I was not always a doula. My little old journey to birth worker started while supporting my pregnant sister & bloomed after the arrival of my twin boys. I’d love to share my journey with you.
I’m sitting with my heart in my stomach as my husband Dave and I await our dating ultrasound. Last time I sat in one of these places we were given the heartbreaking news that our baby of 13 weeks had not made it past 8. As you can imagine I was all tears as I awaited the news of whether we would have to suffer loss once again. We had chosen an ultrasound clinic based on the sonographer & actually travelled from our home on the northern beaches to Centre for Women’s Ultrasound in Westmead. I was determined to find someone with experience and good bedside manner as we were treated really poorly the first time around. The room was warm and she was very welcoming.
I took deep breaths, looking to the screen but really not knowing what I was looking for. “Is this pregnancy through IVF?” she asked. “No,” I replied frustratingly. All I wanted to know was that everything was ok. So you can imagine our surprise when we heard..
“There are two embryos. Congratulations it’s Twins”
I couldn’t believe it, & to be honest, I couldn’t care less if there were five babies in my belly. Their strong, healthy hearts beating were beginning to heal mine.
Interestingly enough, my second thought was “There goes my homebirth…..”
Rewind a few years & I’m standing in the hospital next to my sister while she hugs her brand new baby daughter. It was a long night and day spent at two hospitals and I was in disbelief at how my sister was treated throughout. I saw a young woman start her labour naturally after a zero complications in pregnancy who then was pressured to be induced after her waters had broken & was given absolutely no information on any of her choices.
As many come to know, I have always been a birth nerd. What is a “birth nerd” you ask? Well it’s someone who buys birth books to read for enjoyment (before their pregnant)!
So, I had a bit of knowledge and was able to advocate for my sister while helping her find her voice in the birth room. Baby Aaliyah was born later than evening happy & healthy and my sister was emotionally and physically intact.
That night I came home to my husband, wired from the adrenaline. I whispered in his ear, “We’re not having a baby unless we have a homebirth.”
He lovingly agreed and we went back to sleep, none the wiser that our lives would change drastically in a few years time.
Which is where my story continues. I’m now 40+2 pregnant with identical twin boys. I have cried everyday for the last three weeks because “twins come early,” & here I am in pain, wishing for labour to start.
After we found out our baby was actually termed ‘babies,’ I contacted my homebirth midwife (who I had already hired) & let her in on the good news. She reiterated that birthing twins at home was not something she practiced but she could support me in hospital.
So that was the plan, homebirth in hospital.
My midwife Janine, had long term experience, believed in the birthing body and so did I. We were supported by the expert on twins Dr Marisa Martin & chose to birth at Westmead Public. Majority of my antenatal visits were with Janine & then here and there she would accompany us to see Dr Marisa. Marisa respected my choice to labour without induction & helped me along the way when it came to some pregnancy complications.
I developed pregnancy cholestasis in the early third trimester. This means that there is a build up of bile acids that leak into the blood and can be fatal for a baby, or in my case babies. I decided to try natural therapies to reduce the acids and hoped the unbearable itchiness, a side effect, would subside. Within a week things were only getting worse, so I opted to take the medication. For some women it is not successful but for me every symptom went away & my bile acids returned to normal.
Usually, a mother is advised to be induced at 37 weeks once you have received diagnosis. I did my research and made the decision that as my bile acids had returned to normal, there was no reason to doubt my body and my babies. I was happy and confident in my decision and didn’t look back. Besides, these babies were DEFINATELY going to be here by 37 weeks…right?
39 weeks had passed and still I only had felt early labour signs but minimal at that. Dr Marisa contacted us once a week to remind me that IF I did want to book in my induction, I could call her. Each week I would see Janine, completely doubtful that a spontaneous labour was worth waiting for and then after each session I would leave with dried tears and a renewed sense of self. That’s the beauty of continuity of care. Someone who knows what you want and reminds you when you need it.
Saturday 3am (40+2), I went to the bathroom to find that my water had slightly broken. You would think that I’d be ecstatic, but after weeks of possible ‘signs’ I refused to get my hopes up anymore. I went back to bed and phoned my midwife later than morning. She confirmed that it sounded like my waters had broken and came to my home. After checking my blood pressure, my plan to stay at home as long as possible was disrupted because my blood pressure was really high and she suggested medication to bring it down. I knew that my midwife understood & wanted to fulfill my birth plan, but as we had developed a trusting relationship over my 9 month pregnancy I had faith in her care when she advised we should make other arrangements. I knew she would do all she could to help me have a positive birth so we decided to leave home. At this point in time, I still had no sign of contractions.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
We reached the hospital. I was automatically expected to have an epidural and to be induced by the other midwives that poked their head in. I kindly declined, understanding that it was always my choice. Janine did a lot of the paperwork and probably many other important things that I did not notice at the time. I was too busy wondering where my contractions were! She then settled us into the ward for the night and went home to cat nap and wait for our call.
Fast forward and it is 12am early Sunday morning, 20 hours since my waters broke. I started getting period like pains and excitedly I hopped out of bed, unable to sleep. I used the toilet multiple times and washed in the shower to help with the waves of labor, one on top of the other. I asked Dave to call our midwife & our birth photographer. I was definitely out of control and forgot all about my breathing techniques.
It was certainly the time a doula would have come in handy! Nothing can prepare you for labour more so than someone who has seen it before and is trained to bring you back to earth.
It’s 2:30am now, I am unable to focus on anything but the tiles on the shower wall and my deep breaths. I try to relax into them and imagine my cervix opening. I wish I had more visuals around me to help. I will definitely do this for my next pregnancy. With permission, @janineatibirth, checks me and says I am 3cm dilated and almost 100% effaced. I was disappointed, I felt like it had gone on forever but I was only four hours in. I spent a lot of time in the shower. I tried the bath but it was not the place I wanted to be. The surges became more dominant, noticeable and I could relax in between them. I labored for what I know now to be another 2.5 hours.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Somewhere in between there was a point where I said I couldn’t go on and I wanted relief from the intensity. Janine, knowing how strong I could be and my determination reminded me that I did well in the shower and took me back there. I am so grateful for her encouragement. At some point I felt my whole body convulse. It frightened me. I gathered my thoughts and realized that I was about to enter the second (pushing) stage of labor. Having this knowledge helped me not to be afraid and I told everyone I felt “pushy.” They bought me to a bean bag area on the floor that they had already set up for me, knowing that crouching not lying is going to help me to birth my sons.
Kneeling over the beanbag, I pushed with each wave. Janine taught me to give three pushes in each surge. After an hour or so, I was spent. She told me that I needed to give everything, not to hold back. I grabbed onto Dave for support while roaring as deeply as I could. Making so much noise helped to add power to each push. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Samuel van Dijk was born at 7:35am on Sunday 30th June 2019. We smiled and cried. I took the time to cuddle him. No one pressured me with time to birth my other son, my obstetrician simply checked the position of twin b with an ultrasound. My good little boy had already turned down.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
After an hour, things started to heighten again, reminding me that I wasn’t done.
I gave Sam to Dave and said something along the lines of “Let’s get this over with!”
With permission, Janine broke my waters and I decided to stand up, using gravity to help me. I knew what to expect now and how much energy to give. Emmett was born an 1 hour and 14 minutes later at 8:49am. The pediatrician was on standby as there was meconium in his waters, but he breathed just fine.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
My beautiful babies were here, they were ours and I birthed them on my own, against all odds. I know that without the support of my private midwife, who specialises in homebirths and all the knowledge, research and confidence I had gathered myself, I don’t believe I would have been able to have such a positive birth experience. My OB was amazing and essentially stood back and observed with trust.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
All in all it was a 9 hour labor and I can’t wait to do it again!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
After such an incredible, empowering birth I knew that I wanted to help other mothers feel the same support and respect that I received in my pregnancy, labor and birth! So now I’m here, on the other side. Most women don’t want to birth at home but they want to the continuity of care that a hospital just can’t provide. So we doula’s fill the gap. You welcome us into your birth space and we promise to give you all the information, presented in a non judgmental way & help you birth your way to positivity. Whether that means pain relief, planned c section or a water birth!
You see, you can birth with dignity and you should be treated with respect. I aim to shelter women as best I can from the chaos of that labouring room and help them to find their voice through education and one on one care. It’s been proven time and time again that doula supported births reduce unnecessary interventions, the use of pain relief and c sections. This can all equate to happy mothers who transition to parenthood with the joy that all women deserve.