Ninjas are plain cool. Think about how many times the word Ninja is used. We have Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ninja blenders, Ninja knives, and now even the Basement Ninja. It has a fun, and yet serious connotation. Ninjas have skills! Ninjas get down to business! And what kid doesn’t want to dress in all black, sneak around the house and have some throwing stars? I know all of my kids do.
How does this relate to being a doula? Aren’t doulas the women in flowing broomstick skirts, turquoise jewelry and wearing patchouli? Maybe. (I have rocked this look on occasion, to be honest) But doulas, more importantly, are the women who slip quietly into a birth room, holding this precious space for a couple who are welcoming a new addition into their family. Doulas are the magic in the background, bringing you a drink when you need it, rubbing your back just the right way, and making you move when you feel stuck. They support you, they don’t upstage you!
Not to mention the doulas toolbox. Just as ninjas of old loved their throwing stars, nunchuks and tabby shoes, doulas have their own set of tools they bring with them as well. Some doula tools may include LED candles, to set a gentle mood, more like home than a hospital. Essential oils to make everything smell nice, ice packs, heating pads, reflexology tools, lotion, massage oil, hair bands, snacks, and even caffeine for dad. We prepare for your needs, we anticipate them, and then meet them. Another classic tool of the doula, a rebozo. Rebozo is a fancy word for a woven scarf. Perfect for helping mom to lift her abdomen, jiggle baby into the right position, or squeeze those hips during contractions. We can take the “normal” and make it amazing!
Many people ask, “What is a Doula?” My thought? They are a baby ninja!
After the birth of my first baby girl, Gabbie, there were beautiful days filled with rapturous delight of having my own baby, mixed with sheer exhaustion of keeping her alive. The first night home from the hospital I was awakened many time by my husband asking me to feed the baby, as nothing else would calm her down from crying. This made me cry too. How could she be so hungry? I had just finished nursing her a few minutes ago! But whether she was hungry or not, she wanted mama. I had not yet figured out a comfortable way to nurse her in bed, so I would prop myself into a ridiculous position that pulled at my stitches, and then try not to fall asleep, while also attempting to latch a newborn to my breast. The first couple of weeks of learning how to breastfeed, well, they weren’t for the faint hearted!
While I had had a lactation consultant help at the hospital, and my mom help me at home, baby and me still had to learn each other. She had to learn to latch correctly, in a way that wouldn’t hurt me, and I had to help her learn, all the while learning how to hold her, and heal from delivery. There was teeth gritting, crying, and bleeding involved in this learning process.
It also didn’t help that at three days old, we were snowed in by a true blizzard!
By the end of two weeks, my nipples had blistered, cracked and were bleeding every time I fed my baby. This was not a magical experience, this was pain. My husband suggested using formula, and I cried all the more. I was determined to make this work. But I needed my nipples to heal.
December of 2002 found me nine months pregnant with a baby girl. I had had a routine pregnancy. I had horrific morning sickness that got worse during the second trimester and I was treated with medication, finally by the third trimester I was feeling better. Any time a pregnancy book suggested I could have a symptom, I did. Bleeding gums? Check. Bloody nose? Check. Swollen ankles? Check.
I was in my final year of college, and was due a week before finals for the semester. But baby was nice and cozy and had no problem staying put through finals! I was getting to the point of really being done being pregnant. I could not put on my own shoes, did not have a coat that fit (and with all the snow and ice that winter it was a problem!) and I wanted to meet my baby girl.
At 41 weeks the doctor sent me in for a non-stress test, which showed that everything was fine with me and baby, so the pregnancy continued. My OB was very happy with me continuing to 42 weeks, and inducing if necessary then. However, I did not want to induce at 42 weeks exactly. Why? Forty-two weeks exactly was December 24th. Yep, the day before Christmas. Which would then mean I would be in the hospital for Christmas, as well as my birthday on the 26th. I was told that the induction slots were full, but if one opened up they would let me know. They called me on December 19th, they had an induction slot open the next morning on the 20th! It was time to have a baby.
Sleeping was almost non-existent ahead of the induction, how could I sleep knowing I was about to meet my baby? We woke up very early in a cold and dark world. I got dressed, did my hair, and ate breakfast. I was not going to labor without food in my stomach. We got to the hospital by 6:30 a.m. and were admitted into labor and delivery. By 7, it was time to start pitocin.
The beginning of the induction went well and I remained comfortable for a couple of hours. I was blessed with an amazing nurse that day. She kept the lights low in the room, and she suggested position changes. She got me out of the bed and had me bounce on a birth ball. I used the ball for quite awhile. Birth balls are so versatile for bouncing, squatting, swaying, leaning on, they can do it all. By 11 a.m. I was uncomfortable, the pitocin was doing its job, and my water had been broken once I was past 4 centimeters. I had back labor. Back labor is no joke! Having your back feel like it is being hit with a sledgehammer over and over is very difficult to deal with, especially when accompanied by a contraction. I laid on my side in bed and had my mom rub my back. Having her rub my back kept my mind off of the discomfort, and also it was just really nice for my mom to be there close to me.
By this point I was asking when I could have an epidural. Thankfully I had an OB that was honest with me. It was a Friday, she was in the office and ran over to check on me as often as possible. When I started asking for an epidural, she called and talked to me on the phone. She simply asked me, “Do you want a c-section?” “No,” I said. “Then you can’t have an epidural, yet,” she said. Okay I thought, I have to wait. She was wise to help me realize that I was not yet in active labor. The point of no return for labor. I needed to get to 6 centimeters before I went with an epidural.
With the help of my nurse I tried sitting up in bed, getting on all fours and rocking, anything to help the pressure in my back. This also would hopefully help baby be in the best position for birth. Finally, I asked if I could try an IV medication. The option was stadol, an opioid narcotic. While the stadol knocked me out, it did nothing to help with what I was feeling. In faced it made it worse in my head. Because it made me fall asleep, I could not prepare for a contraction. I was sleep, sleep, sleep, PAIN, sleep, sleep, sleep, PAIN. But what my mom and husband saw was me sleeping and occasionally moaning. It was easier for them, but it was worse for me, I was no longer in control of my body, my experience, nothing.
By 2 p.m. I had progressed to the point of being able to receive and epidural. Once it was in, I was able to be comfortable and rest. It did not completely relieve the back labor, but because it took away the sensation of the contractions in the front, I was able to tolerate the pain in my back. By 4 p.m. I was 10 centimeters! They chose to let me labor down, basically allowing my body to help move baby down into the birth canal while my epidural kept me comfortable. This is very helpful for first time moms, as it can shorten the pushing phase of labor.
At 5:30 we tried some trial pushing, and I was doing it! I was pushing my baby out into the world. The amazing nurse had me in an almost seated position in the bed, and brought in a squat bar that I could use to pull myself up with my arms, and therefore curling around my uterus to push. They had also reduced the epidural beforehand so that I could feel how and where to push. My mom requested that a mirror be brought in so I could see the progress of my baby crowning. While I originally did not want to look at what was happening, curiosity eventually took over. When I looked in the mirror while pushing, I could clearly see what was working, and what wasn’t. This changed the way I pushed and made me much more efficient.
Then baby girl began crowning. I was not prepared for the “ring of fire” sensation. I kept thinking that something had to be wrong for it to hurt in that way, so I would back off. Then in my head I realized that unless I pushed through the feeling, baby would not be born. So I gathered my courage, and Pushed! Baby’s head was born! She had her cord wrapped around her neck twice, the OB so quickly moved it that I didn’t even know until my husband told me later. One more push... Baby!
There she was! Purple and red and screaming on my chest. Was this real? I looked into her face and I held her little body and I cried. I’m a cryer, always have been. My husband cut her cord, my mom took pictures, and it was just a beautiful moment in life.
Once the cord was cut and she was taken to be weighed, measured and assessed, the OB gave me a couple of stitches, and then we could have a chance to breastfeed for the first time. Talk about a weird feeling! I don’t think anything prepares you for a very hungry baby to attach themselves to your nipple for the first time. It definitely takes some getting used to, even if it is comfortable, it is strange at first.
Gabriella was born on December 20, 2002 at 6:28 p.m. after 12 hours of induced labor and 45 minutes of pushing. She weighed 9 pounds and 7 ounces and was 22.5 inches long. She had a head full of black hair and dark blue eyes (that would turn chocolate brown in time).
April 18, 2002 found me rushing to the bathroom first thing in the morning to take the awaited pregnancy test. It had been five weeks since my last period, my cycles had been off ever since I had stopped birth control, and I was having some odd symptoms. We had decided to try and see if we could get pregnant in March, so that we would have a December due date. If it didn't work, we would wait until I could have a June due date. I had one more year of college left. I could have a baby over Christmas break. Right?
I stood in our college family apartment, watching the test as the pee crept through the test window. It turned pink as soon as it hit the test line. What? It couldn't be. It was, a most thoroughly positive test, no question. With my heart racing, and my hands shaking I went to wake up my husband. Surely he has was just as anxious as I was! When I told him the news he laughed. He was happy, but also went back to sleep, typical!
I don't remember who I told next that I was pregnant, possibly my sister or best friend. But the person I was most nervous to tell was my mom. I called her and talked to her for a long time, without ever mentioning the reason I had called. I hung up and started crying. My husband was wondering what was wrong. Nothing, just terrified to tell my sweet mom that I was pregnant! He convinced me to call her back, which of course made her wonder what was going on, and I told her the good news. She was over the moon happy and cried with me.
I have learned since then that I was scared at the beginning of each of my pregnancies to tell people I was pregnant. I think the nerves are escalated by the surging hormones. I was happy, but also so nervous each time that it was rather miserable. Thankfully I had a mom that always made it better with her joy at the news of each life.
I hope that if you have found this blog you have a person who brings you joy and comfort as well. And if you don't, and you need one, just call me, and I will hug you and jump with you, and cry with you as well throughout your pregnancy and birth.