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How the life changing benefit of doula care made all the difference

Cassie was with me during my pregnancy, labor and delivery. Her support, encouragement, patience and kindness helped me have the most incredible labor and delivery I could imagine. I reflect back on my son’s entry into this world often. When I do, I smile.
Amar and I during a trip to Spain while I was pregnant.

Amar and I during a trip to Spain while I was pregnant. /Submitted photo

When I was pregnant, and before I gave birth for the first time in December, I was afraid. In fact, I was terrified. I had dark thoughts. I allowed my mind to go to some scary places and more than once feared the worst could happen to me or my unborn child. 

I have anxiety. To me, it’s best explained as a fear of the unknown. I do well with preparation. When I have a good idea of what’s ahead of me, I can prepare. In school, I could prepare for quizzes and tests. I could study and memorize the information and fill in the appropriate bubble on the Scantron accordingly. In the professional world, I make sure I know what is being asked of me and then I complete the tasks accordingly. I like to know what lies ahead. When I do, I feel ready to accomplish anything.

Soon after we discovered we were having a baby, I began preparing. I bought What to Expect When You are Expecting. I downloaded three apps – What to Expect, Ovia and The Bump. Weekly, I read about symptoms I may be feeling emotionally, physical reactions I may have to what was occurring inside my body, and how big my baby was at the time. It all helped me understand and process what was going on with me and baby.

Although my apps, books and web research helped me handle the new symptoms of pregnancy week to week, there was one big event that always loomed in my mind – my actual labor and delivery day, whenever that day would come. No amount of reading or scrolling through my apps could correctly predict when or how my labor would begin and go. I realized this would be the biggest act I’ve ever done in my life, and I wouldn’t be able to fully predict, or accordingly prepare, for how it was going to turn out. 

It was during a phone call to a close friend in August that I was first introduced to doulas. I had never heard of them before. A doula is a labor coach specifically trained in relaxation techniques, designed to help a woman best prepare for a calm labor and delivery. After that initial conversation, I knew almost immediately that this was something I wanted to investigate further and learn more about.

After spending some time on Google (how else was I going to get the low down?) I set up informational conversations with doulas in the greater Grand Rapids area. After a few of these meetings, I chose Cassie Schultz of Great Lakes Doulas as my doula. I was specifically attracted to her own story and the fact that she, too, experienced anxiety prior to labor and delivery herself. 

Prior to my due date of December 11, 2018, Cassie met with my husband and I two times in the comfort of our home. She came prepared with a folder full of information and resources, a book, an instructional DVD and exercises to help me prepare for labor and delivery. Armed with everything she taught me, I did the best I could in the days leading up to December 11 to stay calm and confident. I implemented some of the exercises daily and asked Amar to help hold me accountable. He gently reminded me on days I forgot or didn’t make time to do them. I diligently read Natural Hospital Birth, the book Cassie lent me. And I continued to consult my apps and other reading material. 

As December got closer and closer, something gradually began to shift in me. Slowly, day-by-day, my fears began to diminish. By working with to Cassie, and knowing I was preparing as much as I possibly could, I felt ready for the Herculean task ahead of me of bringing a baby into this world. 

Cassie also helped prepare Amar to be strong for me during our labor and delivery, which was incredibly helpful and important. This is one of the important aspects of a doula that might be overlooked.

Friday, November 30 was my last day of work before beginning maternity leave. I chose to take a week off prior to my due date to have time to prepare at home before the big day. It turned out, I would only have about a day and a half at home before it all began.

I went into labor the afternoon of Tuesday, December 4, 2018. By the time Amar got home from work that evening, things were already underway. We would drive to the hospital around 3:30 a.m. the next morning, Wednesday, December 5. It was just like in the movies – a drive to the hospital in snowy conditions in the predawn morning. 

At 5:20 a.m., Cassie arrived at the hospital. I know this because it’s in her notes from the day, which she shared with me after. Throughout my entire labor and delivery, Cassie provided the reassurance that I could do it. She helped me articulate my desires to the doctors and nurses and speak up for myself. She encouraged me to recall the exercises she recommended months ago and put them into practice. When I didn’t want to move, or even stand up, she reminded me that doing so would help ease me pain and make delivery that much easier. 

She brought material for Amar to read to me while in labor. I don’t even remember what he said, but I recall the cadence of his voice during my time of great pain. 

And toward the end, when I thought I couldn’t push anymore, Cassie told me what I already knew – that I could do it and at the end of this all I’d finally get to meet baby!

On December 6, 2018, at 4:18 a.m., Aadil was born. After months of uncertainty and patiently waiting, we finally got to meet our little guy. I had a natural birth. It is well reported that doulas and labor coaches help reduce the likelihood of a caesarean section. 

Cassie was with me during my pregnancy, labor and delivery. Her support, encouragement, patience and kindness helped me have the most incredible labor and delivery I could imagine. I reflect back on my son’s entry into this world often. When I do, I smile. I realize I found strength within me I never knew I had. I did what I thought I couldn’t do. And I was unafraid when the time came, because I knew I had the best possible support team. 

As a new parent of a now six-month old, I have new fears. I’m realizing that comes with the territory of being a parent, especially a new parent. To pregnant women who seek extra support, reassurance and guidance during a time of uncertainty, I cannot say enough about seeking the support of a trained doula. It will make all the difference. 

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