Five and a half to seven and a half weeks to go, and we have one very big item crossed off the list. We’ve decided on a doula.
Why a doula, you ask? (Pretend you asked even if you didn’t.) Because we’ve never done this before. Because we maintain a healthy skepticism for a profession whose history is all about pathologizing a largely non-pathological process. And because we’ve never done this before. Did I say that already? Y’all, I’m about to perform a magic trick the likes of which I can’t even imagine, and I won’t even know how to do it until I’m doing it. I wouldn’t mind having someone there with an instruction manual, maybe some flow charts and diagrams, you know?
Also, having a doula is a really good way to avoid the kinds of things I’d like to avoid, like a c-section. There are a lot of studies out there that show that a doula has a positive effect on labor and delivery outcomes for lower-income women with no other support available, but their usefulness is by no means so constrained. Consider, for example, this recent study on middle-income first-time mothers in uncomplicated pregnancies who were accompanied by a male partner in labor. A doula showed up for each mom at the hospital (never having met the mom previously), and stayed throughout labor and delivery. And the doulas did what doulas do: “…close physical proximity, touch, and eye contact with the laboring woman, and teaching, reassurance, and encouragement of the woman and her male partner.”*
So what happened? 13.4% of the women with doulas had cesareans, while 25.0% of the women in the control group had cesareans. Of those women whose labor was induced, the rates were 12.5% and 58.8% respectively. The rates for use of epidural aren’t as starkly contrasted, but are still lower for the doula group: 64.7% versus 76%.
Through all the conversations I’ve had about birthing successes and horror stories, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d rather do this thing totally au naturel, but I’m much less averse to pain relief than to medical interventions (any substance or procedure intended to speed the process up), with c-section taking the Most Dreaded honors. Call me crazy, but ending forty weeks of gestation with major abdominal surgery doesn’t sound like a cherry on top. I think it says something that I would much rather have a Mack truck driven through my nether regions than have my belly cut open. But anyway.
That’s what we’re going for with the doula. I’ll update you in late May, but I’m pretty sure it’ll have been a few hundred bucks very well spent.
*Something to consider for another time: the therapeutic effects of the mere presence of someone, anyone in times of distress, even if that someone doesn’t say a word and just sits in the corner. Provided, I guess, that their presence is reassuring rather than creepy.