Thursday, January 27, 2011

Doula Danger: A Cautionary Tale (Part 1)

Okay, so don't be alarmed if this blog takes on a bit of a pregnancy theme over the next few has in the past, and it is bound to happen again. I'm currently entering my second trimester and although I'm still r i d i c u l o u s l y tired all the time, the morning/all day sickness seems to be easing up.

This time around the lead up to the birth will be a little different.....I'll be scheduled for a C-section so it will be pretty weird to know in advance the exact time that he or she will enter the world. Not to mention that last time the decision to do a C-section happened so fast that I really didn't have time to process the whole "cut open my abdomen and take out a human" concept. THIS TIME, I will have had ample opportunities to play out how the whole thing is going to go down....and know that my projection is (maybe, hopefully) pretty accurate (unlike first deliveries where you think you might have a plan, and honey, you better not bother because that plan has a 99% chance of being thrown out the window). I look back at my naive, post-childbirth self. I really thought I would have a natural, drug-free delivery. Um, SUCKER. I would have had better odds of delivering a flying monkey.

When I was about 7 months pregnant with Sadie I suddenly panicked and realized that maybe my husband was not the only support I needed in the delivery room. I wanted to go as drug free as possible and questioned my own will-power. We decided to interview a few doulas (labour coaches) with the hopes that we would find a good fit - someone who had gone through the labour and delivery experience themselves and would be skilled in providing the mental and physical support to both Scott and I during the whole "episode."

We ended up hiring the first doula we interviewed. Her services promised 24 hour access to contacting her by phone in the weeks leading up to my due date, support during labour and delivery, and post-partum breast-feeding support, as well as light help around the house, if needed.
Let's call her Jan (not her real name). I have to admit that I got a bit of an uneasy vibe from our first meeting, but because we were feeling the pressure of an imminent due date, we maybe rushed into things a bit.

Jan told us that yes, she did in fact have a child herself, a fifteen year-old daughter. So that satisfied our requirement that she could fully understand the sensation of labour and delivery. However, it later became apparent that her daughter was of a different race than she was (which is obviously not a concern in itself, but makes the whole biological parent thing a little questionable). We were a little surprised but figured maybe she was of mixed race. But in actual fact she had been adopted and Jan had failed to elaborate on this detail when we asked her if she had had any children herself. So the intentional misleading in order to get the job was our first red flag.

Then the harassment began. The hourly phone calls. Asking the same questions over and over. "Are you feeling any 'twinges'?" "No, Jan. For the fortieth time, I'm not feeling anything yet. I WILL KEEP YOU POSTED ON THAT ONE." Then Jan started telling Scott and I that she felt really connected to us, something she didn't feel with most of her clients. She also told us that she had been a nurse in the Mother/Babe ward of a local hospital for fifteen years. And of course, she came with all the (supposed) credentials of a certified doula, as well as references (which we never checked, because I am a fairly trusting person).

Scott often tells me that I am one of those people that stranges like to open up to and pour out their soul. I'm not sure why this is the case, but I admit that it has happened several times. I suddenly find myself getting an earful about the general sagas of people I hardly know. Jan began doing this. She called me one day and I casually asked how she was doing and she said, " know...." and there was clearly something she was holding back. So I may have said something along the lines of "is everything ok?"

Jan: "Well actually, I was in a car accident and my car is a write-off."
Jan: "Ummm....well I was in the hospital overnight and I'm pretty banged up. I was thrown from the vehicle and rolled across the road. They had to cut my pants off me and the first thing that came to my mind is 'what underwear am I wearing'."
Me: "OH MY GOD. Is your family giving you some TLC."
Jan: "Well, no, not really."
Me: "Why not? Where is your husband?"


Jan: "Um, well actually, I wasn't going to tell you this Sarah, but I feel a real bond with husband actually just left me a few weeks ago. For my best friend."

[Okay. This is where I realize I am a bit in over my head. I hardly know this woman and we have hired her to provide a service for us. The service of LABOUR COACH. Not the service of TEST YOUR COUNSELING SKILLS ON ME FOR 3 EASY PAYMENTS OF $300. I don't remember agreeing be any kind of sounding board for personal issues that are none of my business, nor do I want to (selfishly) provide a stranger a shoulder to lean on while I am dealing with back pain, sleepless nights, and the waging of a daily war between self-discipline and a pint of hagen daas ice cream.]

Me: (really, how do I possibly respond to that?)

Jan: "Yeah, apparently they're in love (forced, nervous laughter). He's gone. After 15 years, he just left. Ha-ha. ha-Ha-ha-ha."

So I talked to her for another fifteen minutes about her family's crisis situation. Not to mention the fact that she was injured and alone, practically in traction.

I hate to say this but because I was already a little skeptical of her, I had my doubts about parts of her story. Something just seemed a bit off. Maybe everything she told me was totally legit, but the fact remains that I did not expect to become a major confidante for a doula on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

I hope I don't come across as heartless in this situation. I really did feel bad for her...but a part of me felt like I was being taken advantage of.....I felt like her authenticity was suspect. I felt like my anxiety of being a pregnant woman on the verge of giving birth which thus justified the hiring of a third party for help, was trivial, unjustified and paled in comparison to what she was going through. When you are paying someone several hundred dollars to make you feel confident, empowered and in control, this is not really what you have in mind. This is more like collateral damage.

Are you bored yet? There is still more to come. A little halitosis. A little "Oh-my-God-is-that-blood?" look exchanged between a doula and a nurse. A little baby Jesus sing-song.

So ANYWAY......I was thrust into a month long ordeal of listening to all her issues over 45 minute long daily phone conversations. You know when someone is yacking your ear off and you hold the phone away from your head and roll your eyes at whoever is in the room? When she did make house calls she was so out to lunch - proclaiming that I had definitely "dropped" when I was certain I hadn't yet (and in fact, I never did - Sadie never came down into my pelvis). She also offered to do acupressure on me and I would lay there very skeptically as she unskillfully pressed on my ankles like a moron. AWKWARD. Again, I know I sound harsh, but I felt and still feel like I had been had. I SMELL A PHONY.

Back to the fact that she told us she had worked as a nurse in hospitals and that all the doctors and nurses at our local hospital knew her from being witness to the births of many babies up there. Um, no. When we did arrive at the hospital on D-Day, no one had a clue who she was. And she reverted to a scared little pup who didn't have her wits about her. ALL SHE DID WAS RUB MY BACK. THAT IS IT. THAT IS ALL. She had promised all these great things she would do for me during labour. But she really didn't have a clue.

I have to stop here...this is getting too long for one post. The grande finale will follow tomorrow.....


Kristine said...

Oh wow. Interesting story. I can't wait for the next instalment. She sounds like the last person you'd want around at that time in your life.

lucky_14 said...

Haha. I know, technically not funny, but really? Hilarious. And I agree with Scott that you are easy to talk to. :)

SeaBlush said...

Oh wow Sarah. That sounds awful! I am very curious to hear the end of the story.

andrea said...

Sarah! first of all...congratulations!!!!!! I now remember hearing this story from you, and my doula story is not much better, different, but it was all so weird and awkward too. We are trying for baby no. 2 and I have decided NO DOULA. If you have already decided to do cesarean, you don't really need one do you? Looking forward to your conclusion! I would love to see you if you are over in van anytime soon. I hope your second trimester is a little easier on you! Andrea xo