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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Power of a Doula

I was asked today if I would write a letter of recommendation for my Doula and friend, Sarah. Of course, there is no way I could say no. Sarah helped me in ways I couldn't even fully express. Putting the letter together, I started reflecting on my labor and delivery process. All 72 grueling hours. It's funny, people have told me that most mothers forget pretty much everything about their labor and delivery process, the pain, anxiety, how tired you were, etc. I know I may have forgotten tiny details, but almost a year later, I remember it like it just happened.

During my first trimester, I, like most new mothers I know, researched everything I could about my pregnancy, read every book I could get my hands on and took every pregnancy related course possible. To say I was excited is an understatement. I decided to try to undertake my labor and delivery naturally – free of medications. Furthering my research, I learned the benefits of having a Doula, especially in the natural labor and delivery process. Culturally, a Doula for East Indians would be your mother. So you can imagine the surprise of my family and friends that I had a Doula, when they had never heard of such a thing. My husband and I met with Sarah during my second trimester and several times thereafter. She gave us books to read, DVDs to watch, exercises to try and offered helpful advice every step of the way. I was always able to reach her over the phone or via email with any questions or concerns I had.
As my pregnancy progressed, I felt exhausted learning in my third trimester that I had gestational diabetes – something that was not present in my first or second trimesters. As a 29 year old woman with a normally healthy medical history, you can imagine my dismay. To make matters more difficult, a few days before giving birth to my son, I was also diagnosed with severe pre-eclampsia. I was disappointed that due to my severe pre-eclampsia, I would have to be induced and would need several different medications to prevent severe risks to myself and my unborn child. Ironically, not having a medication free labor and delivery made having Sarah, as my Doula, even more crucial. She was by my side every step and stage of a new and scary process, giving direction to my mother and husband, as this was both their first times witnessing a birth of a child. I will never forget how Sarah helped us. Massaging my hands and feet, rubbing my back, using different objects and techniques to alleviate my pain (I went pain medication free for over 60 hours), and providing extra support to both my husband and mother. Her gentle touch, soft voice, reassurance, and presence made a world of difference.

On Monday, May 23, 2011, Elijah was born blue and was not crying. I was prepped beforehand that due to the medication I was given, Elijah may be born groggy. Of course, nothing could prepare a mother for a baby who wasn’t crying. My heart stopped as I panicked. A thousand thoughts ran through my head as I lay weak from a tremendous loss of blood.  Sarah stepped in, without hesitation, following Elijah as he was given CPR and updating both my husband and I those first few critical moments of life. Thankfully, what felt like an eternity, only lasted a few minutes, and Elijah was okay. After a couple of minutes, Elijah cried loudly. And I cried – tears of relief and joy. Sarah took his first picture showing it to me to prove that he was in fact okay. She took my fears away. At that moment, I needed that, as both my mother and husband were in complete shock and afraid beyond belief. Sarah was my rock.

My experiences have made Sarah not only an amazing Doula, in my eyes, but a life-long friend, and an Auntie to Elijah. She will be a part of our lives, always. Looking back at how Sarah helped me, I cannot imagine what my labor and delivery process would have been like without her.  And I cannot imagine other mothers going through this process without a Doula, like Sarah. 

I've told everyone that has asked, having a Doula through my pregnancy, labor and delivery changed my life. She not only assisted me through a grueling 72 hours of labor and delivery, she helped my very scared husband with any angst he had.

The power of a doula. I will never be able to thank her enough. And if I have any more children in the future, I only hope I will be as lucky as I was the first time to have Sarah by my side.


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