By Nyla R., mother and former HBP client
When I gave birth three years ago at age 16, I wanted a doula to support me but none was available. At that point I decided that I wanted to become a doula – a trained labor coach who provides physical assistance and emotional support before, during, and after a woman gives birth.
Now, three years later, here I am. I’m doing for other girls what I wanted for myself thanks to the new HBP Teen Doula Program. This year I attended DONA International Birth Doula Workshop for training. When a young, pregnant woman needs support during pregnancy and childbirth, I can give it.
Recently I had the opportunity to assist my first client during childbirth and delivery. Martina was in the end stages of her pregnancy. A former addict, she had come to Healthy Babies Project after escaping from the sex trafficking trade.
My Training Paid Off
The day started out simply enough. I accompanied Martina to her prenatal checkup. Right after the visit she started to feel very mild contractions. We went to her home to finish up with her prenatal meeting. The contractions became stronger. In between her contractions, Martina started vomiting. My training stepped in. “This is it,” I told myself. “This is the onset of labor.”
Every time a contraction peaked, I asked Martina to lean over the table, stop talking, and sway. It was beautiful. She handled her contractions so well. Soon, I moved her to the floor. When another contraction hit she swayed again, but this time with her knees on the floor and her upper body on the couch. Then when it was over she lay down on her back to get comfortable. I helped by placing pillows where she wanted them and then massaged her feet with oil. I encouraged her to try to sleep.
Around 4:30 PM, Martina was admitted to the hospital. During our labor preparations she had expressed her plans to ask for pain relief. I was proud that through her contractions and the commotion at the hospital that she still managed to ask for an epidural when she needed one. She took ownership of her birth experience and to me that was empowering.
About 9:00 PM, the doctor broke her bag of water and administered Pitocin to speed up contractions. In between contractions, Martina tried to rest. The contractions grew stronger. I watched them on the monitor. As a contraction began, I reminded her to breathe as we had practiced. By 11:30 PM Martina had dilated only a bit more. You can imagine her discouragement after laboring for hours, yet making little progress. I knew she needed some encouraged. “You’re still making progress,” I reminded her. “You have dilated a centimeter, you’re 52% effaced and the baby’s head is moving down.” I encouraged her to sleep a bit and to think about seeing her baby.
When I heard Martina’s grunts at 1:00 AM, I looked at the monitor. The contractions were strong and intense. They had started to peak, meaning they were close to each another. I knew delivery would be soon.
She Did It! A New Life Is Born
Martina was very uncomfortable, particularly from the pressure in her lower areas. By 2:00 AM she was 8 cm dilated and 88% effaced. At that point, the delivery team moved into action. Doctors and nurses and rushed into the room to set up.
The nurses said Martina could take few practice pushes … then, minutes later, her sister and I held her legs. I grabbed Martina’s hand to help her grab her own leg so that she could help herself to bear down. I watched her sister, too, as she helped Martina hold her other leg. Martina’s sister cried quietly. Then, the moment everyone had been waiting for: Martina bore down with everything she had and screamed out loud. Her son was born at 2:30 AM!
Martina was so happy. The pain was gone and she had her new baby – a new life laying right there on her chest. She did it! She managed so well and did such a good job through labor and delivery.
Giving birth is hard work. Not having support makes it even harder. No women should have to do it alone, no matter how old or young she is. A doula is someone a laboring woman can rely on emotionally and physically during childbirth. In addition, a doula is trained in practicalities, including helping the laboring woman understand the medical terminology used by hospital staff so she is not confused but calm and confident.
Martina spent 17 ½ hours in labor. I grew in so many ways by being a part of her birth experience. It was a privilege to be there, help, and support – to give her a piece of myself that she needed in that time and in those moments. The experience taught me that being a doula is not an easy job, but it is tremendously rewarding. Through Martina’s labor and the birth of her son, she blessed me to understand even more about the beauty of life, the strength of women, the endurance of a mother, and the unselfishness of a mother’s love.
Nyla is currently attending University of the District of Columbia. Martina and her baby son are thriving.