As first time parents, we of course had no idea what to expect about labor, and we were each a little anxious about being able to provide one another with the best support possible. Some of my friends suggested that I consider hiring a doula, but we were unsure if it was worth it, since I was already 35 weeks pregnant. In addition, we had also heard some stories of doulas completely dominating the birth room and thus excluding and offending hospital personnel.
Still, we decided to explore this option and asked a friend for some contact information for area doulas. Shalene was recommended by the doula with whom she was studying. When I contacted her, she was very thorough in the information she provided and was very willing to come to use for an in-person consultation to help us decide whether her services would be a good fit for us.
From the beginning of our relationship, Shalene was warm, patient and determined to help us feel both comfortable with her support and also empowered to bring our own individual preferences into the birth preparation. Our first meeting with Shalene erased our concerns about working with a doula. Although we began working with her very late in my pregnancy, our two prenatal consultations were rich in theoretical information and practical activities.
Shalene was also very willing to be available to me via email/phone leading up to the birth. In the last couple of weeks before I went into labor, I had a lot of questions, and Shalene was very supportive, quick to respond with advice or outside resources. She encouraged me to relax and to be patient. On the day that labor actually began, she was on stand-by throughout the day, answering questions and willing to come to us whenever we were ready. Her encouraging words were very comforting in a confusing time when I was unsure of whether I was really in labor or not!
When we finally decided that it was time to go to the hospital, Shalene arrived promptly with a variety of helpful props for labor. However, she allowed me to completely guide the process depending on what position or type of support would help me through contractions most.
During labor, Shalene assumed a 'behind-the-scenes' role, primarily focusing on helping me to discover how I could labor most comfortably and helping my husband support me. She also worked as a team with the hospital staff, willing to yield to their expertise where appropriate. Shalene was able to be flexible in her roles. She used touch, breath, talk and positioning throughout the labor and while Brennon helping me in the pushing stage, she assumed the role of photographer.
Our perfect baby girl was born with no complications only 4 hours after arriving at the hospital, and I truly believe that Shalene's ability to keep me calm and focused throughout a difficult process is one of the main reasons for this. The next day, the nurse who was present during the labor admitted that she had been very nervous when we came in with a doula and a plan for natural birth, as she has seen many of these situations result in emergency C-sections due to the babies and mothers becoming stressed. However, my birth was the best natural birth she had seen in her 4 and a half years working as a nurse, and she said that she would no longer cringe when she saw Shalene walk through the doors. Her approach was different from that of other doulas, the nurse explained, as she recognized that Shalene was a team player and never attempted to undermine the expertise of nurses or doctors. Instead, she made the labor experience more calm and personal for the mother and the birth partner.
Following the birth, Shalene visited me in the hospital and then at home a week later, and she was willing to answer any questions that we had. My husband and I are so grateful that we found Shalene, and we see this as a relationship that we will cherish for years to come.