Glad you asked. A doula is simply a birthing aid; someone there to help the pregnancy go along better, to aid the mother-to-be in any way possible. Doulas aren’t nurses or doctors, and they aren’t in charge of the labor. But they are supposed to lighten the burden, or stress, on the laboring couple.
Our doula was a friend, Julie. Julie is not yet a professional doula, but she is interested in pursuing this path, and volunteered to doula us (is that a verb?) if we wished. Julie put this offer forward after she’d completed a full body pre-natal massage on Randi. You see, Julie is also a massage therapist.
And yet I know Julie not through the pregnancy world, but through the wholly unrelated world of improv comedy, which is also how I met my wife. So even if I never made it to the big time in improv comedy—which perhaps sounds oxymoronic to some of you out there—I got a wife and child from it, which ain’t hay.
And I also got a doula. Which is pretty sweet, because if we actually hired someone to doula for us it would have cost several hundred dollars. In case you haven’t read this blog before, well, we don’t have that kind of scratch.
In any case, Julie, our doula, lives in Brighton Beach, far away from the hospital. It was 4:00 a.m., the baby was finally starting to get ready for its birthday.
“If we want Julie here you’d better call her now,” Randi said. So I called her.
“Hello?” Julie sounded incredibly groggy, which only makes sense.
“Yeah, hi Julie, it’s Dave? Sorry about calling so early, but, well, Randi’s in labor, and we wanted you to come down for it if you could.”
Julie was up for it, but we realized that if she had to take the subway it would take forever, and be kind of sketchy, so we decided a car service was in order. Then she would call me when she got the hospital.
Now it was back to the waiting game.
As with any hospital staffers milled in and out of the room at seemingly random intervals. One nurse was especially excited to hear that Randi was going for a natural child birth, as she had had three children that way. She even brought in their pictures to share. This encouraged us.
As mentioned before the only thing that really helped Randi was the shower. She would periodically step into the shower, and just let it wash all over her. The constant drubbing from the water distracted her from the ongoing pain of contractions, making her only aware of the peaks of the contractions; the valleys were easier to ignore amidst the running water.
By 5:00 a.m. Julie popped in, quite literally a breath of fresh air. I can say this with confidence because the first thing she did was get some aromatherapy going in our room. She looked fresh as a daisy in comparison to our bedraggled crew, and soon the room had a pleasing, somewhat outdoorsy scent to it.
Mostly, though, Julie just added a pleasant, upbeat energy to the delivery room. She even offered to help me with whatever it was I needed, but I couldn’t think of anything, as she couldn’t sleep for me. Beyond that, though, there was only so much help we needed at this point, anyway. Most of the heavy diagnostics were to be done by Anne, who now checked in periodically to see Randi.
By 5:30 a.m. Randi was nearly fully dilated, and Anne was ready to start proceeding towards the actual birth. Randi’s water still hadn’t broken, so that was the first thing Anne took care of.
Randi laid back, as Anne took a long plastic device that looked kind of like a slim jim, and used it to rupture the water sack. I will say this: it didn’t look a whole lot like actual water.
Instead bloody fluid streamed from between my wife’s legs, perhaps a cup's worth, possibly more. I watched, riveted. There Will Be Blood, I thought. Indeed. And that was just for starters.
Anne, unfortunately, saw some waste product from the baby in the drained water, which meant that the little one was now not only overdue, but perhaps at some risk of taking in this now contaminated fluid. This is a danger with overdue children: that they will imbibe their own waste, which could make them sick, or worse.
“Let’s get this baby out,” Anne said.
They attached monitors to Randi’s belly, measuring the heartbeat of the baby; everything was right where it should be. They even set up the monitors so Randi could stand up while the readings were taken, which she preferred over reclining.
Even though the broken water was not ideal as far as its content Randi still felt a great sense of relief when it drained. This was nice to hear. Unfortunately it would be the last really nice feeling she would have until after the baby was born.