Women with doulas attending their births, she told me, are more likely to have shorter labors with fewer complications.
Sounded great to me. But what's a doula?
A doula, I learned, is a childbirth coach. You call her when you go into labor. She meets you at your house, or at the hospital, and stays with you, offering physical and emotional support, until (and after) the baby is born.
I was intrigued, but somewhat skeptical, in part because of the cost. My health insurance doesn't cover doula services. Hiring one would set my husband and me back $800.
Plus, what if the doulas just weren't my style? Childbirth is painful enough (or so I've been told); I don't want to endure it with someone who rubs me the wrong way. I worried that the doulas would be too sickly sweet, too reverent about the Miracle of Birth. I prefer irreverence. I want to feel free to scream and yell and curse the day I ever decided to have a baby. And, if I really can't cope with the pain, I want to be able to ask for drugs without feeling judged.
So last night, while my husband was laid up with the flu, I trekked down to Burlington's Birth Journeys
to meet the doulas.
Genevieve Henry and Rachel Stanton greeted me and three other couples at their cozy headquarters in Union Station. Colorful paper lanterns hung above an extra-long couch smothered in pillows. The doulas had laid out cookies, chips and other snacks on an oversize coffee table. Soft music filled the room.
The doulas introduced themselves, and over the next two hours, completely won me over. Here's why:
- These ladies are adorable, down-to-earth and delightfully irreverent. When one of the dads-to-be asked about the funniest thing they'd ever heard in labor, Rachel recalled the moment when a particularly demure woman let out an enormous room-rumbler of a fart. Her soft-spoken husband followed it up with a perfectly timed Beastie Boys lyric: "Let it flow, let yourself go, slow and low, that is the tempo."
- The doulas love what they do. These women are each raising several children of their own, yet when I call in the middle of the night because labor has begun, my doula will drop everything to join me. They reserve the right to swap out after 24 consecutive hours, but rarely do so. One of them recently attended all 67 hours of my friend's grueling labor.
- Doctors and nurses come and go throughout the birth, but a doula will stay with me from start to finish. When my husband needs a break — to take a nap or a walk, or to eat a meal — he doesn't have to leave me alone.
- Most of all, I love the idea of having someone at my side who's seen it all before. I tend to panic when I'm in pain. I know there will come a moment when I turn to Daniel, terrified, and tell him, "Oh my god, I am dying." And he won't know any better because he's never seen someone giving birth. But the doula will keep her calm. She'll be able to tell me, "You're not dying. You're doing fine. Just keep going."
For that kind of peace of mind, I'll happily fork over the cash.
Vermont has plenty of certified doulas — beyond Birth Journeys. Click here for a list of local doula options.
Megan James is the managing editor of Kids VT. She'll be blogging about her pregnancy until the baby arrives — hopefully in early May.
One of my friends is the daughter of a midwife. When I broke the news that I was pregnant, she promised she'd resist the urge to bombard me with advice about childbirth. But there was one thing she simply had to say: "Get a doula."