Often, people will ask me how I decided to become a doula and I tell them that this story is inextricably linked to the story of my first birth.
I had my first child in 2006, and despite my easy pregnancy, I was terrified. I was excited and thrilled for my new daughter’s arrival, but I felt in over my head. I was scared of the birth and I was scared of being an inadequate parent. I would open up one of my two prenatal books, attempt to read a few pages of the labour and delivery section, and then I’d get queasy and slam it shut. I took prenatal classes at my local hospital, but they didn’t help much and I still didn’t feel prepared.
Well, time stops for no woman, whether or not she feels prepared. When I was 39 weeks and 3 days pregnant, I woke up at 5 am with awful back labour. After struggling through the next few hours, I called the hospital to tell them I was coming. The nurse explained that my contractions probably weren’t long enough yet, but to go ahead and come in if I really felt I needed to. I imagined that if I was at the hospital, then surely someone with experience would know how to help me. We headed in and made a quick stop at the grocery store to pick up the mango sorbet that I had been craving.
It was April, and here in Oakville we were experiencing our first true spring day. It was beautiful outside and the forsythia were blooming. It’s funny what you remember about days like your birth; some things stay in your mind as clear as the day the memory was made, and other things are hazy and hard to recall. All I remember about the rest of the day was pain and the little support from those around me — although they were well-meaning, and they tried their best. My labour and delivery nurse was lovely but she was in and out of the room, and I only saw my doctor twice. I won’t burden readers with the details but I had complications during the birth, and my hospital stay was longer than expected. I also had trouble breastfeeding after I got home.
Everything about that day was a challenge and it just felt like proper guidance was missing. As the months wore on and my beautiful baby experienced all of her firsts, I remember thinking, “What I could have used is someone who provided uninterrupted support during labour and was there to answer all of my questions.”
Imagine my surprise when I found out that people like this actually existed. A short while later, a friend of mine called me and explained to me that all of the doulas in the area were booked and asked if I could please be her doula. I only had experience with one childbirth, but she was a first time mom so that made me the most knowledgeable between the two of us. I said yes, and it was through that experience that I realized that being a doula was what I really wanted to do. I got my certification in 2010 and I’ve been doing this work ever since.
I always tell people that the babies I get to meet while I work are so precious, that you can’t help but love them; ultimately though, I’m in this for the moms. I want to be there to help them with their labour and to give them my unwavering support. I want to help them through what is typically a really challenging day. I want to see them greet their newborns knowing that the birth of their child was the best it could be regardless of circumstances.