At around 20 weeks pregnant (and 20 lbs more to love), Mapuche and I were engaging in a debate over global warming cuddling on the couch flipping through the channels when we landed on the documentary The Business of Being Born. I had heard about it and figured I'd better start getting up to speed on the whole birth thing. Given the onslaught of information detailing horror stories and possible complications, I'd pretty much avoided consuming anything other than those fun BabyCenter weekly updates (21 weeks: "if you're having a girl, her vagina has begun to form!") I think the film is a must-see for expectant parents, although I would have preferred to watch it sans the mood-altering hormones. In any case, I watched, I cried, I got angry. I vowed to have my baby drug-free, at home, and in Iceland, which boasts the lowest infant mortality rate in the world.
After the sobbing subsided and Glamadad calmed me down enough so that I could resume speaking in full sentences, I called an Ob/Gyn friend to reassure me that not all doctors were looking to cut (pun intended) my birthing experience short so that they could make it out for Happy Hour. She suggested that if I felt strongly about having a natural birth that I consider using a doula. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, research studies have shown that using a doula results in shorter labors, reduced need for pain medication, fewer cesarean sections, fewer episiotimies, fewer operative vaginal deliveries, improved neonatal outcomes, better mother-infant interaction, improved breastfeeding rates, and greater maternal satisfaction. After weighing the pros and cons of a home birth (and when I write "cons" I mean Glamadad's emphatic, "hell no!"), I concluded that using a doula was the best way to help facilitate my desired birth plan at a hospital. My friend recommended a doula that several of her clients had a successful relationship with and whom she as a doctor found most professional and easy to work with. Enter London King, Push Love Doula.
From the moment I met London I was awestruck by her confidence and positive energy. She radiates happiness and sunshine but not in a nauseating way. She’s confident and graceful, maternal but girlie; the perfect balance between mother and friend. Mapuche took to her immediately, which I love to use as a litmus test. I had planned to meet with a few different doulas but knew after only a few minutes that London was the right match, the one who was going to join Glamadad and I on the most intensely personal and uncharted journey of our lives.
There were 5 or 6 visits, I can't remember exactly. London patiently answered all of our questions as a couple and gave us positive "reading assignments" to give us some idea of what to expect. We had one-on-one sessions, she and I, where I confided in her my worst fears about labor ("what if I poop?!) and becoming a mom ("what if I'm just no good?!"). She taught me to meditate and breathe deeply, techniques I still refer to when I'm feeling overwhelmed or stressed. We did simulated pushing exercises and since I'm a runner, she used runner's jargon and the marathon as a metaphor for labor. She also took pictures. Lots and lots of magical pictures that she compiled and presented to me postpartum as our birth story.
Of course my labor didn't go as planned. After laboring for many hours, going for walks and hopping on and off the birthing ball, night turned into day, then night again, dilation stalled, I got an epidural, and I was eventually induced. But London was there with us, every step of the way: finessing the doctor and nurses, updating family, feeding me ice chips (who knew they were so delish?), and giving me eucalyptus rubs and words of encouragement. When I resigned myself to the epidural, I searched her eyes for judgement or disappointment but all I got was empathy, tenderness, and a "baby girl, rest now." When it finally came time to push, everything London had taught me came into play. It took less than a half hour to meet the reason behind it all. Big Bub weighed 8 pounds, 11 ounces and while labor didn't go exactly the way I had anticipated, it was the most memorable and empowering experience of my life. I am forever grateful to London for her unwavering support and friendship, and for pushing me her love.
A few pics from Big Bub's birth story. Every time I look at them I get weepy (sniff):
Mapu wondering, "Who's in there?!"
La Mama & Big Bub
The beautiful Push Love Doula