I've been waiting until I could get permission from the momma to share, and now I'm free to announce- as of last weekend I've had my first official doula experience! And boy was it an experience- I was with the momma for 30 hours straight, including a planned home birth turned hospital transfer. I'm so thankful that this momma was being cared for by a super skilled midwife who puts a priority on safety. I'm also thankful that she got great care at the hospital and was able to avoid a c/section like she was hoping.
The whole process was a great learning experience for me. It's one thing to read about the challenges and experiences of being a doula, and it's another to actually experience them. (And I'm saying that after just one experience- I'm sure I'd feel even differently after more!) I definitely have a new respect for the wonderful women that are full time doulas, for the sacrifices that they make, and even a new understanding for the reasons they charge what they do!
I knew it would be challenging to be on call 24/7, and it really was. I was constantly checking my phone to make sure I hadn't missed any calls. I had to miss an event that I was wanting to go to because going to it would have put me too far away from the momma if she had needed me right away. One day, I lost my phone for about 5 minutes, and had a mini-panic attack trying to find it. (Nevermind the fact that I had given her Thad's number too as a backup, I was still frantic that I couldn't find mine!)
One thing I learned is to ask for details whenever the expectant mom or dad calls to ask you to come. I just said, "Okay, I'll be there as fast as I can!", instead of asking how long and far apart contractions were, if she was still talking through them, etc. If I had known I didn't necessarily have to rush right over ASAP, I would have taken a quick shower first. My hair would have appreciated that 30 hours later. ;)
I'm not going to give details since it's not my birth to share, but like I said earlier, we did end up having to transport to the hospital. I wasn't expecting that to bring up so much emotion for me, but it did. I was definitely having flashbacks to our own hospital transport with Tristan just hours after he was born. I'm confident that my feelings didn't effect the level of support I was able to offer, so no worries there, but those are definitely things I want to take some time to process more between now and the next birth I attend.
Another big thing I learned was that it takes time to process each birth. Doulas are present for life changing moments, and even when there's a perfect outcome, birth is still a big deal and still a lot for someone to process. The day after I got home(and slept the rest of that day), I was still feeling pretty out of it emotionally. I don't know how to describe it, except that it felt a little like I had given birth too. It seems a little creepy to me to say that, and I don't mean it in a creepy way, or in a way that would take any of the credit away from the mom for the amazing job she did. And I obviously don't have a baby to take home. But just by going through that process with her, and being present for that intense, life changing moment- it's definitely a lot to process. I don't know how you ever get used to that! The good news is that it took me less time with this birth to get back to feeling "normal" than it did with Jessica's birth in April, so maybe it is something that you can get used to, at least to some extent.
I was also able to chat with a doula friend over the phone a couple of days after the birth, and that was really helpful. I'm thankful that she took the time to do that with me. She shared some of her experiences with me, and how she's had to take some time to process birth experiences too- and even felt like she needed therapy a time or two after a rough experience! I can definitely see that. If this is something that I continue to do on a regular basis, my processing skills are going to have to get really good!
I don't mean for all of that to sound negative, and it wasn't a negative experience at all. Intense? Totally. Negative? Definitely not. It was beautiful experience- to see this woman's family rally around her in support, to see the tears from everyone as the baby was born, the fun of finding out the sex of the baby, the wonderful surprise of a homebirth transfer momma getting great care in a hospital- it was a wonderful experience. I'm so thankful, blessed, and honored to have been a part of this family's process, and to be able to help and support them through their journey. I have such a heart for empowering women and mothers, and to be able to do that in a tangible, practical way was just wonderful.