Daily Archives: January 14, 2010

Is a doula job in my future?

Yesterday was quite an eventful day! I had an appointment with the volunteer services at the county hospital. I have lived in this area for over thirty-two years and had never set foot inside the door.

There has been quite a bit of remodeling and building in the hospital in the last few years. Contrary to what some of the public hospitals on TV look like with their paint peeling and overcrowding, this hospital is quite modern. Of course I was unable to get into any of the actual patient areas, but all the waiting rooms for family and friends certainly looked comfortable on every floor. The brand new pavillion was especially impressive. I was quite pleased to see a large “urgent care” area so that people do not have to clutter up the emergency room and that area can be for true emergencies.

I think my interview went well. As I have stated several times, I tend to be very reserved upon first contact. I tried very hard to appear open and enthusiastic. What I was proposing was a service that the hospital does not have. I wish to become a doula, especially for those young mothers who come to the hospital without any support at all. On top of that, I offered to start a training program to orient and train other potential doulas.
The woman I was supposed to see called in sick this morning. However, the other volunteer interviewer had been informed of my desires of how I wish to serve and seemed happy to see me.

She at least sounded open and saw where what I wish to offer could be a valuable addition. A doula is a non-medical person who stays with a laboring mother to offer support. Women helping other women during birth is as ancient as civilization itself. A doula is an aide there for the comfort of the mother. She does not deliver the baby like a midwife or perform any medical procedures. This hospital averages 6,000  births a year. If you do the math, that’s an average of over 16 births a day or between one or two births every two hours. You know, statistically that many of those women will be alone. Even those who do have someone accompany them can benefit from the presence of a doula. The males in the equation sometimes need moral support to keep them there.

One of my most profound experiences before I dropped out of nurses’ training, was in labor and delivery. I was nineteen and was assigned to a girl about four years younger than I who having her first baby. When I walked into the ward, she was screaming hysterically. She was so panicked. I began slowly talking with her and got her to quiet down. She was so uninformed that she had no idea even where the baby was going to emerge. She had no pre-natal education whatsoever.

I got her to relax (as much as a laboring woman can) and worked with her through her contractions. My floor time was almost over, so I told her I had to go to the nurses’ station and chart her progress. I told her I would be back to say good bye before I went to class.

When I came back into the ward, she was still calm. I was not aware that the instructor was in there also. As I was walking toward the mother, the instructor  pulled me aside and said something to the effect that she wasn’t sure what I was doing with that patient but as soon as I left, she began to be agitated again. When I entered the door, she immediately calmed down. The instructor gave me permisssion to go with this patient to the delivery room and see her through to post partum. That was my first and only delivery that I saw. We mainly worked in labor and post delivery. I was allowed to skip class that day.

That’s, in essence, what a doula does. She provides support. She’s there. Birthing can be such a lonely experience. I know. My delivery of my own son was not exactly the happiest of loving occaisions. We arrived at the hospital and into the labor room by 4:30 a.m. The nurse on duty was very caring and comforting. We had only lived in the area for three and one half weeks. We were lucky to have fund a doctor and know where the hospital was but had not toured it. I had no family or friends around. It was just me and the ex.

I felt very confident about what was happening. However, in a little over two hours the shift changed and the night nurse went home. There was such a difference in the new nurse. She was extremely mechanical and I sensed no warmth whatsoever. By the time she saw me, I was about ready to pop. I was only on the floor for a total of three hours. My son was born shortly after 7:30 a.m.
My husband was with me in the delivery room for the birth of our baby. Mechanical nurse asked him if he wanted to hold his son. She told him to go outside and wash his hands first. Why I’ll never know. He had already washed up once. We waited for him to return and he never did. He later claimed that he thought she told him to leave. I think it was his first opportunity to escape.

He showed up again the next afternoon and didn’t wish to hold his son yet. He hadn’t called since the delivery. It was a very lonely time for me. I could have used someone there just to be with me. I would have loved an understanding doula.

The hospital does allow volunteers in the L & D area to help out the nurses. They do whatever the nurses ask of them as aides, but they are there more for the nurses than the mothers. Being a doula would change that.

I realize that much has to be discussed and there is a big bunch of red tape to cut through with permission from a whole lot of open minded staff (let alone status quo staff) before my proposal will even be tried. But….I am on a mission and I’m not usually one to give up easily before every avenue has been explored.

This will be a continuing saga. Stay tuned. This is only Day 1. I had my interview and completed my scavenger hunt of the hospital. They list every department and the volunteer has to note where the department is and how to get there. With time out for lunch, I took over two hours. What I discovered was that the county hospital staff is one great friendly crew. All I had to do was ask and I got very good directions. A couple of the men even escorted me to my destination personally. It was fun exploring the hospital. Now ask me where anything is. I don’t have a clue, but I do know a couple of faces already.

The second step was getting a TB screen. I go back Friday for the first reading and next week I go back on Wednesday for a second testing. I also go on the 19th for orientation. I’m excited.

Namaste. Attic Annie

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