This post is by an anonymous writer who works as a doula. She has changed names and details for privacy reasons.
It started as a typical hospital labor. Expectant Sandra was sent to the hospital for an induction. The relaxed, silent atmosphere was broken only by heavy breathing through contractions. There was not a whole lot that I needed to do besides offer her water every few contractions, replace the cold face cloth when it became heated on Sandra’s face and apply lip balm when she licked her lips too much.
At previous prenatal meetings, Sandra had mentioned that a friend would stop by with a few things during labor but would not be sticking around. When co-worker and friend Marilyn arrived with a sandwich and some yogurt and chips for dad, he ran off to the waiting room to microwave his food. The first thing Marilyn did when he left was turn to me and say “You are excused”. I made light of with a little joke. She said “Seriously though, you can go. I am taking it from here.” I said “Oh no, (haha) that’s okay. I’m sticking around”.
Nurse Kaila came in to check up on Sandra. I jumped in and introduced Marilyn to her by saying “This is Sandra’s co-worker Marilyn, she’s just dropping off some dinner for dad – Sam”. I was hoping this would nip this issue in the bud by dropping a little reality check on Marilyn as to who she was relationship-wise, but she didn’t even blink an eye. Once the nurse left I made an excuse to leave the room to talk to Nurse Kaila “I’m going to go refill Sandra’s water bottle”. Nurse Kaila was horrified to hear about Marilyn, however she said there was no way to get rid of Marilyn without Sandra’s permission. Soc we made a little plan together. Kaila would ask Marilyn to come with her to get something for Sandra so I could talk to Sandra privately.
Sandra decided to allow Marilyn to stay for labor and delivery. In no way did I agree with this, but Sandra said she owed Marilyn something so she would let her stay. My first thought was “You have got to be kidding, you’re not even relaxed and coping well with your contractions anymore!” Instead, what I said was “If you are absolutely sure about Marilyn staying we should set up a code word in case you change your mind.” Sandra decided not to set up a code word. I shrugged at Nurse Kaila when she came into the room. Marilyn was acting just as strange with her as she was with me, saying things like Ddon’t worry about checking Sandra’s blood pressure, I can take care of it”.
Nurse Kaila told Marilyn to leave the room while she checked Sandra’s dilation. I think at that point we both wanted to have Marilyn gone. Nurse Kaila said “Baby is right there so I will make a quick call to the Doctor, you are 10cm.” It turned out that the Doctor was right down the hall so he came along with several nurses within 5 minutes. Marilyn whizzed back in. I told a nurse” “The father is in the waiting room, he wants to be here for delivery”. Marilyn jumped in to say “He’s busy right now, he doesn’t want to be here for delivery”.
The nurse looked confused. I said “I’m Sandra’s doula and we talked about this beforehand. He wants to be here”. The nurse says “Okay I’ll go get him”. (The nurses really respect doulas at this particular hospital, they will even thank you for “all you did!”
Once Sam arrived back on the scene, I moved aside and gave him the space beside Sandra. He had walked to Marilyn first but she wouldn’t budge. I called him over to me and gave him my place at Sandra’s side. I just gave quiet verbal encouragement when Marilyn wasn’t counting and telling Sandra to hold her breath. When she was, I just stayed silent. Marilyn began shoving Sandra’s belly really hard during contractions, I nudged the nurse next to me and Marilyn was told to stop. I offered water between contractions, Marilyn would complain that I should be giving her coconut water instead of regular water.
I reminded Sandra to breath. Eventually I just was whispering “In through your nose, out through your mouth” over and over again. I was feeling pretty fed up with Marilyn by this point. A strain had come over Sandra’s face when Marilyn arrived and had the look had not left since. I moved Sandra’s hand over into Sam’s and they stayed that way until after the baby was born. When the baby was born Marilyn insisted that she was to be the first to hold the baby. Confused, the Doctor handed baby to Marilyn.
I walked over to her and nudged her over to the bed and said “Okay dad’s turn.” I had her hand the baby to Sam and asked Sam to take baby over to Sandra. I didn’t want Marilyn to have the privilege of giving Sandra her baby for the first time. Once Sandra had her baby I helped her unclasp her shirt for some skin-to-skin baby time. As soon as baby started rooting I helped her get baby latched. During all this I was taking pictures from the time that baby emerged into the world.
I looked over at Marilyn and said “Hey, the cafeteria is open. Let’s go for breakfast!” It was hard for me to stay mature and make small talk over breakfast, but I made it through without saying anything. It has been quite a while since this delivery, but I still think about it sometimes. The family is doing great and expecting baby number two!
Anonymous is a Certified Birth Doula specializing in high risk pregnancies. She teaches teenagers about contraception, pregnancy and birth. She is also a Childbirth Educator. Anonymous is in the process of becoming a Certified Lactation Consultant.
Photo via Flickr.