Erica's Doula Journey
Updated: Aug 1, 2020
Doulas Are Worth Every Penny… And More!
My name is Erica Botha, and I am a certified labor doula and childbirth educator working in the Atlanta area alongside other really amazing doulas at Atlanta Birth Doula! If you know me even for one minute, it's no secret that I LOVE DOULAS! Today I wanted to talk a little bit about my personal experience with having a doula throughout my pregnancy, birth, and postpartum period, why I chose to hire a doula, and how that led me on my journey to becoming a doula. Like many pregnant people, I was very nervous and excited upon the news that I was to become a parent. My partner, although excited too about the news, felt the same way. A sense of overwhelm came over us as we went down the rabbit hole thanks to Dr. Google. A friend of mine who was also pregnant at the time introduced me to the concept of doulas. Immediately I began to research doulas and what exactly they do and I was hooked. At first, all of the information was very confusing. There were so many doulas to choose from, with so many different philosophies. First, I had to determine what I was looking for in a doula, and I went from there. I examined what type of support I was needing most and what was important for me and my partner. I knew that my husband and I needed childbirth education, as the lack of information we had was stressing us both out. So the first requirement was that they could teach us in a class format the things we needed to know about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Second, I wanted a doula who was open to all types of birth. My hopes were to have an unmedicated, low intervention birth in a hospital setting. However, I understood that things may not go as planned and I wanted to feel supported should my decision change about having an unmedicated birth. Since we both felt overwhelmed with the prospect of searching out individual doulas, we decided to go straight to the source of a doula agency much like Atlanta Birth Doula. We had an interview with the owner and she matched me up with a doula that she felt would match our needs and personalities. I was so thankful for this service because it really did take the stress off of us, and boy did she get it right. After our consultation with our doula, we felt confident and comfortable. My anxieties were dissipating because we now knew we were in the hands of a professional that could guide and support us through this wild journey. Throughout my pregnancy I spoke with her often. Anytime I had a checkup we would touch base, and I feel like I must have asked her a million and one questions! She was patient, empathic, and kind. Over time we built a relationship with each other. This connection was furthered by the fact that we met weekly for our childbirth education, which gave us an even greater opportunity for the three of us to get to know each other before the big day.
After a very long (yet somehow also quick) 9 months, I finally went into labor. I felt very anxious when the contractions started. I immediately picked up the phone and called my doula. As contractions became more intense, we all decided along with my medical professionals that it was time to head to the hospital. When I arrived my doula was there waiting on us. What a relief it was for my husband and I to see her face! She guided me through contractions while I was admitted, which seemed as if it took forever. They admitted me and checked me for dilation. I knew FOR SURE in my mind that I was at least halfway there. Imagine my shock and discouragement when I found out that I was still at a big fat 1 cm dilated! My doula lifted me up, gave me words of affirmation, and calmed my husband as it was stressful for him to see me in pain. As it turns out I had some cervical scarring and when it broke apart, I dilated very quickly and as a result I was having difficulty managing the pain. I decided for myself that I would like to have pain relief, so I opted for an epidural. My doula was there to support me, I felt no shame from deviating from my birth plan. She presented me with all of the facts and explained to my husband and I what we should expect next. She was able to relieve my husband from his duties as a birth partner, which allowed him time to rest and space to process everything that had happened. In fact throughout my labor I witnessed her “doulaing” my husband many times. Partners need help too! Finally, 15 hours later it was time to push, she guided me through four hours of pushing. During those 19 hours she never left my side. I knew that I could always turn to her and see her smiling face, and that would push me to go on. I understood in those moments that doulas are so much more than comfort measures and hip squeezes that we commonly think about when we hear about doula support. Finally, at the end of it all she asked me the million dollar question, “What would you like to eat?” In that moment, all I could think about was a cheese burger, and sure enough she obliged. I never knew a McDonald’s burger could taste so good!
My daughter was admitted to the NICU shortly after she was born and my doula was a pillar of support. She continued to check in on me and my family and lifted us up with her bright spirit. My doula gave me the opportunity to process my birth with her and helped me at every opportunity with the transition into becoming a parent. My husband and I are eternally grateful for her. As the months went by and I stepped into my role as a parent, I kept in touch with my doula. It was then I started becoming more interested in pregnancy, birth, and child rearing. I spent my days doing hair and tending to others needs. I spent my nights reading everything involving birth to satisfy my hunger for knowledge. As my curiosity grew, I began thinking about what it would mean to become a doula myself. I called up my doula, and she was very excited at my wanting to become a doula. She nurtured and encouraged my dream just as she had nurtured and encouraged me during my pregnancy and birth. I researched the many different certifying organizations and ultimately decided on Birth Boot Camp. Since I myself took the classes, I had a special place in my heart for the education that they offered me that helped me to make the best decisions for my family on my daughters born day. I spent the next few months pouring over books, watching documentaries, and researching all things birth related. Finally the day came for me to support a family at their birth just as my doula had done for me. I still remember every moment, every tender touch between partners, the joy of the family members seeing their new grandchild, and most of all watching my clients transform into parents. Our clients are always so thankful to have us there, just as I was with my doula. I have come to realize that I am thankful too. The honor that is bestowed upon us to be a part of a family’s most intimate moments, the opportunity to watch them blossom into parents, is one of the most precious things that I have ever experienced. No matter how many parents come and go into their journey of becoming a parent, that feeling of thankfulness never leaves me. I am changed for life. So to my doula, I say thank you.