Podcast Episode #51: Carrie's Birth and Postpartum Story
Alyssa: Hello! Welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas. I am Alyssa, and I’m super excited to be talking to one of our clients, Carrie, today. I feel like I known you. We’ve been emailing back and forth forever, and I finally get to see you and hug you today.
Carrie: I know, it’s nice to meet you!
Alyssa: Welcome! So you have used a few of our services, and I kind of want to hear your story from start to finish with as much or as little as you want to tell us. So you find out you’re pregnant, and then what?
Carrie: Well, and just a quick background about me, too: I was a late bloomer. I got married at 38, and Mark and I talked about having kids, but it wasn’t a priority. We loved to travel, and I was focused on my career; he was focused on his career. If it happened, great; if not, we were okay with that. And a couple years later, I was almost 40 and it happened.
Alyssa: So you weren’t necessarily planning it, but not preventing it, either?
Carrie: No, exactly, but we kind of figured with my age, I was a higher risk, and I kind of figured it just wasn’t going to happen for us. But then it did, and now, of course, we can’t imagine our life without our daughter in it, now that she’s actually here. But at the time, you know, we had other priorities. So now we’re pregnant. We’re like, oh, my gosh, what the hell do we do? We had all these array of emotions come over us, like our life is going to change forever. And we bought all the books that we were supposed to buy, and we started reading. And that’s where I came across the term doula. I had never heard of a doula before. So I do what anybody does nowadays, and I go to Google. I’m, like, what is this doula that they keep talking about?
Alyssa: Do we have any in Grand Rapids?!
Carrie: I know, it’s kind of a small town, but there were actually a couple companies that led me to you guys, and Gold Coast had rave reviews I started reading. Mark and I don’t have much support. Our parents are older, as we’re older, and our siblings live far away, so we didn’t have many friends or family that could or would want to be there to support us through this process. That’s what led us to make the decision, and we kind of did it late in the game, too. I forget how many weeks along I was, but I was due in early August, and I think we reached out to Gold Coast right around early July, so very late in the process.
Alyssa: You make me want to look it up right now and see, but yeah, I think you were 35 weeks or so; pretty far along.
Carrie: Yeah, it was kind of late. So apparently, I didn’t read these books soon enough, but it was the best decision I made, especially with just not having that support from family. The doulas were amazing. They didn’t judge, and they gave their honest opinions on their experiences and what they saw, but they weren’t biased. So at that early stage in the pregnancy, we were able to build that relationship, and we had made the decision to do the birth doula and postpartum doula. I love Mark, but he’s not female and he’s not given birth. He said, “I think I could handle this all by myself,” and I’m like, no. No, he couldn’t have. So I was really glad we went through the birth with the birth doula and the postpartum doula. Before the labor portion, we had a text chain going on, so I was able to text Julie and Tricia and just ask any question. It could be as dumb as it sounded or just very simple questions.
Alyssa: First-time moms have a ton of questions, and you can’t call your OB five times a day.
Carrie: Right, so I was able to text them, and they got right back to me. But that just started the relationship-building, and I think that was the biggest thing, just having a relationship, because they’re embarking on this incredible journey of yours, and it’s a very private journey, but we’re asking them to join us. And that initial correspondence between them just helped build that bridge of feeling secure with the person that you’re with. Then to jump forward to the labor portion — you have to be open, you know? You have the doula there, and she’s just helping you as much as she can, but she also offered the privacy that we wanted, too. We had to make some decisions, and Tricia was our birth doula, and she gave us the privacy that we needed to make those difficult decisions, if we were going to have a C-section or are going to continue to try to do it naturally. But she was there when we needed her, too, so it was such a good experience. If I were to do it again — and I think we might be one and done — but I can’t imagine not having a doula with us for that part of it.
Alyssa: What was Mark’s experience, since he was thinking, going into it, “I can do this; I got you, honey. You only need me.” After actually experiencing this and having a doula, what does he think?
Carrie: He sat on the couch, so…
Alyssa: Watching the game on his phone.
Carrie: Yeah, he was watching the game. Both games! But no, he did great. He supported me how he could, but he realized that he couldn’t support me the way that a doula could, and there’s just certain things that Tricia knew, like different things to try that might help the process, that Mark wouldn’t have had a clue. And it’s nothing against a male, but they can’t carry a baby. So if we did have another child, I think he would be all for it.
Alyssa: He’d be on board right away this time?
Carrie: Yeah, yeah. And then that leads us into the postpartum, and for me, that service was invaluable. I don’t know what I would do without having some help. The first month was more like they helped me survive. I’m not working right now, and I wanted to make sure my husband was able to sleep because somebody’s got to bring home the bacon. And so I wanted to make sure that he wasn’t up all night like I was, but I would look at my Fitbit, and I thought, oh, my gosh. I am not getting any sleep at all!
Alyssa: Getting a lot of steps, but no sleep!
Carrie: I know! Like, okay, moms are not joking! This is reality, what you go through the first month of having a newborn. Some nights, if I got more than 30 minutes of sleep a night, that was good. Or just at one time, in one chunk. My average was maybe three hours or so. But your body just adjusts to it, so you do what you need to do, but without having the doulas, it would have been rough. And I think they started out maybe around ten hours or maybe a little bit more right at first. Now my daughter is three months, and we still have the doulas. We made a decision, and for my sanity, we still have the doulas coming about ten hours a week. So it went from survival to now giving me part of my life back, but it’s giving me a break now.
Alyssa: You went from survival mode to thriving; surviving to thriving.
Carrie: Yeah, and our daughter loves the doulas. She’s so happy. It’s almost been such a process of they get to grow with her. The babies grow. I didn’t know; they grow a lot between newborns and three months, and she’s so big now, and she’s giggling. So the doulas get to see that and be a part of her life.
Alyssa: They will be so sad when you’re done. They will be so sad. That’s the hardest part of being a postpartum doulas is being with a family for that long, especially with you, because they were with you through pregnancy, labor, delivery, and now months postpartum. Usually, those relationships don’t just abruptly end. We’ll still have contact somehow.
Carrie: Well, and another thing I wanted to comment, too, that compared to just a babysitter or getting some external help, the doulas are so reliable. I know Julie, if she’s supposed to be there at 2:00, it’s 2:00. She is rolling in at 1:59.
Alyssa: You know something’s wrong if she’s not there at 2:00.
Carrie: Yeah, she’s very punctual. So a few weeks ago — I think our daughter was ten weeks at this point, and I was having some issues going on, and I thought it was just food poisoning, and like a typical female, I just put it off, like, oh, it’s going to be fine, you know, hide the pain. And after day three, I’m like, okay, something’s not right. I can barely stand up. So I went to urgent care, and I had appendicitis. The doctor at urgent care said I had to go straight to the ER, and I asked if they were going to do surgery right now, and he’s like, yep! So I call Mark, and we don’t know what we’re going to do because we don’t have the help and it’s Sunday. We try not to bother the doulas on the weekend, but Mark called the doulas, and within an hour, they were at the house. With them working as a team, usually either Julie or Tricia can always make it, and they were a lifesaver. So my biggest advice for anybody that is deciding if a doula is worth it — if you have the financial means to do both the birth, and the postpartum, do it if you can. It’s a game changer, and if they don’t have the financial means to do both, the postpartum for me probably was the biggest help. I mean, if I had to choose. I wouldn’t want to choose, but if I had to choose, I would choose just having postpartum help.
Alyssa: I agree, because even if you wouldn’t have had the support through pregnancy and birth, and let’s say you had this traumatic experience, having a postpartum doula to then talk to you about that and go through the emotions of that and talk about the traumatic story — you’d still get all that emotional help afterwards.
Carrie: Yeah, the baby’s here, no matter what.
Alyssa: Right, and as we see depression rates and anxiety rates climbing, especially with new mothers, postpartum support is critical. That’s where my heart is, so I agree with you.
Carrie: It was interested because I’ve been given the depression surveys every time I go in, even to take my daughter to the doctor. I always get a survey. Luckily, I’ve been fine, but the only time I ever got a little depressed was after this second surgery because I was starting to finally bounce back and get back into my groove. I wasn’t working out like I used to be working out before, but I was getting my life back, and then I had this, another setback. And then that’s kind of when I got sad, but luckily, I bounced back really quickly, and it wasn’t bad for me. But I can see how easy it is to get into spaces that are darker than you want to be in.
Alyssa: Without even realizing it’s happening, sometimes.
Carrie: Yeah, absolutely.
Alyssa: You just wake up and there you are, and how do I get myself out if I have no support?
Carrie: Yes. And the doulas are always so positive.
Alyssa: You have an amazing team. Julie and Tricia are so wonderful.
Carrie: They are, they are. We share so many pictures back and forth, and I even — sadly, I shared — it had been 12 days since our daughter had had a bowel movement, and…
Alyssa: Did you send a poop picture?
Carrie: I did! She did it while we were at our friend’s house in the middle of dinner, and they had cooked this nice dinner for us.
Alyssa: Of course!
Carrie: And she was kind of fussy and she wasn’t crying, and Mark grabbed her, and he said, “Oh, she’s kind of sweaty.” And then he’s like, “That’s not sweat!”
Alyssa: Everywhere, right?
Carrie: Twelve days of backed-up!
Alyssa: That’s what I tell clients. You know, if they go a few days, it’s not good, but I mean, it can happen, but I just warn you — watch out. It’s all coming out.
Carrie: I was holding off on all the Miralax until after we didn’t have any plans, but no, she let it go.
Alyssa: She got it out!
Carrie: Yeah, she did!
Alyssa: So what’s been the biggest joy of being a new mom?
Carrie: Now that she’s kind of getting past the big blog phase, now she’s starting to laugh and make squealing noises now, so it’s very interesting watching them. Every time they learn to do something new, they keep doing it. So that’s the biggest joy, I feel like, just watching her learn. We’re just showing her the world right now, and it’s pretty cool. Just seeing her learn and making all sorts of new noises and her eyes and having her look at you and just smile.
Alyssa: She knows that you’re Mommy.
Carrie: Yeah, yeah! It just makes you tear up. And then also seeing my husband. You never know how a guy is going to handle that new baby, and he doesn’t know, but seeing how Mark was transformed, and he’s just this doting dad now, and he is so in love. And he was probably more in love because he was taking care of her because I had a C-section, so he had to take care of the dirty diapers right at first and do a lot of it. Seeing him just mold to being Dad right away was breathtaking, and it was such an awesome experience.
Alyssa: It is fun to see dads turn to mush when they meet their babies. So if you had to choose — we’ve talked a lot about postpartum support, but if you had to choose one thing that you wanted to tell a mother — let’s say they could only afford a birth doula. What’s the main thing? Would it be for you or for your husband? Who was it most life-changing for?
Carrie: It was more life-changing, I feel like, for me, because I was the one going through the labor. Once the nurses knew I had a doula — and the nurses were great, but they have so many other patients that they’re also visiting at that time, too, so they were able to kind of back off me and let Tricia help, and she was able to just understand what my body was going through, because I didn’t know what I was going through at the time. She was able to see the contractions that I was having on the monitor and say, okay, you’re starting a contraction right now. And my husband wouldn’t have been able to go through that with me. He was so green and didn’t know. But she was also able to put me in different positions, and then also let me know what my options were. I was at five centimeters for, like, twelve hours. And I just wasn’t moving, so it was nice getting Tricia’s point of view of, okay, what would be the best avenue to go down? Through the whole process, she just really helped me, as a doctor or a nurse would, even though she’s not medically trained. But I was a hundred percent comfortable with her.
Alyssa: So she would offer you some suggestions, and then let you and Mark talk that through and see what would be the best option?
Carrie: Yeah, she had been through so many different births, and every birth is different, but she was able to just give me advice on what she had seen and what she had also gone through, and she had twins. So she’s been through a lot, and she also has an older son, too, so she’s been through labor two times, but technically three times because she has three kids. So she has a lot of advice, and I always learn from people that have been through the situation before. So it was nice having her feedback.
Alyssa: And it was never, like you said, a judgment. You didn’t ever feel like she was telling you this is what you need to do or this is what you have to do?
Carrie: Absolutely not. And when it was time for Mark and I to make the decision or just talk about it, we just asked Tricia to go get coffee, and we talked about it. But it was nice having her feedback or her suggestions on different avenues we could take. Not that we didn’t trust the doctors and the nurses, but we had a relationship with Tricia.
Alyssa: So if you had to tell someone in a nutshell, what does a birth doula do? Like, if you had to give an elevator speech for someone, even after listening to this, if someone’s still like, well, hmm? So they just sit there and give you advice? What do they do? What would you tell somebody? You just find out you’re pregnant; you don’t know what a doula is. What does a birth doula do?
Carrie: So the birth doula made the experience a positive one, and whether that was by giving a massage or just helping with breathing and different positions to help make it more comfortable to give birth. I did have an epidural at one point, so I didn’t do it naturally, and ultimately, I had a C-section, but Tricia was able to put me in different positions to make that pain easier, before the epidural. It’s kind of all mush now, the memories of the actual birth, but I do know that Tricia was there for every step of it. She was such an integral part of it. It was almost like we were one. She just helped with the pain, even though she wasn’t giving me drugs, but she helped make things a lot easier. For a birth doula, it just meant, for me, an easier pregnancy, to deal with the unknown that I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
Alyssa: And then what about finding out you have a C-section?
Carrie: I just wanted that thing out!
Alyssa: Right! People often wonder, well, what is a birth doula going to do if you have a C-section, and they don’t think about that immediately afterwards time period. Who’s there?
Carrie: Yeah, good question, because she was actually also a lifesaver for the cord blood donation. We decided to do that because our doctor had mentioned that they are just making a lot of advancements on what they can use the cord blood for down the road, even helping with autism and different things. So we decided that we wanted to store the cord blood. But there’s a procedure that not all the nurses knew what to do, and our birth doula, Tricia, was able to take that in her hands. She wanted to make sure that everything was handled properly and got where it needed to go. So when we actually got out of recovery from the C-section — the C-section happened really quickly, and it wasn’t an emergency, but our doctor gave us an option. She said we can do this, and Mark and I talked about it for probably less than five minutes. We were like, it’s been twelve hours. Let’s do this. So we went in, and before you know it…
Alyssa: There’s a crying baby!
Carrie: There’s our daughter! But then the cord blood — that went back to recovery, and as far as I know, Tricia helped to orchestrate that whole process, making that happen. She was a lifesaver on that end because then we would have just wasted our money. She was able to come back in recovery, and it was so nice having her meet our daughter. And then I told her to get home because she had been awake for I don’t know how many hours. It was 1:00 in the morning, and I think she joined us at 11:00 AM. So it was a very long day.
Alyssa: Like, 14 hours or something?
Carrie: Yeah, it was a long day for her. So I told her to go home, and then I went back to the room.
Alyssa: Thank you for sharing. I know that they just adore your family and they’re going to be so sad when this time ends, but our jobs as doulas are temporary. We know that going in.
Carrie: It’s hard. I don’t know how you guys do it. It’s kind of like fostering an animal.
Carrie: I don’t know how people just let them go.
Alyssa: I know, you make these connections. But Grand Rapids is small, and I’m sure that relationship won’t doesn’t end, like I said before. They’ll be in touch for a long time. And then if you do get pregnant again, who knows, right?
Carrie: I know who to call!
Alyssa: Well, thanks for coming on! We’re going to have you on again another time to talk about a whole different issue, but thanks for joining us today!