There's a myth, or rather a mindset, being perpetuated heavily in our birth culture, that you have to "do" things to make labor happen. That it won't just happen on its own.
Women say things like, "I never went into labor on my own, so at 41 weeks I was induced."
"Baby's head wasn't engaged by 39 weeks, so doctor induced me."
"I have ZERO signs of labor! What can I do to make my body do what it's supposed to?" (said at 38 weeks).
The mindset is a belief that if we don't DO something, or if our bodies aren't matching the expectation and experience of ourselves, our doctors, our mother-in-laws or other family, or that one blog we read, then it's "broken", "not working", and "needs to be fixed".
Here's the truth.
Your body is WORKING PERFECTLY if you're dilated to one centimeter at 41 weeks pregnant.
This happened with my firstborn. I was dilated to one centimeter until FOUR HOURS BEFORE HE WAS BORN. FOUR HOURS - that's how fast my body changed!
Your body is WORKING PERFECTLY if you are dilated to a four or five towards full term and still aren't in labor.
A woman I know was dilated to a SIX with her third baby for SEVERAL WEEKS before labor started.
Your body is WORKING PERFECTLY if you have contractions on again, off again, painful and regular, every day or every other day for a couple weeks with very little change in dilation or outward progression.
Often times this is called "prodromal labor" or "false labor". Baby's position, your body's alignment and readiness, the hormone receptors in your body, your stress levels, your nutrition, etc. can ALL play a part in the incredible dance of labor.
I get it. You're exhausted. You're excited. You've waited nearly nine months for this baby to come, and you are READY, dang it. As someone who has personally waited as long as 42 weeks + 3 days for one of her babies to choose her birthday, I GET IT.
But so does your midwife when they say WAIT. And often accompanied with that WAIT is the much-needed, rarely-honored advice to REST.
Why is it so important to rest? Why SHOULDN'T we bounce on the ball, drink castor oil, try that herbal remedy and this farmwives' tale, eat pineapple and spicy food until our tongues and tummies burn?
Well, mostly because all of those suggestions done together will exhaust your body and give you bad digestion or even diarrhea. So if you are successful in starting labor, you'll be so worn out you may not be able to run the final marathon!
Almost every doula brings a bag with her to every birth. But what's in that magical Mary-Poppins-like pouch? I can't speak for everyone, but I'll give you a glimpse of the most common items you'll find in mine - the items vary from time to time, but these essential things can always be found inside.
Why do you have that in your bag?
Some of these items might seem a bit strange, or maybe you don't know why a doula would want them at a birth, so here's a quick run-down:
Doulas have fees that can range anywhere from about $350 - $1,200, depending on location, training/experience, and cost of living in your area. That can be a stretch for some budgets, especially right before adding a baby (or two!) to the family. If you want a doula, and you find one you like and who feels right for you, the cost is actually a small hurdle to get over. Here are some ways you can choose to make this investment in yourself, your birth and your baby happen:
A note on doulas in training: there’s a wide-spread belief that a doula in training (meaning one who still needs to attend a few births to certify with a doula training organization) is the way to go because hey, they’re free, right?
Now days, most doulas in training do not offer their services for free. Some will offer them for a reduced cost or are more willing to trade. Realize this: the service they are providing is incredibly time consuming and valuable. If they value themselves, they will most likely ask for a fee, even a small one. And believe me, you want someone attending you in birth who is confident enough in their abilities to ask for compensation. This isn’t about entitlement, it’s about the value of a service being offered. Please respect that, and I promise, with the options mentioned above, you will be able to work with just about any doula to find an arrangement that works for you.
That said, there ARE doulas who will offer their services to low-income and in-need families for a reduced cost or free. If you are in a situation where you honestly can’t pay a doula anything, or could only afford a portion of her fee, then speak up! Talk to doulas in your area and be honest about your situation until you find one willing to support you in your desires. We are human people, we know that it can be hard sometimes, and we really want to help you. We’ll work to find something that benefits both of us, and everyone will be better for it.
Also realize that not everyone NEEDS a doula. If none of the above seems to be an option or paying for a doula doesn’t appeal to you, consider whether you really need one. If this is you, there is a lot you can still do to prepare, which is the topic of another blogpost I might write someday. But here are some tips: 1) Get a care provider (doctor or midwife) who supports YOU and the birth you desire to have. Don’t settle for anything less than someone who respects and listens to you. 2) Be sure your husband or boyfriend or anyone who will be in the room supporting you truly supports the kind of birth you’re planning to have and won’t change their minds in the middle of your birth. You deserve someone to support you fully! 3) Do your research, and DO take a childbirth education class! Learn everything you can about birth, and make sure your husband learns some ways he can support you and help you have the safe, positive birth experience you desire.