Sunday, April 25, 2010

My First Solo Birth as a Doula

My phone rang at 3:30am on April 23. I was jerked out of sleep by my loud and insistent ring, and I knew this must be a birth call. My client's husband was on the other end, calmly letting me know that my client was in labor, her water had broken a half an hour ago, and the midwife was on her way. It was time to go! I lept out of bed excited but still partially asleep. My boyfriend also sat up and asked what he could do to help me, because he was also really excited for my first birth! I really couldn't think - being excited/nervous/asleep all at the same time - so I decided to start with taking a shower and getting dressed! My boyfriend helped me pack my bag and made me a lunch in case the labor was long. I was out of the apartment in about 30 minutes and at my client's home in a half hour more. Everything was dark and quiet when I approached the house. Mom's two sons, mother and sister were were all sound asleep. The midwife had arrived just before I had.

Mom was on the floor of her room, sitting cross-legged, leaning on a small chair ottoman and swaying. She was in her zone. She quietly moaned in the semi-darkness of her bedroom. She was breathing, making "horse sounds," moaning, rocking all by herself. I sat quietly on the floor nearby and just held the space. Dad sat with her a bit and rubbed her a bit, then left her alone when she seemed to want it. She laughed a bit through silent tears saying she felt the presence of her great grandmother, who was a midwife. I rubbed her lower back a bit when she said she felt some pain. I brought her a wet washcloth, encouraged her to drink water. I wanted to help (anxious new doula!) but I also wanted dad to be able to be involved and not feel like I was taking his place. The midwife sat quietly in the dark, waiting for when she thought she might be needed. Mom said her mouth was dry so I asked dad if he had chap stick or lip balm, but he didn't seem to find any, so I pulled out a lanolin sample and had mom use that.

Mom said she felt uncomfortable sitting how she was but didn't want to lay down. We suggested she move to the bath tub. She didn't really have a strong desire to be in the tub, surprisingly to her, but felt it might be more comfortable than her present position so dad helped move her in. The midwife offered to do an internal check and mom agreed. She was at 8 cm (less than an hour after I had arrived). I let mom and dad have a couple minutes alone in the bathroom. The midwife began to gather her birth materials. Then with the next contraction mom said she was already feeling an urge to push, but that she didn't want to. We all joined her at the tub, dad supporting her upper body. She said that she was afraid to push, that she didn't feel ready for that part yet. The midwife assured her that she was ready. I reminded her that her great grandmother was with her.

Through the windows above the large tub we could see the early morning glow of sunrise over the lake behind their home. The whole sky was a beautiful blue glow. It was very serene. Mom was grunting and panting quietly, then said "I'm tearing." Midwife said "no you're not" in a reassuring way, but then looked down and said "the head is out." And indeed it was! We waited what felt like a couple minutes for the next contraction to come, and when mom felt like it she pushed the rest of the body out. Midwife pulled the baby up onto mom's chest and mom held it there where it was very calm and cuddly. Mom looked very happy. Midwife noted the birth time at 6am.

Dad kept saying "boy or girl?" because they didn't know ahead of time, but mom was reluctant to disturb the peaceful baby to check the gender right away.  I remembered that mom wanted pictures of the birth because they hadn't gotten many last time. I said to the dad "do you have a camera?" And he ran out. I felt bad because he was gone for longer than I thought he'd be finding the camera, and it was his baby's first minutes of life! I hadn't realized he had to go around looking for it and a battery, and I apologized. He didn't seem to mind and handed me the camera. I took pictures of mom and dad and baby while mom was still cuddling baby in the tub, keeping it warm with blankets.

About 15 - 20 minutes later the afterbirth came and the midwife clamped the cord.  Mom lifted up the baby and said "a penis!" and laughed. Dad cut the cord (which I tried to get a photo of, but I had a bad angle). Then went and woke up the oldest of their sons, who is about 7, and brought him in to meet his baby brother. It was the cutest scene EVER, the boy greeting his new baby brother for the first time with disheveled hair and sleep and wonder in his eyes. He didn't know he'd wake up to a new baby brother! The midwife offered to show me the placenta, which was cool. I'd only seen one from afar. Then we started getting baby and mom ready to get out of the tub. I was sitting on a stool in the bathroom watching mom latch the baby on for the first time, and dad wasn't in the room, so the midwife handed me a towel. I thought she was having me hold it for her, but suddenly the newborn baby was on my lap in the towel and she was telling me to dry him! So I held a baby who was only a half an hour old! I felt a little bit weird to be holding the baby before dad even did, but dad and midwife walked in a minute later and wrapped him up in a baby blanket and into dad's arms. I took photos of dad and baby and the midwife helped mom out of the tub.

We whisked mom to her bed and covered her in blankets to warm her up. I went down with the big brother to make mom some hot tea with some after birth pain easing drops that the mom had. The brother was so excited to have a new brother and to be helping! We brought tea to mom and midwife had things set up to weight and measure the baby. He was 8 lb 5 oz and 20 inches long! Mom said he definitely looked smaller than her first two babies. She also noted that he had barely any vernix. Midwife and dad helped mom walk to the bathroom to get cleaned up a bit more, and I sat with the brother while he held the baby. Took some cute photos. He said he was going to be a big help for his mom with the baby, bring its clothes and things like that. Then he said the CUTEST THING that no one heard but me. "I wish I could nurse the baby for mom, too." I laughed out loud at that. I definitely shared it with the parents and midwife!

Midwife said she'd like to examine the mom for tears. She had a short but deep tear that the midwife wanted to sew up. She asked me to be her assistant. I held the lidocaine vial and the flashlight while dad, bro and baby cuddled mom on the bed. Unfortunately, I hadn't eaten anything this whole time. That combined with concentrating on holding the flashlight in exactly the right place and witnessing a lot of bloody stitching made me feel woozy. I tried to ignore it. Dad went to wake up the younger brother and he came running in to meet the baby. My eyesight got fuzzy and my ears started to have muffled sound and I was worried I would faint! So I said "I'm sorry I have to sit down." And the midwife said "Getting woozy? That happened to me the first time I assisted with this too." All I said was "I'm HUNGRY" and dad grabbed the flashlight. Haha kind of funny in retrospect. At the time I was very embarrassed! Oh well, I had no intention of becoming a midwife anyway :) I stood up when I could see again and grabbed my snacks. All better! And the stitching was done.

Mom and baby cuddled and nursed a bit more while I made more tea and helped the midwife clean things up a bit. We marveled at how short a labor it was - only four hours long! Though she had been contracting for weeks and almost thinking she was in early labor several times. Finally they sent the boys down to wake up the baby's grandmother and aunt. When the boys said "wake up and come see our baby brother" they were shocked! They had no idea while they were sleeping a baby was being born! They hadn't heard a thing. I'm so glad they slept through it all, because my client had been a little stressed about her mom being there during the birth, since she is not too supportive of home birth. But it all worked out! The midwife left and after grandma and aunt got to see the baby they got the boys downstairs to make breakfast and let mom and dad rest. They hadn't slept at all! I let the mama know that I can't wait to come back for a postpartum visit to check in on her and find out what they decided to name the baby!

Oh yes, too cute: The youngest of the brothers decided they should call the baby "backpack." I'm not sure why, I think it had to do with a conversation they had previously had about baby names. It was the funniest thing, they kept calling it "backpack!"and giggling.

The whole birth experience was just so PEACEFUL. The sun rose through the window over the water behind their home, everything was quiet. I think for the mama it was very intense being so short - she kept repeating that - her contractions were very close together and she had little time to recover before the next one started. I was only there a grand total of about 4 hours! Unfortunately, this birth will not "count" for my doula certification... DONA requires that I am there with mom when she is just at early active labor (about 3-4 cm dilated, still talking between contractions).

I know my other births will not be anything like this one, so I will cherish this memory forever.


  1. What a beautiful story!
    Congrats to you & the family!!

  2. Sounds beautiful!! Homebirths are my favorite :)

  3. sounds so serene and perfect, I'm thrilled for you and the mommy and new family! so sorry this didn't count for DONA, but hopefully your next 3 do!! Would love to see a post about what you learned during your first solo birth experience. Also, maybe some ignorant-sounding questions: was Mom undressed the whole time? was there water in the bathtub? How was everything kept clean for the homebirth/cleaned afterward?

    the stitching sounded intense! I probably would have been woozy as well!

  4. Congratulations! Sounds like an amazing birth experience! x

  5. Beautiful! Isn't life amazing? You are lucky to be a part of such a beautiful experience.

  6. What an amazing experience! I had wanted a Doula almost 13 years ago when my youngest was born, but we waited until it was too late... Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this experience. I have yet to participate in my first birthing experience, and I can't wait. This was wonderful encouragement - I hope your "double header" goes well tonight/today!



    And soon to be:

  8. Thank you for stopping by and commenting!

    Keep on following to hear about more birth stories from my doula perspective :)

  9. I had my first birth (not solo) last Sunday and I am still trying to process it. It's as if the enormity of what I witnessed has rendered me completely unable to speak about it. It was amazing, and humbing, and one of the most pivotal moments of my life. I just can't even wrap my head around it. I can't believe we get to do this, you know?


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