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Doulas and Unassisted Births

July 1, 2010 28 comments

Having an unassisted birth can be a hard journey to take for many women. Often, if you discuss your plans with family and friends, you are bombarded by arguments trying to sway you into having an attended birth, talks of “what if”, or they may choose to avoid any contact with you for the duration of your pregnancy. There are very intense feelings regarding unassisted birth, and many do not want to listen to why you are going unassisted, and definitely do not want to support it in any way. “What if the baby dies?!”

Women who choose to have a UC sometimes want to have an extra support person there, just as they would want one there for an attended birth, but they are afraid to ask around. Most doulas do not feel comfortable serving women who are going unassisted. Some doulas do not believe that women should be able to have unassisted births at all. That, to me, is a sad thing to see in a community of birth workers who support women, yet deny and criticize those who choose a different way. We should giving unassisted birthers respect, just as we give respect to all other women who are giving birth. Isn’t it a bit hypocritical to say that you support women, yet only if they do it “the right way”? If you feel uncomfortable with someone else’s birth choices, you can still give them the respect that they deserve as a person.

How can a doula serve a women at an unassisted birth?

A doula can provide all the services she normally provides at any other birth. She can be there to offer support for you, a possibly nervous partner, and siblings. She can prepare food, help set up your birth space, and just be there, present and calm. She will understand when you want to be alone, especially during the birth. Having a doula at your UC means having someone there who truly believes in you and your decision, and is there to help you have the birth you want. Having that trust and relationship with another person can be a great thing at a UC, when often you are left alone to fend for yourself.

After birth, she can help clean up, make sure every one has what they need and help with settling in. She can be a person to look to for resources, advice and postpartum support. Having a doula on your side can ease the worries about not having anyone to turn to postpartum, because you are afraid of what they will think of your decisions. Women should not have to be afraid after their births, because they have no outside support.

Is it still unassisted?

Sure, you can talk semantics about what unassisted birth really is (some will even say that having your partner there means you did not really have a UC), but in the end, almost any UCer I have met online or in person is not really worried about having a UC just to say she had one. Personally, as a doula and someone that has had an unassisted birth, I believe that if a doula is there to serve you and your family at your UC, then yes, you can still say you had an unassisted birth. A doula is not providing any medical care. She is there as a support person, just as she would be at any other birth. A doula does not hold any responsibility for the outcome of your birth, you and your family do.

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Amelia’s Unassisted Birth Story

October 24, 2008 4 comments

I am a big fan of unassisted births. Hey, I had my own! Many birth professionals look down on women who choose to go unassisted, believing them to be taking birth ‘too far’ or being selfish. I personally believe that every woman should be able to birth how she feels she needs to. I find it very sad that even those surrounded by birth, women who say that they trust birth,  are so quick to call unassisted birth irresponsible.

All of the women I have come across who have gone unassisted know their stuff. I know I read a million books about birth before I had Oliver. Most of these women are not going blindly into birth. It is a tough road to travel; you must defend your choice to everyone who finds out about your “plan”.

As a doula, I am proud to say that I support any woman who wants an unassisted birth. Surprisingly, when I began researching doula work, I discovered that most doulas will not attend an unassisted birth. Most fear that if something goes wrong, that they will be prosecuted.

So, as I was saying, I love free births! I was extremely excited when I was asked to attend one in September.

I got the call early on September 25. She was in early labor, but definitely progressing. Once I got there mid-morning, I was really pumped! She was doing great, and her partner was there by her side. I was happy to be able to provide relief for him, so he could rest and take care of a few things. She was having back labor, and I was lucky to have brought along my new little massage ball.

It really helped, and through the rest of her labor, both her partner and I took turns massaging her lower back.

Although really tired from lack of sleep, she did so fantastic. She changed positions when she needed to, and was really amazing. I felt so lucky to be able to be apart of something so great 🙂

During transition, she thought she had more time to go, so she wanted to get in the tub. Before the water even rose high enough, the baby was crowning! She stood in the tub, and with the support of her partner, gave birth to their beautiful daughter.

I felt a bit useless at the time, so I did what I knew I could: take some pictures! She was kind enough to give me permission to post this:

Amelia was born at 3:15 in the afternoon, just a little under 4 hours after I arrived! It was a beautiful birth. Brought me back to that excitement and awe of having my own birth. I am usually not a gushy person, but I definitely had tears in my eyes when she was born.

Long labor.

August 13, 2008 1 comment

I attended my longest birth so far last weekend. Twenty-nine hours. It was long and hard, but great practice for me. I ended up crying at the end, all alone in the cardiac department, because I was so exhausted and missed my family terribly. I wasn’t able to sleep for almost two days, and by the end, I was a wreck. I had never been away from my kids that long, and I didn’t realize how lack of sleep would make me feel.

At the hospital

At the hospital

It was also the first time I had a negative experience with nurses. They were very rude, and any time I walked by they glared at me. They were not welcoming at all, and when they were out at their station, they just sat and chatted. Many times when I walked by, I could hear them talking about the mom I was with. This was the same hospital I gave birth to my daughter at – St. Vincent’s in Portland. Brought back a lot of memories.