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Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Peek into the Doula's Year

… you are assisting at someone else’s birth. Do good without show or fuss. Facilitate what is happening rather than what you think ought to be happening. If you must take the lead, lead so that the mother is helped, yet still free and in charge. When the baby is born, the mother will rightly say: “We did it ourselves.” Tao Te Ching

January 23 … I make myself comfortable on the couch in the living room … they have the lights on low and there is a sweaty, earthy smell in the air. The cat hovers around my ankles. I hear another contraction coming and going. Its 3 a.m. and I have been here for two hours. In the morning, we will go to the hospital, driving on the highway at dawn. The baby will be born by breakfast time. Everything is good.

March 16 … I am sitting in the Jacuzzi room, kneeling quietly next to the bath as I splash water on her back.


July 3 … She wants to dance during contractions, back and forth across the small room, keeping me moving as she holds my hands.

October 1 … I speak gently to the father-to-be, explaining that her pain is normal and his anxiety is perfectly natural.

December 23 … She calls me at home at 2 a.m. I awaken and answer the phone quietly. She says she is in labor and wants me to come to her. I hear from her voice that she is not ready so I speak to her for a while through a few contractions and suggest that she tries to sleep. She calls me at 7 a.m., after sleeping for four hours. She was woken by stronger contractions and she calls me to find out if it is time to go to the hospital. I reassure her that she is coping very well and I talk her through a couple of contractions over the phone. As she is still able to talk through them, I know that I will be able to start my day as planned. She calls me after lunch to say that she has lost a pinkish mucus plug and that she can no longer speak through contractions. I reassure her that everything is going well. At 9 p.m. her husband calls and I can hear her moaning in the background: they want me to meet them at the hospital. We arrive together and the doctor finds her cervix is seven centimeters dilated. She is given a room and she continues to labor well. Her back is hurting and I use St John’s Wort oil to relieve the pain. Her husband is by her side, letting her know that she is doing a great job. She turns to me and says that she needs pain relief. I tell her that this intensity of pain probably means that the baby is almost here. With her next contraction she starts to push. The nurse comes into the room and notices that she is pushing and calls the doctor. As the doctor arrives, it is clear that the lady is pushing and her baby will be born soon. The doctor greets her patient and as the nurse prepares everything on the delivery cart, there is silence and peace as the woman relaxes in between her contractions. As she gets ready to push again, her husband gently wipes her face as he murmurs words of encouragement. I know that with this contraction, the baby will be born. And he is. The doctor tells her patient to reach down to take her child; as she does, her husband bursts into tears. The nurse helps her to place the baby on her chest and covers them both with a warm blanket. I look at the doctor and we smile at each other, happy with the team effort.

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