Why I Used a Doula For My Medicated Birth (and would again)

doula doula

If I had to rate my mom crunchiness on a scale of one to 10, I’d say I’m, like, a three. Yes, I splurged on an organic crib mattress, breastfed and made my own baby food. But I’m also the kind of mom who has an immunization schedule posted on the fridge, sings the praises of sleep training to anyone who will listen, and would rather wrestle a hungry bear than suffer through a home birth (GIVE. ME. WESTERN MEDICINE.). So, I surprised everyone, including myself, when halfway through my pregnancy, I pulled an Earth Mama move and hired a doula.

For anyone not familiar with the term: a birth doula is basically a certified birthing coach who provides physical and emotional support throughout labor and delivery. Typically, women who hire doulas are those who want a “natural” (read: unmedicated) birth. Me, I was always clear that come the big day, I would welcome all the drugs, so, needless to say, I was not the typical doula client.

I knew that even with an epidural, there was a chance labor could get long and exhausting — which is exactly why I wanted a constant, calming presence in the room. Plus, my doc had warned me that with my due date so close to Christmas, I may be stuck with the on-call OB, and I liked the idea of a guaranteed familiar face. I figured that at the very least, a doula could support my husband (who’s not so great at “medical stuff”) and maybe rub my feet or feed me ice chips or something.

Little did I know how much we’d lean on her throughout my 30 hours of labor, which included four hours of pushing and eventually ended in a C-section.

I’m sure we would have been fine without my doula — most women in the US give birth without one — but her presence definitely made the whole experience less stressful for me and my husband. Here are 10 reasons I’m so glad I hired a doula for my medicated hospital birth (and why I’d totally do it again).

1) I texted her — a lot — in the weeks before my due date.

Even a healthy, textbook pregnancy does weird things to your body. Obviously, I would have called the doctor for anything medically alarming, but the ability to shoot over a quick “Is this my mucus plug?!” text with an accompanying gross picture and get an immediate reply saved me from going down the Dr. Google rabbit hell hole on more than one occasion, and definitely helped keep me relatively calm in my final month of pregnancy.

2) She kept me from going to the hospital too early.

Who knew that women having contractions get turned away from the hospital if they’re not dilated enough? My doula, Jessica, that’s who! I started texting her when I had my first contraction at dinner (which is when I would have gone to the hospital if left to my own devices — because, damn, that hurt!), and the communication never really stopped. She advised me to stay put, and offered suggestions for comfort measures and taught me how to properly time my contractions. When my pain intensified, she came to my house and helped me relax as much as possible because based on the spacing of my contractions (as painful as they were), she knew that it was still too early to go to the hospital. And when it was finally time to go, she made the call.

3) She stayed with me when I sent my husband out for “food.”

Once I (finally!) got the epidural, there was a whole lot of nothing happening between contractions. At some point, I realized I hadn’t eaten for almost an entire day, and was begging for food. I was only allowed clear liquids, though, so I sent my husband out to some nearby restaurants to find plain broth. That little errand took a loooong time, and because we were just a few days out from Christmas, the hospital was operating with a skeleton crew. Thankfully, I was never alone because Jessica was right by my side the entire time.

4) She interpreted the medical jargon.

Sometimes a nurse or doctor would pop in, check my cervix and say something completely unintelligible to me, or about me. My doula took the time to explain it all and answer any questions I had — and then, like, the 17 follow-up questions my husband had.

5) She gave me her hair tie (aka Small Acts of TLC are Everything).

This may seem like a tiny thing, but I’ll never forget it. At one point during my four hours of intense pushing, I just needed my hair as far away from my face as possible. Somehow, in all my planning and packing for the hospital, I’d failed to pack a simple hairband. So Jessica let down her curly locks and tied my sweaty mop up on top of my head for me.

6) She helped me decide it was okay to have a C-section.

When everything is going well medically, a vaginal birth is preferable to a major surgery — both in terms of risks and ease of recovery. But labor can take lots of twists and turns, and when even the doula agrees with the doc that your situation necessitates a C-section, you really know you’ve given vaginal birth the old college try. When Jessica was on board with the doctors’ preference to change course and get the baby out quickly, I was able to feel confident and at peace with the new plan.

7) And she emotionally prepared my husband for it.

Only one person could accompany me to the operating room for my C-section, and I wasn’t going to deny my husband the chance to be there for his son’s birth. So Jessica told him everything he needed to know so he could be helpful in room with me (and not freak out, or worse, pass out). Nearly three years later, he still says that tutorial alone was worth every penny.

8) She helped get my son to latch.

After I was all stitched up and wheeled to recovery, it was time to feed my son. But I was groggy and exhausted and we were having some major technical difficulties. Jessica stepped right up, (gently) manhandled my boob into the “hamburger” position to make it easier for baby to latch, and confidently shoved my Quarter Pounder into his tiny, hungry mouth. It totally worked.

9) She was there from start to finish…

Whether by text or in person, Jessica was there for me from my first contraction until my new family of three was settled into our private room. All told, it was about 48 hours. She didn’t sleep. She didn’t leave. She even waited right outside the operating room during my C-section (though I hope she was able to sleep a little then). When I break down what we paid versus how much time she dedicated to my family, her hourly rate was a steal.

10) …and then some.

A day or two after we got home from the hospital, Jessica came by to visit. She held my son while I showered and my husband did some cleaning. She answered our questions about my C-section recovery, nursing, and sleep, and she listened while I cried — which just made me cry even more because it was so damn sweet and I was feeling all the feels.

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Emily Farris lives in Kansas City, MO with her burly husband, toddler son, and two rowdy rescue mutts. She's written for Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and The Cut. When not busy cleaning up somebody's pee, she's posting about drinks and home decor on Instagram @thatemilyfarris.