. Freezer meals: I’ve mentioned this one before, but rather than carving out separate time to prepare “freezer meals,” simply make a double-batch of whatever you’re making for dinner that night. And then freeze half. It’s so simple, and yet I hadn’t thought of it. I was dreading figuring out when I was going to have time to make casseroles, not to mention buying spare dishes to freeze them in and figure out the freezer space. But since I’m only freezing two servings at a time and cooking when I would already be cooking anyway, it works out with much less headache.
  2. Shelf-stable high-protein snacks: She suggests having some shelf-stable snacks that are high in protein stashed around the house for eating while breastfeeding. Energy bars and peanut butter are good ideas. I imagine beef jerky would also work (although I’ve heard you get incredibly thirsty while breastfeeding, so that might be counter-productive).
  3. Hospital bags: Rather than packing a “his” and “hers” bag, pack a bag for during labor and after labor. That way, you only need to bring one bag in with you when you get to the hospital, and your partner can run out to the car to grab the other one after the baby’s come out. We actually re-packed our bags after hearing this and I feel much more confident about our packing because it also gave us a better way to organize things to make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything.

I know, I know. This all seems so simple and obvious, right? Well, I hadn’t thought of it. And I’ve mentioned it to other pregnant women I know and they were surprised not to have thought about it. But it’s helped me feel so much more prepared for birthing and the postpartum period to have these little ways to get things done. That way, my mental energy can go where it’s really needed: washing so many things for the baby.