For that, I thank you. I've formed so many wonderful relationships here because so many of you have generously reached out to me with your own stories, experiences and love. Thank you. Thank you 70 x 7.
However, as some of you have noted, I haven't been posting nearly as much throughout this pregnancy. In truth, it was a much more difficult pregnancy than I'd anticipated for a variety of reasons. Luckily, I was blessed to come out on the other side with a beautiful little boy:
I'm kidding, but in all seriousness, I was surprised when my OB suggested I hire a doula. What the heck did I need a doula for?
Turns out I needed emotional support and a safe space to vent without judgement.
Now obviously I have friends I trust to provide that, but a doula specializes in understanding the pregnant / laboring woman and given the various difficulties I was experiencing on top of hormones, back pain and exhaustion, she was able to figure out where I was without much explaining on my part.
So I began my search on DoulaMatch.net (thanks for the tip, CathSo!). I quickly located two doulas who I felt would be good fits. After a few quick e-mails, I'd made up my mind to go with Cat LaPlante of BirthFreely.com. I agreed to meet for an interview, but I'll be honest - I knew from her first e-mail that I'd be choosing her. Her quick wit, compassion and encouraging personality practically assaulted me with support (not unlike a trusty Labrador attacks you with kisses the moment you walk through the door).
When we first met, I was instantly comfortable and at ease. She allowed me to lead the conversation (which was good because being the pragmatist that I am, I wanted to make sure she was clear about my situation, the reasons for me hiring her, and my expectations for the various outcomes this pregnancy and birth could have. She took it all in stride, never prying, but not shying away from difficult questions. I appreciated that and remember thinking Man, it's a shame I can't hire her to be my BFF or something, 'cause she's really awesome.
Anyway, Cat offers several birthing / breastfeeding basics classes (in-home!) and even has a lending library chock full of goodies. However, since this wasn't my first rodeo (and since I'd contacted her so late in the pregnancy), I chose to utilize her expertise strictly as emotional / physical support during labor and postpartum.
For the weeks leading up to delivery, she was kind enough to reach out several times to me by both e-mail and text. This was a Godsend because I was juggling a house renovation and frequently forgot to check in with myself to ensure that I was getting the proper rest I needed for a healthy delivery. Cat's little reminders would typically be the kick I needed to get a shower, stop spackling walls and possibly scarf down a meal or two.
Anyway, she got to the hospital just as they were wheeling me into the delivery room. I was only about 4.5 centimeters at this point, but the contractions were coming much harder and faster.
An interesting thing happened upon entry into the delivery room. I saw the warming table. For those of you who haven't been in delivery rooms, there is a small table set up to receive the newborn that is warm and prepped with blankets, towels and aspirators to clean him up upon entering the world. It looks like this:
In truth, when I saw that table, it was like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It was a finite sign that Nathan was coming and would soon be on that table and in my arms. The immense joy I had spilled out in tears.
From there, Cat was at my side the whole time. She'd voice encouragement and support, constantly telling me what a good job I was doing. I felt like I was doing HORRIBLY, but since she kept telling me I was progressing well, I wasn't going to argue.
She also encouraged me to utilize various positions to help with labor pains. She asked the nurse to bring in a birthing ball. I'd never used one before, but what the heck? I was willing to try bungee jumping if she thought it'd help with the pain.
The ball allowed me flexibility and some semblance of control over my movements. It also enabled Cat to maneuver behind me to use counter-pressure as the contractions heightened.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried. Sensing my panic, Cat tried to soothe me saying "You can do this" to every "Oh God, I can't do this!" I'd shout. And I was panicked. I was so, so panicked because the pain I felt was so awful I didn't think I'd be able to birth him without a C-section. And since I hadn't felt a lot of this pain with Vincent's birth, I thought for sure something was horribly wrong and Nathan was in danger.
But through it all, Cat kept reassuring me that things were okay. She kept telling me that Nate's delivery was going to be different from Vince's and that my body knew what it was doing. She kept encouraging me to regain control of myself and my breathing, and she said something that I really held onto - "You're one of the most in-control people I know."
When she said that, I remember thinking "Shoot, you haven't known me very long at all" but given the circumstances that brought us together, I know she meant it and that gave me the confidence I needed to (literally and figuratively) push forward. About ten - fifteen minutes after hearing her say that, I was able to welcome my long-awaited son, Nathan, into the world.
The next half hour or so is a complete blur to me. Since I hadn't slept - at all - the night before, my entire labor was me running on fumes. For as happy as I was to hold my healthy baby boy, I could barely keep my eyes open to really look at him. I remember telling him over and over again that I loved him and waited so long for him, and I remember thanking God (and John) for him, but beyond that, I couldn't tell you what was going on.
Apparently they were explaining medications, Cat later told me. Ha. Good thing I was paying attention (whoops!).
Cat left after making sure I had no issues with breastfeeding Nate. Once she was sure both Nathan and myself were good, she headed out to give our family time to bond during that first hour.
Finally, she and I talked about the process in general and how I've been feeling and handling the adjustment with Nathan. It's interesting... I absolutely hate talking about myself, but Cat routinely figured out ways of redirecting conversation back to me to sorta force me into being honest and upfront about where I was (am?) emotionally / physically / psychologically. She wasn't aggressive about it, mind you, but I didn't realize how much I deflect conversation about myself until I realized how much she had to keep redirecting things back to me.
Looking back, she kept doing the same thing in the delivery room. I'd mention other patients or the doctor or nurses needing to help other people because I hated being the central focus, and she'd remind me that the whole purpose of being there was FOR me to be the central focus. I, myself, needed to recognize that and she definitely would consistently coax me into remembering it for more than three minutes at a time.
Anyway, given my experience with Cat, I would highly - HIGHLY - recommend her and her practice to anyone in the S. Jersey / Philly / Delaware area looking for a doula. I'm glad that I hired a doula. Still surprised my OB suggested it, but I'm so glad that she did. I never would've reached out to her on my own because I didn't realize how much I needed her until she was there.
So if any of you are thinking of hiring a doula, go for it! Mine was worth her weight in gold.