For my first homebirth, I really only wanted one thing: A healthy baby born in the privacy and comfort of home with the aid of a highly skilled midwife. Oh, and I wanted my husband in the room. That was it. I didn’t want aromatherapy or massage or a tub or any photos taken of the labor. Just a quick and simple birth was what I pictured in my mind. (Quick and simple isn’t too much to ask for, right?!)
I learned that a friend of mine was actually a certified professional midwife, and she could take me on as a client. She worked with a partner, so when I hired her, I actually got 2 midwives. I honestly didn’t think I really needed two midwives. One reason I chose a homebirth was for the privacy and minimal people in attendance. But I trusted that my midwife had a reason for working in pairs, and we got ready for the baby.
The night I went into labor, my midwife and her partner arrived at the home. The partner stayed behind the scenes, resting in another room of the house for most of the time. It was my friend/midwife who suggested positions that would help my back feel better. It was my midwife who rubbed my back and applied counter pressure during each contraction. It was my midwife who encouraged me to think of a flower opening and to relax my face to help open my cervix. She worked with me one-on-one for several hours, in addition to her normal monitoring of me and the baby. When it was time to push, it was my midwife who helped me get into a favorable position. It was my midwife who applied warm compresses to my perineum and helped direct my pushing as needed. And in the end, I had a healthy baby girl, born in the privacy and comfort of home with a highly skilled midwife.
I was glad to get to rest a bit after all that hard work, but my midwife still had important work to do. The placenta was being delivered, and the baby needed to be examined. I was going to need a few stitches and my blood loss was being monitored. At this point, my midwife had to call on her partner to take over to finish some of these delicate procedures. While midwives are amazing, they are not superhuman. My midwife had done the work of both a midwife and a birth doula for hours, and she was tired. At that point, I also was really glad that she worked with a partner. They both did a thousand necessary things during that birth, and I am thankful that I have had the chance to benefit from their skill and experience.
I hired a great team of midwives, but I didn’t even know that I was going to want or need a doula.
Almost 14 years have gone by since that day, and now that I am a trained Birth Doula, I realize that my first midwife sacrificially filled that role for me because she saw that I needed it, and she was my friend. She met needs of mine that I didn’t even know I would have. In later births, I still didn’t know that I could seek out a professional birth support person to help me prepare in pregnancy and also in labor. And so I relied on my midwife or husband to provide all the support that I would need. And when I look back at those experiences, I see that we all could have used a doula. My husband needed someone that could show him best how to support me, or to give him a break to just eat or use the bathroom. And while midwives are amazing, they should not be expected to perform the duties of primary labor support either.
No matter the birth setting, whether in a hospital, birth center, or at home, everyone involved in a woman’s birth has an ideal role to fill. Your OB or midwife has an important job, the nurses have specific duties, and your husband or partner has a certain skill set. A birth doula will not take the place of any of them, but instead will offer both physical and emotional support to you and your partner in a way that is entirely unique but valuable to your family.
Special thanks to my friend and midwife, Linda Weaver at Labors of Love for taking me on as a client, even in late pregnancy, and walking with me through that labor. My husband (who was in the room 🙂 ) and my good friend Mary also provided support to me that I will always cherish.