what the heck is a doula?

In my last post I mentioned that we have a doula. I got a couple of questions about that such as, “Who’s Doula?” and I thought I should explain.

Firstly, a doula is not a who but a what.

From the DONA International Website:

The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.

Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.

A birth doula…

“…guides and supports women and their partners continuously through labor and birth. The doula is on call for you, arrives at your home or the hospital when you need her, and remains with you continuously, with few or no breaks, until after the baby is born.” – from The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin

So how did we come to hire a doula? Well…

What if I go into labor when Bob is away?

The longer Bob’s San Francisco work gig went on, the more stressed I became about being alone on an island and going into labor. These questions haunted me:

What if Bob doesn’t make it on time?

How do I do this alone?

Who will drive me to the ferry?

What if Bob doesn’t make it on time?

What if my labor starts in the middle of the night? (There are no ferries in the middle of the night.)

How long will I be alone?

What if Bob doesn’t make it on time?

Will I be alone in the hospital waiting for my midwife to arrive from Orcas?

Who will help me through labor?

How will my midwife get from Orcas to the mainland in the middle of the night?

What do I do?!

A Solution

My friend Jenn – who has given me priceless advice, a treasure of hand-me-downs and emotional support – had mentioned that they worked with a doula and how amazing it was to have her. This doula happened to be the nurse that assisted my midwife on her Friday Harbor visits… also the same person that leads the birth classes here in the islands. Her name is Laurie Gallo.

I liked Laurie immediately. Every time I got on the scale she would say, “Perfect.” Every time she took my blood pressure she would say, “Perfect.” Again. And she just had this way about her that made me feel at ease. When Jenn mentioned that she was also an amazing doula I started thinking about the idea of hiring her.

When Melinda, my midwife, told me that I needed to find a way to put my anxieties about Bob missing the birth out of my mind… I thought about Laurie. Melinda said that I just needed to prepare as much as possible and then let it go. I thought that if I had someone I could call in the middle of the night to be with me in labor, then I wouldn’t be as worried about Bob not being there. Of course it would absolutely break my heart for Bob to miss the birth… but if anything would have me stop freaking out about every little pain or Braxton-Hicks contraction, this would be it.

So we decided to meet with Laurie to talk to her about being our doula and what that would entail.

Another Sign From the Universe

Laurie and I exchanged a couple of e-mails to set up our meeting. My e-mail signature has a link to my blogs… both Love in the Time of Foreclosure and Two Years on an Island. I get this e-mail back from Laurie that says,

“So – I had already fallen in love with this couple I’d heard on “The Story” and it turns out to be you both.”

This to me was a sign from the universe. How crazy is that? She heard our story on NPR. I couldn’t help but think this was meant to be. We’d found the perfect person to be our doula. She knows our whole story because she heard us on “The Story” and she ‘gets’ us.

When Laurie arrived for our meeting, she came prepared with quotes from our segment on “The Story.” She had noted things we said that pertained to child birth and/or parenting and demonstrated that we would make great parents. She correlated what we went through to childbirth and told us we were well-equipped. She recalled a story I told about the night before we had to be out of our house when our friend Brian took my tear-streaked glasses off my face and cleaned them for me. That, she said, is what a doula does. (So, Brian… if you ever get tired of Boston Court… you’d apparently make a great doula. Think about it.)

We couldn’t have asked for a better connection. She really did get us. And she created this really open space where we could share our hopes, fears and goals in a totally authentic manner. That meeting sealed it for us. We had found our doula. And my anxieties disappeared.

Of course every day we ask our little boy to please wait until the weekend to make his way into the world. Bob is even more specific. He is constantly telling my belly to wait until July 25th. We’ll see if our son complies. I hope he does. Bob’s leave from work begins this Friday. He’ll be home Friday morning for four weeks. The plan is for him to take two weeks of vacation and to work two weeks remotely. After that? Well… we’re just taking things day by day for now.

Oatmeal bread and fresh strawberries

I couldn’t be more happy to have hired Laurie to be my doula. Here are some things she does that make a difference for me:

-Makes me delicious gluten-free oatmeal bread with chocolate chips and raisins

-Provides me with large mason jars filled with homemade trail mix

-Gives me fresh strawberries from her garden (the best I’ve ever had!)

-Lends me books to help me prepare for the birth

-Lets me know I’m on her mind.

-Challenges me to call her in the middle of the night – for any question or concern.

-Tells me on a regular basis, “Your baby will come out anyway.” (can be applied successfully in response to a number of questions/concerns… such as, “I haven’t been doing yoga.”)

-Assures me that I am more than ready and am totally capable of delivering naturally (my goal.)

-Is knowledgeable, gentle, caring and non-judgmental.

And so much more. Between my midwife and doula, I feel so taken care of. I never thought I would be the “type” to have a midwife and a doula. This place is what opened me up to the possibility. And I’m so grateful. I love my team!

Only 6 more days

As of today, I am six days away from my due date. And (I almost don’t even want to type this) but it seems that nothing is imminent. It looks like he might actually comply with our request to wait until the 25th. But if he does decide to make an early appearance between my mom, Laurie our doula, Melinda our midwife and Virgin America Airlines to fly Bob from San Francisco to Seattle, we have quite the plan.

In the meantime, I’m drinking lots of water, spending quality time with my mom, sleeping as much as possible and getting things ready. Now to finish writing my birth plan…

DONA International – What is a doula?

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5 Responses

  1. Is there a Doula University?

  2. “I never thought I would be the “type” to have a midwife and a doula.”
    That struck me as so cute. You credit this place for allowing you to think outside of the box. That is what is so great about this place! You are free to explore. Plus, the support and encouragement by the people here allows a person to get the courage to find new avenues. I’m sure there are many places in America that would provide you that atmosphere, but there’s no place like San Juan Island to let you do that.

  3. I have a dear midwife friend who is heading back to Orcas soon. Love it there!

    I don’t know how woman hoping to give birth normally in hospitals do it *without* a doula. My advice is: don’t go in before you are at least 5cms! Blessings in your birth!

  4. I am glad you have a doula and a midwife. I had a midwife team (six women at the clinic who all met and worked with me during pregnancy), and the one who was on call when my girlie came was the one who assisted me. I can’t compare to what it’s like to have a doctor instead, but everything went great. Never saw a doctor, birth was fast, and ouchie (no drugs). Perfect, they said. That must be a secret word for making pregnant women relax. 🙂

    Yours will also be perfect. I am so pleased and excited for you three.

  5. I loved learing about a doula…….and better yet I am so happy that you have Laurie. How comforting….and to know she will be with you through the whole process! That is wonderful for ALL!!! You sound so ‘ready’ in every way…..especially emotionally. Mal is a lucky little guy.
    I am thrilled your Mom is with you for such an amazing experience.
    With love, prayers, and best wishes,
    Karin

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