Birth Day: Friday, November 14, 2014 at 11:47pm
Melody Gilman: My labor with Vicky as my Doula
Choosing Vicky as my Doula was the best decision that I could have made during my pregnancy. I cannot imagine my labor and delivery without her. She was also a huge source of support during the last few weeks of my pregnancy, especially since we had a terrible rollercoaster of medical problems – and we were not sure if we should try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) or not. We wanted one, but we knew that there was a high possibility of needing a cesarean.
Vicky was very calm and patient, listening and giving very good advice. It was reassuring to know that she was on our team because it was our first time having a baby in Spain and we had no idea what to expect. Vicky helped us to prepare for labor and delivery. Best of all, having her there really put my husband at ease to know that she would be there to back him up so that everything wouldn’t be on his shoulders alone.
The labor and delivery itself was not what we expected, but it worked out great in the end. I thought I was in labor a few days before the actual birth, and Vicky came over in the middle of the night and stayed four hours or so until she was sure that I was not in active labor yet. I really appreciated that she was willing to come over at all hours, even if it turned out to be just very early labor.
Finally when the big day came we waited to call her until we were totally sure that it was the real thing. It was already seven in the morning so we decided to meet her at the hospital because traffic would be too heavy and we thought the baby was coming fast. The taxi ride was intense and I was having contractions every three minutes or less. But as soon as we arrived at the hospital things slowed down – so I decided not to get checked right away.
Instead, Vicky encouraged me to walk around a little to get labor going again. So we took a nice stroll around the hospital, stopping to lean on a tree every time a contraction hit. Eventually we went inside the lobby and relaxed there an hour or two more. Then we went to the café and had some snacks with tea for lunch. The entire morning was so nice, and I am so glad that we waited to be checked in because this positive experience gave me so much strength for what was to come.
The deep breathing and other coping techniques that we had discussed with Vicky really helped. They carried me all the way through until I hit transition, which was not until the evening. Moaning with noise was what helped the best, and leaning over a table or bed while moving my hips. However, after they broke my water, the contractions began to come faster and stronger. At that point the breathing and movements were less helpful. But Vicky was great. She kept me company while my husband had to leave for a moment to get something to eat and restore his strength. It meant so much to me that he could do that, and that I wouldn’t be alone meanwhile.
Another thing that was very important was the language barrier. I don’t speak much Spanish yet and my husband usually translates for me, so having her there to do that when he was gone was extremely important. She also helped by communicating with the midwife and being an advocate for us with the medical staff there. And I really appreciated Vicky being flexible about what hospital we wanted to deliver at, even though it is more difficult to have a natural birth at a private hospital. So getting permission from our doctor ahead of time for Vicky to be there made all the difference. At first the midwife was not kind or flexible with Vicky, but she won her over by then end once she saw how professional Vicky was.
When things got really intense I remember holding onto Vicky for dear life, like a life preserver in the ocean. I was squeezing her hand so hard that I am surprised I didn’t break her fingers – but she said later that she was used to it – no harm done. As thing got progressively worse I remember her voice telling me that I was making progress and dilating faster. She was also doing mirror-breathing so that I could copy her when I would get too lost in the pain. She was an anchor for me back to reality and a lifeline to help me know what I should be doing.
When finally it became obvious that I needed an epidural, she helped explain it to my husband and because he respected her opinion so much he was able to trust that it was the right decision (even though we had said we wouldn’t get one beforehand). Putting in the epidural was almost the worst part, and I wasn’t sure that I would be able to hold still through one of those terrible contractions – but with encouragement from Vicky and my husband I somehow got through it.
After the low-dose epidural, things moved quickly and I dilated fast once I was able to relax a little. But I was still very disoriented from the intense experience before, and so I depended heavily on Vicky and my husband to tell me how to breathe. When they moved me into the delivery room, I asked for Vicky to come and they let her, even though it’s not standard. And I am so glad they did because it made such a huge difference.
During the pushing I really held onto the sound of her voice telling me when to push and for how long. Even though I could feel it when the contractions came (thanks to a VERY low dose epidural) it was necessary for them to coach me with the pushing because I couldn’t see what was going on. Then when the baby was crowning Vicky told me she could see blonde hair, and that really encouraged me a lot that the baby was almost here. It gave me the courage to push even when I was scared of tearing. My husband and Vicky also helped me to curl up into the pushing position when I was too weak to do it by myself. They both helped me to be brave with their constant encouragements.
When the baby’s head came out we discovered that the umbilical cord was around his neck, which was why he hadn’t been dropping or descending before. Once freed, suddenly they were putting my son onto my chest… and he was wide awake and healthy. I couldn’t believe it! After so many months of sickness, pain and fear – our baby was finally with us and we had somehow managed a vaginal birth despite all the problems during the pregnancy! It was a miracle and a dream come true.
The next day Vicky visited us at the hospital and helped me get off to a good start with breastfeeding. Being able to have a vaginal birth and to have my baby with me for over an hour before they cleaned him up really was wonderful experience, and helped me to solidly establish breast feeding and bond with my son. The midwife was so impressed by Vicky’s professionalism that she stopped by my room to get Vicky’s contact information in case she ever had another expat patient. She saw during my labor how important it is for a patient to have another woman there to support only her and who also speaks the same language. Having a baby in another country is such a scary and vulnerable experience, so having someone to support you and help you communicate your wishes to the hospital staff was very important to me.
Having Vicky as my doula made a huge difference for my husband and I. She was both a birth coach and a friend. We can’t imagine our birth experience without her. I know that her involvement helped us make it to the finish line with a much more positive experience then we would have had otherwise. We can’t imagine our birth experience without her and we will highly recommended her to any friends who might become pregnant.