Looking back, we're not quite sure what we would have done without her. We know the end result would have been the same: our daughter, June, was somehow going to be born. She was going to come out. The doctor and nurses were there to make sure that happened safely. I've been wanting to write about our birth experience, but for me, it isn't just about June being born. Somewhere in there, between the time that my water broke and the time that we met our daughter, something else happened. A mom and a dad were born too. My husband and I brought June into this world and experienced what it was like to be held, supported, open, and trusting, during the most vulnerable transition of our lives. Today, two and a half months later, we still tell others: we couldn't have done it without Melinda.
Melinda, owner of Doula's of Marquette, was there for us as we began to prepare for labor and birth. We began by meeting a few times to talk about what it might look like, what our wishes were, what my ideal situation would be. It became apparent right away that there was very little that was within my control. I wrote about the anxieties I experienced as I progressed through pregnancy and was able to manage my anxious thoughts pretty well, for the most part, throughout my second and third trimesters. We had finalized our "ideal birth plan" and discussed all the what-if's with Melinda weeks before, but when my water broke at 38 weeks, the anxiety came flooding back (pun intended?) as I experienced the biggest adrenaline rush of my life.
I had thought about sharing my birth story in detail, but instead I'll share it in some quick bullet points:
- Water breaks at local brewpub at 7:30. Shock.
- Clean at home like a madwoman for 3 hours before contractions started coming every 3 mins.
- Melinda shows up. Gut instinct: go to the hospital. Arrive at 10:45.
- Horse lips, horse lips, horse lips (it's a way to breathe during labor, people. Look it up). Peanut ball. Cold washcloths. Progress from 2 cm to 7 cm in one hour.
- Transition. Shit gets real. Ask where the doctor is. State my inability to go on. Over and over and over.
- Need to push. Doctor shows up. Start pushing. Pushing sucks. Ask for those meds I said I didn't want before. Hear it's too late. Swear, a lot.
- Experience indescribable sensations. Meet the love of my life at 1:53 a.m.
The truth is, having a doula made all of the above tolerable. From the moment my water broke, she was on the other line reminding me that my story was just beginning. Keeping my anxiety at bay by letting me know that everything I was experiencing was a normal, healthy, part of labor. Amidst the chaos, Melinda was our confident calm. Whether it was reassuring my husband, who had no idea what to expect, or giving me the counter pressure I needed - she was ALL there. 100% present and helping me to advocate for what it is we wanted as a family. She was there to take photos of the best moments of our lives, to celebrate when June finally arrived, to call us Mom & Dad.
Sharing parts of our birth story means advocating for having a doula. I had desired an unmedicated birth and achieved it, though I'm almost certain I would have gone an alternate route to manage pain had it not been for Melinda keeping me in check emotionally and reminding me of my coping skills. I can't envision a birth situation where a doula wouldn't be helpful in some way. No matter how you want to give birth, no matter how your baby ends up joining you earthside, all the mamas and papas need support, options, and encouragement. Support without judgment, for whatever experience they're going for.
In jumping back into the blog-o-sphere, I have been reassessing what this blog is to me. I realized that our birth story, and the involvement of our doula, is everything Effort & Ease is about. Balancing the hardest work with the ease of an exhale. It's about feeling supported, living in the moment, listening to and being in my body, being flexible in my thoughts, and trusting the process. Our birth experience was the perfect balance of strength and surrender, the foundation of Effort & Ease. It is my hope in sharing this that Mamas feel encouraged to reach out in support of themselves throughout their pregnancy and birthing experience. If I've learned anything since June was born, it's that a Mama that cares for herself cares better for her baby. Of course, there are a lot of ways to do this, but having a doula was one way we eased into parenting and I can't imagine doing it any other way should there be a "second time around".
Part of the beauty in all of this was having the flexibility to make our doula experience what we wanted it to be. We were in the drivers seat the whole time, with unwavering encouragement no matter what it was we were going for. This, alone, is a reason to have a doula. Don't be afraid to take charge, Mamas, and know that if you choose Doulas of Marquette, they're going to have your back (during labor, quite literally), through it all.