The birth of my first child, which led me to become a doula :
by Kaurina Danu
I never thought I would be a doula. The world of Birth and Babies was not something I gave a second thought to until a fire got set off in my mind and heart while in a university class one day. A classmate did a presentation on her research about Midwives in BC, Canada. “Midwives!” I thought midwives only existed in the middle ages. She talked about how midwives empowered women by being mother-centred, meaning they let the moms lead the way. There is a saying, “Midwives Do It In Any Position.” It made sense that women should give birth in any position they felt comfortable in instead of lying on their backs, which can be very uncomfortable.
I don’t know what it was, but my interest was sparked. I found some Sheila Kitzinger books on midwifery, looked into midwifery courses for myself. In my heart, I believed that I needed to have children myself before helping other women because I felt it was important to teach from experience not from theory.
So when I got pregnant with my first kid, I immediately hired a midwife. I’m always surprised that people in BC don’t know that midwives are fully accredited and funded by MSP so women don’t have to pay for their services privately. But I guess I wouldn’t know either, had I not heard that presentation in class. I loved loved loved the midwives that I had. Many women say they prefer having a midwife because each prenatal visit is 45 minutes, so we have a chance to talk about everything that’s going on in our lives that is affecting our pregnancy. It’s not just medical, it’s the social, emotional, psychological, nutritional aspects of our lives as well.
So while planning for my birth, someone told me about getting a doula. I wasn’t interested. I said I couldn’t afford one. She said there were some doulas who volunteered their services for free for low-income people. I said I had my husband, and a friend who was coming who did great massages. And plus, I had a midwife so I didn’t need a doula, or so I thought.
I didn’t understand the difference between the role of the doula and the midwife, but I would find out.
I started feeling mild contractions in the middle of the night. I immediately woke up, excited, and started timing contractions. I now know that was a mistake :> I didn’t know then that early labour can go on for hours or days, and you don’t want to get exhausted by not sleeping. What I should have done was ignored them and gone back to sleep.
Early labour is when contractions are mild and feel like period cramps. In most labours, contractions don’t feel intense until you get to about 3 or 4 cms dilation, when you start Active Labour. I didn’t know that.
My early labour lasted 20 hours.
After about 12 hours, I desperately wanted to believe I must have definitely gotten somewhere. When the midwife came over to my house again I begged her to check my dilation. She said I was only 1cm. I was devastated. I started doing labour math in my head. 12 hours for 1cm, 12 times 9 more cm = OMG I was going to be in labour for 4 days!!!
That’s when I lost all hope and asked for an immediate cesarean. Of course my midwife didn’t take that seriously. She just asked, “What’s bothering you the most and what do you need?” That gave me some clarity and took away the overwhelm. I said it was my back that was hurting with contractions and decided I needed my friend who gave great massages to come over.
Her massages definitely helped. Actually it was more counterpressure than massage. She got into a routine of pushing as hard as she could with her fists on my sacrum to relieve the pressure that built up each contraction. I thought it was hilarious that at the start of each contraction I would signal her and my husband to start counterpressure by yelling, “Push! Push!” which was such a twist on TV labours where the doctors are yelling, “Push! Push!” at the moms.
Even though the counterpressure took the edge off, my self-confidence was in total shambles. I wanted to quit or take a break or just press pause. Then I realized that I could quit many things in life, but not labour. And that my friends, my husband, my midwife could be with me and support me, but none of them could do this for me. Only I could do it. But I didn’t want to.
This is when fate stepped in :> A woman whom I had known telephoned. She had had a homebirth, and although she wasn’t trained as a doula, she instinctively understood women’s emotional and psychological needs in labour. Hearing that I wasn’t feeling too great, she immediately came over.
When she came the whole atmosphere changed. She just brought with her so much belief in me and my ability to do it, and in the excitement and power of the birth process. She didn’t look at me and feel sorry for me, she looked at me and whispered in my ear, “You are doing a great job. Do whatever your body wants to do. Get up and move around, howl like a wolf if you want.” It was such a relief for someone to just say that I was doing a great job cos I felt like I was doing a crap job. I suddenly felt a surge of energy as I got up and shook off that feeling of passivity and helplessness. I immediately found a position I liked – kneeling facing backwards on the couch, resting over the back of it. My back pain subsided and I was able to rest in between contractions. I thought, “Why the heck didn’t I think of this before?!”
She also brought me to the bathroom at one point and shut the door to all the people and activity outside. I was nervous about whether I would be able to get through without my massage crew. She said I would. I didn’t believe her. She asked me to breathe, close my eyes and go inside to the centre of myself. To my great surprise, it was totally calm and serene there. I didn’t feel any pain. I felt like I went to a part of myself that I never knew existed and found an inner strength I never knew I had. It was a totally life changing moment.
That is what crazy natural birth people are talking about when they say they’re births were so EMPOWERING. Nobody understands what they’re talking about except those who have experienced it themselves. I was so lucky to experience that dramatic shift from feeling powerless, helpless and desperate, to feeling like I actually did have all the power within me to do anything. I was so in awe of this magical thing that happened, after the birth I kept wondering why Birth wasn’t headline news everyday! That’s why I called my business Prenatal Journey. The whole process of pregnancy, birth and motherhood is a huge inner journey.
I couldn’t get the questions out of my head, “How did she do what she did? WHAT did she do? It would seem that she didn’t do very much, and yet SOMETHING caused a 180 degree shift in my experience. In wanting to find the answer to those questions and in very much wanting to help other women experience their own inner power, I started on my journey of being a doula. It’s taken me years to figure out what that secret magic is, what doulas really do, and what transforms women into their own inner goddess.
The birth of my third child, a homebirth with a midwife in Ladner, BC :
Here’s the story of the birth of my fourth child, a home waterbirth in Surrey, BC
some other people’s birth stories …
A doula describes a mom’s slow and relaxed labour that lasted a whole week:
This story is from the Doulas of North America ezine
It is absolutely critical that parents adjust their attitude about labor length before going into their birth journey because it affects their expectations and decisions during labor. Doulas see up close how powerfully parents’ expectations and feelings shape their birth. The mom who appreciates the longer breaks of her slower labor stays positive, relaxed and conserves her energy. The mom who expects to dilate one centimeter per hour right from the start will be disappointed with her slow progress, start to worry whether her body is doing it right, doubt her ability to give birth and begin to release high levels of stress hormones (catecholamines), which can slow or even stop contractions altogether—a selffulfilling prophecy.
Here is a couple who appreciated their slow labor, a whole week of it. Melissa and Scott (not their real names) came to the childbirth class reunion with a unique labor story. Shortly after her due date Melissa started to have very light contractions, building over a few hours. At the hospital Melissa was found to be one centimeter dilated. She labored a few more hours and reached three centimeters. At that point her labor slowed and essentially stopped. Melissa and Scott consulted with their doctor, a family practitioner, and decided to go home to await the return of labor. They were surprised to have to wait three days until contractions started up again. This time Melissa was four centimeters at admission and progressed to six centimeters, when again labor came to a halt. With membranes still intact and in agreement with their doctor the couple decided against labor augmentation and again went home. Two days later Melissa and Scott showed up at the hospital seven centimeters dilated and proceeded to have their first baby swiftly and without need for any medical intervention. Even though this labor would not have won a trophy on the race track, the parents were positively glowing as they recalled their beautiful birth. – Marianne Donch
This is just a beautiful story of a mom describing the euphoric, sensual birth of her third child
Baby reaches hand out
I have heard a few stories of babies reaching their hand out before their born and grabbing hold of the midwife or doctor’s finger. Here’s a sweet excerpt from Midwifery Today:
“I was at a birth last year where the mama reached between her legs to touch her baby girl as she was being born. The baby reached out and grabbed hold of the mom’s finger and held it until she was all the way out. The mama kept saying, “My baby! My baby! My baby is holding my finger!” It was beautiful—I still get teary-eyed when I think about it.”
— Beth Murch
© copyright 2015 Kaurina Danu The Prenatal Journey