“Everything is awesome.
Everything is cool when you’re part of a team.”
My number one advice when you first see those two lines on a stick is, “Choose your team wisely.” Well, that can be challenging, especially with a first baby. How do you know what to look for in a practitioner when you may know next to nothing about pregnancy, labor, and birth? And it doesn’t tend to come up right away either. You may coast with a doctor until around the third trimester when you realize, this baby has to come OUT at some point. You start researching the how’s, why’s, and where’s of delivering your child. You jump on your due date message board where everyone is discussing the pros and cons of every intervention under the sun and YOU PANIC. INSERT DOULA HERE. “Doula? I heard about those on my board,” you think. “But what exactly does a Doula DO?” Thanks for asking, let me explain… Building Block One: Hire a Doula. A doula’s ONLY job is to support you during your labor and birth. A doula attends to your emotional needs, supports you physically with comfort measures, and provides evidence based information to help you in your decision making. A doula’s number one priority is YOU. www.doulamatch.net is a great site for finding doulas based on zip code with availability calendars and testimonials right at your fingertips. Click on Resources for interviewing and finding the right doula for you.
Building Block Two: Tour hospitals. If you are fortunate enough to live in a city with multiple choices for delivering your baby, then do the tours. Look for hospitals that follow the WHO/UNICEF Baby-Friendly Initiative. Also look for Birth Centers and Midwifery Schools if you are healthy and low-risk and would like to explore more options outside a hospital setting. Why is this step listed before choosing a practitioner? Because although your practitioner’s knowledge in keeping you and your baby healthy are vital during pregnancy, he or she may not be at the birth setting very much. Most doctors will check in on you and then keep apprised of your condition via the phone. They usually come to you when birth is imminent. Taking a tour and getting a feel for how things work and how you will be supported by the staff within the policies of the birthplace are key. Walk the halls, ask questions, and get a feel for the place and the nursing staff who work there.Building Block Three: Write out or at least discuss your birth preferences. Please treat these as an order of priority and talk about how you may feel when things don’t go “according to plan”. Work through the emotions beforehand because in labor, things can happen quickly. Healthy mom and healthy baby are the main objective, but the speed bumps called interventions and complications line the pathway. Know your options. Doulas are great at explaining these too, as well as knowing what other things can be done in certain situations. Doulas are non-medical and we cannot speak for you, but a really good doula will teach you to use BRAIN so that you own the decision-making.Building Block Four: Now you are ready to choose a practitioner or at least figure out if you are truly with the one that will openly discuss your preferences and support you accordingly. Bring that preference sheet with you and DISCUSS it. If there are any red flags, then you may need to re-evaluate your choice. Just because Dr. XYZ helped you with a health issue, or it’s who you’ve always seen, your birth MATTERS and has the capacity to change how you experience the rest of your life. If something sets off your radar, please do discuss with him/her, do your research, and trust your instincts.
Congratulations on your pregnancy and best wishes in finding and choosing your best birth team. Have a blessed birth!
Shannon Cheeseman is a mother of four and the owner of Blessed Birth, LLC; providing antenatal and birth doula support in Tucson, Arizona.