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My failed VBAC was still a success

What were the circumstances that led to your c-section with your first birth?

“With my first birth, I knew I wanted a natural birth and I never really thought I would be one of the unlucky ones to need a C-section! I was quite naive and thought if I just go with the flow, everything will be fine. Birth can’t be that bad, everyone does it and is fine!!

The troubles started when my son was breech. I was told I had to be in the care of a Gynecologist from week 36 on. I did not explore my options very thoroughly and the doctors told me that I could not have a natural birth if he remained breech. Even though my instincts said I shouldn’t I went ahead and tried a version (manually trying to turn the baby head down) at week 36. It went fine and he turned. However, had I known that a breech birth would have been an option with the right Gynecologist I would have chosen this option for sure. At the time, I didn’t do my own research but trusted my midwife when she told me there was no one in the area who would support a vaginal breech birth.

At 42 weeks there was no sign of my son wanting to come out, so I was told I had to be induced. Again, I felt I had no options and I went ahead and let them induce me! It was a terrible, painful labour and I did not dilate more than 4cm. Eventually it ended in a c-section due to my son not reacting well after the administration of synthetic oxytocin.”

Did the c-section affect your well-being?

“I was very upset that I had to have a c-section since all I wanted was a natural birth! Although happy that my son was healthy, I still felt a sense of emptiness for years after. I realized a while later that it sort of traumatized me. It took a long time until I could actually look at pictures of the c-section without bursting into tears! I felt a sense of failure. Why couldn’t I do what most women can? Why was I not allowed to experience a natural birth? Why did I make the choices I made? Why did I blindly trust what

I was told without asking for alternatives and options? I did not enjoy looking back at the birth and I hated that I had to have so many medical interventions. I also hated that I couldn’t be with my son after the birth while in the recovery room. The whole thing was so unnatural! It took me a couple of miscarriages before I finally stayed pregnant 6 years later and looking back I believe this was perhaps partly due to the trauma of my first birth. I felt i needed to talk about it and went to see a birth trauma therapist to process the birth, which was really good for me.”

Why did you not go for an elective c-section this time?

VBAC image

“An elective caesarean was out of the question for me! I did nothing but research the options and watch tons of videos about natural beautiful births! It was my mission, I was going to have such a birth!! A natural birth where I felt in control, was free to make informed choices along the way, and a birth that was beautiful!

What was your biggest fear going into your VBAC?

“My biggest fear was that I would again have that sense of being out of control and the same thing would repeat itself.”

 How did you prepare?

“I found a midwife that supported me in my VBAC. I had many discussions with the Gynecologist until we came to an agreement that I could give birth in the hospital with a midwife as long as there were no complications. We agreed that the midwife would discuss everything outside of the room with the Gynecologist. I did not just take no for an answer, I did my own research and ignored any scare tactics that in the past would have caused me to make my decision based on fear! I was set upon doing this differently and as natural as possible! I meditated (hypnobirthing) and did yoga and optimal fetal positioning exercises daily. I felt calm and fearless. My husband and I had felt completely alone the first time and felt that we needed more support this time! I got myself a doula and a like-minded midwife!”

What was your biggest battle during the labour?

“My labour started off perfectly! My waters broke, contractions started and I laboured at home for as long as possible. When the contractions became too painful we went to the hospital an

d I continued to labour in a room with just my husband, midwife and doula as planned.

What I found the most difficult was not knowing when things were going to shift beyond that 4cm dilation I had reached last time and progress to the end.  I was having the same intensity of contractions for so many hours.”

PicMonkey Collage Milan

What was the moment like for you when you realized your VBAC was not going to be successful?

“It was 34 hours after my waters broke and I was stuck at 6 cm for 6 hours. I was exhausted! We had tried different techniques and positions but things were not changing! In fact, at one point my contractions slowed way down! Then I knew that things were not looking good!

We  discussed the options with the Gynecologist and decided to try oxytocin to augment my labour as a last resort. Again, like the first time, the oxytocin did not agree with me and the baby and the baby’s heart rate started to react. The Gynecologist highly recommend that I have a c-section and at this point I decided (and everyone agreed) that taking into consideration that my waters had been broken for so long and how exhausted I was this was the best option. It was a hard and very emotional decision for both my husband and I.”

How different was the c-section the second time?

“The second c-section was very different. The Gynecologist agreed to do a gentle caesarean. (I had written this in my birth plan and had also written that I wanted a partial lotus birth to leave the umbilical chord intact until a while later!). The Gynecologist agreed and did a great job. He handed me my son with the placenta attached, right after the placenta came loose, and my son never left my side!!”

Was the process of labour healing for you in any way even though it ended in a caesarean?

“I did not feel traumatized by the birth. I was disappointed but I was able to accept the situation. I always felt like I was in control. I could actually remember everything that happened (which was not the case with my first, since the pain was too intense due to induction) and my son was not taken away to another room. I experienced the natural start of labour and natural contractions. So, even though it was not the vaginal birth I had hoped for, it was still a lot better than the first one and I know I tried everything that I could. Of course there are still some “what ifs” but I know now that there is no point in that. I prepared as best as I could, and I chose to do the c-section in the end.”

What have you learned about yourself through this process?

“I feel that I was a very different person this time around. During the past 6 years I worked on myself and my outlook on life. I was not the perfectionist that I once was. I learned from my first experience that I am in charge of my body and not anyone else. I learned that I was not going to let fear control me. In life, sometimes things happen for a reason beyond my understanding, and that is okay. What matters is to be well-informed, trust your own instincts and believe in yourself.”

Do you have any regrets?

“I do not have any regrets looking back. I got to experience quite a bit of a natural birth (even labouring in water) and I look back focusing on the positives rather than the negatives of the birth.”

What would you recommend to anyone preparing for a VBAC?

“I recommend that you go for what you believe in! It is your body, your birth and you can choose what to do with it! Do your research! Hear different opinions before deciding what interventions you want and where you want to give birth and then go with what you feel the most comfortable with! I highly recommend a doula! I was so blessed to have Doula Sophie support me!! It made a world of difference!!”

Hidde

11-02-2017 Welcome sweet boy.

Finally he was in her arms, that little surprise gift that had come into her life, and all she knew at that moment… she would hold him tight and never let him go!

And then soon after she got to give her parents the best gift ever <3

Hidde-hospital-birth-doula

VBAC after a breech caeserean ~ A personal interview

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I met Vanessa and her husband when they took a private birth course with me for their first baby. She had complete faith that she could birth her baby naturally and really wanted to birth at home.

What were the circumstances that led to your c-section?

At around week 35 I found out that my baby was breech. I was heart broken, as I really wanted to try and have a home birth. I knew that I would never forgive myself if I didn’t try to give birth naturally, so I weighed out the options with the gynaecologist and my husband. I decided that I would let my baby decide his own birthdate and on September 7, 2013 at around 2am my waters broke. I wasn’t feeling any contractions and knew that for the best possible outcome I needed to stay calm and move around, so I went into work! I worked though the early hours of the morning and called my husband to pick me up after I had finished baking cupcakes (I had a cup cake business at the time). We were told to come to the hospital, where I was induced (something I did not want, but was told it was necessary to make sure that I would give birth in the next 24 hours). My contractions grew stronger throughout the day and around 9.30pm I was ready to push. I pushed for nearly 1 hour, but after suffering severe leg cramps, being completely depleted of energy and baby not moving we were taken in for a c-section.

Did the c-section have any effect on your well-being?

While I thought that the c-section would traumatize me, it did not. The delivery team explained everything very well and to be honest I was so ready to meet my baby. I was able to nurse him with the help of the nurses within an hour after he was born and we both then got some much needed rest.

I did however have thoughts of ‘what if’ after. There was something inside me that had a feeling I could have been successful giving natural birth if I was only given the chance and different treatment. This was something that stuck with me all through my second pregnancy.

How did you know you wanted to birth vaginally this time?

For me it wasn’t even a question, I just KNEW I needed to try. I have this deep, almost primal feeling that this is the way birth should be. It was something that I needed to prove to myself, that I was strong enough mentally and physically to give birth as so many millions of woman had done before me.

What was your greatest hope for this birth?

My greatest hope was that I would have a successful vaginal birth and heal some of the wounds I received mentally from my first birthing process.

What was your biggest fear going into this birth?

My biggest fear was that I wasn’t strong enough and that my body was somehow defective. To be honest I was never afraid of the risks, as from reading the numbers I felt confident they were not very important.

How did you prepare for your for this birth?

I prepared by practicing yoga, watching videos, visiting a chiropractor reading and talking out my plan with my husband and Sophie.

About 1 month before giving birth I would sit on the balance ball every evening, willing my hips to open.

What was your biggest battle during the labour?

Overcoming my fear of failure. My body felt strong, but about halfway through pushing, doubt was starting to creep into my mind. Thankfully with the help of Sophie talking me through it I was able to push those fears away and focus my mind.

What was the moment you realized your VBAC was successful?

The true moment I knew I was successful was when I felt my babies head push free. Yes, of course there was pain, but nothing mattered in that moment other than having my baby brought up onto my chest. It was such an emotional moment for me, I felt amazing and was so proud of my body and my baby. I was also a bit in shock that everything had gone so smoothly, I couldn’t even seem to opens my eyes for fear that it might have all been a dream. One of the best moments of my life!

Doula-florian-vbac

What have you learned about yourself through this process?

I’ve learned that I am strong, mentally and physically. That no matter what has happened in the past, we should focus on the here and now, because that’s what truly matters. But most importantly I learned to trust myself.

Name 5 things that contributed to you successfully birthing vaginally.

  • An amazing mother who always told me how special it was to give birth. She never once told me how painful or scary it was. For her birth was a beautiful process and I believe this is something more women need to hear! It was my goal to feel that same way about birth and now I do.
  • Preparing physically by practicing yoga, sitting on the balance ball, chiropractic care, constantly chasing a toddler around and listening to my body. Taking a 4-hour walk the day before I gave birth might have also helped. 😉
  • Mentally preparing by talking through my fears, writing out a birth plan and just believing in myself.
  • SUPPORT! I knew this time around I needed the best support to help me mentally during birth. I knew I wanted my husband and Sophie by my side. I also feel really lucky that the birth team in the hospital that night was fantastic, calm and really supportive of my birth plan. It helped me to feel empowered.
  • A baby that decided to be in the perfect position for birth!

Water ~ One of the most underestimated forms of pain relief

When you discovered you were pregnant and you started thinking about the birth of your baby did you think about water as an option for pain management? You would not be alone if your answer was no!

The benefits are huge.

2016-02-26 Wiktor-23Placing a pool of water in a birth room changes the atmosphere immediately. Voices get softer, the mother stays calmer and everyone becomes less stressed.

The effect of buoyancy, that immersion in water creates, allows easy movement of the mother. No one has to help the mother get into a new position. She moves as her body feels the need. Movement helps open the pelvis, allowing the baby to descend.
When a woman in labour relaxes in a warm deep bath she is free from gravity’s pull on her body and her body feels amazingly weightless. The sensitivity and irritation women can experience in their bodies when they are in labour is also reduced when in water as the sensory stimulation is dulled resulting in her body being less agitated by external ‘things.’

When a woman is relaxed in labour she is less likely to produce stress-related hormones and makes room for her body to produce the endorphins that are the bodies natural pain relief. A labouring woman who is able to relax physically, is able to relax mentally as well. Immersion in water also gives a sense of privacy and a personal space to feel safe in. A sense of safety is also very important for progress in the birth process.

Many women, midwives, and doctors acknowledge the analgesic effect of water. The effect is very clear when you see a labouring woman immerse herself in water or stand under the shower. Many women who have laboured in water say they would never be able to consider labouring without water again.

 Research has verified many positive aspects of labouring and giving birth in water.

  • Water facilitates mobility and enables the mother to assume any position which is comfortable for labour and birth.
  • Can speed up labour
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Gives mother more of a feeling of autonomy
  • Provides significant pain relief
  • Promotes relaxation
  • Conserves mothers energy
  • Reduces the need for drugs and interventions
  • Gives mother a private protected space
  • Softens the perineum and can reduce tearing
  • A gentle beginning for baby

Dangerous?

2016-10-11 Santi-11

Although water birth is becoming more widely accepted, for a long time many medical professionals thought it was dangerous to give birth in water. There were many unfounded myths surrounding giving birth in water. As a result of this it was not an option that was widely available. Still today, in The Netherlands, many midwives are afraid of supporting a water birth. Fears of not being able to measure blood loss or having to be more hands off during the birth of the baby are a few of the reasons given for not supporting water birth.

For an evidence based article on water birth and the research that has been done on it follow the link here: evidencebasedbirth.com

Maybe you really do not see yourself birthing your baby in the water …but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water!! You don’t necessarily have to give birth to your baby in the water, although that can be amazing, what about just using it for pain relief?

Over the last year or two the options for using water for labour and birth have grown, definitely in my working area, The Hague, Delft and Rotterdam. Midwives are being trained to support water birth and hospitals are seeing there is a demand for it. Even though it is becoming more popular, the options are still very limited. (My next blog will provide a list of hospitals in these cities above and the options they have for water birth)

The shower is often not considered and is also underestimated as a good form of pain relief. Women who use the shower though during labour can stay in there for hours sometimes. It really can help manage the pain. Almost all hospitals have showers in the en-suite bathrooms. A fantastic option for pain management.

2015-05-05 Jim-23

Is water really an effective form of pain relief?

I cannot tell you how many labouring women I have heard groaning with relief at the effect the warm water has on the pain when they first enter the water. That feeling of heaviness in her pregnant body is lightened and there is an ease to which she can move and find comfortable positions in the water. The warmth helps the body relax and the contractions are often experienced as less painful.

Rianne, a recent client of mine, said about her experience:

“I still remember the moment I got into the water. The warmth of the water made such a huge difference, I felt more relaxed, calm and focused. I was better able to get into my own “bubble.” Outside the water I needed help to cope with the contractions and as soon as I got inside the water I needed less help and didn’t feel ‘unsettled’ anymore. The water helped a lot to ease the pain. My score for the pain outside the water was 8/10 and inside the water it quickly became a 4/10.”

Rianne ended up not giving birth to her daughter in the water but had no regrets about having taken the trouble to rent a pool, take it to the birth centre and (have her partner) set it up. It was worth it all for the amazing relief it provided her.

So why not consider using water for pain management. Talk to your midwife about the options. One thing is for sure no woman who used this option ever said it was a waste of time and effort!

*Remember that if you have a medical indication, and are giving birth under the Gynecologist, your hospital of choice may have a pool but it is (in most cases) only available for women giving birth with an external (1st line) midwife practice. More about this in the next blog.

2014-04-12 Violeta-6

Where and with whom can I have a water birth?

The answer to that question is not as simple as it maybe should be.

There are different birthing facilities that facilitate a water birth.

You can rent a birthing pool and plan on a home birth, you can take a rented pool to a birthing centre or use an existing pool in a hospital facility.

Because of the lack of existing facilities for water birth, if you are counting on the last option, you run the risk of there being no pools available when you go into labour. If that happens, you have no choice but to forego your wishes for a water birth. 

2016-09-18 Tula-1

All hospitals and birthing centres do however have the availability of showers. The shower is often forgotten but is  more widely used for women who don’t need constant monitoring with CTG. The shower is also a fantastic, very effective, form of pain relief. Women who use the shower during labour can stay in there for hours sometimes. It really can help manage the pain.

Unfortunately labouring in water and giving birth in water is typically only for women giving birth with a (1st line) midwife practice, with the exception of a few hospitals in the country. This is changing fast as the demand for the use of water during labour is quickly increasing and hospitals are having to listen as clients are starting to choose for hospitals with more options. Not all midwives are trained or comfortable with supporting water birth so always ask your midwives about the options if you are interested in this option. If you have a negative response, you might want to consider seeing if there are other midwife practices in your area who have experience with water birth.

What happens when you have a medical indication?

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Wireless CTG for medical indication(VBAC)

When a woman is being followed by the Gynecologist during her pregnancy there is usually a medical reason. This usually means she needs to have continual monitoring of the baby with a CTG during her labour making it unusual for her to be allowed to use the shower for pain relief and even more unusual to give birth in water. There are a few hospitals in The Netherlands where this is possible but they are the exception and each case is judged on an individual basis.

There is also a possibility that a medical indication arises during your birth. In this case it is more than likely you will have to let go of your desire to use water for the birth.

Wireless CTG

Very few hospitals have wireless CTG’s and even fewer have wireless waterproof CTG’s. These do exist and would make the options for using warm water, even the shower, for pain management and birth a lot more accessible. These machines are expensive and unfortunately not seen as a priority when hospital budgets are made. If your hospital of choice has a pool ask about the options for wireless monitoring. The more people who ask, the more attention it will get that there is a demand for this option.

If you have a medical indication and are one of the lucky ones who lives close to a hospital that has the option to use a birthing pool with the 2nd line care, inquire about the options and protocols about your particular case.  Angela was one of the lucky ones. Read her VBAC water birth story here.

Remember that if you have a medical indication, and are giving birth under the Gynecologist, your hospital of choice may have a pool but it is (in most cases) only available for women giving birth with an external (1st line) midwife practice.

Where can I rent a birthing pool?

Many doula’s and midwife practices have birth pools to rent or you can hire one online. These companies have excellent services.

https://www.oerbron.nl/bevalbaden/huurbaden

http://www.aveta-shop.nl/Geboortebaden

https://www.bevallenzonderzorgen.nl/webshop/

https://www.bevalbaden.nl

How does a water birth work?

How to mentally prepare for a birth in water

Firstly, you need to prepare your mind. Examine your own motivations, incentives and expectations for wanting a water birth. Ask yourself what made you decide to have a water birth and why – is it something you are doing for yourself or are you doing it because someone else expects you to? Remain flexible and let go of the expectation that you must birth your baby in any certain way. Examine how you might feel if your baby is not born in water. We cannot plan birth and there is always a good chance it will go differently than planned. So hold on to your wishes lightly, inform yourself well of the options and alternative scenarios. The more you know and open yourself up for other possibilities, the less surprises you will have along the way and that will result in less stress and a better birthing experience, water birth or not!

What temperature should the water be?

2017-waterbirth-3The water temperature ought to be within 35C – 38C, depending on your preference. Adjust the temperature to your comfort. This can be done with a hose or by removing and then replacing some water with a bucket. If the water is too cold, you will use your energy trying to keep warm and become tense. If the water is too hot you’ll feel drowsy, overheated and may become dehydrated. Your blood pressure will drop which can make you feel faint and you’ll have a greater tendency to bleed after the birth. If you just want localized heat, for example on your back, wet hot wash cloths can be used. Cold wash cloths are great for cooling your face. It is normal for women during labour to one minute be too hot and the other too cold, your body is working very hard to birth your baby, so expect a little of that.

When should I get into the water?

2017-01-28 Re-do Jim waterbirth-2

A woman should be encouraged to use the labor pool whenever she wants. However, if she chooses to get into the water in early labor, before her contractions are strong and close together, the water may relax her enough to slow or stop labour altogether. It’s best to wait until you have a strong desire to be in the water or your contractions are strongly established and you are in active labour. Some recommend waiting until you’re at least 5 cms dilated, that way you save the pain relieving effect for the time you need it most. If labour slows down when you are outside the water, try getting into the tub as this might stimulate labour. If your progress slows down whilst you are in the tub, get out, empty your bladder and move around to stimulate labour. Often it is the CHANGE of environment that gets labour moving again. Women’s bodies are all different. The first hour of relaxation in the pool is usually the best and can often help a woman dilate quicker.

What can I drink and eat?

2017-01-28 Re-do Jim waterbirth-4Drink to thirst. Ask your partner to remind you to drink to avoid dehydration, which can result in fatigue and a poorly functioning uterus. Eating and drinking during labour has been shown to reduce the total length of labour by as much as 90 minutes. Eat light, easily digested food.

Birth positions for a water birth

Experiment with a variety of different positions while in the tub. Try kneeling, squatting, leaning, sitting or lying outstretched (body facing up or down.) Your body will typically move til it finds a position that feels more comfortable. Some women prefer their partner to be in the pool with them to hold onto and act as an anchor, others prefer to be in the bath alone.

When does the baby take its first breath?

The baby doesn’t breathe until after its face leaves the water and its skin comes into contact with the air or it is stimulated when out of the water.
Until then, the baby receives oxygen through its umbilical cord, as it has done during the 9 months of pregnancy. Discuss the actual birth moment with your midwife ahead of time. Many midwives feel comfortable with the time that it takes the mother to reach down and pick the baby up h2017-01-28 Re-do Jim waterbirth-5erself, others (often less experienced in water birth) feel the need to have the baby come straight out of the water.
Often a mother will have an automatic response and bring the baby straight out of the water to her chest. If she has thought about it before hand she may take the time to just pause for a moment while the baby is immersed under water and look at her little one before bringing it up out of the water. As long as no part of the baby has come out of the water this is fine and safe to do. Remember that the great benefits of water have already been achieved as soon as the infant is born into the warm water. Sometimes babies born in water are so calm at birth it can appear that they aren’t breathing. Gently rub their back or blow on their face and they will gasp. Being born from water into water is a gentle start for a baby and these water babies sometimes need a little more time to literally land on earth.

The placenta

2017-01-28 Re-do Jim waterbirth-12Some women like to stay in the pool after the birth to enjoy the moment and bond with the baby. Many women want to get out quite soon after and get into a nice warm bed. Birthing the placenta in the water is usually fine. Some midwives prefer the placenta to be born out of the water due to the difficulty to judge accurate blood loss. When it is time for the placenta to come, your midwife may ask you to get out of the pool. Discuss what you both feel comfortable with beforehand and what the scenarios may be that would change this stage of the process.

Top tips for a successful water birth

Tips for water birth in general

  • 2017-01-28 Re-do Jim waterbirth-6Know that at any time the situation can change and you may need to let go of your dream water birth. Hold the dream lightly so you can let go of it at any moment yet at the same time prepare well so you know you have done all you can to achieve your goal of birthing your baby in water.
  • Stick a sticker on the bottom of the pool. This can help to indicate how much blood loss there is. If you can still see the sticker post birth then it is usually fine. Also if you can still see what colour your legs are then your blood loss is safe.
  • To prevent the baby’s breathing reflex from kicking in the baby needs to stay completely under water till its whole body is born. The water needs to be at least 65cm deep. The water should ideally come up to under your breasts if you are sitting.
  • The water should be refreshed after 24 hours to prevent bacteria forming.
  • It is wise to not stay longer than 2 hours in the bath without a break of 30 minutes or so. This gives optimal pain relief and the movement of getting out of the pool can help the baby move through the pelvis.
  • Have an anti-slip mat to lay beside the pool for when you want to get out, old (or cheap)towels that can get dirty, a warm dressing gown and slippers.
  • Think about using dark coloured towels as any stains do not show and it looks better in the photos (says the birth photographer in me☺)
  • Take two or so of your own large bath towels, the hospital towels are not so big (and that is an understatement!)
  • It is a good idea to have a good torch/flash light with extra batteries for when the lighting is low and you want to see better whats going on in the water.
  • Some pools have a place for the partner to sit. It is nice to have the option of having your partner in the water with you for support, especially during the pushing phase. Make sure he has swimming shorts with him, just in case.
  • It is also nice to have candles, fairy lights or lighting that is dimmer for a more cozy and intimate atmosphere.

Extra tips for an enjoyable home water birth

  • If you are planning a home water birth, or renting a pool to take to a birth centre, you should usually have the pool in the house by week 37. Some midwife practices and doula’s rent birth pools. Find some links to where you can rent a pool on this prior blog post.
  • If you have a wooden floor make sure your floor can handle the weight of the water filled pool. A large pool carries about 800 liters of water, which is 800 kilo in weight. With a good floor this should not be a problem but in some old houses it is worth checking this first.
  • The room should be large enough to allow access from all sides. The midwife needs space to access the pool well.

    tula-home-water-birth-doula-sophie

  • The temperature of the room you will be birthing in should be comfortable. It can be nice to have a blow fan close by in case you get too warm in the water.
  • Have a practice run setting up the pool before hand. Time how long it takes to adequately fill the pool.
  • The midwife may at any point need more light then it is handy to have a moveable spotlight.
  • Have a low stool or children’s chair for the midwife to sit on next to the pool so she can sit comfortably too.
  • If the pool will be set up in the living area or on a different floor than the bedroom, make a comfortable place in the same room as the pool for mother and baby to lie on. A good sofa or guest bed/mattress work fine. This way you can lie there and enjoy the baby after the birth instead of moving upstairs or to the bedroom. This can also be used if you need to birth the baby or the placenta outside of the water. Make sure it is protected well from bloodstains and covered well with an old sheet and plastic if needed. The box you get from the insurance should have special mats in for this.
  • Have a few warm blankets or a duvet close by to keep mama and baby warm and lots of dark coloured towels 🙂

A glimpse of 2016

So excited to share my 2016 video with some of my favourite photos of last year. Some are my favourite because they are amazing shots and some are my favourites because of their special birth story. There are many, these are the ones I have permission to share. There are many special stories not represented here, that does not make them any less special. Enjoy <3
 
I love to figure out my stats and fun facts for the year. Here are some fun ones:
38 births, 39 babies
First twin birth 🙂
15 boys
24 girls
7/10 Successful VBAC’s (vaginal birth after cesarean)
6 Cesareans (1 planned)
19 First time mothers
30 Hospital births
4 Home births
4 Birth Centre births
7 mothers used medical pain relief!
4 Water births
6 mothers used a birthing pool for pain relief but did not give birth in water
28 international clients
5 repeat clients 🙂
1 birth missed (mother gave birth too quickly)
1 time (and the first) I sent my back up to a birth, because I had two at once.
3 Birth photography only

Not one but two Daniels!

On the 24th and 25th of December my last two births of the year took place. Two Daniels born to two different families in the same hospital and the same delivery room. I still got to spend Christmas eve(ning) with my family and Christmas afternoon with extended family. Apart from being a little tired I had a thoroughly enjoyable Christmas. Blessed <3

Voetjes

A labour of love and letting go (trigger warning)

One day in the month of May, earlier this year, I received a request from a midwife to photograph a very special birth.

In the early hours of a morning in June I received a call that labour had started and asking if I could join. When I arrived at the house there was a peaceful atmosphere and Jorinde was labouring in the birth pool. The midwife, her sister and a friend were there too and her son was sleeping in the room next door.

What I was about to witness that morning was a very brave yet brokenhearted mother who had faced many tough decisions throughout her pregnancy. She had decided to carry her baby full term after finding out that he had a rare form of dwarfism and a heart defect and would not live long after birth. She had walked a lonely journey and met misunderstanding as she sought for a way to give birth as she felt she wanted to. She found a support team willing to support a quiet respectful labour at home and a hospital team as back up if needed.

Her labour was a labour of love and letting go. Letting go of the son she so loved. The son whom she hadn’t yet met but whom she knew so well. She knew his kicks and his movements better than the back of her hand and as he grew she knew his life inside her womb was life indeed. Knowing that that life would not be sustainable on the outside was something she wanted to postpone for as long as she could. Now he was very much alive and kicking.

The letting go was agonizing and the pain of labour mirrored the pain on the inside. She patiently went through the process and we with her. The journey took her to the hospital and finally to let go of her sweet Valentijn via a cesarean section. He came into the world and looked his mother in the face for a short while and then closed his eyes and passed away.

Sweet brave Valentijn you were so loved and so wanted, you couldn’t stay for long but will remain in the hearts of the family and the friends who met you.

And dear Jorinde,  your strength and determination is bold and beautiful and i hope it will carry you in your grief. Thank you for sharing your story.

Birth-valentijn

Lieve Sophie, ik ben je enorm dankbaar voor het feit dat jij bij de bevalling van mijn lieve Valentijn wilde zijn om hier prachtige beelden van te maken. De ontmoeting en het afscheid van mijn dappere mannetje! Ik kan uren naar de foto’s kijken en voel dan weer extra sterk mijn oneindig grote liefde voor hem ♥
Naast de prachtige beelden heb ik ook je support tijdens de bevalling als heel fijn en steunend ervaren, dankjewel daarvoor!
Liefs, Jorinde

Gaia

09-12-2016 ~ Welcome to this little bundle of joy who is Gaia! Glad her Dad made it back from his business trip just in time to welcome her into the world. So glad my paths crossed with this sweet family.

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Ska

3-12-2016 ~ And we have entered the last month of the year, the most festive time of the year. I welcomed the first December baby on Saturday evening. A very patient and brave mama laboured long and peacefully to birth her baby girl in the way she had hoped. #VBACbaby #rockinmama I was thrilled to receive this lovely testimonial from Laila.

“The birth of our first child via emergency c-section left me feeling “robbed” of the birth experience I had hoped for. After moving to the Netherlands, and falling pregnant, I consistently received positive feedback on doula support.
Sophie was recommended to me by a friend and after our initial meeting my husband and I decided to hire her. Turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. Sophie’s wealth of knowledge was crucial in our decision making process regarding choice of hospital and birth plan. I really appreciate how she listed all available options but never tried to steer us in a certain direction.
As the big day came closer she frequently followed up and listened to my fears and concerns. Once I started having slight contractions a week before the due date she provided me with useful advice, made sure I got enough rest and most importantly spoilt me with a long massage, which I am convinced helped to speed up the whole early labour.
Throughout my long labour she was by my side and helped me focus on my breath, answered my husband’s questions, massaged some of the tougher contractions away and explained the steps along the way in a wonderfully calm manner. In a great team effort, together with my husband, she kept me going, resulting in the VBAC I was hoping for. A truly healing process which I will always be grateful for.” Laila Weinhardt

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Elin

30-11-2016 ~ Yay for girls! Another sweet baby girl? Welcome on this planet Elin. It was an honour to support your lovely parents and witness your birth-day

Chloe

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21-11-2016 ~ Darling little Chloe. With her 2,555 kilo’s and her dainty little body she entered the world keeping us on the edge of our seats, not that we were sitting any of us, til the last minute. I am thrilled to see this little one happy and healthy in her Mama’s arms. When Papa got his cuddles the relief and love for his Chloe was tangible Welcome sweet girl.

Maybe I want a doula after all!

21-08-2016 ~ Welcome sweet Ayden.

Some women move heaven and earth to create the environment that will optimize the chances of a natural birth. Women hoping to have a vaginal birth after a c-section (VBAC) sometimes feel options are taken away from them because of the risk of uterine rupture. Deborah had a dream team in her mind as she met several different doctors in different hospitals. She chose for a hospital that was willing to allow her midwife to do the birth with the full cooperation of the gynecologist. This meant that even though she had a medical indication her own midwife would do the birth but would discuss the progress and decisions with the gynecologist during the labour.

We had met early on in the pregnancy but she had not asked me to be her doula. As the time came closer Deborah realized she really did want the support of a doula after all. This birth was important enough to give it the best shot she could. She had prepared so well but kept having the feeling that a doula was missing from the picture. So a week before my vacation would start I agreed to support her if she went into labour before the Saturday evening. Ever since we met I had had the feeling this was a special lady and our paths were meant to meet. The week passed and Saturday came and sure enough labour started just in the nick of time.

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Despite all the preparation, it was tough going! There were moments of panic and despair, moments where Deborah wanted to give up, moments where the pain was so intense that she regretted not opting for the elective cesarean. Every time the panic came she would look into my eyes and we would breath together. With her partners firm hand to hold, we helped her through the process one contraction at a time. An epidural gave the needed relief but still allowed her to be present in her body and feel the process without the high intensity. Many women expect to feel nothing with an epidural and are disappointed when that isn’t the case. However afterwards I often get the feedback that they were happy they could still ‘feel’ and felt like they were still participating in the process. The epidural helped the process along and it wasn’t long before she pushed her baby out into the world and into her arms, just as she had dreamed of.

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The midwife, the doula and the Dr. were indeed the exact dream team Deborah had hoped for! Each one was important in the process, each one playing their part, and in the end she got her dream VBAC! And this doula made some pretty okay photos here and there when she could… yes, because Deborah is a birth photographer and that was pretty important to her too!! 🙂

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And it was a surprise boy!! I always love to see a happy relaxed mother looking on at her partner and their new baby snuggling together. Such sweetness, such pride and such awe <3

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Oliver & Merlijn

07-11-2016 ~ Welcome Oliver & Merlijn

(My 120th birth;)

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I have so much respect for this couple. They walked a path so different than they originally had hoped to because they were expecting identical twins, and they did it so graciously. It was a medical journey with many hospital visits and check ups. They made informed and sometimes agonising decisions throughout their pregnancy. This mama was(is) strong and determined and she grew her little ones on the inside for 37 weeks. Women bodies are AMAZING! They surrounded themselves with a supportive team: a favourite midwife, a rather special gynaecologist, and me (their doula;) and were lucky that exactly those people were working on the day. And she… she gave birth so peacefully and yet with such power. Beautiful Mama, beautiful woman
These two little ones have a big brother who is all of 18 months old. A precious family

Vimal

29-10-2016 ~ Vimal came into this world even faster than Santi! So fast that the midwife and I both missed it. People often say that they hope for a fast birth but don’t realize just how intense that can be. Vimal was caught by his Dad on the bathroom floor, midwife arrived just after shortly followed by me. It took quite some talking to process the birth and a week later the parents were still in shock. No home water birth as she had hoped for but an exciting birth story non the less.

 

Elijah

27-10-2016 ~ Oh Elijah, what a long journey your parents had to walk to have you. And here you are! Welcome little guy. What a pleasure to be part of your birth into this world and into your family.

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Milan

14-10-2016 ~ Milan

One long labour, one strong mother determined to have a VBAC, two fierce and loving midwives, one gentle sweet father, one big brother excitedly waiting at home with his rather nervous Grandmother and little Milan who, for reasons we may never know, needed to be born by cesarean.
Milan was placed straight on his mother after the birth of the placenta, had 5 hours continual skin to skin, his placenta stayed attached, his parents loved on him and the doula? She was allowed in the OR to document the whole birth!! So grateful

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I love seeing how excited parents are to show their older children their new sibling. I watch as their hearts expand with love for that new little baby and as soon as their firstborn enters the room the love that already filled their hearts is so loud and clear.  Big Bro Luca was oh so proud!

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Leonard

11-10-2016 ~ Welcome on planet Earth Leonard!

It was the first time since becoming a doula 6 years ago that I needed to call in my back up to go to a birth for me. While I was at Santi’s birth Leaonard decided it was time to be born too. Santi was born within the hour of me arriving so when his parents were settled I joined Farola in the hospital just in time for the pushing phase and to see Leonard be born. Farola has been my back up for a long time but this was the first time ever I had two births simultaneously and needed her. It was fun and unique to support a couple together through the 2nd phase of labour.

 

Santi

11-10-2016 ~ Welcome Santi!

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We suspected this little man was going to come quickly and he did not disappoint. I was called shortly after Kim thought that labour might of started. I arrived at their home 25 minutes later and Kim was obviously in pain. Her older son was still at home and she did not want to be in labour with him around so was trying to tame it down a bit. Labour held off a little bit til the babysitter got there but not fully. Kim got in the water and within 55 minutes of the midwife and I arriving little Santi was born. Pure nature, hands off, just a mother instinctively birthing her baby. Such raw and primal beauty!

 

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David

2016-09-27-david-13Welcome sweet David. Born on 27-09-2016 after a long and intense labour that pushed his Mum to the edge of her limit many times! Every time she thought she could not go on any further she had even more endurance and surprised herself. The biggest surprise came when she actually pushed her baby out with her own strength. She was thrilled and could not have been prouder!

“I’ve changed my mind, I think I want a home birth!”

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The ‘Team Tula’selfie!

When I got the first phone call from Jessica she had found out she was pregnant a few weeks earlier. She was incredibly sick and her body felt so out of control that she just needed to talk to someone about it. I remember I had arrived at a postnatal appointment a little early and was sitting in the car when she called. I sat and listened as she talked and poured out her fears and experiences and just how weird she thought this pregnancy thing was. I assured her it was normal what she was going through, blamed the (wonderful) hormones and empathized with just how much it sucked to feel so crappy because your body is growing a baby. Being American she knew it was normal to wait a few weeks before going to the midwife but felt a strong need to talk to a professional about what she was experiencing. All she wanted was to hear some advice on how she could take care of herself and hear that what she was going through was normal.

I met her and her dutch partner, Emiel, a week or so later and they hired me to be their doula. Jessica had no idea what kind of birth she wanted, she just knew that she DID NOT want it to be at home and she was really strict about that from the beginning. Home births just aren’t part of how things go in the US where most people are convinced a room full of doctors is the safest way to birth. Emiel shared how he was only four when his brother was born at home and he remembered crying the entire time. It was not exactly a pleasant memory for him but he was open to whatever Jess wanted.

Jess had no plans either way in terms of pain relief, she was pretty much open to everything but more than anything she wanted to have options. I recommended a midwife practice and the midwife recommended a kraamzorg and after discovering it was a baby girl Jessica and Emiel gave her a name and ‘Team Tula’ was born. Jessica joked about getting t-shirts for everyone with ‘Team Tula’ on it.

As time went on they started discovering more about the birth process (at the Confident Birth Course) Learning there were limitations that came with medical interventions, like no longer having their midwife taking care of them and the use of water in any form being out of the question, caused them to reconsider their birth plan. Jess loves water and doesn’t love being hooked to machines and so this news started to change things for her. Sure, she still wanted the option for medical pain relief but was much more aware of the trade-offs that would be made if she opted for it.

So they came to the conclusion that a home water birth would provide a relaxed atmosphere and help Jess stay calm and feel safe during labour. This ended up being the birth plan, unless, during the process she decided otherwise. She was not closed to having an epidural if needed, she was just now open to trying warm water as a pain relief option instead of immediately jumping to a medical form of relief.

I went on vacation and had my back up cover for me in case labour started before 39 weeks. Two days after my return Jess was awoken at 3 in the morning with light contractions that were enough to keep her awake. They were uncomfortable but not painful and they continued for a few hours. In the morning they subsided and she was able to catch up on some sleep. She continued with her day aware this pattern could continue for some days still.

That evening they indeed started up again and she didn’t really dare to believe she was really in labour. She knew that early labour could stop and start before really kicking in and she kept thinking the contractions were probably temporary. However her husband saw they were progressing and coming quite often and decided it would be good to let me know. I encouraged her to get into the shower to see if that would make the contractions intensify or slow down and agreed we would have contact in 30 minutes or so again. The next time I talked to her she was very chatty but when the contraction came I could hear her breathing to get through it. I timed a few at every 2 minutes. This seemed to be going fast, so I said i would make my way to them and be there in an hour and that they should definitely call the midwife.

I arrived at the same time as the midwife and we went upstairs. It was 11:10 at this point and clear that Jess was in deep labour. Her favourite 80’s music was playing and Emiel said that 30 minutes earlier they had been dancing to the music. This was going fast. She was emotional and struggling to cope. I suggested the shower again while the midwife got the birthing pool set up.

water -birth-tula-delft-doulaThe shower was a dark place, she said later, where she later came to realize she had been in transition (the phase just before being fully open and ready to push the baby out.) It felt so intense and the contractions just kept coming with little break in between. She started to feel the urge to push and I encouraged her not to be afraid but to be mindful of what her body was doing and let it happen. We took turns to stay with her and help with the pool. When Emiel was with her he held the shower on her back and when I was with her I applied some counter pressure on her back. Meanwhile the midwife was working hard to get some water in the pool. I took over so she could go and check the heartbeat of the baby. The baby was doing fine. The midwife suggested Jess get into the pool.

Thuisbevalling-water-tula-DoulaAs soon as she got it in, the water soothed the pain in her body a bit. It felt good and she relaxed but then a contraction would come and she wouldn’t know where to grab or what to do! I brought to her attention that the space between the contractions had gotten longer again (this is common for the pushing phase so mother and baby can recover from the intensity of the contraction.) As soon as she realized that, she could relax better in the breaks because she had more time to. We talked about how if she pushed with the contraction the pain would likely be less and it was as if that suddenly clicked for her and during the next contraction she got more focused and in control. I could see she was mindfully feeling what was going on in her body, listening to it and gently pushing the baby down. The warm water was all used up so the sweet midwife continued to warm the water every way possible wanting to have enough warm water in the pool before the baby came and wanting to allow the father to be in the moment with his wife!!

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Jess moved onto her knees in the pool and after the next contraction all of a sudden said “I think something just came out” The midwife grabbed the mirror from her bag but as I looked down I saw a little tiny hand peeping out from underneath Jessica. The baby was already half born. Jessica and Emiel looked down together and there she was, sweet Tula, staring up at them from under the water. Jess wasn’t sure what to do but the midwife assured her she could just bring her out of the water herself. She did and pulled her baby’s wet little body up to her chest while sitting back in the pool. “There you are my little nugget” she said and as we all laughed with slight disbelief at what had just happened. The midwife said “Team Tula, Yay!” and we all cheered! It was just past midnight 🙂

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Tula let out a loud cry and then quietened down and enjoyed being in her mama’s arms in the water… which wasn’t quite full enough but was plenty warm enough. Playing in the background as she was born was “I want it that way” by the Back Street Boys! We laughed again and all put on our team Tula t-shirts as we had not yet had time to do.

Thuisbevalling-home birth-Doula-SophieThe kraamzorg arrived, put on her t-shirt and joined the team Tula selfie. The dogs were introduced to the new addition and were very relaxed about the whole thing.

After a few hours I went home with an Oxytocin high, a bit of jet-lag, a bit of doula-lag and needing to get up the next day to teach a new Confident Birth Course! Doula life can be crazy but I love it!

Welcome sweet Tula, you are already very loved… even by your furry friends who are starting to get used to you now too. Emiel and Jessica thank you for letting me share your story.

Elena

17-07-2016 ~ I love to witness the enthusiastic and loving support of a partner. Elena’s Dad gave amazing support to his wife last night giving relentless, and I mean relentless, sacral pressure through every single contraction. His wife, oh wow… she rocked it with a boat load of patience and determination and laboured and birthed their beautiful daughter, in water as she wished, during the early hours of this morning. Welcome Elena.

Juliette

08-07-2016 ~ This was a sweet family birth that I got to capture last week. Reminds me of that quote “There is such a special sweetness in being able to participate in creation” ~ Pamela S. Nadav
Welcome Juliette, you were surrounded with so much love, right from the very first moment.

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Lea

Lea ~ 20-06-2016 ~
I love my repeat clients. Especially sweet when the first hire was only for birth photography and the value of your presence during the birth meant so much that with the second baby they hire you for your doula support too.
This is one strong Mama! So much respect for her journey to parenthood.
Two photos of the two sisters, one born by c-section and one VBAC
Read big sister Anna’s, birth story here. https://www.doulasophie.nl/?s=anna

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Cesare

11-06-2016 ~ Welcome Cesare ? Repeat client, 2nd son, boy families rock!

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Greta

And there she is, Greta!! After a long but stressful pregnancy, that doctors tried to keep convincing her was high risk, this Mama kept on believing in her little girl and made it through to 39 weeks and 4 days of pregnancy. Her labour started naturally and was a long VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) journey.

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After many hours with little progression she made the difficult decision to have an epidural. Thankfully she was rewarded by being one of those women where the process speeds up after receiving an epidural and she birthed her little Greta vaginally as she had so hoped to. VBAC mama’s are so strong. In the early hours of this morning the 9th of June 2016, little Greta was born joining her sister to make a family of girls. A long awaited VBAC birth. Welcome tiny little one.

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18 years of 3 boys!

On this day 18 years ago I gave birth to my third son. His was the only pregnancy we found out what gender we were expecting and i don’t need to tell most of you why. Yes he was to be my 3rd son 😉 After the initial disappointment that he was not a girl, I thought “3 boys, wow cool.”

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I would have so loved a daughter. And before you think it… yes of course it was important he was a healthy baby but when I was 27 I presumed my baby would be healthy, that’s just the honest truth. Knowing the gender before birth was more unusual back then. I knew that finding out before would help me prepare and not be disappointed at birth. An hour after finding out I was over it and so looking forward to having three boys!

I never imagined being a boys Mum but with hearing we were expecting another boy my fate was set in stone! More testosterone in my life than I ever imagined more sports in my life than i ever imagined and more ‘boy movies’ than i ever care to tell!!

 

When Joel was born he brought so much into our family. So many smiles and cuddles and he was my first super easy baby. Easy going and happy. We were more relaxed as parents I think and the older two boys had each other and did everything together which gave me more time to enjoy Joel as a baby. The age gap was a little bigger between son 2 and 3 than between the first two, this also added to the ease in which Joel came into our family. We lived in California where it was sunny all the time and the older two boys (then 3 & 5yrs) lived outside which suited their personalities really well. Yes Joel is our American son!

I sometimes wonder what our home would have been like with 3 girls. Maybe the house would be more cleaned up, maybe there would be less shoes left under the coffee table, maybe there would have been more reading and colouring (3 boys together don’t find themselves doing that very often:) maybe just maybe there would… well i can go on and I know for sure there would have been way more chick flicks!! But many of my friends tell me the clean house and less shoes is definitely not true with girls so I will be happy and thankful and keep cleaning up and tolerating the boy movies til they are all out of the house and I know I will long back for those moments.

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On the day we celebrate Joels 18th birthday I am so thankful. Thankful for all the happy times, thankful to have 3 healthy boys who have turned into 3 loving, healthy fantastic young men. And even though the house is too small for 5 grown human beings, from 1 family, I am happy that this evening we will eat together and celebrate 18 years of Joel in our lives.

Alone in the labour room!

For much of the time you are in labour you are alone with your partner, busy labouring in the best way you know how. My last blog talked about the reality of what it looks like for much of the time you are in labour and the misconception about the support you will get from your midwife or the hospital staff.

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How can you prepare for those hours alone in the birthing room with just the two of you?

1 ~ Follow a birth preparation course together. This can help you and your partner know more about what to expect during the process. Your partner will feel more at

ease because he knows how the process of labour works and will have learned some ways he can coach you through the process. It is very common for the pregnant woman to

do a lot of reading about labour and birth but the partner is often reluctant to read or just can’t find the time to.

Why take a course as a couple?

  • There is nothing better than having your birth partner be as educated as you are!
  • It forces you to spend time together preparing mentally and emotionally for the baby and not just practically (with all those jobs and endless lists that need doing/buying     and making.)
  • Good birth preparation is worth the money and will educate and prepare you for a better birth experience.
  • Preparing alone and having your partner just come to a ‘partner session’ is (better than nothing) but not even half as effective as preparing together.
  • It will blow your partner away because he will actually enjoy it and feel better equipped for the job and that… is awesome… for you and him!!

 

Not… be with just the two of you!!

2 ~Hire a Doula. Consider what a difference a doula will make to your birthing experience. I know it is quite an investment but you will not regret it. What ever your birth journey ends up being, doula support will improve your outcome. She can’t guarantee your dream birth or a perfect birth but she can support you and your partner in a way that makes the whole experience a more positive and supported one.

  • A doula will be with you from beginning to end. Better still she has gotten to know you a bit in the months leading up to your birth so she feels familiar and you feel safe with her present.
  • When labour really starts to kick in she will be making sure you are comfortable, helping you find whatever position feels comfortable, massaging you, giving you sips of water. At times she may sit in the corner chair and just “be there”
  • She will help your partner feel at ease and giving him ideas of how to “be there” for you.
  • She will encourage and motivate you when you feel like you can’t go on. She will believe in you and your ability to birth your baby.
  • If interventions are advised she will help you weigh up the pros and cons and walk you through whatever is necessary to make a healthy decision.
  • You will feel safe because she is familiar with birth. During those seemingly endless hours, she understands what is going on and will tell you that what you are experiencing is normal.
  • Your partner will feel less stress because he can ask his questions as they come up and not feel the responsibility of knowing if he should or shouldn’t call the midwife or the nurse AGAIN!
  • Your doula will do all she can to keep those stress levels down. Stress will hinder the process and slow it down so she will spend time in her prenatal visits finding out what your fears are and what causes you stress so she can make sure your birthing environment FEELS safe to you, so your birthing experience will benefit.
  • A doula lightens the load and brings a dose of humour to the atmosphere bringing a sense of calm and confidence.

If you are not planning on using a doula, or even if you are, be as prepared as you can for your birth, take a course and be informed about the birthing process so you can minimize the stress and the unknown.

Shameless plug: Check out www.birthinholland.com for great couples courses in English!

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