The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

Each day on the Writing Mamas Daily Blog, a different member will write about mothering.

If you're a mom then you've said these words, you've made these observations and you've lived these situations - 24/7.

And for that, you are a goddess.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Doubting Damn Doula

I clutched my belly, steeling myself for the next wave of pain. “Your uterus is practicing,” the doula said. Her gut and experience told her that I was having prodromal labor.

I’d never heard of prodromal labor. Sounded like something that pregnant dolphins went through. And it sure felt to me like labor, the kind that came after nine months of carrying a little joey inside your body, in a really big pouch.

Besides, her gut wasn’t having a conniption fit – mine was. The contractions were coming on like clockwork, every – five – minutes – I – could – barely – catch – my – breath – and – and – find something to focus on besides the pain.

She suggested that I go about my day, and if things progressed, I’d give her another call. That Saturday, I had a bunch of errands to run, as the baby was officially due in another two weeks. I was going to buy a dresser for the baby. And get fitted for a nursing bra, after being advised that my cup size was going to be larger, thank goodness. Oh yes, my husband was going to take a photo of my pregnant belly, that really pregnant side shot that Demi Moore made famous.

None of that happened, but I did manage to finish packing my bag for the hospital. An hour and a half, and eighteen sets of contractions later, I even managed to finish a collage to pin up in the labor and delivery room. Pictures of scenic places, a serene Buddha, a harbor seal and her baby.

Did seals have prodromal labor? I still wasn’t sure if I was. Now it was late morning, and I lay crouching on my exercise mat, huddled under a blanket, listening to music my husband had prepped for the hospital. Between contractions, still five minutes apart but lasting thirty to forty seconds, I flipped through the worn pages of What to Expect When You’re Expecting and read up on the signs for true labor and false labor.

The doctor-on-call thought I would deliver that weekend, but the doula, after another phone call in the early afternoon, continued to trust her gut and assure me that the real thing could be days or weeks away. Days or weeks of this agony? I was shivering, tired from bouts of pain in the night, barely able to speak as the shadow of another oncoming contraction loomed.

After talking with my husband, the doula went out of town. I stayed huddled on my mat in the fetal position, singing my way through each crest of pain. I regained some strength and ate a bowl of oatmeal, which my body promptly expelled. Here I had envisioned a warm bath, a birthing ball for comfort, a teddy bear of a doula to lean on. But all I had was my Baja blanket draped around me, Paul Winter on soprano sax, and my husband clacking away on his keyboard in the next room. No food in my stomach, although the doula advised me to eat before going to the hospital.

Around three o’clock, I passed a lot of blood. No time to be squeamish now, or to speculate, “Is that a true or false, prodromal or actual labor?” My husband grabbed our bags, helped me into the car, and sped toward California Pacific.

At every traffic light, past every large building that resembled a hospital, I wished I were there already. “Honey, I’m afraid I might have the baby in the car,” I said. Even a warm, dark movie theater would do.

I got wheeled in to admissions, where the nurse informed us that I was nine and a half centimeters dilated. My uterus had galloped along at a good clip, and I was in the ninth inning, bases loaded. The doula was out of town somewhere, sipping a margarita.

The staff wheeled me right up to a delivery room, no questions asked. A nurse guided me through the final phase of pushing. It was like an elephant trying to come through the kitty door. If that sounds like an exaggeration, just ask any mother who has given birth to a baby -- whether seven pounds or 70. It took only forty-five minutes of pushing, and then a precious little body, gelatinous and warm, slipped out. My son, whom we named Alex, had large blue eyes and a rosy complexion. We held our first-born, beaming, proud, and teary-eyed as any first-time parents. His Apgar score was a nine out of ten. Excellent! Our son did well on his first standardized test.

As for the doula, we’re glad we didn’t trust her gut. We got to the hospital in time. And by that point, the doula was superfluous. She professed that she’d done right, and didn’t take responsibility at first for her mistake. She thought she was doing us a favor by charging a hefty retainer fee for her services. “You didn’t call me when you went to the hospital,” she said defensively. Her advice: keep practicing. Or maybe we should have waited for her to arrive from wherever she was while I had the baby in the car.

It amazes me how doulas fall outside the medical system, which frees them from responsibility beyond their own ethics. Of course, I can’t argue that a lot of women have benefited from doulas. One of her clients called her a “divine doula.” But how about “doubting doula” or “dubious doula?” Or, as one mom exclaimed, “damn doula!”

In the end, what really mattered was that I could trust my body. Every five minutes, it told me exactly where I was headed. And when the time came, a precious little being came into the world, without drugs, without divine doula intervention.

What more could a new mom ask for?

By Li Miao Lovett


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I so enjoyed reading this! The saying, "you'll laugh about it later" = the wonderful phrase of pushing an elephant through a kitty door! A crazy comedy of errors. Wait, the same can be said about the baby's first year! Congratulations and keep the humour! - Maija
There are as many unbelievable, miraculous birthing stories as there are human beings on this earth. Thanks for sharing one I've never heard before! (Actually I have never heard one that involved a doula.) You were right to trust your own body - with enough time to spare - to deliver safely. Speaking from the vantage point of being a mom with two teenagers, you have to do that all the way along - keep trusting your instincts and doing what's right for you and your child. -- Sue
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