Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Debra's Testimonial

This was my first experience of a private hospital as a doula. I met Debra only a few weeks before the birth on the recommendation of a mutual friend, but we connected straight away!

Debra had an unplanned Caesarean birth after attempted induction. I'll be writing my story about this soon, but here is her story:

Not sure if you can see it here,
but mom is on the ball!
From the time we conceived, my husband and I read books, watched DVDs and sought advice from close friends and family. However, since none of our family were able to make the delivery or help us adjust to life after the birth, we still felt particularly nervous about whether we were always making the best choices for our family. 

This is where the famous Leigh joined our family of 3! I had never heard of a ‘doula’ or birthing ‘servant’ but from the day I met Leigh, she played an invaluable double role as both a passionate baby specialist and devoted friend. 

Leigh spent hours with us, answering our many questions regarding different natural birth pain relief options, emergency hospital procedures, breast verse bottle feeding… All our concerns were addressed. This made us feel confident and completely supported, knowing we could make well informed decisions concerning the safety and care of our baby Mpilo.

On the 6th of September Mpilo was due to be induced. Just in case he decided to arrive early, Leigh made sure we knew where she was at all times. Even if my contractions happen to start at 2am, she guaranteed to be there for us. What commitment! 

Armed with games, snacks, massage oils, stories and a medicine ball, Leigh was ready for anything that might occur on our special day. After 6 hours of trying to prepare for a natural birth, the doctor decided to conduct a C-section birth, due to my increasing BP and the circumference of Mpilo’s head. I would have panicked if Leigh was not there to speak with the medical team, offer us sensible advice and show compassion. 

During the C-section, Leigh talked me through the effects of the epidural, what the doctors were doing, how to recover from the procedure and took photographs, all while holding my hand. While I was in recovery, Leigh had already updated my husband on the success of the surgery, checked Mpilo was okay and organised for him to be exclusively breast feed.

The next day, Leigh was back to check on my recovery, to patiently answer more of my questions and help me effortlessly connect with Mpilo. Since then, Leigh continues to keep in regular contact with us. What a beautiful woman! What an amazing experience! 

Mpilo Samuel Nala, the name of our handsome baby boy, means ‘God’s desire is to give us abundant life’ (1 John 14). This is our testimony of His endless goodness to us. After sharing our baby journey with Leigh, our very own special doula, I would sincerely encourage every expecting mother to do as we did.

Did you have a doula for a caesarean birth? Would you recommend it?

For Love or Money?

Is this doula worth the moola?

Find it here.
So as I'm nearing the end of this doula course I'm contemplating the possibility that I get to earn money doing what I love. That is a very privileged place to be!

High School teaching, ballet teaching, lecturing Art History at three different institutions, importing amber teething necklaces and hazel necklaces - I enjoy all of these things. But, with ballet teaching for instance, I never started my own studio because something in me just knew that as much as I love dancing and teaching, it's not what really gets me up in the morning. If I did force it just because it was what I'd always done, I think it would have eaten me alive.

Working with bellies, birth and babies on the other hand... Now this stuff keeps me up at night! I will sit and read journal articles on the benefits of one birth position over another for hours, or sit with a mom while she labours for as long as it takes and feel more alive at the end of it than I did at the start.

But I read someone the other day writing about how she found a doula who 'isn't in it for the money, but does it from her heart' and while I understand her point, I get a bit frustrated that it's seen perceived as an either/or situation - you do it for the money OR out of your heart...

I'd love to be be able to offer my doula services for free, all day and every day. 

I'd love to be be able to offer my doula services for free, all day and every day. But when I am helping a mom in labour, I need someone to help look after my girls, and that sometimes costs money (or bribes). I want to do extra courses in hypnobirthing and aromatherapy and massage and breastfeeding (and and and) to be able to help my moms even more - but they all cost money and take time.

Furthermore, being a doula can be really inconvenient! For instance, I have a glass of wine with dinner sometimes, but when I'm expecting a mom to go into labour I won't drink at all, because I am quite sensitive to alcohol and I don't want my driving to be compromised and I think it's disrespectful to pitch up smelling like you've been drinking.

I can't organise holidays or travel too far away when I'm expecting a birth soon - or vice versa, I can't take clients due two weeks on either side of a holiday. If you think it's tough not knowing when you're going into labour, I have the buildup every time I have a birth! Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, I just think people need to know.

So I am in the situation where I will need to charge precisely because I love what I do. And you know what, I think that my time and skills, and my heart, are worth it.

Get the T-shirt here.
The stats back me up and the moms that I've already helped would agree, continuous care in labour makes a big difference! But, on the other hand, I do believe that every woman deserves a doula and I'm not saying that I won't ever take clients who can't pay, and I most certainly will do volunteer work as well, but in order to have the space and the finance to do that, I need to charge those who can pay for the service.

Perhaps I could offer discounted services for special cases, or barter my services for car repairs, or set aside a small amount per birth to put towards moms who aren't able to pay the full fee; I'm not sure, I'll have to see how it goes!

So what can you do to make doula care more accessible? If your medical aid doesn't already pay towards doulas (Fedhealth and Momentum do, and Discovery should be signing up soon) then write a letter to them saying why they should pay for doulas! If they do, write and thank them and let them know how much you valued your doula! We, the doulas and midwives, don't have as much clout as you do when it comes to getting medical aids to pay up...

If your hospital doesn't allow doulas as an additional birth partner, find one that does and give birth there and write to the original hospital and tell them why you aren't giving birth there. Or have a home birth and have as many doulas as you like...

Hospitals are very precious about their maternity wards as in the bigger cities women have a choice as to which hospital they want to birth at, and maternity wards bring in good money for hospitals, so if they are losing patients because they don't allow doulas, they would love to know about it! If they do allow doulas, write to them and thank them and let them know how much you appreciated your doula!

The same goes for medical aids that won't pay for home births and hospitals that won't allow private midwives. You as the paying client have the power to make a difference in these institutions!

Was your doula worth the moola? Comment and tell us about it!
Have your writtena  letter to your medical aid or your local hospital? Are you going to? Let us know!