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Why I Became A Doula
By Heather Eckstein
In October of 2002 I gave birth to my first child. I had a rather rough pregnancy after I developed Pregnancy Induced Hypertension and had a bout with preterm labor. My son had an irregular heartbeat and we spent a lot of time having ultrasounds and echocardiograms. I worried a lot and was even on bed rest for a few weeks. I took the childbirth class at my Doctorâs office and I saw a midwife for most of my prenatal appointments. I thought that I knew everything I needed to know about childbirth.
I went into labor on my due date in the middle of the night. I stayed at home as long as possible but I was very excited and couldnât wait to get to the hospital. I stopped on the way and ate some breakfast. When I arrived at the hospital I was still in early labor. They told me that they were going to augment my labor with Pitocin to speed things up. I didnât know what the risks were and they were never mentioned to me. It was never explained that Pitocin can lead to other interventions. After several hours of Pitocin my contractions became unbearable. I reluctantly consented to an epidural. My babyâs heart rate dropped after the epidural and I was scared as they rushed to give me oxygen. When pushing began I received an episiotomy against my wishes and without my knowledge. I gave birth to a healthy baby boy but I thought that there must be a better wayâ¦
Shortly before my sonâs first birthday I learned that I was pregnant again. This time I vowed to do everything right. I saw a midwife and planned a homebirth. I was so excited to give birth again! Unfortunately there were complications and I risked out of my midwifeâs care when I went 2 weeks past my due date. I ended up in the hospital for a biophysical profile and learned that my baby was having heart decelerations. Because they were unsure of what was causing his distress, they advised me to undergo a cesarean. I felt as though my world came crashing down. I cried and asked my midwife for advice. She agreed that I should consent to the surgery and so I did. My second son was born weighing just over 11 lbs with a very tight nuchal cord. That experience changed me forever.
In the days and weeks that followed I became even more passionate about natural childbirth and I became very outspoken about c-sections and hospital interventions. As I battled with post partum depression, I searched for a way to help myself heal emotionally. I wanted to spare other women the pain that came with having a bad birth experience. I wanted to help other women be empowered and take control of their own births. I decided I should start by becoming a doula.
In February 2005 I attended a DONA doula training. I found that it was very difficult for me to confront the anger I still felt about my own birth experiences. I had a hard time hearing other mothersâ birth stories. I felt jealous, even resentful, that some women made no effort to prepare themselves for giving birth and still they had better experiences than me. Attending the DONA training helped me realize that helping other mothers could help me work through these feelings myself.
I attended my first âofficialâ birth in May 2005. I wondered how I would feel watching another mother give birth and seeing her have a good experience. I was overjoyed when I found that the only feeling I felt (besides a momentary twinge of envy) was elation. I had helped another mother give birth the way that SHE wanted! I had supported her when she needed me most. I encouraged her when she was sure she could not go on. I felt wonderful and knew that I had found my calling.
Over the next year I became increasingly involved in many different organizations such as LLL and ICAN. I compiled lists of hundreds and hundreds of articles about pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing. I read book after book after book. It became my mission to help other mothers in any way possible. Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next though.
In August 2005 I discovered I was pregnant again. I excitedly began planning my own homebirth. I decided to take a short break from attending births so that I could prepare for my VBAC. On December 30, 2005 (my 26th birthday) I had an ultrasound after my midwife became concerned about how large I was measuring. Imagine my surprise when I learned that I was carrying twins. I was 22 weeks pregnant.
The next 4 months were an emotional rollercoaster. I was dropped by my midwife because I was too âhigh-risk.â I had to search and search for another midwife willing to attend my homebirth. Finally, everything fell into place and on April 28, 2006 I gave birth to my twin daughters at home in my bedroom. I was forever changed.
Suddenly I felt as though a huge burden had been lifted from my shoulders. I felt so grateful to God for allowing me to experience the births that I had because they made me who I am today. My HBAC helped me fully recover from my cesarean. I feel that I am a better doula now that I have given birth at home, in a hospital, with an epidural, by c-section, and to twins. I have had the full range of experiences! I can recall my own feelings from each birth and use that to help me help other mothers.
Recently I had the extreme pleasure of attending a home waterbirth of a clientâs first child. It was an absolutely amazing experience. My presence just felt so natural and it was as though I was meant to be there supporting her as she brought her daughter into this world. The week before I had attended the birth of another client who ended up having a primary cesarean after a failed induction. It was a difficult birth for me because I could feel that motherâs pain. I was so glad that I was able to be with her during the surgery and comfort her. She had a beautiful, healthy baby boy and I was again reminded of why I chose to become a doula.
Although every birth does not turn out the way we plan, we can make the best of any situation. I can help mothers educate themselves so that they can make informed decisions about their care. I can give them my undivided attention and support during their birth. Then if things do not go as we had hoped, we can know that we did everything we could. Then we make the best of that experience and I am there for reassurance during the post partum period. Although I canât make every mother have a âperfectâ childbirth, I can help every mother feel confident and empowered by her decisions. Being a doula allows me to be present at a most intimate moment between a mother and baby. The moment of birth is such a miracle and I am blessed to be able to be a part of that. THAT is why I became a doula.
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