For the birth of my first child, I thought the hospital antenatal classes had prepared me well and was confident I would receive excellent care. However, I received little advice during labour and many requests went unanswered, from smaller things like raising the bed to a vertical position, to larger issues such as being provided pain relief options. So, as my due date for number two grew closer, I became anxious and realised how upset I was about what happened first time around.
I wanted a professional who would be present, whose focus would be helping me to labour. Someone who would know my birthing preferences and when I was too tired or incapable of asking the question, they would do it for me.
I do have the utmost admiration for medical professionals and of course the preferences in my birthing plan would always be secondary to the safety of my baby and myself – but I felt, had it not been for lack of support in the mid-stages of labour, the birth of my first child would have been much easier.
Doing the groundwork
After researching doulas in Dubai, I called Andrea from Doting Doulas to arrange a chat, and warmed to her immediately.
I had several antenatal classes with Andrea. As this was the second time round, it was a bit of a refresher. She recommended a book called Juju Sundin’s Birth Skills – now both my husband, Fadi, and I rave about this book to any pregnant couples we meet. It provides good practical advice for husbands, so he was a great support. He massaged my feet, attended the classes, met me at appointments and did all the hand-holding.
My poor doula was on call for about three weeks, as every evening I would have contractions every one to two minutes for three to four hours – then they would stop! We even had a trip to hospital. Finally, I was booked in to have my waters broken and, following that, full-blown labour started quickly.
On the day
For the big event, Andrea advised stimulating other senses to distract the brain from the pain of labour. Your brain will naturally latch on to another sensation – I was sceptical but it worked! Andrea brought a scented diffuser, but I found smelling my favourite oil on a tissue really helped. I also squeezed a stress ball to stimulate all the nerves in the hand.
These tools reduced the intensity of the contractions significantly. At 9cm Andrea recommended a bit of gas and air (Etonox), which took the edge off.
Andrea also made sure I was hydrated throughout the labour – this is so important to your levels of pain tolerance. First time around, everyone – including myself – forgot to give me water!
I was very focused on Fadi throughout the process. We were worried that having a doula might intrude in going through the labour as “a couple” and that my husband would feel like the “odd one out”. Far from it!
Andrea had told us it was our choice as to how involved we wanted her to be. She was happy to sit with us or wait outside until we needed her.
We actually all had a bit of a giggle while waiting for the action to start. Then when in full labour her help was invaluable – from suggesting more comfortable positions, to fetching and carrying, to ensuring both of us were hydrated and fed, to reminding me to breathe and even recommending a bit of pain relief when she thought I needed it.
This meant my husband was next to me and I was never without him throughout the whole labour.
Luckily, my labour was very easy and Oliver was born just five hours later. Andrea captured some beautiful images of these first moments.
I’d recommend it to everyone
For us having a doula was filled with only positive experiences.
While the midwife needs to record your vitals, fill in charts, and tend to other patients and the doctor arrives for the delivery and is focused on the baby and on making sure you are both safe, your doula is there for you. She is making sure you are in the best possible place physically and mentally.
There are so many small vital elements that can assist a woman in labour, which I believe, when brought together as a whole, have a huge impact. My first labour felt like a catalogue of small oversights, which made the process harder. Second time round, having someone who was focused on my needs and was experienced in offering advice and practical support was amazing. I wish every woman could be fortunate enough to experience such a positive birth.
For more birth stories from Dubai women see here
For more stories on what it's like to give birth at hospitals around Dubai, see here