Earlier this year I was privileged to support my friend and fellow doula at the birth of her third child. Here is a link to her story: https://gentlemamadoula.co.uk/f/my-freebirth-story
And below is my account of what it was like for me, as a doula, to support another doula on her birth journey; how it differed from supporting other women and how it has changed the way I doula!
I had heard of other Doulas who had supported their Doula sisters during birth but I had never really considered the potential differences between supporting a friend and supporting a client. After all, I support women all the time, how difficult could it be?
So when Lindsay asked me to be her Doula I was super excited! I was also quite relieved - I had been secretly wishing she would ask me since I found out she was pregnant and was finding it really hard to 'not ask' (sorry Lindsay!).
Why would a Doula NEED a Doula to support her during birth? I hear you ask. Surely she already has the knowledge and experience to breeze her own birth?
This was sort of what I thought, but I wasn't arguing - I'm not ashamed to say I'm a massive birth junkie and will take any opportunity to be at a birth!
So my first thought was 'This is going to be a breeze! I don't need to worry about birth preparation, she knows everything already!' And in a way, I was right. Lindsay has more experience than me as a Doula and is very knowledgeable and well educated in her rights. She knew exactly what she wanted from her birth experience for this, almost certainly, her last birth: A home birth, a waterbirth, unassisted and free.
I'm not going to lie, the freebirth element of Lindsay's birth plan scared the shit out of me! I had NEVER supported a freebirth and, to be honest, having worked in the hospital environment, birth without a Midwife present made me feel a little uncomfortable. This was new territory for me. Don't get me wrong, I had attended home births before and I'm always very keen to keep things as natural as possible but I knew this was going to really test my confidence and belief in birth.
So our birth preparation sessions were spent chatting about hopes and fears, going over the practicalities for the birth and practicing some hypnobirthing techniques.
As Lindsay's due date approached she showed the same impatience and anxieties that any woman faces in the last trimester. This is when it hit me. She may a doula, but right now, right in this moment, she is a pregnant woman; tired, worried, unsure and vulnerable. This sort of made it a bit easier for me if I'm honest - she was acting like any other pregnant woman and NOT an experienced doula - THIS I could work with.
So, when I got 'the call' from Lindsay I was quite shocked to find that Lindsay - the experienced, confident Doula that I knew so well - was unsure whether it actually was labour, didn't know whether she should have called me and appeared very confused and indecisive. I reassured Lindsay that I could come and see her and if it wasn't labour I could come home. She seemed happy with that.
When I arrived, I let myself in quietly through the front door, as arranged, and was greeted by Lindsay's husband and shown through to the lounge where Lindsay was leaning over the couch, swaying, very obviously in labour.
When the surge had passed she noticed me and came to hug me. I could feel the relief in her body as we held each other. What a special moment! And how exciting! I was about to part of my best friend's birth and it doesn't get much better than that!
Despite the fact that Lindsay's labour was progressing gently with no reason for concern, Lindsay continually repeated the fact that she hadn't yet had a show (losing the mucous plug) so she couldn't possibly be in labour! I reassured her with the facts that she already knew. "Ugh. Sometimes I wish I wasn't a Doula so didn't know all this stuff" She said with frustration. I couldn't help but smile.
During her labour, I watched Lindsay as she moved with her body, listened to her instincts and shared such beautiful moments with her husband. As she gently moved in the water of the pool, she began to sing along to the soft music playing. Lindsay has such a beautiful voice, it brought tears to my eyes. THIS is how birth SHOULD be. Calm, peaceful and just so god damn beautiful.
Finally, Lindsay had a show! She insisted on seeing the evidence (lol!) and at this point I could visibly see her relax and focus inward on her birth. She finally believed that she was in labour and was going to have her baby very soon! This must have been the encouragement that she needed because surges soon became more intense as birth became closer.
I can't begin to describe the actual birth. I never can. It's just amazing and I am constantly in awe of all birthing women - our bodies are fantastic!
Needless to say, Lindsay was no different, she birthed her baby's head gently as I videoed the event, offering words of encouragement. Her husband was now in the pool with her, equally excited to see his baby born. It seemed like an absolute age from when the head was born and the body emerged - it just goes to prove how gentle a birth it was. All three of us watched in awe as the baby gently arrived earthside, so effortlessly and so calmly.
Wow. I don't have any words for that moment. Just, wow.
Lindsay had two girls already. She was adamant that this one was a girl also and so had been referring to her baby as 'her' throughout the entire pregnancy. Can you imagine the look on her face when she checks 'she' is a girl and it turns out 'she' is a 'he'? Priceless.
So. She actually went and did it. She got the birth she wanted. And she completely rocked it.
Lindsay, you are an amazing woman. Never change. This experience has given me a newfound belief in birth and greater confidence in my role as a Doula. It has made our friendship even stronger and I am so very blessed to be part of you and your family's lives.
There's so much more detail I could add to this story but I'd be here forever and I really wouldn't do it justice. So I'll just summarise in a few points what I have learned from this experience:
1. A woman birthing is a woman birthing, regardless of their background, knowledge or experience.
2. The type of birth experience you have IS important
3. Freebirths aren't as scary as I first thought
4. Supporting a friend through birth is soooooo rewarding and special
5. I actually have quite a good poker face
6. I have THE. BEST. JOB. EVER. FACT