Welcome back to my World Doula Week series! I'll be blogging all week about doulas in celebration of the work they do and to educate anyone who may still be asking themselves "What is a doula?"
Today's post is about me, how I fell in love with pregnancy and child birth, and how I ended up becoming a certified doula.
My journey started seven years ago. I was a junior in high school, about to graduate a whole year early to join the Peace Corps. I worked hard my entire high school "career" to make sure that I would get a jump start on life. I wanted to be out in the field, hands on, making a real difference in the world. I wanted to help others and make them feel as though they count, they were not forgotten. I spent most of my life being different than my peers. Some would poke fun at my "hippie ways". I remember a guy in one of my classes saying he wouldn't be surprised if in 20 years I was living in a hut full of adopted children in Africa. I was weird because I cared about people, about children, about the world that we lived in. How uncool for a 17 year old!
Right before my graduation I got one of the biggest surprises of my life. I found out that I was pregnant. I remember how shocked everyone I knew was. How could Autumn, a great student and all around smart gal, get pregnant and throw away her dreams? I pushed through the stares and awkward conversations with friends, I held my tongue when family lectured me about how I had ruined my life, I was even told that I could get an abortion and "have a real baby" when I grew up. No matter what was thrown my way I was excited for this little life growing inside of me, I was excited for this new adventure, and no one was going to take that from me or make me feel bad about it.
Throughout my entire pregnancy I researched and read everything I could on pregnancy and childbirth. It was my mission to conquer this new challenge and make it enjoyable and memorable despite everyone's behavior and words. After all of my research I decided that I wanted a natural child birth and no one was going to talk me out of it. My OB tried to warn me of the pains of labor, my mom would joke that there was no way I could do it, my friends would tell me I'm insane but nothing changed my mind. I was going to have this baby naturally, by choice, at 18 years old and that was that.
Flash forward to the day I delivered. My grandma and her friend Tana drove up from Texas to be there for the birth of my baby girl. Tana is a licensed massage therapist and decided to bring her massage table with her so that she could give me a little love. Being close to my due date I needed the relief and I was so glad to have a moment to relax and focus on myself. About 20 minutes after my massage was over I heard a loud pop, stood up, and water rushed down my legs and onto the couch and floor. It was time, I was going into labor.
We arrived in the hospital around 3:00 pm, I was in good spirits and ready to meet my baby. They checked me in, hooked me up to machines and monitors, and then left me to labor. I spent most of my time listening to my headphones or chatting with my friends and family that had come to cheer me on. By 10:30 I was feeling pretty intense contractions but I kept myself calm and focused, listening to my music and saying positive affirmations in my head (this was before I even knew hypnobirthing was a thing). I must have really looked calm and serene because when I finally spoke up to a nurse and told her that I was ready to have my baby she told me that because I was a first time mom I would still have 6-8 hours left of my labor and that there was no way that I was even close to meeting my baby. She didn't even check me. I broke down in that moment and agreed to an epidural. The anesthesiologist came in to prepare me for the procedure. The whole time he was talking to me I couldn't focus, I was baring down and my body was naturally pushing, I was having this baby now and no one was listening to me. Finally I yelled to a nurse and flashed her my lady bits, she looked down in horror, I was crowning. All I remember after that was a blur, there was rushing around, nurses yelling and throwing gloves at each other, my OB nowhere in sight. The nurses kept telling me not to push, to wait for the doctor on call (who was in the process of another delivery) to come and deliver my baby. I was the most calm person in the room and I was the one having a baby for the first time. After it was all said and done it was 11:14 pm, I had a horribly rough and insensitive doctor give me an episiotomy, deliver Marli, and sew me up but I had done it, I had naturally given birth to my daughter and it felt amazing.
This whole experience molded my view of childbirth and pregnancy. Everyone wanted me to be afraid, to be panicked, no one trusted me or my body, no one listened to me during my labor and delivery, I felt alone. Through the years I have looked back on this experience in two ways; I succeeded despite everything in getting the birth that I wanted even though it wasn't exactly picturesque, but also that women are bullied and made to be afraid during childbirth. They are told that they aren't capable or that they are broken and that they need doctors and nurses to fix them and make them able to do something we've been doing since the dawn of time. It opened my eyes to all of the problems that women have to face during one of the most incredible moments in their lives. A women shouldn't feel helpless or afraid of giving birth, she should feel empowered to birth in whatever way she wants and she should celebrate the entire experience, not look back at it with regret, horror, or unhappiness.
When I first heard of doulas and the work they do I was instantly interested. There is a career out there where I can empower moms to get the births they want? I can help them stay calm and remind them to listen to their body and trust what it's telling them? Where do I sign up?! I started diving in to books and articles and finally after a long road I received my certification. After years of telling women that birth isn't something to fear, after years of sharing information and tips with my pregnant friends I could finally apply that knowledge and passion and help pregnant women on a larger scale.
Not every woman wants natural child birth but every single woman wants to be heard and respected during such a vulnerable time and that's what I'm there for. To listen, to encourage, and to make her feel comfortable and respected no matter what type of birth she wants or ends up having. Being a doula fulfills my want to help others, it lets me share my passion of pregnancy and birth, and it's a career that I can enjoy my whole life. It is definitely my calling and I couldn't be more proud to say "I am a doula!"
“There is a secret in our culture and it is not that birth is painful, but that women are strong.”
- Laura Stavoe Harm