36 Weeks Pregnant
Alright, folks, we are on the home stretch now!
I’m 36 weeks. That means I’ve got a month left… at best!
Statistically, first time mamas are more likely to go over their due date not under, but I’m preparing myself for anything.
The nursery is pretty much all set up now! With the baby shower done, I’ve been able to put away all the gifts which means there are sheets on the crib and the changing table. I just need to set up the baby monitor and the room is officially ready to go. But, the first few months she’ll be sleeping in our room in a bassinet anyway, so there isn’t a massive rush for a baby monitor.
I still have virtually no physical "symptoms" to report. I continue to count my blessings. Even my cramps have subsided and I have gotten this new burst of energy.
Most importantly this week:
my husband and I met with a doula.
Have you heard of those before? I hadn’t!
If you google it, it’ll tell you something like how they are labor coaches. That’s an inadequate description, in my opinion.
Because, reading that, my first thought was: I don’t need one of those. I have my husband for support.
More than that, I thought I might even find it a little annoying having some sort of cheerleader that I barely know by my side telling me, “You can do it!”
A doula is better described like this:
You can hike Everest alone. And maybe you’ll make it to the peak with zero incident and have an incredible experience.
However, you could also hire a Sherpa to help show you the best route and to make your climb as easy as possible.
It’ll still be hard. It’ll still be an adventure. You will have climbed the mountain... it's still your feat.
But, if the shit hits the fan, you’ll have been happy the Sherpa was there.
That’s what a doula is. She is a birth Sherpa.
Only in modern Western culture do we have this concept of “rugged individualism” where we feel a sense of pride in going it alone. It’s more than just a sense of pride, we actually feel like it’s kind of our duty, right? Like we are supposed to tackle these hurdles on our own. I am certainly guilty of this.
But, in the past, women almost never gave birth alone.
We always had an entire village of people around us—all the women would gather and help.
There’s a beautiful quote from Ariell Alden-Danforth, “It takes a village to raise a mother.” I love that.
But, I feel like it’s something that I (and I’d wager many others) have missed out on.
In traditional cultures, by this point in time in my life, I would have already attended multiple births and seen the process with my own eyes. This would be my first time experiencing it personally, but it would not be my first birth in any other sense.
And, when it was my time, I would have this village of women to help support me through my labor.
After I’d given birth, they wouldn’t just leave, either. They’d stay to help me with anything that I needed while I rejuvenated. For weeks, various villagers would help nourish me back to health (because giving birth is an incredible drain on one’s emotional and physical well-being.) They would stay to help my husband and I adjust and transition.
In Chinese medicine, this is called “sitting the month.”
“La cuarentena” or six-week quarantine in Latin America.
And for Middle Eastern cultures it is the 40-day “lying in.”
It feels like only in modern, Western cultures have we strayed from these practices.
A doula helps fill in the gap of support that we, as a Western society, have left void.
So, my husband and I agreed to meet with a doula.
I’m very happy we did!
Not only is she a lovely lady, but she described herself as someone whose sole purpose will be as an emotional and physical support for both me AND my husband.
That’s the part that really sold me.
My husband has been reading up on labor and the different stages and various techniques to help me through contractions… but, in the heat of the moment, how much of what he learned will go straight out the window?
The doula will be there to help guide him further. To recommend different massages and ways that he can hold me. And, when he gets tired from doing that for hours or he needs a bathroom break or to eat some food, she’ll be there to step in.
She’ll also be able to help us decide when it’s the right time to go to the hospital.
For most first time moms, I'm told that’s one of the hardest parts. We are usually so anxious and/or excited that we go far too early, when we are still in early labor. And early labor can last anywhere from hours to days!
By the time the active labor starts, we are so physically exhausted that sometimes our bodies just can’t go any further.
The doula told us that this physical exhaustion is one of the most common reasons for C-sections today.
The most important advice she can give us, according to her, is when you feel early labor begin… to REST as much as possible! You will need it!
The complete services the doula will offer are as follows:
She will meet with us at least twice before labor.
She will coach us on when early labor has officially begun and advise us on when to go to the hospital.
During labor, she will be there as a guide and resource. Helping my husband to better help me and stepping in when he needs a break.
Then, after the baby is born, she will help make sure we get a nice meal. She said it’ll be the best meal I’ve ever had in my life! If I want, she can even give me some beginner tips on breastfeeding.
After about five to ten days, we will meet with her again to process the experience. She can also help me be on the lookout at that time for any signs of postpartum depression. As depression is something my mother suffered from—including postpartum—this is a service that I will greatly appreciate.
If it weren't for the coronavirus, she would even offer to help clean or cook if we needed.
In addition to all of this, she says that even if six months down the road I have a question, she will always be there as a resource for me.
The doula also had some good wisdom to offer on that period right after the baby is born.
She says we need to have a support system in place, people that we can call on to ask for help.
There should be none of this rugged individualism… now is not the time!
My first thought, of course, is: coronavirus.
I can’t very well have people traipsing around my house cleaning and cooking for me, as nice as it’d be.
But, there are other ways to offer support, she said. Even if it’s just to deliver food to our doorstep or help walk the dog. It was something I honestly hadn’t considered.
She also talked to us about our relationship, which is about to change drastically. This adjustment can put a strain on couples.
We knew this already, of course, but there was something about talking about it out loud with her that helped relieve some of my anxiety around the issue.
Communication will be key.
I might begin to feel isolated and over-burdened if I am breastfeeding and I am waking up every hour to feed our baby while my husband is snoring blissfully beside me…
Our doula suggested something that she wished in hindsight that she had thought to ask her spouse:
“Could you sit with me and keep me company?”
It’s a simple gesture that could go a long way.
And it’s often the case that the dads are looking for ways to help and to feel more connected to the newborn. This could be an easy solution to fulfilling both needs:
the dad can participate more and the mom can feel less like she is the only one shouldering this new responsibility.
My husband and I have been talking a lot in the last few months about how best to prepare for this exciting new chapter and all the changes that it will bring—we have discussed how extra communication will be vital—but this was an excellent idea that neither of us had considered.
The doula had some other great suggestions, too.
I’d heard about jasmine oil as a useful tool during labor. Supposedly, it can help stimulate contractions.
But, our doula told us about another essential oil with potentially similar effects: clary sage.
She has used this with many clients and, she says, she has seen it both work instantly and not have any effect at all. I appreciated her honesty when she said "sometimes it doesn't do a thing"... I took that as a good sign.
She also suggested that I eat four to six dates every day.
It helps with cervical ripening and with progesterone and estrogen production. Which essentially can mean that I can have a quicker labor and it will be less likely that I’ll need induced.
Evidence Based Birth is an EXCELLENT resource for all pregnant women! I highly recommend checking it out. They do extensive medical studies on things like the eye ointment or Vitamin K shots that are recommended for all babies—read about it for yourself. That way you can make informed decisions on what you would like to do for your infant. (Don’t worry, they aren’t anti-vaxxers! They just like to make sure mothers are informed.)
This website recently conducted a study on the consumption of dates to help with the induction of labor. Here is a transcript from their study:
“The researchers found that the women who were randomly assigned to eat dates had a more ripe cervix at admission. Their Bishop score, which measures cervical ripeness, was higher when they were eventually admitted to the hospital, and they were more likely to be more dilated when they were admitted to the hospital, 4 centimeters versus 3 centimeters. They also had a higher rate of vaginal birth after a labor induction. If they needed to be medically induced, they were more likely to have a vaginal birth than the group that did not eat dates, and that was 47% had a vaginal birth after labor induction versus 28% in the control group. Also, fewer women in the date fruit group needed pitocin for labor induction. Only 20% of them needed pitocin for a labor induction versus 45% in the other group. The researchers concluded that they felt that the date consumption in late pregnancy was helpful for cervical ripening.”
So, assuming that you don’t suffer from gestational diabetes... EAT YOUR DATES!!
It can’t hurt, right?
Another recommendation from our doula: raspberry leaf tea.
It is thought to help strengthen your womb for labor. So, I have begun drinking that daily, too!
These are just some of the things we talked about in our first meeting.
My husband and I had gone into the meeting both feeling very skeptical.
Though the doula was a gift from my dad and stepmom, we knew how much she cost—and oof, she isn’t cheap!
It was hard not to think that this money would be better spent elsewhere.
But, we left the meeting saying, “Damn, maybe she is money well spent.”
The one thing I’ve been warned about doulas is that you get what you pay for.
Bad doulas can get in the way of your partner instead of supporting them.
But, a good doula is going to be there for the both of you and is worth the money.
Between my husband, my midwife, and now my doula… I’m going into this labor feeling like I have the absolute best support team possible.
Isn’t that how every woman should feel?
I’m very lucky.
So, for us, we have decided that a doula is definitely the right choice.
Had you ever heard of a doula? Did you use one? Would you consider it?
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
I'm Kelsey! Proud Iowan native, world traveler, writer, wife to the most incredible husband, and now soon to be mother