Why Birth Work?
I became a doula and lactation counselor because women in this country need doulas and lactation counselors. Modern medicine has contributed so much to making sure at risk mothers and babies stay safe. It has also done a lot to make many of us feel fearful and weary about all-things-birth.
In my own experience giving birth, I prepared myself as much as I had the energy to. I took a 12 week course with my patient partner. I practiced relaxation techniques. I read about labor extensively. I wrote a succinct but detailed birth plan that outlined my perfect scenario, my next best scenario, and what I preferred to happen in the case of an emergency C-section. I hired a Doula. And I am so glad I did.
Based on a series of circumstances out of my control, I was, much to my chagrin, induced on the day of my due date. After 3 full days of drug-induced labor and 7 hours of pushing, I birthed my baby vaginally. Concessions were made, the plan changed, but I felt supported in making those decisions. My doula did so much for us. She was a calm, steady presence in the room as we experienced EVERY shift change of the nurses over the course of 3 days. She offered suggestions for positions to help ease the pains, and physically helped my husband get me into those positions. She massaged me when I needed it badly, and Max's hands were sore and tired. At one point, she could see how run down Max was-- and suggested he get some fresh air and some food, and promised to stay by my side and take good care of me. Max says he would have paid the doula fee JUST to be able to do that. This extra, focused support was critical to me feeling proud of my birth story, despite the challenges. Then, I had to learn to feed this new life.
Despite having read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and attending a peer support breastfeeding group while pregnant, and despite my deeply instilled belief that my body was made to breastfeed, I struggled for TWO YEARS to feed my baby. Even after three tongue tie procedures, I was still in so much pain. I did adjust my goals, and supplemented with formula once I returned to work, but my resolve remained to continue breastfeeding. I could not have done it without the support of my lactation consultant who I saw endless times. She also ran a new mother's breastfeeding support group at a local hospital. I went for MONTHS, because I needed that weekly connection. I needed to sit in a room and watch other mothers feed their babies, and hear their successes and their struggles. I saw doctors who specialized in helping breastfeeding mothers. My nipples were often sore, but my resolve remained. Eventually, when my son was old enough, I began supplementing with animal milk--but my breastfeeding relationship continued. I hit the two year mark, and eventually the pain resolved. My son is now over 3. In the last week he has stopped asking to nurse. I think we might finally be done, and I can now say with joy and pride that I met my own breastfeeding goal of nursing until my child was ready to stop. I could not have met this goal without the support of so many lactation professionals.
Over my birthing and nursing journey (so far), I learned that there is a lot of misinformation out there. Well meaning people offering unsolicited advice. My goal in training as a doula and certifying as lactation counselor was to help women cull through the noise, make their OWN goals--which could be VERY different from my own--and help them reach them, or adjust them and then reach those, whatever the case may be. There are so many women who tell stories of feeling degraded and powerless during the births of their babies. My goal is to be the strong supportive, knowledgeable person in the room focusing on helping the laboring mother and her partner to feel empowered. My goal is that everyone women I work with has a birth story they feel proud of.