Name: Megan Wall
Children: Sam (3) Anna (1) Jennilee (1)
Place of birth: Spectrum Gerber Memorial in Fremont, Michigan
What were your reasons for hiring a doula?
My first baby never turned from his breech position (despite our best efforts!) and I ended up with a cesarean. The experience itself was fine, albeit disappointing, but many of the events leading up to the birth felt very "medicalized." I felt more like a patient or statistic than a healthy person and new mother. Even before getting pregnant with #2, I was planning to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean) and knew I wanted a doula there for support and advocacy. When I found out we were expecting twins, I was scared and excited and nervous... and disappointed as it felt like another obstacle to my hoped for vaginal birth. I knew I wouldn't be comfortable birthing twins via VBAC out of a hospital, and so it became even more important to me to have an advocate and a support there with us. I knew things might not go as expected, but I wanted to feel that I had done all I could to achieve the birth I wanted.
How was your doula most helpful?
Megan was helpful in so many ways! After making it to 40 weeks with my twins, a full two weeks longer than most OBs would even allow for, my doctor and I were feeling unsettled about the scar from my previous cesarean and my enormous belly, so we scheduled a cesarean just before my due date. Our doula came with us, and as I found myself getting emotional about the disappointment of another scheduled cesarean, she gently asked me if this was really what I wanted. It wasn't. We were able to cancel the cesarean, even though I was prepped and ready for surgery. Because of her question, I was able to go home and go into labor naturally, on my own, that night. That moment was pivitol to my view of myself, my desires, and my own sense of advocacy. It was pivatol to the entire experience as I now feel like I did all I could to welcome my girls in the calmest, most natural way possible, even if that is not at all what happened in the end!
When I returned the next day in labor, Megan stayed with us for the next 28 hours helping me stay active, try new positions, and provide a support and back-up for my husband. My husband is a strong support, but that would've been very difficult to handle on his own. Eventually, my baby b appeared to be in distress. After she wouldn't stabilize, we ended up back in the operating room. The cesarean did not go well for me. I found myself incredibly anxious and having difficulty breathing. Our doula stayed with me, stroking my hair and providing reassurance, so that my husband could do skin-to-skin with Baby A (I tried, but my chest and arms weren't working well and I was too shaky to hold her). Baby B was born not breathing, so my husband tended to Baby A, Megan tended to me, and a medical team tended to Baby B. Our doula was there for me so that he could be there for the baby. I simply can't imagine that experience without her calming, gentle presence.
What surprised you about giving birth?
I felt lonely. My husband and doula were working so hard with me, but after a full day of labor, I felt so exhausted and like I was doing this all alone. Then just as I would think about giving up, they were there for me. They couldn't experience what I experienced, but they could be there alongside me through the process. And then when the birth didn't go as planned, I was surprised at how important it was to have someone paying attention to me. Not the baby. Me. Life with twins has thus far taught us how important and essential it is to our well-being that we accept support. It is not my or my husband's natural tendency, and we tend to be quite private people. The twins' birth, too, was such a good reminder that we never need to do this stuff alone. We were made to be in community, and community makes all the difference in any and every experience, especially something so human and amazing as birth. Our society is not set up the way it was or could be to support birthing women, but I am so glad I chose to invite Megan to be there with us.
What advice or encouragement regarding birth or the postpartum period would you like to offer to women expecting their first babies?
Please, please, please hire a doula!
For more information regarding VBAC, Gerber Hospital's policy on refusing a routine repeat Cesarean, and other local hospital's policies on VBAC, check out our VBAC in West Michigan blog post!
For local VBAC support, visit the ICAN of Grand Rapids VBAC Support group or the ICAN of Grand Rapids Facebook page.