Two years ago I would have told you that if you could only afford one $750 luxury, doula trumps handbag. The first time I gave birth, my husband and I engaged the services of a doula. It seemed only logical given how apprehensive my husband was at the thought of seeing our beautiful child be pushed out of my body. And she was fantastic calmly guiding us through labor and convincing me that pushing was the only way to get the baby out when I refused to do so after learning that it was too late for an epidural. She helped me with nursing and my son’s first bath and showed me how to use our carriers. She was such an invaluable resource that we called her immediately after the 18-week ultrasound to book her for baby number two. And when we learned that she would not be available for our baby’s birth, we hired the woman she recommended after one meeting no references necessary.
Thirty-six weeks into my pregnancy, my very conservative OB suggested that we induce at around 38 weeks. Unsure what to do, I called the doula for advice. And then I called her again. And again. It took so many tries for her to return my phone call that I started to worry about what would happen when I was actually in labor.
When she finally called back, I could tell that she did not think the induction was a good idea, telling me that my baby was obviously a tough baby and didn’t need to be born early (what?). She also told me that the best (and only real) way to know what to do was to lie down in a dark room and ask my baby whether she was ready to come out. Now I am not a medical professional (okay, I haven’t taken science since high school), but from what I understand, most babies are not super-keen on coming out (hence all the pushing). I also feel like it is probably hard to communicate with one’s unborn child about such issues, no matter how dim the lighting.
Once the induction process was underway ,we called the doula from the hospital to give her a status report, at which time she reminded us that we didn’t have to go through with the induction (super helpful). She also told us to call back in a couple of hours because she was one hundred percent (!) sure that I was going to have a baby that night. But I didn’t have a baby that night. Or the next day. So when we finally called her after 26 hours of contractions to tell her that my water had broken and that I was in active labor, we thought that she would be almost as excited as we were to get this baby out. As it turned out, she was more excited about her supper, which she told us that she was just sitting down to eat and would need to finish before she got ready to come meet us. (My designer bag, on the other hand, would have been at the hospital with me as soon as I needed it, radiating beauty while holding all my stuff.)
When our doula finally did arrive, I wished that she hadn’t. Her advice was annoying (no, I don’t want a bath) and often contrary to what the (amazing) labor and delivery nurse was suggesting. And as the evening progressed her questions went from irritating (are you sure you don’t want a bath?) to downright annoying (are you going to eat that sandwich?)
At around 2 a.m. my husband decided to take a nap, which I fully supported. I was less supportive of the doula’s nap owing to the fact that I was paying her to, well, not nap. Also, I feel like the least she could have done was ask if I minded. That said, my biggest regret was waking her up when it was time to push four hours later. If I had to do it again I would have let her sleep. In fact, I would have had everyone whisper while I pushed, on the chance that she might wake up.
It will not come as a surprise to learn that her postpartum support has been less than stellar, though I seem to remember most things from the last time I did this. I guess the thing with a handbag is that you know what you are paying for when you buy it. A doula, on the other hand, requires a little more research. And, unlike a handbag, she’s not returnable.