I met my client at my job, Gracias Madre, about a year ago. When she became pregnant I was very excited for her and was about to start my Doula training at Natural Resources. When I finished my Doula training I decided to muster up the courage to ask if I could take part in this very personal and vulnerable experience with her. It was great that we had a report before hand.
I had 3 prenatal meetings with her before she was induced. In our first prenatal I asked about her first birth. I asked her if she had enough support and if there were any fears that she had for this birth. I let her know my role as a Doula as well. With the second prenatal meeting, I gave her some lavender essential oil mixed with Shea nut oil. As soon as she smelled it, her baby starting kicking in her tummy! She said it was the perfect scent for her new baby boy! This was exciting because I was just starting to understand and experiment with the healing properties of essential oils. I gave it to her for relaxation and massage during her labor. I showed her my developing Doula bag and went through all the items with her to see if she wanted me to use any of my goodies on her. She refused my Tibetan singing bowl. The sound was so hypnotizing and distracting for her. Good to know I thought! Everything else was fine. I showed her some supportive holds her partner could do on her during labor. I showed her different positions she could get into during labor to make it easier and more comfortable on her body. My last prenatal meet up consisted of me showing her my fully developed Doula bag. I also gave her a relaxing massage and asked her to let me know what pressure was best for her. I just wanted to see if she was comfortable with my touch in general. I asked about how she felt about being "late" in delivering her baby. She felt worried for her baby and told me that she was going to be induced later that week. I told her that her body was working really effectively and ultimately that her baby knows when it's ready to come out. I gave her all her labor options and the risks for each. She ultimately chose a hospital birth at SF General.
After she was induced she went into labor two days later. The very early morning she went into labor, I had a dream about her being in labor. I woke up 2x laughing and feeling tingly and hot all over my body. The next morning she texted me that she had been in labor all early morning! I arrived at the hospital around 9am. She was having frequent surges. She advised her partner and I to pull her hair. She said it felt really good. At one point when we pulled her hair continuously she didn't feel the surge. As the surges came on stronger, I gave her some counter pressure on her lower back while her partner pulled her hair and her mom massaged her feet. She stayed at 6cm for a long time so they gave her some laughing gas and some narcotics to help the pain. Next they offered her an epidural for pain management. I was shocked because on her birth plan that the hospital gave her to fill out, she mentioned that she'd only like narcotics and to not have staff mention the epidural. Being a first time Doula, I didn't know how to show up as a strong advocate for my client. I didn't know how to communicate with the hospital staff about her birth plan preferences. She decided to take it because she was so scared at this point. This is the time I became internally upset at the staff and myself. I supported her decision non the less and expressed that she knew what was best for herself during her labor. After they gave her the epidural she was administered pitocin. She seemed happy with her decision and I had to remind myself that this wasn't my birth. Her labor slowed tremendously. So we waited it out. As we waited for her to fully dilate I massaged her lower legs to help with circulation in her lower body. I massaged her with lavender essential oil around her temples to help her unwind. She was able to dose off for a short while for a much needed nap. Shortly after her nap, she was fully dilated and the doctors suggested her to push immediately. They were encouraging active management (taking an active role in guiding a mother through the pushing phase). She ended up pushing about 10 to 20 seconds at one time. I remained positive through the majority of her labor. When I couldn't , I would leave the room. I left twice but returned always in better spirits and being able to fully support her new developing birth plan. I was able to capture all kinds of pictures during her pushing phase as the baby descended. I kept encouraging her that everything was all right and that her baby was healthy. When the baby came out, they immediately cut the cord even though we requested 20 min delayed cord clamping. My client also tore quite a bit. I think pushing before the body says it's time, causes unnecessary perinatal tearing. After the baby was born I stayed with the mom and immediate family after all other family members had left.
I stayed until she was transferred to postnatal care. I encouraged breast feeding and encouraged her partner to stay close to the baby during hospital procedures. Unfortunately they didn't respect her wish to have all procedures done much later after her delivery. As a first time Doula I was still unaware of how to properly communicate with hospital staff about my client's birth preferences. I was taking the entire experience in as best as I could while remembering everything I had learned in training. Experiencing a birth for the first time was new, scary, shocking, emotional, uplifting, and energizing all at the same time.
I visited her twice postpartum to ask how she was healing up. She had a ton of family and friend support. Her body was doing well and breast feeding was taking off. I only had two suggestions for her postpartum care. Taking a sitz bath as often as she could and allowing her and her partner take some time for themselves away from the baby if they needed a breather/break. I am grateful that I was able to support a friend as a first time Birth Doula. Even to this day we talk about her birth and how much it made an impact on both of our lives. This birth provided me with so much more knowledge and experience than I had before with a willingness to show up as a stronger labor support worker.