Posted in Blog, Emma, Emotional wellness, Featured, Just for you, Life as a mom, Mother, Recovering from childbirth

When a doula has a baby

I’m a doula. I attended hundreds of women in labor before i got pregnant myself and as I’ve made the transition from full-time doula to full-time mama, other mamas have asked how birth hit me. Friends and clients have asked about how I look differently at doula work since having a baby.

I found doula work quite by accident and just knew I was home at my very first birth. The power of women, of families, going through the process of bringing a baby into their lives is glorious, beautiful, addictive. Within months of getting started I was busier than I wanted to be and worked 4 lovely years as a birth doula, meeting many many new souls and new mamas and papas along the way.

It is unusual in the States for women to witness birth before they do it themselves – hence, the existence of paid, professional doulas in the first place. In many other countries in the world, women, and even girls, see sisters, friends, aunts and neighbors birth their babies before they even think about getting pregnant themselves. Here, I would say it’s pretty rare for a woman to have any exposure at all to real birth – don’t get me started on the tv versions.

So, as a rare commodity, a woman who knew all about birth before birthing, here’s my list of things I knew and things I very much did not know about getting pregnant, having a baby and raising said baby.

I had lots of idealistic visions of how I would go about things. I would practice yoga. I would keep working. I would be glowy and joyful. I would have a completely natural pregnancy and birth and it would look good on me. Syke! It was mostly the opposite of that.


I knew…

* That I would do my best to have a home birth and that I would not be psycho about this choice. When I would tell one of Sean’s friends (who had two babies at home) that I was hoping for a homebirth he couldn’t understand why I didn’t say it definitively, like, “We ARE having a home birth” “We WILL have a water birth!” I knew that gripping so tightly to one plan was the least likely way to make it happen, so I tried to be cool and flexible.

* That I would fall so madly in love with this babe. Seriously. She is the best.


I did not know…

* That I would throw up every. day. None of my clients had hyperemisis, though I knew it was a thing (that I didn’t officially have – just so much throw up), and I kept waiting for it to pass but it never did. Twelve weeks came and went. Then 20, 25. Around 8 months the nausea abated, but was still a big part of my life.

* That I would feel so crazy. I had major mood swings all through the first half of my pregnancy, dramatically bowing out of a good friend’s wedding shower the day of, crying all the time, feeling generally disagreeable and pouty. Why? No reason, just bein’ pregnant and out of my mind.

* That I would get so huge. My 135 pound body stopped looking at the scale around 215. You guys, that is 80 pounds. I didn’t recognize myself (and my joints still complain).

* That I would be so sensitive. We planned on having the baby sleep with us and if my in-laws even hinted about being unsupportive, I’d lose it. Starting around 5 months along, strangers at the grocery store would ask me if I was having twins or if I was past due and I would carry around hateful feelings toward them ALL DAY. To be fair, I was really, really huge and their questions were valid but I could not for the life of me understand why they would actually ask them.

* That birth wouldn’t be too hard. I focused a LOT on what it would feel like, how it would go, who would take pictures, who would be invited, who would not be invited. It worked out perfectly, almost easily. Only 4 hours of true, active labor, eased baby out in the water, no tearing. Did laundry the next day. I was very lucky.

* That I would hate breastfeeding. That I would soak my sheets at night with sticky milk. That my boobs would hurt all the time. That I would resent my baby for needing to eat because she hurt me so much. That she would not be able to eat for a little while. That she would be hungry and that that would turn me into a compulsive baby weigh-er long after she got it straightened out. That I would consider quitting breastfeeding and seriously think about using formula by choice, not necessity.

* That I would loooooooove breastfeeding. That I could sit and stare at my baby for an hour while she ate (this is still true). That I would want to help other women with breastfeeding struggles. That my role as “breastfeeding mother” would become such a huge part of my identity.

And, overall, I just had no idea how out of control I would feel – of my body, my emotions, my time. Immediately postpartum, I had no idea how often I would be completely naked, how long I could happily stare at my baby, how difficult it would be to get the laundry done or to take a shower, how desperately I would need my postpartum doula, how utterly interruptible I would be for the rest of my life.

I  suppose, as a doula, I focused so much on birth – whether or not it would be hard for me, whether I would have a cesarean, where it would ultimately take place, that I forgot to take into the consideration the parts that ended up being the most challenging for me: being pregnant and breastfeeding.

The difficulty I had was both a blessing and a curse. It has cured me of my compulsive and perfectionistic tendencies. My house is a sty (as I fondly call it) much of the time and I am learning to be ok with that. My eyebrows are unplucked most of the time and I am learning to be ok with that.

I know that I will never again step foot in the house of a baby under 8 weeks old without bringing a fiber-filled, delicious meal, doing the dishes and a load of laundry no matter how much the mother of the under-2-month baby politely protests. This was true before but is even more so now; I will always always always smile at pregnant women and never ever ever mention anything about their size (so small! so big! whatever!). And I will be very careful about the way I talk to a postpartum mother. I will be as kind and supportive as I possibly can be of whatever she is feeling – even if she is acting insane or mean. I will tell her she is doing a good job. I will tell her she is a good mom. She needs to hear it.

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  1. I love this! Especially this:

    “I had no idea how often I would be completely naked, how long I could happily stare at my baby, how difficult it would be to get the laundry done or to take a shower, how desperately I would need my postpartum doula, how utterly interruptible I would be for the rest of my life.”

    It is so, so true!

  2. Emma,

    THis is beautiful…honest…and so humble.
    Thanks for sharing this with the world.


  3. Emma Summer,

    I love you. Being pregnant, breasfeeding, having kids. This is the list of things that scares/worries me more than anything else in this world. Reading made me feel more at ease, comforted. Thank you. I love you.


  4. Thank you for this. For 18+ years I have have felt guilty for the weight gain, the hormones, the postpartum depression, the feelings of inadequacy… Parenting is hard enough without feeling guilty! Knowing that it can happen to others, and that it is part of a normal process helps. Nursing my children was the only easy part for me, though after two weeks in NICU, it was more difficult with the elder child. I hope that you will find, as I did, that the kids bring more and more joy over time!

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