Here is a birth story of a doula client :
I got a call from Sandy (not her real name) at 9pm. “It’s started. I’ve been having contractions for the last few hours. Can you come soon?”
I talked to her for a while until she had another contraction so I could listen to her. She sounded like she needed support, although it was just a short contraction and she was probably still in early labour. I reassured her over the phone and reminded her how to focus on her breathing.
Sandy was pretty anxious about labour. Before she moved to Canada, she had been a labour and delivery nurse in her home country. Unfortunately, by her own accounts, the way they treated women in labour there was quite harsh and uncaring. Now that she was on the other side of the equation, she was terrified. I spent a lot of time prenatally talking to her about how birth is in Canadian hospitals, and what she and her husband could do to cope with labour, but she still couldn’t shake the anxiety.
I had also found out that her sister’s first labour took about 3 hours, so I guessed that hers might be pretty quick too. So even though it was her first baby, and she was still early, I decided to go after putting my kids to bed.
I was almost at her house when I got the call from her husband that it was getting too intense. They were on their way to the hospital and that I should meet them there. So after a quick detour, I got to the hospital just as they were arriving. She was clearly in a lot of pain during contractions. I did my best to get her to focus on her breathing while I rubbed her back and did counterpressure as she made her way through triage.
The midwife checked her and said she was progressing nicely and was 3cm but suggested she go home and labour there for a bit more. Sandy was having none of that. She felt better in the hospital and refused to go home. Contractions were coming fairly quickly so she laboured in triage for another 20 minutes before they got her a room.
Once we got there, I turned off the lights, leaving just the bathroom light. I plugged in a hot pack to put on her back. Besides hip squeezes and counterpressure, I had to use a lot of encouragement to get her to focus on breathing out the pain, instead of tensing and resisting. “You’re doing a great job. You can do this. We’re all her to support you. Every contraction is bringing your baby closer to you.” Her husband was holding her hand, equally nervous. I suggested he stroke her arm or back through each contraction to soothe her. He said, “It’s so hard to see her in pain,” but I reminded him that she was strong and she could do it and he has to focus on her strength.
We went through several position changes over the next few hours – walking, holding on to her husband for support while I did hip squeezes, standing leaning over a stack of pillows on the bed, side lying, and so on. By about 2am she was sleepy and preferred side lying with pillows tucked between her knees with the hot pack on her back.
By 3.30 she said she felt like pushing. The midwife checked her and she still had a cervical lip left. She suggested Sandy go for a pee, which would also get her into a more upright position for a while. Sandy found it more comfortable sitting on the toilet so she stayed there for a good half an hour. But she was sleepy and kept nodding off in between contractions. I stood next to her, rested her head against my tummy and stroked her hair so she could relax and fall asleep in between contractions. I would have suggested her she rest against her husband, but he was still quite tense. I had to keep reassuring him that his wife was doing really well, everything was ok, and she could do it. I suggested he hold her hand and stroke her arm gently through contractions.
By about 4am, Sandy was tired and said she couldn’t take it anymore. The midwife suggested getting into the bathtub. Sandy had never considered the bathtub, but the midwife said the warm water would make the contractions easier to deal with, so she decided to try it. She got in and did find it a little easier. Her husband was up by her head encouraging her in their own language. I held her hand and reminded her to breathe out the tension and keep relaxing face, shoulders, tummy and so on. She soon started pushing. The midwife said that waterbirths were allowed at BC Women’s and she could choose to stay in the tub if she wanted. Sandy didn’t particularly want a waterbirth, but she didn’t feel like moving.
When the baby was crowning, the midwife told her to slow down her pushing, however Sandy was determined to get it over with as soon as possible and kept pushing as hard as she could. A baby girl was born by 5am, much to the relief of her parents.
Sandy got out of the tub with our support and delivered the placenta on the bed. She kept saying, “Thank god it’s finally over!” But then the midwife checked her and said she had quite a long tear, almost 3rd degree. It was not common to have a bad tear with a waterbirth, but Sandy was pushing quite strongly even once the baby crowned. The midwife walked away to get some suturing gear and I notice Sandy’s look of horror on her face. I asked her what she was concerned about. She said a third degree was bad. She had seen it in her home country. I said that I had had a pretty long tear with my first kid too and that it took a few weeks to heal but after that it was fine. She said, “Really?” and then relaxed immediately.
The family was able to get back to enjoying their newborn. Her husband said how surprised he was that the baby was awake and making eye contact and his wife was awake and doing fine. All the TV shows he had watched back home showed mothers passed out unconscious after birth and the baby whisked away, but this was so much more miraculous.
Baby latched on nicely and was feeding happily when I started to say goodbye. Dad pulled me aside to thank me and then broke down crying. He said they had actually had a previous pregnancy which had ended in miscarriage at 6 months. His wife laboured with a stillbirth and they had no one to support them through it. It was a very hard time. But this time was so different. He said that I took care of his wife better than her own mother could have and he was so grateful. By this time, we were both bawling. I hugged him and said it was an honour to be at their birth. I figured that that must also have been contributing to their anxiety. I was just happy that they could now heal and move past their previous upsetting experience.