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Monday, September 21, 2009

Seeking Assistance

Brian and I met with a doula last week. We were referred to her by my sister-in-law, who used her services when she had our nephew in April. Walking in, our plan was to take Bradley classes from the doula but pass on her other services.

It may be hard for longtime readers of this blog to believe, but I am typically private when it comes to medical stuff. I don't like people to see me when I am sick or in pain. I don't like an audience when I'm not up to par. I don't like hospital visitors or even visitors to my home when I'm recovering. Given what I have heard about childbirth, it seemed that I wouldn't want more people than absolutely necessary in the delivery room. Truth be told, I wouldn't even have Brian there if I thought I could get away with it. I'd just retreat to a cave and do it all myself.

Brian isn't budging on being in the delivery room so I'm warming up to the idea. Having a doula, or childbirth assistant, on the other hand, seemed to be unnecessary and smothering. But then I met Dawn, and I began to see the benefit of having an experienced professional join us in the delivery room.

Highly Recommended
Dawn Brown is the most experienced doula I have heard of in the Merced area. She comes highly recommended by midwives and former clients. And in her line of work, reputation is everything. Since doulas are lay people, they only have their reputation to support them. They aren't like doctors who can hide behind insurance coverage or hospital contracts. If they don't meet their clients' needs, doulas quickly find themselves out of work.

My sister-in-law describes Dawn as "very earth mother." My best friend would say she's "crunchy," meaning she's a granola muncher. I would describe her as a gentle spirit who seems more concerned with the desires of expectant moms and dads than her own. I like that a lot.

Dawn definitely has her own belief system, and it's apparent with one look around her home. She homeschools her children, practices attachment parenting and I would almost guarantee she still share a bed with her kids from time to time. But in our consultation with her, it was all about us -- and I like that a whole lot.

Dawn's way of working is to ensure that each couple gets the labor experience of their dreams -- whether that means all natural all the way, medicated and artificially assisted, or somewhere in between.

When seeing medical professionals, it's all about them -- all about hospital protocol, insurance requirements, policies and procedures. Only after those bases are covered do you, the consumer (or patient) count. It's a sad fact of life in current society. Sad but true.

After meeting with Dawn for about two hours, both Brian and I saw the value in the service she provides. First and foremost, we get her focused attention. At my OB appointments, I tend to wait for an hour to see my doctor for 10 minutes. With Dawn, we are her only priority at that time. She also makes house calls. I might not be so hesitant to visit doctors if they were all as willing to come to my home as she is. It's a nice benefit.

We'll meet with Dawn at least four times before the baby is born. During visits, she'll do her own basic OB exam to get a sense of what is normal for my body (vital signs, fetal growth, fetal heart beat, etc.) and also for our baby. This will enable her to better assess me when I'm in childbirth.

Dawn, a longtime Bradley Method instructor, will also handle our childbirth preparation classes. Though no longer a certified Bradley instructor, Dawn has years of experience that I think will come in handy as we make our plans for natural childbirth.

Dawn is also available to us 24/7 -- for questions, concerns or even just to talk. Can you imagine calling your doctor in the midst of a hormonal breakdown? Not likely that he/she would even take your call.

When the time comes that I feel I'm in labor, Dawn will come to our home and help me labor in the privacy of my own home until the time comes for me to go to the hospital. More time at home means less anxiety for me. My last hospital experience was not a good one. I don't look forward to being on the receiving end of hospital care again. But I also know that in this instance, it's necessary. I am not a good candidate for home birthing. It's in both mine and the baby's best interests to be in a hospital, but limiting my time in the hospital will enable me to stay calm longer, I think.

Worth Every Penny
Most doulas charge a flat fee for their services. Dawn's is $1,000. Sounds steep at first, but when you think about it, it's not much at all. Bradley classes cost around $350. Though Dawn is not Bradley certified any longer, you can't tell me all that knowledge suddenly fell out of her ear just because she didn't renew a piece of paper. Using her services means we don't need to seek out private childbirth preparation classes. Since she's on call 24/7, we can pick up the phone anytime something doesn't seem right and get immediate answers without having to trudge into the hospital ER on a fact-finding mission that might end in a diagnosis of "it's nothing" or "that's just false labor." ER visits cost about $100 each under my insurance plan if I'm not admitted to the hospital. Just in the final stages of my pregnancy alone, it's easy to see how fast that could add up.

So, though we originally met with Dawn for a small portion of the services she provides, we ended up contracting with her for full care. I'm excited at the prospect of working with her, and so is Brian. I think we're a good match, and I think she's going to enrich our labor and delivery experience -- something that is very important to me.