I have had the honor to be the birth photographer for parents who included doulas and for those who haven't. I am here to tell you, you deserve to have one. They are amazing. I had the pleasure and fortune to witness Bridget Strub of Wildflower Birth Support in full doula mode as she worked with Jeff and Emily during the labor and birth of their beautiful daughter, Charlie, at Highland Hospital. It was my first experience working along side a doula and I was completely taken with the process and experience she provided Charlie's parents. I sat down with Bridget after the experience to reflect on their birth and what it means to be a doula. We met for coffee at New City Cafe in the city of Rochester. We reminisced about the goddess that was Emily through out the labor and birth process. This beautiful woman's photo is the definition of goddess in the dictionary, go look, I'll wait... To witness her strength, grace, and calm during her natural birth process astounded me. I mean I have like 25 different photographs that she is smiling in, during active, pulling on your bootstraps labor.
Smiles for Miles We've Got ThisJeff holds the fan on his wife Emily as she labors And Miles
The woman was amazing to watch. I realized two things about this. One, she was able to be so present with herself, strong and vibrant due to the fact that her husband Jeff, was completely and selflessly focused on her. He encouraged, praised, and above all loved her through the entire process. And two, Jeff was able to be that for her because he completely and absolutely trusted the work that they had done with Bridget who constantly made sure their needs were met.
In This TogetherDoula, Bridget Strub, assists mom Emily, with some pressure point relief. Moving Inward While Letting GoBeing with the contraction Water and WindBridget cools off Emily and supplies her with fresh water between contractions
They had worked with Bridget to establish their birth preferences. I did not coin that term, Bridget did. She points out that you can not plan a birth, you can however make choices about your preferences. She does this cool card exercise with her clients during their prenatal sessions to help guide them to know how they hope their labor looks. She opens their eyes to all the options they have and all the circumstances that could arise for labor and delivery, so they were able to think through their desires long before the moment they had to make the decisions. She does not empower women, she awakens women to their own power.
Birth PreferencesA visual guide for the hospital staff to review during Emily's labor and delivery You've Got ThisDoula, Bridget Strub gives mom a reassuring smile that she is doing great The depths of LaborEmily is provided support from her Doula as her husband gives her reassuring encouragement during a contraction
It was in these intimate moments I realized how important it is to have a doula. When Jeff could let go of everything else, to be in the moment with Emily. The three of them danced like a well rehearsed ballet, without ever needing a dress rehearsal. Flawless. Bridget's goal is to create an environment where her laboring parents can feel completely at peace with their process no matter what is happening. She creates a space for them to feel engaged and present in their birth experience.
A Place of My OwnMom fades into her own awareness of each contraction
TogetherDad assists mom through a contraction Being With The PainEmily tenaciously sits with the contractions
ReleaseJeff works Emily's lower back as a contraction washes over her
When you are in a hospital surrounded by a lot of staff running around, trying to ensure a safe and healthy delivery, feeling like you are in control and incharge of your own process is not the easiest. That's where the prep work and addition of a doula in the room shines. They are 100% focused on you 100% of the time. They do not leave your side. There is not a doctor, nurse, midwife, or support staff in the hospital environment that will be with you for 100% of your labor process, but your doula will. Even in the 20th hour, when your partner needs a nap and you are thirsty, there will be your doula, water bottle in one hand, notes in the other.
Water TherapyTime in the tub to work through contractions Providing GroundDoula, Bridget Strub, provides a base for mom to bear down on during contractions
I loved the fact that she took notes through the whole process. Like a wedding day, it was fleeting. Things they won't remember without the little reminder. The frequent phrases Emily repeated. "Come on Charlie, time to be here, come on Charlie" The little things Jeff said to encourage and support her. The times of transition during the labor. It might be my favorite thing that a doula provides. Birth notes. I'd love to read a full book of them.
NotesBridget writes notes on her phone she will late share with the new parents
There are however things that doulas can not provide, no-one can. The old saying you can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink comes to mind. Doulas provide an amazing opportunity for people to be supported and provided for during their labor and delivery, but there comes a point in every labor where the birthing mother must walk alone. Like a marathon runner, pushing past the points they just want to give up. Women in labor come to a point where they must, go within and talk themselves into following through. I don't care if you labor naturally, or with pain relief, you will get to a point where only you can get yourself through. There is no way around, over, or under, there is only through. It is up to the laboring mother to convince herself to take that leap and push on through to the next stage. Partners and doulas will be right there on the other side to continue on the journey with you, however it's up to you to meet them.
LaborEmily sits with the contractions, resting between them anticipating the next AnotherEmily bares down on the rail of the bed as she works through a contraction
Rites of PassageMom is deep in transition
To have the opportunity to be the fly on the wall during labor and delivery is astounding. Quietly I watched this dance play out before me, the clicks and occasional flash from my camera the only proof I was there. The mother, intent and determined on bringing her baby into the world, the father, in awe of her grace, and strength, completely aware of her every need, totally at peace in his roll as coach and lover, and her doula a quiet strength, supporting and providing for her heart and mind, as her body moved through the dance of bringing life into the world. You deserve this for yourself.
Charlie is HereMom reaches for her brand new baby girl as she is being born
It is astonishing to witness birth. To be present for the moments immediately following is unparalleled. As we acknowledge our society's issues with high rates of complications in labor it is imperative to remember that when a woman is provided the support of a doula, her risks for complications to her health and safety are minimized. I believe this is because of the support the woman is provided to be able to focus on herself and her abilities as a child bearing woman.
Welcome to the world little Charlie. You have an amazing support system lifting you up already.
No Title Needed First LookCharlie is here, and she is perfect.
Worth it AllAt peace with this new world, Charlie first of many portraits to come