My first "official" doula experience wasn't a great one. I didn't really go into it at the time, but I left that birth feeling useless, sad and truly questioning whether I had helped them at all by being there.
It's no wonder — the poor woman had every intervention except forceps and a c-section and there were several times during the birth where I ignored my gut instinct and allowed the situation to unravel unimpeded by me. Sure, there are always things we'd change in hindsight and who knows if anything I would have done would have changed anything, but ultimately I didn't think I helped. At all.
It was nice then, a few weeks back when I posted some article (on FB) about doula's attending births that my doula client commented that she believed she would have ended up with a c-section had I not been there.
That's something isn't it? Yes, well.
Then last month I attended the polar opposite birth. I went with my instincts, did what I thought I should and rarely questioned what I should do. The birth wasn't just totally different — my experience was, too. I walked away light as a feather, feeling fulfilled and useful and inspired.
I spoke with my midwife about this just last week. She was a doula first as well and had an even worse first doula experience, one where she cried for days after (same sort of story only it was a forceps delivery). Still, she went on to become a midwife. She was also honest in saying that, even now, there are times when women end up with c-sections or forceps that she feels she failed in some way and wished she could go back and do things differently.
This week I got an email from my January doula client. She wanted to know if I had any births lined up for April...because if I didn't she wanted to ask if I'd be there to help them welcome baby number two, who, very surprisingly, was on the way.
After my initial surprise and laugh, I couldn't help but feel somewhat vindicated, that I had helped enough, I guess, that she wanted me there again. But more than that, I feel like this time, this time I can follow my instincts and well and truly be there for them. I know I can't control how a birth happens, but I feel so much more confident now in at least being as helpful as I can when it does.
(Also, it bodes well, I think, that in just over a year into my two-year certification journey that I have a repeat client. Don't you?)