As a mother who’s given birth five times, I can appreciate the range of emotions that women experience both before and after delivery. My first child, Garrett, was born with a heart defect and lived only two days. After that devastating experience—and a period of feeling very alone—I was blessed with two healthy children. While their births were “normal”, I recall feeling anxious and afraid during labor even though my labor support was doing their best to help. I had a close friend that was a labor and delivery nurse and she acted as my doula, however she still had her nursing tasks to attend to.

Several years later, I was excited to learn I was pregnant with my fourth child. Once again, I found myself anxious about the upcoming delivery. Then I ran into a friend who was recounting her birth experience when I learned she’d hired a doula. Not knowing this resource was available; I asked what her doula did and why she’d hired one. My friend smiled and said, “I loved having someone there who never left me throughout the entire birth process. She helped me stay strong and her constant encouragement was just what I needed. She was my ROCK. And I know my husband appreciated it most of all.”

I thought, “That’s exactly what I need!”

So I interviewed a doula, felt immediately comfortable with her, and we agreed on a birth plan. I could already tell this was going to be a better and new kind of birth experience.

When I went into labor with a couple months later, I called my doula. She came over to my house immediately, and we labored together for a short while. When she could tell I was close to giving birth, she helped me gather up my things, rode with my husband and me to the hospital, and took me up to the maternity floor while my husband parked the car, checked in, and relayed medical information. My doula helped me settle into my room, communicate my needs to the nursing staff, and stayed with me the whole time, constantly encouraging and helping me manage the intense pain. A short while later, my beautiful daughter Alexa was born.

Looking back, was Alexa’s birth easy? Of course not! But my memories of her birth are poignant and powerfully positive. Why? I realized how important it was to have someone there solely for me. My doula didn’t have other patients to worry about, IVs to check, a monitor to watch~ she was there for me and my interests alone. Keeping the focus on me meant that I stayed strong, didn’t need medication, and when my baby did arrive, I felt empowered and exhilarated rather than drowsy and “out of it” from medication. I still remember the words my doula whispered in my ear over and over, “You are doing it, trust your body and you can accomplish anything.”

When I arrived home, my doula came over a few times to help as I adjusted to my new routine. She listened to me recount me birth story, shared her beautiful perspective and then topped it off with wonderful words of encouragement. She assisted me through “baby blues”, and reacquainted me with the newborn stage. My doula gave me the best gift a person can give, her time (not to mention companionship of another female). I was re-introduced to the simple things in life~ encouragement, another set of hands, a shoulder to lean on, and she made all the difference for me and my husband. From that time on, I knew I wanted to help other women have access to the same simple (but all important) support I did.

I birthed my fifth child within the comfort of my home with a homebirth midwife and close friends and family. This was the longest of all my labors. Lasting 9 hours in all, I had all the support and comfort of home with constant, loving care. It truly was a dream to give birth in such a wonderful and relaxed atmosphere. The best part was watching the older sibling welcome their new baby sister.