I thought I’d write a post about what it’s like to be a Doula in West Virginia, rural WV. Including my work as a student midwife attending homebirths as well, since the experience isn’t all that different.
Today, for example, I’m sitting at my desk. I live on a mountaintop and I have a fantastic view from here. I’m watching rain and clouds and mist roll by in turns with sun; I’m hearing the winds whip around my house and listening to my wind-chimes go a little crazy. I am also obsessively checking my phone, feeling paranoid about the stormy conditions’ potential to knock out my satellite internet which provides me with the ability to use my cell phone in the dead-zone that I call home. I’m on call for a birth with a client who is past her due date; she lives three hours away.
Yup, you read that correctly: three hours.
Two weeks ago I drove two and a half hours for a single prenatal meeting. Then the next week I drove another three and a half for a home visit with a midwife.
Those of you who don’t live in West Virginia, or don’t live rurally, or practice as a doula in a hospital probably think this is insane. Regardless, this is how we live. Doulas, midwives, and birth workers in this mountainous state not only drive what seem unreasonable distances, we also drive them over terribly maintained mountainous roads and bridges that should have been replaced 20 years ago. We drive through floods and snow and hail.
We do all of this because we believe that you deserve the best for your birth.
So back to my desk, where I’m still updating my website and adding facebook posts to my page and catching up on some studying. I’m looking through the window at branches twitching wildly in the wind, and waiting for someone to tell me they’re in labor.
When is the right time to hire a Doula?
Ideally you will know fairly early in your pregnancy that you would like the support of a Doula for your birth. The earlier you decide the more choices you’ll have. Not only do you want to check availability, but you may want to interview several Doulas before deciding. Your Doula should feel right, if they’re not someone you feel comfortable with then maybe you should shop around a bit.
However, we all know this isn’t always the case; circumstances change, as do our visions for our ideal birth. So what do you do if you find yourself in the third trimester looking for a Doula? You’ll be limited by availability, but many Doulas will still take clients this late into a pregnancy. You need time to meet with your Doula at least once before your birth, though most Doulas prefer the consult and two prenatal meetings structure. It is possible for a Doula to walk into a birth never having met the family, but practically unless the Doula works for the hospital and is already on-call, there can’t be any expectation for this to happen.
So to answer the more specific question here: How late do I take a client? I prefer if you contact me before your 36th week, as it gives us ample time to schedule prenatal visits and get to know each other before your labor. I will add, however, that if you find that you are regretting your decision not to hire a Doula later in your third trimester, don’t be afraid to contact me! Pending availability, I am happy to work with you! There is no shame in taking control of your birth experience, no matter when. If I am able, I will do my best to support you!
“The Midwives Model of Care includes: monitoring the physical, psychological and social well-being of the mother throughout the childbearing cycle. providing the mother with individualized education, counseling, and prenatal care, continuous hands-on assistance during labor and delivery, and postpartum support.” (from the Midwives Alliance of North America)
I believe in this model of care and I’ve decided to begin to pursue my midwifery education and certification through the North American Registry of Midwives Portfolio Evaluation Process. Right now all this means is that I’ve printed out a bunch of forms and made a rather intimidating white board, but soon it will mean that I begin attending births as a student midwife.
I am excited and nervous, but I feel good about this path. I want to help other people have a childbirth experience like mine. Where they can labor and birth in their own homes, where they feel safe and secure. I want to see more photos like this:
I want to see happy families, midwives, and their assistants gathered together to celebrate new life. I want folks to have options for their birth. I want to not only support families physically, educationally, and emotionally during their childbearing year, but also medically.
I will still be working as a Doula during, and likely after, this certification process. It will take a lot of time and many sleepless nights.
Someone asked me why I did this.
Did I love babies?
Did I just love people?
The honest answer is neither. What I love is birth.
When I gave birth to my son, I felt like I was let in on the best kept secret of humankind. I could not believe that people did this every day. In fact, as I’m typing this there are many mothers struggling to bring their babies earthside all over the world and it is still mind blowing to me. I couldn’t believe all the details no one ever told me about and how casual moms I knew were when talking about birth, how they played it down: just a 15 hour labor, really not that bad. What all these women had failed to convey to me was the utter transformation that I would need to go through in order to birth my son. The altered states of consciousness that are in fact tied to the types of brain waves you experience. I was told it was hard work, but no one expressed to me the complete exhaustion, the bone weariness, the adrenaline that keeps you going and going and going.
I had even seen birth before, watched a dear friend birth her son, and still I never understood. The most important thing that I gleaned from her birth was the magic when a new person enters the world, when 5 people become 6. The smell of birth, feeling the air so thick with hormonal signals I could almost touch it, those are magical.
I want to be a part of that again and again, but more importantly I want the families who are bringing a new life into the world to feel it to. I want them to feel awed, amazed, exhausted, proud; its simply heartbreaking to me when I hear mothers lament their birth stories. This act, that should be their glory, becomes their shame when they are told they aren’t able, aren’t adequate, aren’t strong enough.
I want to tell mothers that they can do it. I believe they can, and I know they will.