When I was in the first trimester of pregnancy, everything was a blur.
Well, who am I kidding – everything still kind of is. But some key points came into focus once I fully grasped the reality of my pregnancy, and the decision to work with a doula was definitely one of them.
Before we'd made any birth plan decisions, Corey and I were interested in looking at natural birth centers here in LA. There are a number of them, and some even take insurance. We never got very far with that investigation, however, because at a routine exam with my wonderful ob-gyn, Dr. Sarah Yamaguchi at Spectrum Women's Health, she mentioned that their office just happens to work with an in-house doula, Carmen Bornn (yes, her real last name - a good sign).
Everything sort of clicked for me. The technology of a hospital, expertise of an ob-gyn who knows me well, and the advocacy and support of a doula, whom everyone loves.
This is key, I think. Hospital staff and midwives/doulas can sometimes seem at cross-purposes, which is unfortunate. Without a respectful relationship, either or both can feel the need to assert authority, for different reasons. Luckily, Carmen is loved and highly respected at our hospital in DTLA, Good Samaritan, due in no small part because she's also an RN. Speaks the language.
And talk about experience. Carmen is a doula, midwife and offers monitrice services and childbirth classes, all of which we are taking full advantage of. Carmen has 11 (now adult) children – that's right – ELEVEN. Two via pregnancy and nine via foster/adoption. So for us, with our adopted son and my pregnancy, Carmen felt right for so many reasons. She understands all aspects of our experience.
Carmen approaches pregnancy and birth through an all-encompassing lens. What I love is how she referred to the baby as her "Boss." Take care of my boss, she said, and it had a kind of subtle but profound effect on both me and Corey. At every childbirth class, which was just for us, Carmen took us through information that ranged from physiological to neurological to just plain practical.
For someone like me, who takes comfort in the knowing, this was huge. And for Corey, who's a science buff, understanding the whys behind the often mystical and confusing aspects of childbirth really helped demystify the process. Besides, Carmen assigns partners a very important role: Birth Coach. Corey was expected to have an acute understanding of the process so he and Carmen could work as a team to help me. They even had a series of codes between them to communicate silently and efficiently during my labor. Wow.
The first time we met with Carmen and I saw the intention of this teamwork, I nearly cried. I felt so lucky, so humbled, to be able to have access to such amazing support. Working with a doula isn't cheap, so I never took this relationship for granted. And now, post-birth, I can say this: WORTH EVERY FREAKING PENNY.
Doulas, like everything else, are all different, with different backgrounds and levels of experience. It will be an intimate relationship, so you want to feel completely at ease with the person. For me, that means a deep instinctual connection. It's either there or it isn't, and since there wasn't much time to establish this relationship, we were lucky to feel a kinship with Carmen from the start.
Again – for me, the combination of hospital and doula was perfect. I felt nothing but support, which meant all I had to do was, you know, give birth.
To this funny human: