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  • Rachel Dunn

My Story & What Led Me to Be a Birth & Postpartum Doula

Updated: Oct 29, 2020

I had doubts about sharing this as my first blog entry, but then I thought to myself...why not? Wouldn't my clients want to hear my story and why I am a doula today? We all have a story, and whether we realize it or not, sharing our story is not only therapeutic, but it opens conversation and topics the general population would rather just dismiss or figure out alone. A good portion of what you're about to read definitely falls into that category of lets just not discuss this and suffer in silence. When you use your voice, you are heard. When you are heard you can make a difference. Motherhood takes a village, and much of that village consists of mothers supporting mothers. So here it goes...

My husband and I got married in April 2016 and found out we were pregnant about 6 weeks later. Of course, this was our ultimate dream, as we had decided that we wanted to start trying immediately. I was 32 at the time and my biological clock had been ticking for probably 5 years at that point. We were beyond grateful and fortunate to find out we had conceived so easily, but never in a million years did we think I would get pregnant on the first try. Little did I know and would soon find out that I was not prepared for motherhood AT ALL. In theory I thought I was, but the reality - I had no idea what I would be facing over the next year. During the pregnancy, I had an extremely difficult time accepting the weight gain and my new body. It led to some depression and anxiety, which I was already at a predisposition for. My doctor suggested that I go on an anti-depressant because I had a history of mild depression and anxiety, but I refused. I did not want to risk putting our baby in any danger and brushed it off believing I could handle it on my own. In March of 2017, after an exceptionally long and traumatic birth experience (I didn't even know my experience was considered birth trauma at the time), we welcomed our beautiful daughter into the world. I had 36 hours of start to end labor that involved back labor because of a posterior baby. Due to the amount of pain I was in, I opted for an induction, had a very early epidural (probably too early), and an unsuccessful 3.5 hours of pushing with the oldest OB on the labor and delivery floor who was known for performing unnecessary episiotomies and assisted births.

(Pictured: My daughter after a vacuum extraction)

If I had even known what a birth doula was, I could have experienced a completely different birthing outcome, had resources available (especially on different ways to turn a posterior baby), been more informed on my options, and had the necessary guidance and support with the decision making while in the delivery room. Within days after our daughter was born, the postpartum blues and crying settled in. I was healing from an episiotomy that didn’t allow me to sit for almost 2 weeks, and had an extremely difficult time breast-feeding with barely any support, (this only added to my anxiety and made me feel like a failure to my daughter). On top of everything, my Mom had a massive stroke 7 weeks after delivery that took the entire family by surprise. I was spiraling....and spiraling FAST. Sure enough I put one foot in front of the other every day, and went through the motions of being a new mom thinking - “Wow, this absolutely sucks, but we can do it....everyone else does”. I was trying to keep up with the everyday chores like laundry, emptying the dishwasher, picking up the house, and getting a shower in, while tending to a newborn, and driving in and out of Boston almost every day to visit my mom in the hospital. I just accepted it for what it was, but I felt like I was slowly dying inside.

(Pictured: 5-6 months postpartum with my daughter)

About 6 months postpartum my depression and anxiety peaked (I bet many of you reading this would've never thought that by looking at the picture above). I was helping my dad take care of my mom, I still felt like I had no bond with my daughter, I felt distant from my husband, I felt alone and isolated, I wasn’t eating enough, my body was in constant pain, and all I wanted to do was sleep. We lived like this for what felt like months. Finally, 9 months postpartum I was evaluated and diagnosed with postpartum depression, anxiety, and fibromyalgia (due to untreated depression and anxiety) and was placed on an antidepressant. Within weeks I started to feel better and more like myself and finally started to bond with my daughter. I still had what felt like a long road ahead of me and truly questioned whether I could do this all over again, but took the time I needed to heal, practiced self-care, exercised and just worked on myself. Once I had finally escaped the fog and my thinking was clear, I truly could not believe what I had just been through. At the end of 2018 I found out I was pregnant again and that we were expecting a boy. I had doubts about staying on an antidepressant during the prenatal period, but after much consideration and discussion with my doctor, we decided it was the best choice. My pregnancy, labor and birth experience were a complete 180 compared to my daughter’s birth. I had my husband and an extra support person by my side. Although I was induced at 39 weeks because of low amniotic fluid, I was much more informed and educated, relaxed and confident in what my body was capable of doing, and most of all determined to have a positive outcome regardless of how the birth went. I was not going to let fear take over. After 12 hours of labor and 45 minutes of pushing (which felt like nothing compared to my previous experience), I assisted the OB in delivering our son. It is a vivid miracle that I will never forget.

(Pictured: The birth of my son) While recovering on the postpartum floor, I became quite friendly with the nurses and lactation consultants at hospital. I opened up about my birth and postpartum experience prior to this delivery. The more we talked, the more I realized I truly had a passion for helping mothers. During one of our conversations, the nurse asked if I had ever considered hiring a birth and/or postpartum doula. A what?? Yes I knew the term doula, but had no idea what their role consisted of. She briefly explained it to me and after much googling, reading and talking with a few friends that had experience with using them, I realized this was exactly what I wanted to do. I was going to make it happen, even if it was only a hobby/part time. In April 2020, I was laid off from my job due to Covid-19 after being with the company for almost 10 years. Some people will call it bad luck, others will call it a blessing in disguise, but either way this was my golden opportunity to open the doors to a new career.

This post was not created to scare or intimidate any mothers who are expecting or thinking about becoming pregnant. This post is to let you know that you have control over the decisions that are made. That being informed, educated, and having the appropriate resources and support system allows you to take charge, even when things don't go according to plan. Every individual and pregnancy is different. With every experience you face in life, you learn to grow from it. I can’t go back and change the outcome of my first birth and postpartum experience, but I can take what I have been through, use my knowledge and education, and support mothers and families in using their voice, being heard, and informing them as much as possible.

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