The Story of the Bumpy Doula

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I told Steve that I always struggle with opening my first paragraph for a blog. Without looking, he typed this and said, “There’s your opening.” I am keeping it because, really, I got nothin’ better.

And it’s also a pretty accurate assessment of how my brain has been processing information over the past few days.

adoinagona jaiodfoadn —summer is ending–aodinoianfgnaglna

adoiffoaner,m \ujq4  aolarn adfmalmd dnf — i helped a baby come into the world last weekend— woaeb affgl hqoh4rn  NEOINRLNnfaoanre aoln

oain voaijer,qnoi232nmzao\l —i am turning 26 in, like, 4 weeks—aoeif aeo iu0jJLHN0P49J

A QIEJ N\LKSM opMDF;LOAOJKR —WAIT, WHAT? I HELPED DELIVER A BABY?!? WHEN? HOW? WHO GAVE ME THE CREDENTIALS FOR THAT?!??

So basically, in the midst of everyone’s else’s “back to school” mode, I’ve been more in a “back to bed” mode. And then a “back to last week” mode.

Labour labour labour labour labour labour labour labour BABY.

*world changes*

Tears. Gratefulness. Shock. Excitement. And an overwhelming desire to make this act of birth, this event in history, this sanctuary moment, my life.

Now comes the delicate balance of telling my story without telling their story for them. A big part of being a doula is public relations – diplomacy – respect of confidentiality and privacy.

The best way I know how is to tell why I want to doula my way through life. The literal butterfly transformation I went through to go from being unready and fearful, to feeling unstoppable.

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Steve and I drove to Kelowna for the very first time on Emily’s due date the weekend before last. We spent a day exploring the hot but gorgeous landscape, and wondered why we’d never trekked here before. (aka we are definitely going back!) As we walked along the vastness that is Okanagan Lake, I wrestled. The fact that Steve was about to leave me here, for who knows how long, so I could face the unknown with Tomily was becoming more and more real to me. We had not even been apart for a night since we got married last September, and, not anticipating the heat, I had packed poorly. I was hot, I was overwhelmed, I wanted to throw up.

So I let the heat go to my brain. My heart began pounding, and I started eating.
Like, a lot. With gravy on all sides.
Already uncomfortable clothing became unbearable.
Thoughts raced through my mind: I feel so gross. How can I be a good doula to Tom and Emily when I can’t even take care of myself? I miss Steve already. Please, baby, come soon.

Baby did not come for 6 days.

For the first 2 days, this girl’s intestines were in such a knot that nothing came out, if you know what I mean. TWO DAYS. And I got a spider bite while I was sleeping. And something strange appeared on my nose that wasn’t a zit and wasn’t an insect bite and wasn’t a sunburn but it hurt and it was itchy and it made me look like a lush.

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I felt like a frumpy, grumpy, lumpy, bumpy doula, all right. And then I thought…

Maybe this is a little glimpse of what Emily is feeling. I took my discomfort and tried to mentally multiply a 9-month-baked baby in the mix. Suddenly, my problems didn’t seem quite so…constipating? Yeah. I know. My point is that I had to choose to rise above myself, to see that Emily needed Tom and I to understand what she was going through so that we could help her.

I started taking care of myself so that I could take care of her. I portioned my food properly, adding a healthy dose of curry and apples to smooth things along. I went to a thrift shop with Em and picked up some lovely CHEAP-ASS clothes that I could breathe in. I also invested in a proper bathing suit so that I could join Emily on our lake outings. (Yep, I am that person who went to the Okanagan in late August and didn’t pack something to swim in. *facepalm*) I took a pen and paper each morning/evening to write out all my feels from the day and dreams from the night so that I could get it out and let it go. I made contact with good friend Candice who is also a seasoned doula. She literally became my mentor through text message and saved my life. (Later, we also learned that she had a hand in helping Emily’s older sister give birth a few years ago, yet she didn’t know Emily at all! It’s a small globe, friends.)  I started to feel a lot better.

And then the contractions started. And they didn’t end for 2 days.

If I hadn’t spent the previous 4 days in misery and then applied self-care just in time, I don’t know if we would have made it. I mean, I think we would have, but not with nearly as much grace and content.

Without going into too much detail, I have to say that Tom and Emily amazed me, even more than I expected to be amazed. Tom never left her side, and rode the wave of every single pain and emotion with the ease of a pro. More than once, I had to hide tears as I witnessed such love and encouragement being poured onto this woman trying to complete one of the biggest jobs of all time. And if the stereotype about labouring women losing control, snapping and becoming violent towards the nearest person is true, she challenged it. Even through excruciating pain, she calmly made it very clear to us what she needed and she always added a “please” and “thank you.”  #tomforpresident #emilyforsainthood

As for me? Well, as soon as it was “go time”, something deep and hidden inside my soul broke out and kicked its way into high gear. Suddenly all of my book learning and researching and gaining resources and talking talking talking turned into warm, hard instinct. I became absolutely sure that Emily could and would have this baby no matter what, and that I, along with her husband, was going to do my damnedest to get her there. Screw the heat, screw the tired, screw the fear, screw the unknown, screw the feelings – I put on my scrubs, walked into that hospital, made sure I knew who the nurses were, that the nurses knew who I was and what I would be doing there (thankfully, mom and dad had prepared a printed birth plan with my name and title on it!), unpacked our stuff, found the fridge & ice machine, made sure the shower was working and had plenty of towels, set up Emily’s items of comfort from home that she wanted to visualize, and then ran to her side every time another contraction came on. Let me be clear: I was not there to replace Tom – I wanted there to be no reason Tom needed to leave her, except for the occasional bathroom break. That was my job. Not the doctor’s, not the nurses’, mine.

For the past 4 months, whenever I’ve had someone ask me what a doula is, I got into the habit of saying, “It’s like a birth coach. An objective third party member that’s not hospital staff. Someone hired to help the parents and encourage them, to talk them through everything that’s going on, as birth – especially the first time – can be pretty scary.”

I can’t believe how wrong I was. I mean, I was right, but there is so much more to it than that.

Do you think that when you’re in the hospital and labouring that a nurse is going to be hanging around outside your door just in case you need them, around the clock? They’re not. That’s my job.
Do you think that when you have a contraction, your life partner is going to be able to squeeze your hips to relieve pressure, all the while soothing you with warm water? They’ll try, but they can’t. With my help, they can.
What if you’re hungry or thirsty, but you don’t want to be left by yourself? You can’t order room service in a hospital. But I can go get it for you, whatever you like.
What if your shoulders need rubbing, but one little spot in your foot is itching like crazy and you’re too tired and sore to do anything about it? Bring in the birth partner, let’s get you taken care of.
And about the room you give birth in…it will probably be pretty nice and comfortable, with the option of dim lights and mobility. However, there were at least 5 other women giving birth in the ward that night, one being right next door; we had to turn up the Bob Marley just so that we wouldn’t be distracted by the sounds of their labour going on around us.

“Don’t worry about a thing, cause every little thing is gonna be all right…”

That’s the battle song of a family giving birth right there.

In all reality, the nurse (and she was wonderful) came into the room of her own volition, unless I asked sooner, every 45 minutes. The doctor only came to the hospital after 10cms of dilation had already been completed and the pushing stage was about to begin. That’s a lot of time and space to go through being just you and your partner, whether you’re the pregnant one or with the pregnant one.

So my question is, why doesn’t everyone want a birth partner?

*gets off of soap box*

I will admit that when Emily started to push, I started to swallow a little harder as it occurred to me that at any moment, I was going to witness a small human being come out of a big human being. I hadn’t slept, I had eaten little, and I started telling myself, “You will not pass out. Stay strong. Do you want to be known as the Fainting Doula, DO YOU? I didn’t think so. Now stop shaking, get up on that bed and let Emily lean on you until the contraction passes, got it?”

I got it. And when I saw that little girl’s face appear, with her smooshed nose and gorgeous lips and perfect ears and crimpy hair, time stopped.

God opened the door, light poured in, and Love said, “You see this? That’s me. I know you’ve been looking for me for a long time; well, here I am. Soak me in. I’m here for the taking.”

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Why do I want to be a doula?

The way I see it, Life is hard enough as it is, and I have been searching for years for something that will make it a little easier for someone else.  Tom & Emily told me later that they couldn’t have done it without me, that my presence made their experience and transition into parenthood so much easier. So even if Eva Sofia is the only baby I help bring earthside, knowing this is enough for me. Knowing that I’ve finally found my calling, my purpose for being put on this earth, is enough to make me cry at a moment’s notice.

3 days ago, my entire life changed. It became more holy, more blessed, and more wholly blessed. And I’m so thankful. Long live Eva Sofia, long live the doula heart and long live the grace of God to make this place a little better than it was before.

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25 thoughts on “The Story of the Bumpy Doula

  1. Omg. Stop. I’m about to cry. In the library at school.
    I love you so much. And seriously – reserve your spot now for any future children of mine, because you are going to be there. And also you are my hero. Look at you go with your self care. It doesn’t matter how last minute it was, you did it. And you got through it. And you were the best damn doula in the North American continent – at least in my eyes. What courage. What bravery. You’re my favorite person in the world – I can’t believe I’m so privileged to know you. Yeah – I don’t usually flow with such gratitude but you are just so awesome I can’t hold it back. I’m so excited that you found it – your purpose!!!!! 🙂 It’s so freaking obvious hon. So amazing.

  2. Oh my goodness Carly – wiping tears away as I read your amazing story! And I am truly blessed to have had a flicker of involvement – I venture to guess that it won’t be the last time we share the birth experience via text. One thing I wanted to say, though, is that in your blog you mentioned “this is why I want to be a doula”…..no more wanting girl…..you ARE a doula! And a doula with your head, your heart, and your hands in exactly the right place, guided so amazingly perfectly by the Lord! A gift, yes…..and how grateful you will be each and every time you are blessed with the chance to make a difference in someone’s life birth experience. Love you Carly!

  3. I have been pouring over all of your beautiful words for the past 2 days. Thank you both for loving me, believing in me, urging me, helping me, cheering me on. Candice, I will definitely use you as a resource in the future, and Laurie, I will definitely deliver your babies in the future! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  4. “God opened the door, light poured in, and Love said, “You see this? That’s me. I know you’ve been looking for me for a long time; well, here I am. Soak me in. I’m here for the taking.”” That brought tears to my eyes. And if you ever have a website for your Doula business you need to include some of this. It’s perfection. So many times I could’ve used it when people ask, because boy, they ask, right? People really don’t understand the need or purpose of a Doula. I hope I’m still able to continue with it, although at a stand still for now. 😦 Gorgeous post, SW.

    • I still get teary-eyed when I read that paragraph too. 🙂 I hope to have a website someday and I will definitely include this post! If you ever want to quote me in response to peoples questions, please feel free. My soap box of doula advocation is always dusted and ready to go! 😉

  5. *TEARS IN EYES* wtf are you doing to me today, woman?? Wow. Just wow. I see from the comments above that I’m not alone in feeling so sentimental. I don’t know what’s more profound: you finding your purpose, or you bringing a new life into the world. Both HUGE DEALS. Love every word of this.

  6. “Long live the doula heart.” I seem incapable of commenting on your posts without first quoting back my favorite lines. 🙂

    You have cemented my desire to have a doula at all my births. Also, we should talk nitty-gritty about The Farm and Ina May. That woman is one of my personal heroes. I was lucky enough to work for three years with another amazing woman who used to midwife at The Farm, then in rural Guatemala, and I gained such an appreciation and sense of awe just from hearing her stories…

    I want to hear all of yours. I’m certain there will be more!

    • I’ve only read one of Ina May’s books so far and I love her! We should totally talk about her! I am so jealous of you getting to work near that midwife and hear her stories. I so hope that I will get more stories in my bank as well!

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  8. Oh I love love love it! I feel like I’ve said this on another post, but my good friend Sars is training to be a midwife right now. She will text me throughout births– like our own version of “live tweeting” and give me all these amazing updates. It’s magic. Have you read the book “Baby Catcher?” *swoon*

    • That’s awesome! I was definitely texting a few close friends during the whole 2 days of labour, just to keep my sanity and share the magic. I have NOT read this book and I feel the need to find and read it immediately!

      • I had the honour of meeting Ina May about 14 years ago and she is as amazingly gifted as you believe. A true inspiration.

      • Yes! You must read it, it’s so good! Her name is Peg I think… can’t remember the last name but I’m sure you can google it HAHA. She’s a midwife and every chapter is a different birth and when I read it there was lots of giggling and weeping.

    • I don’t know she did it. I’m probably going to be the same way some day, Laura! I’m so glad you found this and it touched you. 🙂 You deserve a doula when the time comes; I encourage you to find one and become one yourself! ❤ As much as it sucks to have experienced the losses you have, that would give you great compassion and empathy to a woman in labour. 🙂

  9. What an amazing story! Thank you so much for sharing this part of your world. I never really knew what a doula was, but it’s kind of like you’re the mom’s own personal superhero.

    Awesome.

    • You’re welcome, and thank YOU!

      I’m always happy to share this part of my world. It gets me really excited and passionate and goose-bumpy and all those good things.

      Not to brag, but I DO kinda feel like a superhero. *blushes*

  10. This is amazing. Beautiful! I had a doula at the birth of my son (first baby) last August. She was a godsend. (She was also my prenatal instructor.) In every way you described, she was amazing and I am so grateful to have met her and so honoured that she came into the delivery room with us and helped me and my husband welcome that wriggly person into our family. So much so, in fact, that I’ve started doing some pre-reading for (birth) doula certification, myself. Thank you for writing and sharing this. It is beautiful and wonderful and completely made my night. 🙂

    • Wow! Kim, thank you so much for sharing your story! How amazing that you’re going to be a doula as well! I really enjoyed writing this story, and I’m so glad you enjoyed reading it. 🙂 I’ll follow your blog to keep updated!

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