A day in the life of an unofficial doula

“The word ‘doula’ (pronounced ‘doo-la’) is a Greek word meaning ‘woman servant or caregiver’. More recently, it refers to someone who offers emotional and physical support to a woman and her partner before, during and after childbirth.”

Okay to be straight I know that I am not a doula. There is a lot more involved in the role of a trained and qualified doula, something I will cover more in another post. But I do like the way the word rolls off the tongue dooo-laaaaa My experience is better described as birth partner, birth support person, birth companion etc etc. In my last post I shared with you tid bits of the way I feel about being and having more then one birth companion. Whether that means your partner, a friend, family members or an official doula. But what exactly does that person do?

When I was preparing to give birth I came across many tools for birth companions, it was such an exciting discovery because I realised how involved my partner could be! It would not be a journey I had to travel alone, or one in which he felt like a helpless bystander. This is a break down of the day William was born which will hopefully give you a sneak peak at why so many women love having great birth companions.

Feb 11th

For the past few weeks my schedule has been “subject to birth”, absolutely everyone smiles at this answer. My parents are on standby for baby sitting and I have a little bag of clothes packed just in case. 

3:17am My phone starts ringing, my eyes shoot open… the caller ID says Aurelia and I can not help but grin. My memory is not good enough to recall exact words but lets say it went like this  (in whispers) nell “Hello darling” aurelia “Hello, so I think I am having a baby”

3:18am Sneak out of bed and wake up Steve who exclaims “yippee” I tell him to be aware of Boston who is sleeping next to us. I fit in a quick shower, grab my bag, some muffins, two apples and water. Heart racing…CHECK then it’s into the dark of early morning and onto the freeway.

4:20am I am still on the freeway, loving the fact it is rather isolated at this time in the morning and playing over in my head Boston’s birth as adrenalin pumps through my body…then I take a few breaths and remember I need to be the calm centred one for today

Leo lending a helping hand, Aurelia deep breathing  and me with the blessed hot water bottle
Leo lending a helping hand, Aurelia deep breathing and me with the blessed hot water bottle

4:40am My car pulls up outside Aurelia’s home, I am so excited to be there. I sneak up the front stairs and quietly let myself in. I am waiting to be accosted by their insanely loveable giant mastiff and I am not disappointed. Leo lumbers up with as much excitement as me, he ensures my dog is not in toe…I see his disappointment but it fades quickly. I find Chris in the kitchen and give him a massive hug as he tells me Auie is in the clinic (She is an amazing Acupuncturist who works from home).  I enter the darkened room, curtains drawn, no lights bar flickering candles, the perfect environment for mammals to birth just incase you’re wondering. The room smells devine and I know it will be the mixture of aromatherapy oils Aurelia has selected specifically for birth. In the centre of the room Aurelia rocks on a exercise ball, eyes closed focusing inwards and breathing slowly through a contraction. It stops as her eyes open up and she gives me a bliss filled smile. I can see she is doing amazing and she confirms my thoughts. Labour started a few hours ago and everything feels calm, the contractions are getting stronger but they are not too taxing. We celebrate the day with a big hug!

5:00am okay time for me to be of service. Chris needs to sort some work out so I take over duties while he orchestrates business. Water…CHECK, Tea … Yes please (camomile), Hot water bottle…just keep it on the lower back it is doing wonders, Contractions…Timer is here please take note. I sort out our tea and sit with Aurelia holding the hot water bottle and monitoring length of/between contractions. We decide it is time to let her midwife know birth has begun but there is no great urgency to leave the comfort of home.

8:00am Three hours fly by. We chat between contractions, readying hospital bags, checking lists, keeping the midwife informed of progress. The contractions have gained in intensity. With each one Aurelia closes her eyes and concentrates on long slow breaths, delivering vital oxygen to the uteurous as it squeezes and pushes, tightening and relaxing…down down down. Chris or I sit near each time running our finger tips up her back, over her shoulders and down her arms….then back again. Light touch massage, dim lighting and deep breathing stimulates the release of oxytocin, known as the love hormone, it reduces anxiety and helps one feel more relaxed, content and secure. The hot water bottle is not abandoned, this is a constant.

Another contraction comes and Aurelia’s reaction says it all, yes time to go to hospital.

We scoop up belongings, blow candles out and hand Aurelia some headphones which she promptly stuffs into her ears. They are playing her birth sound track, a mix of songs that make her happy, it had been floating from speakers until now. We all shuffle outside and into the car, Chris does the heavy lifting while I support mumma bear.

I am aware Aurelia was worried about the transition from home to hospital, often it can stall labour. Bright lights, strange noises, hospital smells and questions from health professionals are all elements that take focus off the task at hand. But we had strategies in place and like a pro Aurelia stays centred, immersed in the music from her headphones, eyes closed, deep breaths. As Chris drives I rest my hand on her back and try to keep her informed gently of where we are, adding positive affirmations “you are doing amazing, all is perfect”.

9:30am We are shown to the birthing suite after being admitted. I brim like a proud mum at the nurses exclamations “She is so calm and doing great”. We go to work as Aurelia heads to the wicked three headed shower. Lights off, close curtains, scatter LED candles around the room, put iPod in music dock, switch on electric oil burner and add birthing concoction. Chris heads off to move the car while I sit with Aurelia in the shower running warm water up and down her spine, a new and awesome version of soft touch massage. It is pitch black apart from the flickering candles glowing in each corner. I am so relaxed I nearly fall asleep, hopefully Aurelia felt the same… perfect hospital transition.

After returning from a coffee run I spotted this sign on our door LOVE IT
After returning from a coffee run I spotted this sign on our door LOVE IT

10:00am I run to the cafe to fetch coffee and refreshments for us birth companions and midwives. MMMMmmmm…espresso!!!

10:30am From here things get pretty repetitive. It is all about responding to Aurelia’s needs and instincts. The water bottle is still a constant that is held on her lower back 100% of the time (sitting, standing, squatting, childs pose…yup water bottle…and make sure its WARM). Light touch massage comes with each contraction, sometimes continuing through the breaks. We offer her water and food almost constantly, someone has to refill the water jug from the kitchen all too often. When Chris, I or the midwives see Aurelia looking discontented we suggest moving to another position, the midwives have awesome suggestions (such a great team!).

The mix of hormones and physical strain of labour brings mums into an almost hypnotic state, they are very open to suggestion (in other words will believe almost anything), which is why it is PARAMOUNT to keep language as positive as possible. There is plenty of time for silence but it is dotted with affirmations “you are doing amazing, trust your body, everything is well, everything is perfect, trust yourself, deep breaths, relax your muscles…melting like butter”.

2:00pm All of us can see the light at the end of the tunnel now, even Aurelia has rounded the corner through transition and is hell bent on triumphantly holding her baby. It was not all smooth sailing but Aurelia is a warrior and with the expert guidance of her midwives mixed with her own determination has found the natural home stretch she dreamed of. At times of trepidation or slight concern Chris and I stood by like alert pit bulls not entirely sure of what we were doing but knowing that whatever needed to be done to protect this woman and babe was seriously going to happen.

2:49pm William is born and scooped into the arms of his mum while we stand by her side gobbsmacked as any witness to birth should be.

Little William all curled up just before I head home.
Little William all curled up just before I head home.

3:15pm Like a light switching on Aurelia emerges from the birthing trance. Her presence flows out from her body and into her little boy and the whole darn universe. “Food please!” I head to the cafe to get toasted turkish rolls and fresh peppermint tea while Aurelia and Chris get to know their son. The warm food brings more life to Aurelia and you would hardly guess she had just run a physical marathon.

7pm The day has been long and though elated I was not gifted with all the euphoric hormones Aurelia has coursing through her veins. Chris drops me back to my car and I blissfully drive home to bed.


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