Now, as British royalty watchers are waiting for news of Kate’s baby, many of us are waiting for the birth of our baby as well. It seems painful, all this waiting. Why me? Why can’t labor just come already? Patient doulas have been answering that question forever. The answer is: it always seems to take forever. The longest known pregnancies (from an emotional point of view) are generally first time moms-to-be. They have expected their darling since they peed on the stick, many moons ago, and are now feeling like the watched pot that won’t boil.
Apparently, Princess Diana’s labor with Prince William was induced because she couldn’t stand the wait and being watched by a whole country. Hopefully, not that many people are watching your pregnancy, but it sometimes feels like it. In the grocery store, people look at you like the balloon that is about to pop. At meetings, people view you with astonishment and say, “Are you having twins? When’s your due date again?” If you have the effrontery to have passed your due date, people will show you their concern, over and over, especially relatives.
The simple truth to keep in mind is: you will have your baby! In general, it is better to wait than to induce. All women have felt like this, even the ones whose babies were born before their due dates. Each day past your due date greatly increases your likelihood of going into labor. And also, this too, shall pass. Meanwhile, your doula is patiently waiting with you. Give her a call if you need sympathetic support.
We often say being a doula is a calling, not a job or career. I think what we mean is that we are honored to be able to comfort a new mother during her labor. We are joyful when parents get to welcome a new baby into their family. We are excited to be able to offer our experience with breastfeeding and postpartum travails, if we can help a mother ease into her new life that way.
Because we are fascinated by this process of birth and new mothering, we study it and become more knowledgeable about it. We try to be a useful resource for mothers and new families. Yet, that isn’t the most important thing we do. We offer our support and comfort because people matter. New babies are people who matter. New mothers are people who matter. New fathers are people who matter. We do our best to help ease the way. We enjoy helping and being a resource. That’s what matters.
Now I want to talk to you about the “A” word. There are few words in the childbirth arena that are as loaded with negative connotations as the “A” word. I am talking about abortion. For women who are trying to have children, abortion is usually the last word on their minds. But miscarriages occur.
If a woman loses a pregnancy or baby before approximately the 22nd week of gestation, it is a miscarriage. Women who were celebrating this pregnancy and longing to hold a baby mourn this loss. Sometimes they mourn publicly. Often they mourn silently. Still more often they mourn with no one to really support them. Their midwife’s job is done when the womb is empty. But their doulas’ job is not done. Here is a grieving woman who needs support and empathy.
However, why do we use the “A” word with this woman? Our society is strongly divided (almost to the point of civil war) over whether women should be allowed to have an abortion if they wish one. But that is not the case here. Here we have a woman who wanted a baby and whose heart is torn asunder. Why is her midwife or doctor using the “A” word with her? Why is she hearing that her abortion is now complete? Medically, a spontaneous abortion = miscarriage. Emotionally, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
When a woman is beginning the mourning process for the loss of the child she had longed for, please let’s not use the “A” word with her. Miscarriage is tearful enough. Abortion in this context is hurtful.
I’ve just seen a YouTube video of a beautiful home birth. In it the woman sings during her contractions. This is a great idea because many women vocalize their contractions. She does it tunefully while her husband plays the guitar. She makes birthing look easy. The video does show that this is her third baby. The birth looks happy and peaceful, just what doulas always love to see!
Two of the main things doulas help with are helping moms to be find their community of support and helping them know when things are normal. As adult women enter their childbearing year, they find more and more things to wonder about. Their uterus expands and their breasts enlarge, their sense of smell is overwhelming and new concerns seem to arise all the time.
What really helps, both before, during and after birth is knowing you are not alone and knowing that this is normal. As doulas we are always reassuring moms that things are normal and that there are other like-minded moms they can turn to. One of my favorite places to suggest is La Leche League. In breastfeeding, as your baby grows and changes, moms need new reassurance that this, too, is normal. If it is not normal, there are solutions to try. All moms want to know they are not alone and there are ways to cope with the changing circumstances. As doulas, we support them in their journeys.