Remember my Smart Girl Hospital Bag Packing List blog from last month? If you’re pregnant like me, you probably don’t… I can’t remember what I had for dinner 45 minutes ago.
With input from my mom friends, I compiled a list of what you absolutely needed to have on hand for labor, delivery, and beyond. I heard many moms say “A doula!”, which I included in my list, but with a heavy dose of skepticism. An excerpt:
I can’t really speak to having a doula first hand, and to be honest, I struggle with it being a “must-have” for labor. But then again, I had a weird-ass labor and delivery and didn’t feel any contractions until 8cm…..I’ll let you make your own call on this, but it’s certainly something to consider if you can afford the extra expense. It’s typically not covered by health insurance. #sadtrombone
As you could have guessed, I didn’t line one up for Squeak’s birth, though the cajoling I got as part of soliciting content for the blog did make me wish my insurance covered it. I was curious, but not curious enough to pay over $500 out of pocket.*
But then I had the epitome of a serendipitous meeting.
Last Monday night, I went to dinner with two of my Mom friends, including Shannon, who was Major Doula Cheerleader #1 when I was soliciting advice for my hospital blog. Our friend Monica was meeting us as well.
I got to the restaurant first, and a lovely young lady seated me at a booth.
“You must be so excited!” she said, nodding toward my rather large belly.
I was a little taken aback. Most people don’t spontaneously mention my pregnancy during such a fleeting interaction, and when someone does bring it up, it’s almost never a college-aged female.
“I am,” I said, still pretty surprised, and not sure how to respond.
She smiled and explained, “I’m training to be a doula, and I really love pregnancy. I think pregnant women are so beautiful!”
My curiosity was piqued, and I remembered Shannon telling me that her doula was in training and had come at a steep discount because of it. “Really? How far into your training are you?”
“Not very far, but I’ve attended one birth and I’m looking for others to attend. At this point I wouldn’t even ask for any payment. I would just love to be involved and help however I can,” she explained.
A free doula? For realz? I jumped at the chance. “Can I get your information? I would want to learn more, but I am definitely interested.”
The young lady, Grace, said she was done working soon and would come by our table, and she did. In fact, she sat with us our entire meal as we talked birth stories, doulas, epidurals… the whole nine yards. Grace had a very calming presence and a real love for the process of birth, without being an anti-intervention zealot. We had a great conversation over the next 2-1/2 hours, and I told Grace I’d talk to my husband and email her.
The next morning at breakfast, I mentioned it to my husband. “Hey, honey, do you remember what a doula is?”
He responded with a scoff. “Yes, and please tell me you’re not thinking about buying one now?” (He’s a penny-pincher, my husband.)
“They’re not prostitutes, dummy. You don’t buy one. But what if it was free?” I asked hopefully.
He turned to me, intrigued. “Free? Sure. Why not?”
I explained Grace’s situation, the fact that she was quite early in her training, and how the experience with her could be different from an experienced doula. He was unfazed. “Even if she gets more out of it than we do, it’s good karma to help someone out. Let’s do it.”
I was really happy with his response; it was exactly what I had hoped to hear.
I emailed Grace and told her the good news, and set up a time for her to come out to the house to discuss in more detail my birth plan and other logistics.
She was over the moon and I was really happy to have made her so ecstatic, even though she was essentially a stranger.
Grace has a couple of trips taking her out of town in the next two weeks, so there’s a chance that she might not make it for the birth, which would be a big disappointment for her, and a bummer for us. But this is all frosting on the cake since we hadn’t planned on a doula in the first place.
I’ll let you know how it all turns out, but for now, I am excited about this possibility. Squeak appears to be tracking toward a very different birth from his Big Sister — no silent labor for me this time — and a doula might be exactly what I need to make it through.
*My friend Allie got a doctor’s note that allowed her doula to be covered through her flexible health spending account. The note said: “My patient, Allie ____, is planning an unmedicated labor and delivery. To facilitate this, I recommend she have a doula present for her labor and delivery. She also plans to breast feed and a doula will help facilitate and improve breast feeding as well.” If you have the flex dollars, see if your doctor will write a similar note. Then at least it’s not all coming out of pocket! Boo yah!