I mean, this was my first birth that wasn't my own.
This client found me after I responded to an inquiry she placed on a local email list serve for doulas. Most of my first clients found me by word of mouth - my doula, midwife, and childbirth educator sent me referrals. But this was my very first and I booked her all on my own. I wrote back feverishly, with all the passion I could. Next day, we had an interview at a diner and I loved them immediately. We fell right in together.
I knew I was meant for this work.
When she went into labor, we were in touch most of the day. I was so excited all day long. I called other doulas I trained with and my own doula for some coaching. I had no idea when I should join her, so I waited for her to ask me to come. I was so nervous I would miss the call so I held my phone in my hand, mostly staring at it all day. I couldn't continue with my normal life or rest in preparation. Sounds like the opposite of what we tell our clients to do in early labor.
I took the subway to her after dinner. I was reading Penny Simkin's The Birth Partner on the train. . . as though all the answers would be in there so I'd know them by the time I arrived. It was my little secret. That I felt unprepared. And every two seconds I looked up to make sure I didn't miss the stop. I don't think I actually read a single page, even though I know the book was open.
We worked together all night. Her partner was so devoted - completely present. I ran on pure adrenaline and snacked on fruit and nuts. Milo was only six months old so I escaped into the bathroom a couple of times during the night at the hospital to pump. When I realized I had no way to keep the milk cold, the nurse said, "Honey, don't panic. We have so much ice on this floor," and she took out a pink plastic bin for me to fill. Almost like a champagne bucket for breast milk. The baby was born in the morning. I filled every bottle I brought with me that night and carried it home in my bag. It was my first night away from Milo. The first of what would be many for this reason.
I took the subway home and fell asleep at least eight or nine times. I wasn't so nervous about missing my stop. And I think I fell over on my neighbor several times. Sitting is the absolute worst thing you can do when you've been at a birth all night.
Josh was home with Milo when I got there. "How was it?" he said. He earnestly wanted to know. He listened so intently.
My response was one I repeat, to this day, no matter the birth, when someone asks me how it was.
"It was so much easier than being the person in labor. Just way, way easier."
With all I've got!
About the Author:
Tanya Wills is a graduate of the midwifery program at Yale School of Nursing, where she received her Master of Science in Nursing and also earned her R.N. (Registered Nurse).