I recently walked into the delivery room of a hospital I have never been to. Just by chance, my doula partner has always had the births there. Upon walking in the door, one of the first things I am greeted with is the nurse asking why the client even bothered to hire a doula when she anticipated getting an epidural. I mean, if a client has an epidural, there really is nothing a doula can do, right? Followed by the question, quickly came a form I was required to sign stating that I know my role as a support person in the delivery room and that involves never doing anything medical or clinical. Got it Nurse. I am a guest in your house and I clearly understand your rules – which honestly are no different than the rules that I abide by in any hospital. I do not do clinical tasks.
Over the course of her shift, I tried to warm up the nurse by asking her questions about her job and her experience. She quipped with answers very curtly. I didn’t take this personally. I know that other doulas before me have ruined the professional relationships that our Stars & Stripes Doulas are constantly trying to build. I have heard these stories of doulas standing against the door so that her client cannot be wheeled out of the room to go to the OR for a surgical birth. You will not find our doulas doing that, I assure you. This client hired Stars & Stripes Doulas because of our advanced educations and also for the fact that, in their words, we are not ‘woo’. Both are scientists and they felt a connection with us because we believe in their decision that medical/professional monitoring is preferred.
During the time that I was at the hospital with this client, I was able to relieve the client’s spouse to grab a meal or take a phone call. I was able to keep him company and tell him what to expect at each stage while she was napping. When my client was uncontrollably shaking due to the epidural, I was able to show her husband a pressure point that magically stops the shaking (They both agreed that this special little trick alone was worth hiring a doula!) When an unexpected turn of events happened during labor, I was able to explain to her that while not the norm, it wasn’t uncommon. I was able to calm their fears by explaining either why something was happening or what was happening. When my client said “I can’t do this anymore,” I helped to convince her that, “Yes YOU CAN” and she did. She did bring a gorgeous little girl into this world, exactly the way she wanted – and she felt supported and educated with every decision she made along the way. And she thanked me profusely when I left a few hours after the birth – sincerely appreciated my support “even though she had an epidural”.
Planning for an epidural does not mean that a doula is not beneficial on a birth team. Doulas do far more than just hip squeezes and saving a client from getting an intervention she didn’t think she wanted when she was planning her birth. We support all types of births. We feel comfortable supporting a client through a drug free water birth. We feel comfortable supporting a birth plan of “I will ask for an epidural if I need one.” We feel confident in supporting a client who does not want to experience the pain of childbirth but would rather ask for an epidural as early as possible. We know how to support a client who is planning for a vaginal birth but instead has an unplanned cesarean birth. We support mothers who choose elective cesarean births. This is YOUR story. YOU are the author. We are just here to help you navigate the pages should you need it!
Written by: Melanie Binversie, Owner | Lead Doula of Stars and Stripes Doulas of Washington DC