I love my job! This is truly my calling. I love working with new, expanding families. I love being part of their transition. This is such an amazing, sensitive time of life. One that the mother remembers forever. Not one birth is the same and each is an honor to attend. It is way more than just a job for me.
This week marks the 4 year anniversary of the first birth I attended. That mother will always have a special place in my heart. I learned so much that day about birthwork, about motherhood, and about myself. I was her only support person. This was her third high risk pregnancy and her third induction. We both thought it would be pretty straight forward and easy. We were wrong.
I spend 25 hours with her walking the halls, holding her hand, wiping her tears. Then her birth started to mirror my own first birth as a mother. When her baby’s heart rate dropped and her room filled with medical people, I was there. I was with her in the OR and took pictures and held her hand. She was terrified and I, being new at this, wasn’t sure what to do and I truly didn’t know if I would be okay. But I was and so was her baby.
Here's a recent photo of that beautiful baby girl:
"Esmae" Story and photograph were shared with my former client's permission.
My very first birth as a doula, I held another’s hand and walked with her through my own worst (and best) day and came out the other side. I knew without a doubt that I could do this work and do it well. That day left me with a feeling of coming home.
Birth almost always is normal and straight forward and and proceeds as planned. And sometimes the situation has a mind of its own. As a doula, I join you on the journey and do my best to make sure you and your partner have what you need through whatever comes.
Interested in doula services? I'd love to work with you!
My family and I are on vacation this week. If you follow me on Facebook, you may have already seen some pictures. My kids are sooooo excited about this trip. But for me, it involves facing some pretty deep seated fears. We are going to Mammoth Cave. I don’t like caves much and I am deathly afraid of bats. Like PTSD symptoms afraid of bats. My last experience with caves and bats involved me being restrained and not remembering how I got out. That was 17 years ago. That picture I added with this post? Going down those stairs is nearly my worst nightmare. I call it a win that I didn't puke looking for pictures. This is serious.
But my kids love bats. And they love caves. And I don’t want to pass on my fears. I know they are irrational and stem from my childhood. So I’m sucking it up and trying again. I’m taking along my Rescue Remedy and my essential oils for anxiety and seriously considered talking to my doctor about a prescription. My husband knows that I cannot be depended upon to help with the kids and he's committed to supporting me too. I’m going to face those fears and do it again. But if you think about it, pray that I make it.
Now, hopefully no one is as afraid of birth as I am of bats. But I know fears related to birth are normal and common. Birth isn’t exactly portrayed as a normal, non-emergent situation in our culture. And, at least with our first baby, we don’t really know what to expect no matter how much we plan. As women, when we plan our births we know that things may not go as we’d hope. We also know that there is only so much we can plan. Birth may be easy and normal or it might be long and difficult. We have to face our fear of the things we can name and of the unknown.
Part of what I do as a doula is help women face those fears, work through them, and make good decisions for them and their baby. Sometimes all it takes is a hand to hold and a calming presence as you step out onto that unknown birth path — sometimes straight, sometimes full of twists and turns — to meet your baby. Often it’s more than that. I use my wide referral network before and after birth with many of my clients and I definitely do more than hand holding during your birth ;).
But, unlike me who does actually have a choice about going in the cave, those of you who are expecting babies have to give birth at some point. Now, yes, there are a variety of ways that can happen, but ultimately, that little person comes out. And even if you have older kids, you’ve never had this one before. So, like me, you have to face your fears and prepare as best you can. When the time comes, take a deep breath, and step on that path to meet your baby with your partner on one side and your doula on the other. Hang on for the ride!
Women have a unique relationship with their breasts and since most of you reading this probably have them, you know that it’s far more complicated than it should be. Pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding (or lack of) add a whole new element to that relationship. By the time baby is born they are barely recognizable as your own and then they are barely even yours after. You worry about them working right and cry when sometimes they don’t. They are an amazing part of what makes us women. And for those of us with family history of breast cancer, in that relationship there is an element of fear.
I got my first mammogram a couple weeks ago. No, I’m not forty yet (although it’s starting to feel like it’s looming) but family history indicated it was time. That, and there are too many women in my extended circle dying of breast cancer in their 30s and family members being diagnosed to put it off any longer. I know there is controversy about effectiveness and radiation all that. I know that some people feel that thermography is a better option. I ultimately chose mammography as my best option at this time. And I felt like I was joining a club.
I now know what the jokes are about and how awkward it is. It’s like a adjustable vice. For some reason I’d thought there would be some, I don’t know, shape to it. For some reason it never occurred to me to look up what the machine looked like. (For those of you who haven’t seen one, that’s what that picture is!) Added to that, no matter how carefully I followed directions, I was not in the correct position. That meant, not only was I getting squished, I also had a lady poking and prodding and grabbing me to get me into the right position. It was sort of like trying to learn to breastfeed all over again only hands free. But I survived. It wasn’t super painful. Just uncomfortable and awkward.
We all know about breast cancer. You’d have to live under a rock to avoid the pink ribbons and not be “aware.” We are "aware" to the point that "awareness" is nearly a joke. But no awareness in the world matters, no statistics or “risk” matter if you are part of those numbers. We all know someone who is affected. I’m leery enough of the radiation to not be sure I’ll have yearly scans after I turn 40 and I have a few years yet before I need to make that decision. I will, however, continue to do regular self exams and talk to my doctor about my options given my history. As women (and some men) these are choices we face. I’ll take the choices that come with getting older over the alternative. When the time comes, and if you decide mammography is also the right decision for you, I’ll say, “welcome to the club!”
This week was my daughter’s eighth birthday. My beautiful, kind, laughing child is growing up. She likes dolls and boys and climbing trees. She’s so friendly and into other people’s business I’m convinced she’s the next Mrs. Lynde. One minute, she’s a little girl, the next, a young woman, way older than I'm ready for her to be. I am blessed to be this child’s mother.
Her birth is what made me a mother. She brought light and love into my life in a way I’d never experienced and changed me forever in ways I could never have anticipated. It shaped me to be the person, mother, and doula that I am today. But the circumstances of our lives at the time, her birth, and our following complications were one of the most difficult times of my life. I’ll never be the person I was before she was born.
My daughter’s birthday is a day of joy. It’s a day of celebration and I don’t allow the trauma of her birth to cloud that joy. But especially the day before, I remember. I remember my naivety as I walked into the hospital on that Ash Wednesday night eight days past my due date. The feeling of inevitability and disbelief that this was happening.
What followed was a medically unnecessary induction which, from its starting point, I had nearly a 50% chance of needing a c-section. But I didn’t know that. I’d been told an induced labor was the same as a natural labor. Finally, 30 hours after the first dose of cytotec and 18 hours after pitocin, I was taken into surgery for the surgical birth of my child that I’m still not convinced was necessary at the time and am absolutely sure had been completely avoidable. But that’s not where it ended. My doctor also messed up the surgery and didn’t get everything out. After ten weeks of cramping, bleeding, and not having enough milk for my baby, I passed the last of what should have been removed in surgery.
During that time, I was completely blown off by my doctor. By several doctors and everyone else actually. I was told by my medical team that there was nothing wrong with me, that I must have an intestinal bug, that some women just can’t produce enough milk, that there was nothing wrong. To this day, none of that is reflected in my medical records. I was told by “friends” that the problems we were having were my own fault because I never should have consented to an induction and epidural. People were terrible and no one listened.
To add to the equation was the fact that we’d just moved over 4000 miles less than a year before and my husband’s employer refused to allow prearranged time off because the baby hadn’t come "on time.” I had to go back to work before it resolved and then my grandfather passed away when she was four months old. I know about birth trauma. I know about postpartum depression. I know about feeling alone. I lived it. It’s not supposed to be that way.
Birth is more than the safe delivery of a baby and a woman is more than a vessel for that baby’s growth. Birth is a physical and emotional experience that helps create a family. So often that’s forgotten. Emotional health is as important as the physical. And so I work. I work for the women I serve so that their experiences are better than mine. So that they know what they are choosing and look back and own that decision. I work for change so that my daughters have better care than I did. As a doula, I don’t save people. I help them find information, I hold their hand, I rub their back, I help them through, and I make sure someone is listening.
Doulas generally seem to fall into three different camps. Those who become doulas when their families are older, find out about our role, and wish they’d had that option when they had their children. Those who had amazing, supported births and want to help other women have what they had. And finally, women who had terrible births, know there is a better way, and hope to help other women avoid what they went through.
I fall into that third group. My first birth was terrible. I spent months recovering from things that could have been avoided and learning everything I should have learned first but didn’t know I needed to know. Before that first baby, I did not even have the baseline information I needed to know in order to know that there were questions I should have been asking. That realization is why I decided to become a doula. But that’s not why I’m still a doula or even the place I was at when I actually started attending births.
I’m a doula so women and their partners have a familiar face to lean on throughout the birth of their child. And after. I’m a doula because women have a right to respectful, consistent care and because babies deserve a mother who looks back on her birth with understanding and ownership no matter how baby arrived. While birth is a normal physiological process that usually proceeds normally, occasionally scary things happen. It’s not my role to “save” anyone in any way. I hold their hand so they can use their voice.
I’m a doula because birth is amazing. Women are capable of so much. I’m a doula because a little support and a little “I believe in you” can unleash the power within. It’s not my role to empower women. It’s not my power to give them. They own it. It’s already theirs to use as they choose.
“Blog,” they said. “It will make a difference,” they said. “It’s important,” they said. I resisted. What do I have to say that hasn’t been said a hundred times by a hundred different doulas? My opinion doesn’t matter. My CLIENTS opinions are what matters. I resisted. Kicking and screaming. Okay, not literally.
But my resistance started to crumble. All the “theys” started to get to me. I started making lists of things I could blog about. But I still resisted. How could I possibly come up with enough original stuff to say to blog regularly? Once I start I can’t stop!
But you know what? I want people to know who I am. I want people to be able to find me because I am awesome at what I do! I want my clients to know who I am beyond little sound bites on my website. And so here I am today. With my first blog. I’m not even kicking and screaming. Although, I am still a bit reluctant. Truthfully, I probably won’t be super regular. I tend to do things in spurts in my regular life anyway. Maybe being regular isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.
I’m a doula. I love my work. I love supporting families through one of the most momentous occasions of their life. Birth matters. How you feel about it matters. Having help and support during pregnancy, birth and afterwards matters. That’s why I’m here. Welcome to my little corner of the birth world!
Adina Nelson, CD(DONA)
I am a birth & postpartum doula and chlidbirth educator practicing in North Idaho.
She was there every step of the way for me and my husband...I thank Adina for everything she helped us with. She truly is a special person and we will be forever grateful for her! ~Erin