I asked the first question that I always ask, "Can you tell me a bit about your previous births, and why you would like to hire a doula?"
Jennese went on to tell me about all of her births. There were five stories, all very different to read through. Nothing seemed like an outlier as to why, for this 6th birth, she would want to have a doula, for the very first time.
Don't get me wrong, I think everyone should have a doula. Birth is like a card game, and you can never predict, even after 5 births, what kind of hand you will be dealt. However, I knew the financial stress of adding a doula, was a concern, but one she had pushed to the side. I knew there had to be a bigger reason, than just physcial birth support.
I asked a few more questions and learned about some health concerns, but it still didn't feel like the reason. After a couple more questions I learned a little bit about some anxiety, but that still just didn't feel like it. Then came the answer. LOSS. Jennese had recently suffered from an unfair amount of loss. The grief that followed those losses was weighing on her. She was experiencing even more loss, during our intial conversations. She felt battered and at one point in conversation said she felt "weak" and that this time she "wasn't feeling strong enough to make it through."
I knew that the support Jennese needed would be different than what most people who were looking to hire a doula would need.
Jennese and I began to build a bond. I began to trust her and she began to trust me. We shared secrets, embarassing moments, and sometimes dark thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, keeping her focused on this pregnancy was hard, and sometimes she was annoyed with me, but helping her gain strength and staying centered was my purpose this time.
We worked through some pregnancy complications and eventually started to get to the end of her pregnancy. Due to one of those complications, she would need to go into spontaneous labor on her own or be induced by 40 weeks. We discussed it almost daily, as the days dwindled down. It was during this phase, that I knew Jennese was ok. She had gotten her strength back. She had worked through some things (certainly not all of it), but she was ready. (Even agreed to take the castor oil root beer float I suggested the night before her induction! LOL)
When I arrived to the hospital on the morning of 8/17 they had her on pitocin, but luckily, the castor oil had done a bit of work and dilation had started. It was 9am and for the next 7 hours we chatted, laughed, and did some occassional stuff to help the pitocin kick in, but distraction was best.
I made a note at 4:33pm (I write down a timeline of things as they happen at every birth. A lot of people are in the zone, and often can't remember when and what happened post birth) that I thought active labor had begun. I was right!
Everything became fast and furious at that point. Pain relief techniques that worked before weren't working this time and all things were different. Jennese needed lots of emotional support and her husband and I took turns and stayed the course to help Jennese get the type of birth that she wanted. We reiterated what the other one was saying and were a united front, which I think helped her to feel more confident, even during transition phase doubts.
At one point Jennese went into the bathroom, and Joe, her husband, said:
"She has four things that happen when I know we are getting close. We have seen three so far. The first one is having her eyes closed during contractions. The second one is that low noise. The third one is swearing at people and then apologizing. The last one, which she hasn't done yet, is this weird pursing of her lips."
It was shortly after that conversation that I then saw that fourth sign and later she told me that he calls it her predator face (hahahahaha). He knew his wife. She was ready.
The strength of this woman, in what would be less than 90 minutes of active labor, was awe inspiring. She trusted her body, didn't let anyone pressure her until she was 100% ready, and ignored the madness created by her OB around us.
In what was less than half of a push, Santino Francis, decended on his own from the womb. He was ready to be here with his parents. He struggled for a minute with breathing (babies who come so quickly often have a bit of shock and sometimes need some extra gunk clearing and a bit of oxygen). Joe went over to the warmer with Santino, and Jennese and I stayed hand in hand, in the strongest grip that you can imagine, and then we heard him make this big beautiful cry, we both looked at each other with tears streaming down our faces. I wasn't crying because I was nervious about Santino, my experience let me know he would be ok. I was crying because of our connection. I well up every single time, I see a baby be born, but this time was more than that. This time I was witnessing the end to one woman's journey and helping her get to the other side. I was so fiercely proud of her.
Thank you to Jennese, Joe, Joey, Sophia, Gianna, Anthony, and Angelina, for allowing for me to be part of the welcoming of your son and brother. It was an honor.