As part of my training with Childbirth International, I am required to help support two women through labor and write up reports on my experience. I could have just waited until I start my orientation and training with the SFGH doulas, but I have been eager to get started and start attending births. A few weeks ago I sent a mass email to many local Bay Area doulas explaining my situation and asking if I could shadow anyone. I figured it was a steep request, since shadowing as a doula requires having the mother comfortable with someone she might not have met before being present during one of the most special moments of her life.
On Friday morning, a local doula called me and told me that she had a client who had just gone into labor and was completely open to me coming to watch. I was ecstatic, but had to complete my day at my fulltime job. I told her that I would give her a call when I got off work and that if the mom was still laboring I would come on by. I called her back at 6pm and she told me to come on over. The mom was planning to labor in a hospital, but wanted to progress as far as possible at home. This was her first baby, and she was expecting a girl.
I went to the laboring mother's apartment, where she was relaxing in a warm bath. She was having contractions that were around 6-7 minutes apart, and she was coping well. She breathed through them and didn't seem to be in too much discomfort. My doula mentor had me feel the mom's belly, pointing out that the baby seemed to be posterior (facing forward instead of toward the mom's back) which was why we could make out hands and feet (pointy parts). They tried all sorts of positioning to try to get the baby to flip around, but she was stubborn. After several hours, the contractions weren't coming any closer or getting any stronger. The mom decided to go to sleep for the night, so I went home and was on-call all night.
The next morning, I got a call around 10am telling me that the mom had gone to the hospital. I headed there and her cervix was 4cm dilated. While the doctor was checking her the first time, he ended up breaking her water. The contractions came closer together, around 3-4 minutes all day long and growing in intensity. We walked the halls of the hospital, took a shower, spent a lot of time positioning and moving around, sat on the birth ball, used relaxing music, and tried everything we could to get her labor to progress. 5 hours after her water broke, she was still only at 5cm. We waited another hour or two, and then the mom decided that she needed an epidural as she was exhausted. An IV was started to give her fluids, and then an epidural was placed. While watching, I started to feel lightheaded and left the room for around 5 minutes, which I was really disappointed about. Mom was given fluid for about an hour to get her blood pressure up, then she was started on Pitocin to encourage the contractions to continue.
Mom managed to sleep for 3-4 hours and got the much needed rest that she needed. She began pushing around 2:00am, and pushed for a couple of hours before the baby started to get distressed. The doctor ended up having to use the vacuum to get baby out as soon as possible, and a healthy and happy baby girl was born at around 6:00am.
I was absolutely blown away by how quickly the baby latched. She came out wanting to feed and ended up getting such a fantastic latch and nursed for almost a full hour after birth. The hospital was very accommodating to mom's requests, such as delaying cord clamping and allowing the weighing of the baby to happen about an hour after birth so that they could bond. I almost cried...it was very difficult to hold back the joyous emotions.
I have such an enormous respect for the laboring mother at this point. It was a massive challenge and Mom had many things that she felt were "going wrong", but she was so strong and ended up having a great delivery with no episiotomy. Though it wasn't a natural birth, the whole experience with the doula was very empowering and beautiful and perfect. After watching this doula spend 48 hours straight with her client, helping her and supporting her every step along the way....I am now even more convinced of the need for doulas to be a standard part of care during labor. I was overwhelmed with respect for the whole family.
I know that this needs to be a major part of my life. I was terrified for much of it, but I also know that it will get easier the more birth experiences I am a part of.