Let me begin by saying that the birth of my first baby did not go as I had hoped, planned, imagined, or expected. I spent my entire pregnancy educating myself about my growing baby, my changing body, and how to prepare to bring my baby into the world in the best way I believed possible — without drugs and with minimal outside intervention. I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, I wrote up a birth plan, I did everything I thought I should be doing to prepare for my ideal labor and delivery experience. I had read, of course, about the importance of being flexible. However, despite my months of self educating, I had naively avoided preparing myself for the possibility of my careful plan going completely off the rails. In fact, my actual experience was so far removed from my ideal, imagined expectations that it felt surreal. During those moments of disbelief and disorientation, I felt that the only thing tethering me to reality was my lovely, strong, indispensible, experienced, capable, endlessly knowledgeable doula, Kathleen.
Kathleen wasn’t only in the hospital room. She had met with me and my husband regularly throughout my pregnancy, addressed all our concerns and questions, guided us, shared her resources and knowledge, loaned us books, and reminded us that we ultimately had a choice in all aspects of pregnancy, labor, delivery, and beyond. She encouraged me to advocate for myself and my baby, and how I wished to bring him into the world. We discussed scenarios in which I might be challenged, and how, armed with knowledge, I might overcome those challenges and take a stand for myself and my baby.
Kathleen’s support and encouragement continued after our son was born. She came to see us in the hospital room, arranged for a lactation consultant to drop in and help with breastfeeding, and visited us at home during those fragile first few weeks as I was learning to navigate the strange new world of a brand-new mom. After being repeatedly told that the only thing that mattered was a healthy outcome for mom and baby, I was struggling with conflicting feelings.
While I knew that both my son’s and my own health were ultimately the most important things, I couldn’t ignore the fact that I had missed out on the birth experience I had desperately wanted. I felt selfish for feeling sad about it, which led to guilt and disappointment. Kathleen helped me understand that it was ok, and in fact necessary, to allow myself to feel whatever I felt about my birth experience.
During my second pregnancy, I had settled on a doctor who I was not happy with and did not fully trust. Kathleen stepped in and gave me a wakeup call, prompting me to switch to a doctor I loved and trusted. I took her suggestion and will be forever grateful I did.
Throughout both of my pregnancies, I was incredibly thankful for Kathleen’s kindness, strength, invaluable experience, expertise, and reassuring, comforting presence. Her desire to support and empower me and my family during this time was genuine and unmistakable.