In fifth grade on career day an OBGYN brought in a placenta and I was hooked. That is the short answer. The long answer is a twisted road of wonder, amazement and pure admiration of life and the birth process.
I am the second oldest of 4 children and my sisters are 7 and 9 years younger than me. When my mother was pregnant with them I asked more questions than she did. How did all this work, babies, and breastfeeding, infant care. I changed diapers and fed babies.
I have always been my friends and colleagues “mother hen”. As if for some reason I had this knowledge of all things life related. I have worked in the business world for most of my life. Most people know me as the “dragon lady” or doer. If something needed to get done I made it happen. So when I became pregnant with my first child, you would think I had it all together. But I didn’t. I went with a few recommendations and picked an OBGYN. Then at my baby shower I received a book called “with Child” and it looked at the ideas of conception, labor, birth and parenting around the world. It seemed so comforting to me. Normal. I learned what a midwife and doula was and quickly set out to find a doula.
I had my parent over and this poor doula sat at my table and chatted with us and I hired her. A few weeks later I was in labor with my son. The doctor and I had very different opinions on how this whole thing should go so with the support of my husband and doula, rocking away in a shower with intermittent Doppler monitoring from a very patient nurse I fired my doctor and took the on call mid wife. Mid Birth.
I had an amazing birth experience and just 9 short hours after my water broke and labor started I was holding my son. My nuchal cord, compound presenting posterior son. I had no idea of how awesome this feet was until my next pregnancy. And loss and the next pregnancy and loss. It was the midwife who quickly got me into a specialist upon my 4th pregnancy to help me make this one stick. I was diagnosed with a blood clotting disorder and put on blood thinners and had lots of appointments. It was over whelming and scary.
So I hired the same doula for the birth and decided to not get upset or concerned as the doctors would want me too. The maternal fetal specialist was great and assured me he would be back from his vacation before I gave birth (I never go to term go figure) So there I was 8 days early and my water broke again and labor started. After the nurse shut my husband out of triage and questioned me on how I knew my water broke the surges slowed. Once I was reunited with my husband, I asked to get up and walk to my labor room. Text book data was quoted about movement not proving to start labor and after getting up and walking out of the room and refusing Pitocin my labor started. The kind on call doctor assured me I would want the Pitocin by 6 am (it was 12am) and that he would be back then. I thanked him and told him my baby would be here before that. At 5:32 am my baby flew out and the scared resident caught her first baby of a mom birthing on her side. My doula re assured her that is was fine and that she would be ok. I chuckled.
I kept my business career all the while supporting friends and family through births, learning more about child birth and breastfeeding. Then I was blessed to be pregnant again and decided that since I was at a hospital with Midwives I didn’t need a doula. I was going to have a water birth and it was going to be great.
Well things were different. My water did not break like the first two, The few days of prodromal labor were exhausting, frustrating and worrisome. I was so lonely. When labor finally did start I didn’t even recognize it because I was expecting it to stop. At the hospital my husband was great but not as available. He had to work with the nurses, fetch things for me and fix the shower that was dripping on my face as I lay in the tub. Then when I wanted to push (in the bed on my side-the tub was weird shaped and not working for me) He had to argue with the staff that I preferred to birth on my side. It was not a bad experience but not great. It was not what I thought it would be.
I reflected a lot about that birth. How much like an OB birth it was. I had decided that one day I would become a doula or child birth educator or maybe even Midwife. (I had been scared away from obstetrics in high school because of malpractice and it still scared me)
Fast forward another child in a new state with a new and not great provider and here I was. My personal life had changed. I was home with my own 4 children and 3 foster children. My brothers’ children. I was working at a job I did not feel fulfilled in. A few months later my brother passed away. I did not know what to make of it all. What was I doing, what great mark would I leave on this world. Was I good at what I did and did I like it. Did it fill my bucket or just provide a not so great pay check. There had to be more. At my brothers funeral one resounding message came through. He was happy with his career, with his children. His life was cut short but he lived a full life. Was I doing that? Did my children or husband like me when I came home from work? No the answer was NO.
The week after my brothers’ funeral I looked up doula training and there was a class in the town close by. I found the money and a good baby sitter and attended the class. I felt way over my head and completely comfortable all at the same time. I was then introduced to a wonderful midwifery group who needed doulas to support their families and within a few short months I had attended many births. I had so much to learn but felt so comfortable in the role. I wanted to make sure that at each birth I was completely present to my moms and their families. I was then invited by my dear high school friend to support her vaginal birth after cesarean in another state. Long story short not only did it work out great but I found out that I had a knack for this birth stuff. My husband said that “birth looked good on me”. Even on tough and not so great days I was happy.
Birth work is a continual journey. Every birth is like the first one. In my heart I am sure to keep the family first and foremost. On the days that I am tired, not interested in crawling out of bed at 2 am in the snow or rain I keep my brother in mind. Honor his life by supporting others as they bring life to this world. I am told by many of my families that I have been a great help to them. My colleagues tell me I am an example to them or their hero. Truth be told, my fellow birth workers are my motivation to keep going.
The families are grateful for the hours of massaging and squeezing hips, pressing on points and breathing right along with these powerful women; however I am the one honored for the opportunity. I am the one gaining new life, purpose and drive to continue on this path. It is the families I support and the honor in the lives lost that I decided to become a doula. It is because of them that I will continue to support women and the birth process until my last breath.