we have chosen to hire a doula as part of our birth plan.
now, the word doula only entered my lexicon about three years ago when my public health friend was getting ready to have her daughter. it sounded like some tribal african word for someone who would chant around a stick of incense while you were in labor to ward off bad spirits. i didnt know what to make of it.
well, the word is actually from ancient greek and the birth support they provide has been around, in some form, most likely since the dawn of woman. while they are NOT midwives (as some might assume), a doula can provide prenatal support, postpartum support, and most often labor/childbirth support. there are informal doulas and, recently, there are doula certification programs. these women get trained in all kinds of things: relaxation techniques (including lamaze), child care, breastfeeding, and much more. they are making a visible resurgence in the u.s. and canada where c-section and epidural rates have soared.
research has shown that there are many benefits of having a doula. a doulas presence at birth: tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications, reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans, reduces the mothers request for pain medication and/or epidurals, and reduces negative feelings about the childbirth experience. and, parents who receive doula support: are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics, have greater success with breastfeeding, and have less postpartum depression.
anyway, with our isolation here and the fact that neither of us has had more than a few brief brushes with hospital atmosphere, we wanted to have someone else there with us who would be knowledgeable, helpful, and solidly in our corner. i look forward to the help, but i also didnt want dave to feel nervous or helpless or confused either. this is a new moment in time for him as well and he shouldnt be left out of the opportunity to have a positive experience.
so, i contacted a few doulas whose names i had seen thrown around town. the first one was booked. the second one we met with was nice and organized and fairly structured. she was kinda like me and we three got along fine, but we met with one more woman just to get a sense of who else is out there. this woman is named wanda and she is a single mom with three boys. she gave birth at the same hospital as i will with all three kids and has attended something like 90+ births. she is confident yet calm, patient but firm, knowledgeable yet soft. she seemed to have all the tools i value and she made dave feel at ease right away. we decided to go with her. so now we have our doula.
we get to meet with her a few times before monster comes to prepare and discuss our goals, fears, etc. and then she will come to the hospital with us (and/or our apartment, if i can stay here for the majority of time before we need to go to the hospital), and she will stay for a couple hours after monster arrives to help get us situated and comfortable breastfeeding, etc.
now, doulas can be free (the informal kind), but the certified ones do cost money. in my brief little survey, it seems that this cost varies by region and by supply. a doula friend i have in north carolina costs about $600 for the same type of "service" i described, while she has friends who charge $1200 in the new york area. anyway, there is also a fair amount of variability here, but with the recent unexpected arrival of a check from daves grandma, we decided this was definitely something we could feel comfortable investing in (we paid more for nutmegs butt surgery for goodness sake!).
so, here we go with a little more confidence toward monsters arrival date...