Monday, July 18, 2011

The Doula Dilemma

Lately I have been thinking about hiring a doula – sort of a professional labor partner – for the birth of my baby.  The Prince has been very open about his feeling that I am going to be woefully disappointed with his “support” during labor and delivery.  He is uncomfortable in hospitals, uncomfortable with pain and uncomfortable expressing emotions.  His anxiety about the labor and delivery process is higher than mine.  He doesn’t want to go to childbirth classes (though I’ve told him his presence is non-negotiable, and I mean it).  But realistically, we both know that he is never going to massage my back, feed me ice chips, put a cool cloth on my head or talk me through the rough times during labor.  I’ll be lucky if he can keep from “going home for something he forgot.”

I know that a lot of women have husbands who aren’t quite up to the challenge of being a birth partner.  However, a lot of those women have mothers or sisters to step in and assume that role.  I don’t.  I have a mother and a sister, but they live a few hours away and they would not be the calming, supportive presence I need.  The Prince recommended that I have his mother in the room to help me, but I’m not okay with that either.  I adore my mother-in-law but the things that she would see if she was in the room are things I’m just not comfortable with her seeing.

I also don’t have any friends who could act as a birth partner.  All of my friends either are struggling with infertility, have small children (meaning that they can’t just take off whenever I go into labor to spend an unknown amount of time with me), or have jobs that would be considerably disrupted if they had to drop everything at some unknown date and time.  I know that many of them would be exactly the support that I need, but I would not feel right about putting them out.

Which leaves…hiring a professional.  There are a handful of doulas in my area.  Most seem to focus on home births, but will attend hospital births as well.  They all seem to advocate a medication free childbirth.  They all would meet with The Prince and me a few times before the birth, to go over a birth plan and medication-free relaxation and pain relief techniques.  They are on call 24 hours a day in the month prior to your due date and they are guaranteed to be present throughout your entire labor.  Some of the doulas also make post-partum visits to help with breastfeeding concerns, infant care concerns, and to perform light housekeeping duties.  Prices for these services vary, from $400 to $600.  

The Prince has balked at spending that kind of money, but I have explained that we only get one shot at the birth experience.  Does he really want me to spend it angry and resentful towards him because I am feeling like he isn’t helping and doesn’t care about me, or does he want us to both enjoy the birth process  in our own ways, without stepping on each other’s toes?  When I couched it in those terms, he conceded that we need to have some type of support person in the room for me.  He just wishes that support person was less expensive.  He still keeps asking “What about ‘so-an-so,’ couldn’t she do it?”  But ultimately I have been given the green light on pursuing the hiring of a doula and it looks like I am going to need to do so.

So why can’t I make the call?  Now is the time to start interviewing the potential candidates, as they can only take one or two patients a month, thus causing their schedules to fill quickly.  I’ve done my research, narrowed the candidate pool to three doulas, and I even know what questions to ask them.  But I still can’t seem to make myself pick-up the telephone to get started.   Perhaps it is the financial commitment or perhaps it is the fact that speaking with a doula makes the impending labor that much more real.  The baby’s in there.  It has to come out.  But I would be a liar if I said that I am looking forward to the “coming out” process.  I’ll keep you updated on my progress in this endeavor.   


My New Normal said...

Call me crazy, but I say forget the doula. Say yes to an epidural and enjoy the labor experience pain free with just you and your husband.

Or you can schedule a C-section and get the same experience.

S said...

I think a doula is a great idea, whether you end up doing natural childbirth, having an epidural, or having a C-section. What can be bad about having extra support just for you during the difficult process of labor and delivery?

If you're interested in reading about someone's experience with a doula, I believe blogger Murgan ( used one for her son's birth over a year ago.

As for the cost. . . $500-600 is a drop in the bucket compared to the overall cost of having a baby. If you can afford it, I say spend it.

(Oh, and if it makes you feel better. . . my husband will also be woefully ill-equipped to support me during labor, by his own admission. So the prince isn't the only one.)

Lindsey said...

I will preface this by saying I am in no way qualified to provide an opinion... I love the idea of hiring a great support person, but how "hooked" on the idea of a natural childbirth are you? I have heard doulas can often be pushy in respect to keeping things "natural" and as long as you're ok with it its great, however I've heard they disagree with doctors often (especially regarding c-sections) which then puts you in the middle of making a tough decision rather than trusting your doc, which I know you do.

Christina said...

I've been thinking about maybe hiring a doula. It seems so intimidating though. It's also strange to think about how much you can trust a total stranger to take care of you and see stuff you don't want anyone you know to see...

China Doll said...

I could've written this post! Yes to my Bloke being the same as your Prince.. Yes to not having any family or suitable friends (or any friends possibly with our move coming up) nearby.. Yes to me still procrastinating at emailing the 1 English-speaking Doula I've found in Seoul so far!
Unlike the Prince, my Bloke would pay just about any amount of money to avoid having to get too close to the action! xx