10 Jul The Birth of a Doula
Becoming a Doula
Becoming a doula – what does that involve? Once Upon A Time….or at least it feels that long ago! I met my now husband (Justin) in High School. Fast forward 6 years, and we bought our first home and were married. I was undertaking a PhD in plant physiology and teaching at University. We decided to have a baby and fell pregnant almost immediately! We named our baby ‘Tadpole’, because that’s what ‘he’ looked like. I promptly started to research our birth options, because that’s what I do!
I decided a natural water birth with a doula was what I wanted. My doula and childhood friend lent me Dr Sarah Buckley’s “Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering” to read. Progressively I realised the only way I could birth this way was at home. I’d heard my friend’s birth stories and felt nervous! However, my doula guided me towards an excellent, privately practising midwife who we loved! We felt amazingly held and supported from our first meeting, and the rest is his(her)-story!
For anyone with triggers around pregnancy complications and medical procedures, stop reading and come back in where the stars return below! In short, I birthed a beautiful little girl, Willow Hope. The care and support I received from my birth doula and midwife was incredible!
Welcoming Willow Hope
Sadly, my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. However, I felt so supported I couldn’t imagine choosing a different model if we were blessed again. A few months after our first loss I fell pregnant again! I bled during this pregnancy, but made it to 36.5 weeks, naming our womb-dweller ‘Hope’. Due to a placental abruption prior to labour, we transferred and my baby girl was born via caesarean. Holding her on my chest transcended any other experience I’d ever had! For the full story, you can listen to me speak it on the Circle of Birth Podcast, VBAC Birth Stories Podcast or VBAC Homebirth Stories Podcast.
The support throughout this journey was just incredible! Continuity of care from my midwife was second to none. I would often rave, “Even if you’re having a caesarean, consider an independent midwife for pregnancy and postpartum support alone!” Despite really wanting a natural water birth at home, and experiencing the opposite of that, I glowed after Willow’s birth for months! I felt so grateful to have this little bundle of joy, and so, SO happy!
When Willow was 14 months old she asked for, “A baby sister, please!” We agreed that a baby would be lovely, but we had a lot of past ‘stuff’ to work through! I didn’t hold trauma from my birth, mainly because of the incredible support we received. However, I did doubt my body’s ability to bring a live baby into my arms. We didn’t fall pregnant for what felt like a really long time, despite trying all-the-things (naturopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, kinesiology, mayan-abdominal massage, counselling…). After around a year I realised that perhaps I couldn’t fall pregnant while breastfeeding. I asked Willow if she wanted booby or a sibling, she chose a sibling – cue Willow weaning!
Willow cut back to 3 feeds a day and I fell pregnant, but miscarried 2 weeks later. I cut back to 1 feed a day, and we fell pregnant again. This time, Willow told me I was pregnant! Sadly, she also told me that this baby was sick; it couldn’t stay. I miscarried soon after and was devastated – how could this happen again? This wasn’t part of the plan (and I like plans!). I spoke to Willow and we decided to stop breastfeeding entirely, and I stopped doing all-the-things. Soon after, Willow told me we were pregnant again, saying,“I hope this baby doesn’t die too, mummy”.
***************NO MORE TRIGGERS**************
You can come back now!
While waiting to fall pregnant with our next baby, I had the incredible opportunity to support one of my best friends through her home birth. Caring for her son, soaking in the extraordinarily ordinary nature of homebirth, we watched her bring her daughter earth-side. I was on cloud 9 for about a month afterwards and still feel so grateful and honoured to have been witness my friend’s power.
This precious experience planted the birth doula seed! This was where I wanted to be; supporting women through huge life transitions!
Soon after, I found out I was pregnant again! Willow told me this baby was sticking around, and also that they ‘she’ didn’t like tomatoes (she was right about the tomatoes!). We named this baby ‘Chicken Patty-Cake’, courtesy of Willow! You can listen to my story on the Circle of Birth podcast, VBAC Birth Stories Podcast or VBAC Homebirth Stories Podcast.
This pregnancy was incredibly uneventful, but I still doubted whether I could actually birth this baby! What was going to happen, would be able to cope with the pain? With the most incredible support again, all went blissfully well. At 40 weeks I told Juz that this baby would be hanging in for ages yet as I was way too comfortable; cue my waters breaking an hour later! I had the most incredible, healing, restorative and beautiful birth at home, in the water. Until I felt my baby’s head coming down through my vagina, I didn’t quite believe I would birth my baby – it was the MOST surreal experience!
This moment solidified it for me! Becoming a birth doula was in my future!
I scooped my baby boy into my arms! Once he was breathing beautifully I exclaimed, “Wow, that was so much easier than I expected!!” Beautifully held and supported, I felt safe, loved and cared for. At home, physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally. Place of birth didn’t matter, what mattered was that I felt so well cared for, supported and empowered, and that left a HUGE imprint on me. I am still high from this experience today!
The birth of a doula
As I mothered my babies, and went back to work (University researcher and lecturer), I felt PULLED to birth work. I decided to do the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s breastfeeding counsellor course. After gobbling up the information, I wanted more! I became the editor for Homebirth New South Wales’s Birthings magazine and co-founded the Homebirth Consortium Australia. We organised a nationwide rally (#MothersForMidwives) supporting midwives. I planned to keep be involved in birth advocacy and breastfeeding support until my kids were more independent, pursuing doula studies later. Life had other plans! Denise Love started offering online doula training and I was nudged (shoved) towards training by my midwife. I told myself I’d see what happened, I wouldn’t take on any births, though I was lined up to support my friend again.
Gratitude to the women
Six weeks in to my training the stars aligned – I met a beautiful woman who was seeking a VBAC. After chatting for a while about her options I suggested she hire a doula, rattling off the benefits and sending her links to a few local doulas. She wanted me! And so it began! I finished my training and then attended the beautiful birth of her son. Completely awestruck by the incredible power of women, their intuition and the beauty of birth, I absolutely adored this opportunity. While I felt like I did nothing at all, the family was so grateful for the support!
I was on the opposite side of the curtain now, doulaing rather than being doulaed. I heard myself saying the things my own doula and midwife had said to me, and the women reflected the things I had said when in their position! I’ll always feel humbled, amazed and so grateful to these women.
Being a birth doula was my place! This was exactly where I was meant to be.
The rest is history, or destiny. I adore bearing witness to women birthing their babies! Watching families transition, welcoming and integrating their babies into their lives. I am constantly amazed that women are willing to welcome me into their space during these precious moments, and in awe of the raw power with which women birth. I’ve been humbled by the opportunities and experiences I’ve been given, and so grateful to every person who has helped guide me here – doula-ing the doula. Mostly, I’m grateful to the women for teaching me so much! My learning from them surpasses anything that study could ever teach me! Not just about supporting women and families, but about myself and mothering.