This has been the most difficult question for me to answer because the desire to become a doula has taken me by surprise. I never heard the word doula until I was planning to have a natural hospital birth. My childbirth educator was also a doula, and she encouraged me to have a support person at my birth. I told her that we could not afford one, and she said that there are volunteer doulas available. At that time I did not know how to find someone, and I tried not to worry too much about it. I brought my concern up to my midwives and they told me that I did not need a doula because they would be there the entire time.
After they told me that, I did not worry about finding a doula. My husband and I voiced any concerns we had with one another. I continued to read books about comfort measures and books containing positive and/or honest birth stories. My favorites were Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth, Marie Mongan's HypnoBirthing, and Penny Simkin's The Birth Partner. I read the Guide to Childbirth first, then the HypnoBirthing book. Once I finished that book, I felt ready to give birth. I was so uplifted and inspired. A few days later, I went into labor.
I had a wonderful and empowering birth. It went better than I expected and it was FAST! From the start of the first contraction I felt to the birth was 4.5 hours. Once I felt it, boy, it was a little scary! I am so thankful that I had my husband there with me and he seemed to know exactly what I needed.
I tell him now that he did everything perfectly, and I do not know how he knew what to do. He says, "I just did what you told me to do." I suppose I knew myself without knowing myself, if that makes any sense. I would tell him what I learned from my reading and say, "I think I'd like to try that." I also assured him that, when it came down to it, he'd be fine; he'd know what to do. And he did.
True to their word, the midwife who attended me was there all the time. Looking back, I appreciate how hands off she was. She allowed me to labor in the dark, in the tub, and with my husband at my side. Every now and then she would tell me things when my sounds started to get frantic. She did a wonderful job, and she was very surprised that my baby came so quickly. It was such a calm and peaceful experience. My husband describes it as reverent.
Nothing has effected me so intensely and deeply as birth. Preparing for childbirth and the actual birth was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life and I am so thankful to my Heavenly Father that I had the experience that I did.
I was taken by surprise with the wonderful "birth high" I experienced. Either I forgot that I learned about the birth high in my class or I didn't know about it, but the wonderful feelings took me surprise. I was so ecstatic, giddy and on top of the world. I did it! I couldn't believe it, but I did it! I began to wish that all women could experience birth the way that I did. There is no reason why they can't! I do not think that my desire to be a doula came while I was in the hospital because I was enjoying my new baby and birth high. I believe that desire came a week later.
One week after I had my baby, a friend of mine was experiencing labor. I was talking to her over Facebook and found out she was alone. At that time I wished that I could go to her and comfort her, but she was about seven hours away. I felt so sad that she was alone and I tried to tell her about comfort measures. It just is not the same trying to comfort someone over facebook. I saw other comments she was getting like, "You can do it. With an epidural, of course." or "Let's get that epidural started. There is no sense in doing it the hard way."
I am not some anti-epidural tyrant, but I feel that if properly prepared, most women would be surprised by what they can do! However, I do not believe that is very encouraging to someone when they are asking for encouragement to immediately say "Go get that epidural!" To me that says, "You are not strong enough to handle labor."
When I saw comments like that, I just wanted to go and give her a huge hug. I wanted her to know that she could do it. And above all, I wished that she was not alone. Being alone makes things worse for most people if you have not prepared to give birth alone.
That experience solidified my desire to be a doula. As I read and learn, my desire continues to grow. As I hear from other mothers about unnecessary interventions that occurred during their births, I wish that they would have had a doula to help them through the process. Even the most prepared and educated women I have known are vulnerable during birth, especially if it is their first one. They do not know what to expect. I would compare my desire to be a doula as a desire to be a guide during a woman's birth journey. I have taken this journey, overcome the challenges, and reached the destination- motherhood-feeling joyful and confident. As someone who has completed the birth journey, I hope that my presence can be a source of comfort and strength to the laboring woman and her partner as they prepare to welcome a new life into their family.