I have permission to tell this. My side of the story. My day as a doula for “Little Mama.”
I was recently humbled to be asked to serve as doula for another laboring mother. My second time.
It. Was. Awesome.
We’ll call her “Little Mama”—
Little Mama had a baby girl within a week or so of my Julien’s birth. Her experience was in her own words – a nightmare. A nightmare that stuck with her physically and emotionally for the last almost three years.
Picture a young girl laboring twenty-five plus hours left alone in a delivery room, in pain, vomiting, then cut (deep) as she said “please don’t cut me” – her young husband rendered incapacitated by the trauma of it all. Her baby taken from her after all that work for “cleaning” (as if she was dirty)… stitches that blew out after months had gone by and numbness in her spine from the epidural that lasted months.
That’s the quick version of the story. A nightmare indeed.
This time around she wanted something different. Totally different.
So we began to talk, she began to be re-assured (this strong, marathon runner’s confidence in herself and her body had been shot to hell). I lent my favorite books. (Birthing from Within and the Bradley Workbook). We talked words to be spoken, how I would speak them. We talked expectations. We talked vomiting (I assured her it was totally normal. I ask for the barf bowl every time!). We talked scared husbands, episiotomies VS tearing, “dirty babies”, positions, we talked about her desire to labor AS MUCH as possible at home. Lot’s of talks. Lot’s of preparation.
Then I got the email one afternoon.
A little pink. A little crampy.
She graciously gave me the heads up. She knew I was very stressed about leaving my own family. I never leave my kids.
I was excited. I packed my bag. Pumped a little more milk and tried to fall asleep that night with adrenaline coursing thru my veins.
I couldn’t sleep. I got up to pee at 12:36 a.m. with the phone in my hand and on my way down the hall it rang. Ten minutes apart. She was going to head to her mother-in-laws (she lives up north) and she would call me later. I willed myself to get as much sleep as possible.
3:35 a.m. phone rings. Her water has broke. And contractions are suddenly 4-6 minutes apart. My heart began to pound – I might as well have been going into labor myself I was so jazzed. I threw on some makeup (I can do this in four minutes), grabbed my bag, kissed my sleeping babies and drove off into the darkness that only a country road can provide.
When I arrived I could tell she was really into it. They were four minutes apart and we had had a 5-1-1 rule for leaving for the hospital that is about 45-60 minutes away. (Contractions five minutes apart for one minute each for one hour.) She labored thru about 20 minutes of contractions and we decided to head right out. I had Joel’s Jeep full of tools and stuff in the back with seating for two only. She insisted on riding me with. Her husband and mother-in-law drove behind. Can you believe I had to get gas?? The station I passed on the way to her house was closed when I had driven by earlier.
We held hands as we drove the LONG way down Illinois Route 12 as contractions went from four minutes apart, to three minutes apart… at that point as I was watching her I felt she was getting ready to “transition”. Her conversation diminished and her head rolled back during contractions as she “checked out.” At this point, knowing she had an epidural the last time I asked her, “Have you ever felt pain WORSE than what you are feeling right now?” She hadn’t. She said she thought this was the point she got the epidural the last time. We held hands during the next contraction and I waited for her to have a brief moment of composure and I gently let her know that it was indeed going to get worse…
As we arrived at the hospital she directed me, so, I listen to the pregnant woman 🙂 and we parked where she told me to park. It looked a little lonely but I didn’t want to argue. She was in the throws of it at this point and we had QUITE a bit of a walk ahead of us.
We sat for a second and I warned her she was about to have another one and I said I would then come around to her side of the Jeep to help her out. She did. I did. I gathered all the bags up in my arms and helped her out. At this point she was leaning on me with all she had and she experienced another one. I pointed to some concrete stairs across the parking lot and I pep talked her, “OK, we are going to do one more and then we are going to get over to those stairs and when we get there you are going to have another one and after all that walking, it’s gonna be a big one.”
We did. And it was.
And then I said, “Now we are going to climb these stairs and when we get to the top you are going to have another one and it’s gonna be big.”
We did. And it was.
And then I pointed to an entrance and I said, “Oh girl. Now we are going to haul ass over to that entrance. It’s gonna be hard. But you can do it. These contractions are doing exactly what you want them to do!”
We made it to the entrance and she was done. That was it. I grabbed a wheel chair from the corner and said to the receptionist in this lone lobby, “We’re having a baby here!” She explained we were no where near the L and D wing and she called for someone to come with the golf cart thingy. Poor Little Mama was racked with another contraction to the horror of the man getting ready to escort us to the other side of the hospital. We hopped on and she continued to work. I held onto her, she did her best to relax, I cracked jokes on what seemed like a LONG drive and she didn’t flinch. She was focused. I knew she was getting close.
He brought us as far as he could and we saw the elevator about thirty feet away. It was time to get off and walk again. “Is that a trash can?” she asked. Oh boy, I thought and we hurried over and she grasped it with both hands and pulled it to herself and puked and puked and puked. I held her. She slid to her knees. Tears dripped down my face. Empathy. I grabbed the can and pulled it to her so she could go again.
Now, this may sound like a drama. But it wasn’t. It was amazing. It was so early in the morning not another soul was around. It wasn’t an emergency. It was just a woman in labor. Walking. Working it. Just like she wanted to.
I knew we needed to get upstairs. She was tired. I was time to get to the bed. I coaxed her into the elevator and told her to hold on. They were double peeking by now.
We went up four floors. I looked to the right and could see her family already waiting in the waiting room. (Everyone beat us there because our parking lot marathon took us so long). We went to the left. Buzzed the door. Gave her name and her nervous husband (who met up with us as we came off the elevator) fumbled for the insurance card. Little Mama went down out of the wheel chair and experienced a contraction down on the floor. “We HAVE to get her to the room NOW!” I said. A nurse came to help her into the chair and Little Mama said to her, “I hate you!”
It was so funny.
We got her to the room and then of course it seemed like our little bubble was burst. I knew she felt like it was “do this, do that.” “Take of your clothes and put on this robe and belly band thing.” “Hop up on the bed.” “Now we are going to get your ready for an IV just in case you need it.”
With each direction she was given I explained “You’re gonna have to wait a minute.” Good grief, you can’t change your clothes in the middle of a contraction. Once she was on the bed another nurse came in with her little kit to get ready for a possible IV. In between each contraction they were poking her, trying to find a vein. I wanted to strangle them. I know they were just doing their job but it was SO ANNOYING! Finally the Little Mama said, “Yeah, you’re done here.”
It was so funny.
The poor nurse looked to the midwife and the midwife confirmed, “I don’t think that’s going to be necessary.” Then she checked her.
“I told you!” I said, “I told you that parking lot would do the trick!”
For someone who was in labor thirty hours the last time neither she, nor her husband nor her mother-in-law who was also present could believe it! Hope was here.
The contractions were one on top of the other. I would assure her when they were about half over. And let her know when they were seconds from over.
“Get me a mirror!” she yelled.
A few more contractions and then the lull. The lull that the LORD gives you before all hell breaks loose. She looked at me like, “What happened?” Don’t worry, I assured her. You are almost done.
And then. The agony. She worked so hard. Her midwife was very quiet – to the point where I thought I better speak up to help her out. (I just didn’t want to step on any professional toes). I suggested switching positions. And she labored. And she pushed. We moved her again. And she labored. And then finally… (though not much time at all had gone by) finally… a little head began to appear with the pushes. Then it would disappear. This happened about four times.
She was gone. Drunk with pain. She had my hand. Crushing it.
I was so grateful when the midwife mouthed the words “Just give her two fingers.”
Her face was buried in the pillow and I got close and assured her she could do this. I reminded her how strong she was. A marathon runner! She was confused. Needing assurance like so many of us do at the end. I think she just didn’t realize that this could be the end. Both the midwife and I said to her “We are waiting for you to push him out.” And she looked at me like, “Really?” “Yes, Little Mama, push him out. You can do it!”
We changed her over to her left side and I grabbed her right leg and held it strong and Little Mama pushed with all her might – twice turning a shade of beet red that only a laboring woman can turn. Tears burned my eyes. She screamed. I watched her use a contraction for that last push and I watched her push on still as that contraction faded. And out came a baby boy!
“You did it. You did it!”
“It’s over. It’s over! I’m not pregnant”
Exact words I have said “many” times.
She was handed her bloody, sweet little boy. No one took him. No one took her dignity. She radiated confidence and power. Even her husband who had been so overwhelmed at the first birth… he cut the cord. You could see the relief and confidence in his eyes too.
I had left the house at 3:45 a.m. and was home by 9:30 a.m. and I even shagged a Starbucks on the way. Not bad.
It was awesome. It was humbling. I can’t believe someone wanted me present at the birth of their child. I loved it. I really felt like I knew what I was doing, like I knew I could help her. It was not only a great memory for her but for me too. I hope to be asked again very soon.
HERE IS HER SIDE OF THE STORY…