Whole Parenting Family

we’ve had three kids and doulas with each–why we’d do it again that way

doula birth

Doula doula whata? That was me, five months pregnant with SuperBoy. My childhood girlfriend (Hi, Andrea!) happened to hang out with me and catch up after a few years apart and mentioned a mutual childhood friend (Hi, Emily!) was a doula. Oh. That’s nice.

A what?

Her description sealed the deal for me: “a woman who helps you through labor.” Sealed as in, no thanks. I got this. My husband is smart and very sweet. He’s got this. We will just roll on into the hospital and have this baby, just like in the movies. Why would I want an old friend there? That’s just weird.

It wasn’t until a little later in pregnancy that we chatted with other friends who had . . . wait for it . . . done Bradley Method classes and wait again . . . a midwife! I was again, so surprised and confident that we didn’t need methods or classes. We were signed up for the hospital classes. They’d tell us everything, right?

Wrong again. Fast forward. Doulas at every birth. Bradley Method self-taught. Huge pushers of the Bradley Book and the Big Book of Birth. We’re like evangelizers for natural childbirth. Natural as in, no interventions or only as needed. Woe to those pregnant friends who were lured to our house for dinner. They always leave with a few books, a few enthusiastic chats about vaginas and cervixes and doulas. Poor friends.

I wrote about our changing perspective and conversion on this topic for What to Expect.com’s blog, including a focus on how it changed for my husband. It’s published here.

Okay, you get the picture. We’re converts to the natural way of birthing and laboring and parenting. We’re like any convert. Hard core. Some of the zeal has worn off over time, three kids, and the reality that this style isn’t the best fit for everyone. Judgers gonna judge and I promise. PROMISE I still love and respect you as a mom if you never wanted med-free labor.

I just wish every mom had a quick introduction to pros & cons of it so she was making an informed decision. If I hadn’t happened to fall down this rabbit hole, I never would have known there to be such a thing as childbirth education classes, lactation consultants, co-sleeping, doulas, or extended nursing. Sorry, it’s just not mainstream enough. Or portrayed as weird in the mainstream.

How can we be truly empowered in our own bodies and know and trust ourselves if we’re not given information, credible, trusted, scientific, cultural information? It saddens me that so many of us, me included, had no clue about how our bodies really worked (ovulation, fertility, labor, nursing) unless we had really knowledgeable and open parents, an unusual health class in school, or wonderful childbirth education centers who support the journey to familyhood.

See, for example, my wonderful sponsors from the natural childbirth & parenting world. Almost all are woman-owned, and if not, couple-owned. They’ve been with me now for almost 3 years, many of them! That’s what you see to the right —>!

Back to doula’ing. Five months postpartum with BabyLoves (my wonderful birth but terrible recovery that still lingers), I was asked if I’d have a doula again. I mean, AA is practically a pro by now and truly a wonderful labor coach. I didn’t even blink.

Hell yes.

One from the archives on why you need a doula.

This time around I had TWO doulas, a nurse, a midwife, and my husband. All hanging with me while I labored. When we moved to the birth tub at the hospital from my normal room, the sun was flooding in with its midmorning glow. The birth mix was humming in the background. We were laughing, chatting, and loving this baby out. Not that I couldn’t have equally loved him out with just AA there (and obvo medical staff), but DANG it felt good to be with my girls. And their support for AA is as tangible as their support for me.

This photo up top, Liz, AA, and me in the birth tub? Emily snapped it. It was a team effort. Thank goodness for doulas and if you want my more eloquent and focused listed out reasons for them, see that archived link. It’s been a rough month with more postpartum healing so my brain isn’t quite snapped together 🙂




  1. Mary on October 30, 2014 at 7:33 am

    Thank you for this! It’s sometimes so hard to express to first time moms why a doula is so important but having one and not having one can sometimes literally be the difference between an amazing happy healthy birth and…not. You don’t really understand it til you’ve had one or been one, I think! I was in the middle of doulaing a birth once and was helping mom with my doula voodoo magic and she goes, “THAT. That right there was worth the money.” And then later, “You know, I honestly wasn’t sure if it would be worth it or whether we really needed one but I totally get it now and will always have a doula!” So glad you’ve been so well loved and supported during your births.

    • Natural Mama Nell on October 31, 2014 at 6:55 am

      SO BEAUTIFUL! “THAT” for me has been counter pressure properly applied, cold hands on my hot forehead, essential oils, back support, and words of incredible encouragement!!

  2. Amy @ Motherhood and Miscellany on October 30, 2014 at 7:46 am

    I had sorta, kinda wanted a doula for each of my births. I knew from the beginning that I wanted a natural, unmedicated labor and delivery (I think it was from watching “A Baby Story” too much on TLC and just thinking that the med-free births looked more awesome). Ben (my husband) was never into it. I ended up having a c-section with my oldest daughter, and was nervous about the VBAC with my second, but Ben just wasn’t comfortable with having a doula. So we never did, and I ended up having successfully unmedicated VBACs with my second and third daughters. We had great nurses who were very supportive of my choice to go natural. It might have been nice for him to have some back up for the birth of our middle daughter, whose labor lasted all night (she was 10lbs, 7oz), but in the end I’m glad it was just to two of us. He was awesome and it just worked for us to do it that way. We’re both introverts, and I think we would have felt awkward having someone else there 🙂

    • Natural Mama Nell on October 31, 2014 at 6:59 am

      What a baby!! I totally appreciate how two introverts may not want or need a doula in there–what a great husband! We all have to do what works for us!

  3. Caitlyn on October 30, 2014 at 8:13 am

    Doulas are the best! With our first, we read the Bradley book, practiced daily and took a short childbirth class with a local doula. We said we couldn’t afford/didn’t need a doula for the birth. We had excellent midwives, the hospital is very baby friendly and we had been practicing so much. Things of course didn’t go as planned, and whether the interventions were needed or not, labor was long and my husband was tired. Fast forward to the second birth, with a doula, and my husband felt like he could actually support me in the ways I needed because the doula was there. We have talked about how we don’t think every husband is a Bradley husband, and that’s ok. Mine isn’t the best at being a labor coach in that way but he is so good at emotionally supporting me throughout the labor. Having the doula and her know-how there filled the void in that. We wouldn’t have it any other way now. Truly, they are the best!

    • Natural Mama Nell on October 31, 2014 at 6:51 am

      That’s such a good way of putting it–the doula is really there to support both spouses!!

  4. Jacqui on October 30, 2014 at 8:54 am

    I love doulas. Our doula prepped us for labor. Things didn’t go as planned in that our doula was out of town due to an early baby, my labor progressed super fast (so I didn’t get to labor at home like I had imagined I would), but I did have two girlfriends there. And they acted as doulas. So helpful, so reassuring, and I’m SO glad we had the extra support. Doulas for life!

    • Natural Mama Nell on October 31, 2014 at 6:53 am


  5. Kiera on October 30, 2014 at 9:14 am

    I have always thought about doulas, especially in the sense of post partum care when it gets crazy again with the multiple littles with needs to be filled. If I have to go back to hospital births, I will definitely be hiring a doula for the birth as well, because despite my husband being a rock star support, I think having someone who knows the system for when things go crazy with would be ever so helpful.

    • Natural Mama Nell on October 31, 2014 at 6:52 am

      You’re so right about someone being your advocate in the system–most hospitals are very respectful of people’s birth desires (barring medical emergency), but sometimes you need a fighter for you who is not your busy spouse!

  6. Leah on October 30, 2014 at 9:16 am

    Love, LOVE, love my doula. Nell, you crack me up because your experience with doula resistance and convert by word of mouth is the same as mine, except YOU converted me :). Thanks to you and a delightful lunch at 34 weeks, I learned of and hired my doula. Two births in, and both me and my husband swear we will never have a baby without Doula Jess by our sides. He needs her, I need her, and frankly we feel like she is part of our birth family.

    Although we successfully had two unmedicated births, I think people need reminding that doula are just as valuable for a medicated birth or c section. Unexpected events arise in any birth and having a calm, experienced supporter by your side is invaluable.

    I recommended to a friend in Madison that she get a doula for her planned medicated birth. She did. When she arrived at the hospital, things didn’t go as planned, no time for drugs, and the baby was whisked off to the NICU. Her husband went with the baby, leaving her alone… except for her doula! Such a scary time and she was so thankful to have someone for comfort her through the chaos. (Baby and mom were both healthy and are great, by the way).

    I think everyone should have a doula. Worth every penny!

    • Natural Mama Nell on October 30, 2014 at 8:35 pm

      HAHAHA I know!! I was thinking about you guys when we had our lunch together!!! Doula Jess is pretty amazing. And wonderful thoughts on the doula in a planned medicated birth–because you really never know what will happen.

  7. Rachel @ Efficient Momma on October 30, 2014 at 10:11 am

    I wanted a doula this time around but couldn’t afford one. So it was just my husband and the midwife again. It all worked out great and my husband has been an awesome coach. But I think there’s just something about having a woman there who knows what it feels like to help you through it. A man just can’t know exactly how to help sometimes because he’s never experienced it.

    • Natural Mama Nell on October 30, 2014 at 8:34 pm

      Way to go, your husband! There is something really special about the women presence–NOT to push our men out, but that age-old comfort of another woman, for me, has been remarkable.

  8. Celia on October 30, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    I had a doula with my first. Despite ending up with an emergent c-section after a long labor, I am so thankful I had my doula to get me through those 18+ hours before the surgery, most unmedicated… and to help me feel better about accepting the c-section when it was handed to me. (I didn’t want it.) She stayed with me throughout; I’m so thankful for that support. I wish I’d had one when I had an attempted (but failed) VBAC with our second, but my husband was able to be there that time and it would have been too many people in the room for me. Doulas are amazing, though, and I highly recommend hiring one to anyone who can. Husbands are great, but not always the MOST helpful during labor! 🙂

    I love your posts about natural childbirth. I’m thankful to God for modern medicine, or the babies or I (perhaps both) would have died in my situations, but philosophically stand firmly with natural birth whenever possible. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

    • Natural Mama Nell on October 30, 2014 at 8:33 pm

      That’s beautiful!! I’m so glad you have this wonderful perspective on doulas; i truly think they do have a place at every birth, regardless of medication levels.

      Thank you so much for your kind words about my position on birth. It sounds like we share one!

  9. Kristi on November 2, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    First time commenting, but this (and other stuff you said here!) really spoke to me: “I just wish every mom had a quick introduction to pros & cons of it so she was making an informed decision.” I was lucky enough to have a friend like you when I was pregnant, pushing me to learn more about the pros & cons, and now that is all I hope for, for any expecting mom I know/meet. Thanks for stating that succinctly and so well. Now, how do we get the word out to more women?? 😉

    • Natural Mama Nell on November 2, 2014 at 11:55 pm

      Oh Kristi, I wish I knew! Thank you so much for being here and for your awesome words. I want people to just know what they can do, if they want to, and know that if they don’t want it, we’re not going to naturalbirthshame them. I think it’s what you and I are doing. Simply talking about it with love and without judgment. Simply recommending books and talking about our own experiences without being preachy? You tell me, mama!!

      • Kristi on November 3, 2014 at 9:33 am

        “I want people to just know what they can do, if they want to, and know that if they don’t want it, we’re not going to naturalbirthshame them.” — Yes! Exactly this. I would never want to make someone feel bad for their decisions in this area. I just know that I changed my mind after I did the research, so I want others to be informed and have that opportunity as well, rather than regrets like some women, who have told me they didn’t know certain things until after the fact (and are sad about it). If they felt educated before they were actually in the situation, they could be more comfortable with whatever decisions they need to make. I tread carefully in when talking to a pregnant first-time mom (it’s a sensitive subject!) but do try to nudge them a bit to learn more about their options and not be afraid. We are fortunate to have had two hospital-based hypnobirths (my OB is wonderfully supportive!) but I think the other danger for us moms who have been there is to wear our unmedicated births like a badge of honor. I think I’ve learned, and I’m not perfect, to try to approach the conversation with humility, and know that it isn’t about me if a mom doesn’t want to discuss that kind of thing — I can only gently mention what we did and offer to talk more, and let her take it from there if she’s interested. This has led to other friends having successful natural births, but in a couple of cases the mom hasn’t responded to my offer to talk about it more, and I’ve just had to let it go (which can be hard!). I really like your advice above — I think if we could all do that more consistently, pregnant mamas might on the whole find the discussion less intimidating. Sorry for the long follow-up reply. You can tell I’m passionate about the subject! 🙂

  10. Laura on November 4, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    Love this! I didn’t have a doula with my first, but I got one with my second. I’m so excited to have one and believe it will dramatically change my birth experience. Thanks for sharing!

    • Natural Mama Nell on November 6, 2014 at 9:06 am

      You’re going to LOVE IT!!!

  11. Jann on July 10, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    This just came across my desk recently via Guiding Star. Great read, great write!

    I pioneered this stuff in the capitol of ND 34 years ago and it was the Couple-to-Couple league folks who introduced me to child-led, ecological breastfeeding. This was a doorway into the rest of these concepts, except it was home birthing (really wacko, right?) and there were no doulas, or birthing tubs (sure coulda used one with my two brow presentation babes!) on the horizon. But good La Leche league friends and others who were gutsy enough to assist at a home birth.

    BTW, the child of mine that you know, my second daughter was born in a convent–ask her about it sometime :-).

    • Natural Mama Nell on July 13, 2015 at 11:21 pm

      Amazing! So great to hear from you, lovely lady!

  12. […] a big believer in doulas, a hired labor support person above and beyond your […]