When I was pregnant with my first daughter Kate, I knew virtually nothing about child birth.
I think that holds true for many women. In our modern day society, girls and young women are not raised around child birth. In fact, almost no one is. My reality was that I had never talked about nor seen child birth until I became pregnant, so it is not so far fetched that I knew nothing.
I definitely did not even know 20% of what I now know, 5 years later.
Maybe I knew the Hollywood movie "birth basics". You get pregnant, you get nauseous, you get uncomfortable, your water breaks, birth is scary, messy, painful, you have the baby.
Yep, that's basically what I knew.
I cannot believe I just wrote that out.
But those misconceptions and limitations were my reality five years ago.
And it is not far fetched at all to say that many women are in the same boat.
I personally was quite scared of child birth.
As I said above, Hollywood Movies make birth seem "scary, messy, painful"
I was uneducated and very afraid to become educated, to the point where I did not want to attend a child birth class. The thought of sitting in a room with 10 other couples, rubber baby dolls, learning how to swaddle and how to wipe a baby butt and being judged by other couples and instructor, it seemed totally unappealing to me, and a little scary. I was projecting my own fears. Because fear-based birth is all I had been taught by Hollywood my entire life.
So instead of a child birth class, I dowloaded a child birth app to my tablet. I was so scared and refused to think I could ever have major abdominal surgery so I even skipped the entire chapter on c-sections.
If I could go back in time, I could see myself sitting there wishing: If only there had been someone who would have been by my side, sitting with me, guiding me, supporting me, encouraging me, helping empower me to dispel my own fears.
Before I had my daughter Kate, I had never heard the word 'DOULA' spoken by anyone, nor written anywhere.
I had how many prenatal visits with the OBGYN practice I was with? Not once did anyone there mention to me, "are you interested in hiring a doula for your birth?"
If someone had asked me that question during my pregnancy, I would have answered with:
"what is a doula?"
And that's all it would have taken to inform me, to educate me. My intrigue into this unheard of role of a person who's sole job is to support, honor, and encourage YOU, would have jump-started my own journey into researching why I need a doula and how to find the right one.
And oh, how I could have used a doula with my first pregnancy for so many extremely important reasons:
1. ENCOURAGEMENT & VALIDITY
During my pregnancy, I really needed someone who would validate my concerns about my pregnancy and birth and encourage me to explore them. Any time I mentioned to my OB, family or friends that I was worried about something to do with my pregnancy or upcoming birth, they'd immediately brush it off like "you can't worry about everything" or "it'll be fine"
I became so self conscious about asking my OB questions. (He was the wrong fit for me and I had no idea at the time). He was less than enthusiastic about answering any of my questions, so I kept to myself and started to dread my prenatal visits, because with each visit I felt less supported, less important and increasingly more of a burden to him.
I could have used someone who would have recognized that grief I had during prenatal visits and help me explore what I wanted to do about it.
I had no idea that you could change medical providers.
(And I am of the school of thought that if you do not feel supported by your medical provider, if you feel like they rush you, belittle you when you ask valid questions, aren't on the same page as you regarding what you want for your pregnancy and birth, then you should at the very least interview other providers who CAN honor you. You owe that to yourself).
And even if I had known you can change medical providers, after starting out such a fear-based prenatal journey with my first baby, I know myself (the same way like I know my birth clients) and the moment your mind comes across the idea of changing medical providers, you become riddled with guilt over how much time they've invested in your prenatal care, what will they think of you, will they sabotage your medical files, countless thoughts race through your head. In that situation I would have really needed the support & encouragement that I was indeed making the right decision to leave my medical provider.
During my pregnancy with Kate, my best friend became google.
I had so many questions and I had way too much guilt over burdening anyone to ask them all to one person.
During my pregnancy, I felt like I could relate best and trust mothers to young children since they just went through pregnancy and childbirth.
But there were only 2 or 3 mothers to young children in my life, the wives of my husband's friends.
And I felt extremely guilty bombarding them with questions. I was again, projecting my own fears, I started worrying that I have way too may questions and did not want to be judged for being neurotic and controlling that I wouldn't surrender to my OBGYN's guidance.
3. DISPELLING FEARS
One thing that I needed most during my pregnancy with Kate was I needed someone who would help me dispel my fears.
I had so many fears during my first pregnancy and they completely conquered me.
Instead of focusing on the joy of growing this little person in my belly and exploring what my goals were for my birth, I was imprisoned in my fear based emotions.
The right doula for me could have guided me in recognizing my fears, drawing them out from behind closed doors, and defeating them with powerful affirmations.
I did not even have the word AFFIRMATIONS in my vocabulary until well after two children.
4. PLANNING A PEACEFUL BIRTH
I never got the opportunity to even get as far as planning for a peaceful birth.
I didn't educate myself about child birth, I didn't know I should have a birth plan, I didn't know I had options to change medical providers.
I just didn't know.
There was no outlet of vast information available to me.
I sure wasn't becoming informed by my OB.
I only googled questions that popped into my head such as "is it normal to have light bleeding when you first get pregnancy" or "is it normal to have menstrual like cramps during your third trimester"
It did not occur to me to google:
"questions to ask your OBGYN"
It did not occur to me to google:
"birth plan ideas"
I did not know what to research.
I was lost and quite alone.
My husband never did this before.
Neither did I.
So we were left under the guidance of a singular OBGYN who I did not even feel good about.
5. THE ELEVENTH HOUR
Birth came and went... and became a traumatic, negative, and distant memory that I do not look back on fondly. I still carry the weight of it with me today.
It has taken me five years to take the pain of what I went through with not one but both of my pregnancies and births, and stand up and say to myself that I want to turn my pain around into something good.
In the last few months of my life I have felt a profound calling to take my pain and use it as education to inform mothers.
That is why I have this blog and have chosen to start writing to women about birth.
Being a birth photographer is my outlet to connect to mothers who need guidance and support.
But it's not enough to hire a doula.
Every doula is different in the experience she has, in the support she offers, in her approach during pregnancy and labor, in her personality and character. You need to find the right doula for YOU.
Follow this link to read 20 Questions to Ask a Doula