A Day in the Life of a Doula

4 am–One of my clients texts that she’s been having contractions on and off for a couple of hours that keep waking her up. I ask a few questions to get more details.

 I try to go back to sleep.

5 am–Different client texts that she’s been having regular contractions since about 1. They’re about 10 minutes apart. We converse for a few minutes.

5:10 –Toddler wakes up for her morning nurse

5:25– I slide out from under Fizzy Baby and head downstairs to check my doula bag. All I really take with me are personal care items like toothbrush and toothpaste in case of a long birth, and snacks.  I top off my snacks and mill around a bit.

Start texting my back ups because obviously I can’t be two places at once. Freak out a little when I don’t hear back right away.

6:30 B wakes up and asks right away if I have a birth. She’s so astute.

Text my fellow Essentials tutor and our Classical Conversations director and let them know I might need a sub for my class.

6:40 Water broke for second client! She reports contractions are little closer.

I stay in regular contact with my client and her husband as I get ready and get the children ready. I tell Kevin all of the things that need to happen. It seems this client’s moving pretty quickly, so I decide to head in to hospital while they wait for Grandma to come to their house to take care of their toddler. I hear back from my back ups and breathe big sighs of relief. I give necessary info so I don’t have to think about my other client still having irregular birth waves during another client’s birth. I try to get kids organized to help Kevin as much as possible; they do so amazingly helping each other.

7:50 I text the husband to see how they’re doing as I’m pulling into the parking garage. They are on the way.

8:05 In triage–nurse all business, bustles in and tells client to pee in cup, change into gown.

My client is working
incredibly hard. It always amazes me how strong and beautiful women
are when they feel loved and supported through their labors. Her
husband was feeling a little frantic, but he is taking good care of
her. She is handling her labor waves wonderfully, even as they come
every few minutes. She climbs up onto the narrow bed and promptly
assumes the elbows and knees position.

I suspect she is ready
to just get this baby out, so I ask if she wants to skip the
monitoring and just get checked to see if she could get back in her
room. She thinks that sounds like a solid plan and affirms with a
terse “YEAH!” It’s hard for women in labor to respond to
people’s questions around them, and it’s best to just ask
questions or make statements they can answer with a nod or shake of
the head.

The midwife asks if
she can flip over to have her cervix checked. My client does not
think that sounds like a good idea. The apprentice midwife is
awesome and says she would do her best to check her in this “non-traditional” position! Many care providers make the laboring mother roll over on  their backs for a cervical check. She concludes client is at a 7
or 8 (10 being complete and ready to push baby out) and we could
immediately move down the hall to a room. 

8:20 Officially admitted. 

Once we get settled
in the room, I start the tub in case she has time to get in the
soothing warmth of the water. They still have to monitor baby for a
while according to hospital regulations. I’m stroking her hair and head, saying soothing, encouraging things while the husband rubs her back.
The husband suddenly
realizes his car is still down in the circle drive in the front of
the hospital, and thinks he should move it. I say, “No, no, stay
here! I’ll run down and park it for you.”

I figure the distance would be
about the same and decide to run around the hospital instead of
having to walk through it, and am literally sprinting once I got
outside the building. It feels amazing to run, even though I never do it anymore and am quickly out of breath. I find them a primo spot right next to the hospital door in the parking garage, grab their bags from the trunk and
hightail down the hall, back to the elevators.

8:35 Baby Born

As I enter the
Labor and Delivery Unit, the nurse grouches, “You missed it.” My
first thought is “Oh man! Bummer!” and my second thought is
“Better me than him!” But all I say is, “I never thought I’d
miss the birth because I was moving their car!” I have missed it by
mere seconds thanks to my sprinting, as they haven’t cut the cord or
hatted the baby yet. Mama is looking more gorgeous than ever now
that baby was here, Daddy is all choked up and beaming. I love those
moments! I immediately pluck up my camera and snap some photos. I’m
strictly an amateur photographer, but I know my families appreciate
some memories captured from those first precious moments.

I hang around for a
couple of hours after the birth to answer questions, give leg
massages, run errands such as getting heated blankets or coffee, talk
things over, help with baby’s first breastfeeding if necessary, to
take photos of when babe gets weighed and measured, and just be
there, holding space for them, as they need.

11:00 a.m. I take my leave and
head for our Classical Conversations Community, where my four older
kids already were. I’d been in a bit of a time warp and can’t
believe it is still morning! It is a grey, wet day which usually
makes me sluggish and morose, but not today!
I swing by Panera to
treat myself to a scone, a breakfast sandwich and coffee. Depending
on the time of day, I almost always get myself a store bought coffee
after a birth. I feel like I deserve it and, just on Birth Days, I
want to act like a grown up who has a job and money, instead of a
stay at home mom, who scrimps on the coffee creamer. It’s always
surreal for me to go back into the regular world after just
witnessing the miracle of a new life, and seeing the overwhelming
love between new parents and from them to their new family member.
It’s almost weird to see people just working on their laptops, just
drinking their lattes, doing regular people things. I want to yell at
them, “Don’t you know what I just got to do?! Don’t you know
where I just WAS?! Don’t you know what just happened? A BABY WAS
BORN! A new person was given LIFE today! A mama found out how strong
and powerful and wonderful she is!! Don’t you KNOW?!” But I
hardly ever do that.
I arrive at
Classical Conversations in time to see the kids do their review. I have some really amazing conversations, and a friend prays for me and some relationship struggles I’ve been having. I immediately feel the pain and heartsick hurt dissipate. It is really incredible. 
12:00 We
all eat lunch together, which is always loud and overwhelming, but I
get to talk to my friends and be with my Mama Tribe. 
1-3 pm In the
afternoons, I teach an English class. We do math review in addition to English grammar and writing. My phone
goes off right at the end of class. Perfect. My text tone for my
doula clients is the Justin Bieber chorus “baby, baby, baby ohhh”
which gets my attention, no matter the time of day and always makes
me smile.
I have been in
contact with my other client all day and she is contracting more
regularly now, and they are feeling more intense. We decide I would take my kids home, spend some time
with my wee ones, and then I would head in to her house after an
hour or so.

I snuggle and nurse Finnella and read a few books to Elivette. I chat with the older kids and try to squeeze in their daily quota of hugs. 

4:45 I arrive at her house. We spend time
chatting while she is laboring. Her husband got their other kids
ready to go and I keep her company and help as she seems to need
through the labor waves. She was handling them wonderfully. 
7:10 pm When we
got to the hospital, I was completely shocked to hear her tell the
nurse they were a 10+ on the pain scale because she was so completely
calm and relaxed on the outside. She really wants me to keep talking
during her waves, which is surprisingly awkward for me. I’m used
to most women not wanting chit-chat during the contractions. Everyone
was upbeat and lively for quite a while. She watches some funny
YouTube videos (Zach King, if you’re wondering) and we laugh and
banter. As things heat up, we discover scalp rubs really
help her relax during her birth waves. We do some relaxation
exercises and she says she is feeling really calm and peaceful
during this part of her labor.

7:44 We are in her room. She has some delicious essential oils in her diffuser going and I am thankful because this room really smells like nursing home.

8:47  It is time to
push, and she starts out on her back.  After pushing there awhile I suggest a squatting position. She tries that for a while and feels it isn’t effective. She wants to be on her back. I learn that as long as the
mother chooses the position, it’s a great position to be in.

9:39 or :40  Her
baby comes out face down, and completely rotates to face up. This is really unusual! Baby’s shoulders got stuck, which can be dangerous because the
baby can’t get oxygen while the head is out and the chest  is still
in the birth canal. Extracting them is a little more complicated than usual because of baby’s face up position but the midwife acts quickly and stays calm. Her expertise and instant action saved the day.

9:41 Baby born! Baby is able
to be immediately on mom before they took her over to the warmer and
checked her oxygen levels. She was fine and almost right away was
brought back to mom. It was scary there for long minute though!

I am so happy they
were able to put baby on mom right after birth. I’ve been at a home
birth when baby wasn’t breathing right away and mom was holding
baby and talking to her and rubbing her while the midwife gave oxygen
and did the necessary things. I’ve also been a hospital birth where
baby was taken away immediately to give oxygen and do the necessary
things. The mom had no idea what was happening, the doctor wasn’t
giving any kind of updates orally, and it was terrifying. I wish they
could always do the former as much as possible.

I stayed for a few
hours after the birth taking more photos, talking and helping any way
I could. This mom was still nursing her toddler and didn’t really
need any assistance nursing.

Two baby girls, born
almost exactly 13 hours apart. They were both third children, and one
weighed over three pounds heavier then the other. Both mamas handled
their labors gorgeously, and completely differently. Two different
hospitals, two different midwives, interestingly, both with a
midwifery student.

I got home around
midnight and promptly went to sleep.

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