Most people will spend £10,000 PLUS on their wedding day, the biggest proportion of that often being on the catering. When I got married three and a half years ago, (when I think the wedding industry was actually a bit cheaper than it is today), we spent at least £4,000 on the food. Four grand on a meal! Yet I spent nothing on my daughters birth. Don’t get me wrong I loved my wedding day, it was amazing and I wish I could do it all over again, (still with the same man!) But getting married did not have anywhere near as big an impact on my life as becoming a mother did. Not even close. So why do we generally as a society place such emphasis on the day we get married, but neglect to invest in the day we give birth?
In my personal experience it was ignorance. Ignorance of how big an impact giving birth could have on me. When I had my daughter I read a few books about birth. I even did a one day hypnobirthing course, (so I did spend about £80!) But I still didn’t know what I really needed to know about giving birth. I didn’t understand about physiological birth. I didn’t understand all my different options, and what choosing interventions meant for me and my baby. I actually had no idea what a doula was at that point in my life, but I wish I’d had one now. And I’m going to tell you why if I’d had a doula it would have made a difference...
I was in latent labour for days, (I didn’t get that’s what it was), so I went back and forth to the hospital, completely exhausting myself and possibly slowing down my labour. If I’d had a doula I would have known not to do this and would have been comfortable at home, possibly changing the entire course of my labour.
By the time I got admitted I just wanted pain relief, which I hadn’t wanted previously. A doula could have convinced me to wait a little while, plus she’d have been aware of natural pain relief methods.
I then had an epidural. A doula would have supported me in this choice but would have made sure I was aware of the risks of having an epidural and what it really means- for example very little freedom of movement, cannula drip, catheter.
My daughter was born in theater with forceps and I had to have an episiotomy and lost a lot of blood. Instrumental delivery’s are more likely with an epidural, you are less likely to have either an instrumental delivery or an epidural if you have a doula.
It is proven that having a doula (someone you didn't know previous to pregnancy & isn't medically trained) support you increases your chances of having positive birth outcomes. Nurturing Birth's 2013 survey found that only 12% of women who had a doula ended in c section, compared to the national average of 25%. And only 15% of women had an epidural compared to the national average of 62%.
But why does it matter if you have a good experience of giving birth or not? It matters because the mental impact of giving birth can last a lifetime. If it’s traumatic, and it is up to the individual to define what traumatic means to them, it can have a lasting impact on your life as a new mother and your whole families life. After my daughter’s birth I initially found it hard to bond with her, I’d had a blood transfusion and I felt like a zombie! These feelings passed after a couple of weeks but the episiotomy kept getting infected and I was in and out of A&E, it was a very stressful time. All of this came back to bite me on the arse when she was 11 months old and I got postnatal depression. I’m sure it was linked to how traumatic her birth was for me. I believe that maybe I could have avoided all of that if I had been more informed and invested in her birth, and thus myself as a new mother.
And it’s not just women that a traumatic birth can affect, men can be affected too. So it is worth considering for all of you as a family how much value does a positive birth experience have for you?
This can be applied to the postnatal period too. Many women who have a positive birth experience can struggle during the postnatal period. There isn’t enough support in this country for new mums. And our own attitudes need adjusting! How does it make sense to spend our money on the latest buggy rather than the actual experience of becoming and being a mother!? Because to be honest with you; when you’re sleep deprived, struggling to breastfeed and longing for support you’re not going to give a crap that you have a Bugaboo.
This blog post isn’t about me convincing you to hire me, or even a doula! Although I obviously think they’re worth the investment, and will be having one myself next time around. It’s about me getting you to think about what you need to have a positive birth experience, if that’s a doula great, research your options. Most importantly it is me highlighting that your experience of birth deserves to be invested in, it deserves as much weight as other important days in your life because it’s impact will last forever.
If you are interested in hiring a doula go to www.doula.org.uk. Mentored doulas charge less than recognised doulas and many doulas offer payment plans. If you’re interested in me being your doula I’d love to hear from you :)