5 Things Your Doula Wishes You Knew

Today, we present to you a post by our friends over at nycbirthvillage.com, a local doula collective run by 2 doulas whom we recommend all the time to Birth Matters students — Narchi & Karla.

  1. Some people have the kind of births they want to have in spite of their providers, and some people do it because of their providers. Choosing a provider is probably the most important decision you can make for your birth. I wish everyone took this decision seriously and interviewed multiple providers before choosing one. Midwives and doctors all approach situations in different ways, and the key is to find someone who shares your values and will help you work towards your goals. When I meet a potential client who tells me they are skeptical of their provider and they’re hiring a doula because they’re hoping that is enough to guard them from interventions and a c-section, it raises a red flag for me. While I can certainly illuminate your options, provide a platform for you to weigh decisions, and give you helpful questions to ask, you must feel supported by the medical team you’ve chosen.

  2. We want to hear from you! You’re not bothering us. We want text updates that you’ve been walking a mile every day and have been feeling more crampy recently. We want to hop on the phone with you if you had a conversation with your provider and have new questions. We want to see pictures when you say you saw some bleeding in your underwear or you think you might have lost your mucus plug. We want you to call us in the middle of the night when you’re not sure if you’re in labor. Especially while you’re in early labor and we haven’t joined you yet. You don’t have to wait until your contractions are 5 minutes apart and lasting one minute for one hour. Let us know when you need extra support at any time, day or night, and we will be there.

  3. You do not need to ask permission or apologize for things you want during labor. This is most applicable to people who are delivering in a hospital setting. Treat your labor and delivery room like your living room. You wouldn’t ask for permission to get up and go to the bathroom, take a sip of water, or eat food at home and you don’t need to do it at the hospital. You shouldn’t hide the fact that you’re eating or drinking, in fact, it’s important that your providers know if there is food in your system. Going back to #1 of this list, if you feel like you have to hide things from your provider, that is also a red flag. Your mindset can have a huge impact on your labor and birth. Understanding that you have the final say in all things that happen to your body will give you confidence to act in a way that feels right to you.

  4. Spend some time thinking about how present you want family and friends to be in the later days of pregnancy, during labor, and immediately after. Labor and birth can be intense and long. The average labor for a first time mom can be 24 hours, which means you might not want to loop in people right away. Support is amazing. Being overwhelmed by other people’s expectations, timelines, and schedules is not as amazing. It is important for the birthing person to feel unburdened. Will having family members waiting in the hospital lobby add stress while you’re in labor? Will you feel supported if your partner is tied to their phone updating family and friends while you labor? Will you wait to tell family and friends until after the baby is born? Will you want extra people in the room while you’re pushing? Or immediately after you’ve given birth? You get to decide who is allowed to visit and how long they will stay.

  5. We are still your doulas postpartum — use us! We usually leave about one to two hours after your baby is born to ensure you are supported during the golden hour, throughout any repairs that need to happen, and to make sure your new family feels settled. The first few days can be intense. Everyone has a different set up for support after birth, but even while you are in the hospital, please feel free to call and text us with questions. The same way that we walked you through decisions during pregnancy, we can do the same when you are presented with different decision points in the hospital. What are the benefits of giving baby a bath? Is it necessary to supplement with formula? There’s usually a period of time that you’re home before we see you for your postpartum visit, and now the questions seem to triple — please call! If we don’t know the answer we can direct you to resources for support. Months down the road when new questions arise, we are here. And even when you don’t have a question, send us an update and a picture of your baby! We never get tired of seeing baby pictures!!

Find your doula at nycbirthvillage.com. We have doulas at all levels of experience trained in birth, postpartum and lactation!

Say Yes to the (Laboring) Dress

In September 2018, I was quoted in this NY Post news story about the increasing trend for expectant parents to bring their own laboring gown to wear in labor instead of a hospital gown. This is something I always talk about in childbirth classes. I was first introduced to the concept a few years back when a doula client from Park Slope (a very trendy part of Brooklyn) wore her “pretty little black dress” to her labor, which helped her feel confident and beautiful. I was sold and have recommended it ever since.

Why would you want to wear your own gown instead of the hospital one? There’s quite a bit that the article didn’t mention, so let me add a couple things:

  • You should feel like the healthy, beautiful laboring woman you are, not like a sick patient. Wearing the hospital gown can contribute to the all-too-common U.S. “sick patient” way we tend to perceive birth

  • Laboring gowns are SO much more comfy and stretch along with you as you aim stay active for a healthy + shorter labor. Hospital gowns are usually scratchy and made of rigid fabric.

  • They’re designed to give access where necessary for monitoring of baby, to be cut low enough in the back that if a person opts for the epidural, the gown isn’t in the way, and it’s a halter top — perfect for breastfeeding

  • Side perk - they often come with a matching headband, which is helpful to keep your hair out of your face

Now, you might ask, “Couldn’t I just wear something I already own?” Yes, you absolutely could. However, the laboring gowns are designed in such a way that it’s more likely to be pleasing to the work that the hospital or birthing center staff need to do, as detailed above.

Actually, you might just get so hot and bothered in the — often literal — heat of active labor and just strip down to almost nothing, and that’s just fine, too! (It’s common to lose all inhibition when the body’s working so hard.)

The brand I recommend is Pretty Pushers. They’re made here in NYC (shop local!) and has several designs and colors. Find them here on my list of recommended products*. There are other brands, but this is my fave recommendation.

Now, go rock that labor “runway”!

*Disclosure: I may receive a small commission on any products you purchase through these links, at no additional cost to you.

Little Bean's Birth Story (told by Mama Jessica)

newborn little bean moy closeup.jpg

“Little Bean” [pseudonym at family’s request] finally arrived on December 20 at 11:19 am. 7 lbs 3 oz 20 in and perfectly healthy! We were instantly in love. 

The birth went really well overall and of course was very different than what either of us had imagined. Little Bean was born at 42 weeks via an induction. Our doctor told us from the beginning that she would let us go to 41 weeks and 6 days - but of course she went on vacation by the time we got to our 41-week appointment, and there was pressure from other doctors in the practice to induce sooner. That last week was really tough - mentally, emotionally and physically. We were so thankful to have our doula help us through some conversations with our doctors in those last few days. After a lot of back and forth the induction was scheduled for 41 weeks and 6 days. Believe me, we tried every possible natural induction suggestion we could find on the internet up to that point and nothing worked! 

Honestly I was pretty disappointed realizing I would have to be induced. I felt it would most likely inhibit any plans I had for a natural labor and would mean significant interventions I did not want. We revisited the birth plan with our doula and adjusted expectations. 

Once we were at NYU we did two rounds of Cytotec (I was barely one cm when we checked in) and then a foley balloon. Didn’t feel any contractions until the balloon was in but we worked through them and I felt confident by the time the balloon came out at 4 cm that I could handle active labor. Completely expected the doc to go with pitocin next, but she was willing to try breaking my water first. Contractions started up again almost immediately and we’re much more intense than before. This is where my memory lapses... 

newborn little bean moy.jpg

I think it was about 3-4 hours after my water broke that our doula and our nurse thought I might be in transition and wanted to confirm with a cervical check. This was because I was vomiting a lot -- much more than I would have anticipated before. I was concerned I’d need fluids soon, because I couldn’t even keep water down. I was also shivering uncontrollably – which, honestly, felt very scary in the moment and started to hinder my ability to breath through a contraction. When they checked, I was 6 cm and immediately felt disappointed. I knew I couldn’t make it another few hours. It was 5:30am and we hadn’t slept at all. I opted for an epidural and initially was upset that I wanted it so much in the moment but in hindsight I think it was the best choice for me.

The epidural allowed me to sleep a few hours. I was still feeling the contractions they were mild enough for me to rest. The nurse woke me up around 10:30am to check me and I was ready to push! 

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I realized that I wouldn’t be pushing for long when after the first one the doctor didn’t leave, but she went to put on scrubs. I pushed for about 30 minutes and out he came! Rich was able to announce the gender and the rest is a blur of me sobbing for the next few minutes. At some point I heard the nurse give him an apgar score of 9! He was very awake for a couple hours after the birth and my parents were able to meet him while he was active- which was really special. 

He just had his one-month doctors appointment and I can’t believe how time is already flying! 

We’re so thankful to have had the information from your class and our doula’s support throughout the induction. We were all shocked that I had an induction with no Pitocin. It doesn’t matter how many times people say it -- you just really have no idea how things will go until they happen!